The Genius of…
Drum’n’bass wouldn’t be where it is without the pioneers who carved out their own paths, supported by the rest of the community to cultivate unique sounds, influential labels and club nights that helped establish the genre as one of the most versatile and diverse in the world. The list of names is endless, but over the next couple of months we’re going to highlight a few of the heroes who really excelled and contributed something really special to the scene.
Kicking us off is a true scientist of sound, an innovator who has been deep in the game since his teens… the man whose beats and bass will melt your brain, the one and only Dillinja. Prolific, dynamic, iconic, Dillinja is one of the most respected drum’n’bass jungle artists in the entire scene with a mind-blowing back catalogue that dates back to 1993. In fact, he’s held in such high esteem that the mighty Grooverider once said, ‘Without Dillinja there would be no Grooverider’. That says it all really, a living legend whose obsession with optimum sound has produced a ridiculous array of timeless releases, music that set the benchmark for many others to follow. Using various aliases (Capone, Cybotron, Trinity and more…) he has put out hundreds of tracks, blessing the scene with his distinct ear for frequency and sonic potency from another dimension.
“What can you say about Dillinja? He changed the game in so many ways,” says Fabio. “Sometimes people had to play Dillinja sets because so many tunes sounded weedy next to a Dillinja tune. His tunes battered the dancefloor, they were so sonic and so apocalyptic in sound. So heavy but so funky at the same time, to get those elements balanced - that funk yet so raw at the same time, unquestionably one of the greatest.”
The conception of his Valve sound system in the early 2000s (it debuted at fabric in 2001) marked a key milestone in his musical career, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Ever since he built his own mini-system when he was 14, Karl had been determined to replicate those hefty systems that inspired him as a youngster, in particular Jah Shaka. Valve was touted as one of the loudest in the world, with many of the clubs who booked it handing out free earplugs to punters and posting health warnings on their walls. Anyone who experienced it will tell you, it was an incredibly weighty, yet crystal clear behemoth of a sound system.
18 years since the Valve sound system was unveiled to the public and 26 years since his first release, Dillinja continues to spin all over Europe and the rest of the world, still driven to deliver his signature sound to the dancefloor and still locking himself away in the studio. The Dillinja back catalogue is immense, untouchable in fact, and here’s just a fraction of the classics that demonstrate his genius…
When it comes to innovation and high levels of genius, it’s not just creating timeless tunes that makes someone a great candidate for this series. We’re also celebrating the grafters, the label heads and visionaries who see the genius in others and bring them through.
One such person is the mighty DJ SS, AKA Leroy Small, Leicester kingpin and the man who launched the careers of several contemporary heroes as well as running huge parties all over the world, breaking drum’n’bass jungle in new territories, launching a pioneering label and producing some of the scene’s all-time classics.
From his early days as a hip hop lover to his very first rave experiences, where he saw rival hooligans raving side by side, hugging each other and dancing in unity to the early sounds of UK acid house, SS has been deeply involved with music for quite some time now.
As a producer his back catalogue features classics such as ‘The Lighter’, ‘Black’ and all the Colours series on Formation, ‘We’re Rolling’, ‘Rollidge’, ‘Roller’s Convention’, his remix of ‘Limb By Limb’ Cutty Ranks, the list goes on and on (and on). Tunes that defined an era, tunes that remain timeless, still mashing up the dance when they’re played now - full of that raw, unbridled energy and funk that made this music so exhilarating in the first place.
Alongside his partner in crime Eidris Hassam, SS set up Formation Records in 1989. A seminal label that put out releases by some of the best-known drum’n’bass jungle artists, as well as supporting and nurturing new talent - many of whom went on to make a huge impact on the scene: Matrix, John B, Generation Dub, Twisted Individual, Greenlaw, Nero and many more among them.
“He’s someone that brought in a lot of people,” Nicky Blackmarket tells us. “Just like me, he had his shop, called 5HQ. Through our shops we met a lot of people and helped a lot of them to do their thing. We pushed them in the right direction and helped them to get to where they wanted to go. That’s what it was all about… and what it’s still all about now.”
“Formation Records was so strong, and some of the artists that came from there are big artists in their own right now,” says V Recordings don Bryan Gee. “As a producer he was prolific and had a massive influence, too. He did a lot of stuff under aliases that maybe people don’t even know about to this day! He made some killer tunes as well. Killer killer tunes!”
Formation also had a host of sub-labels and divisions including New Identity, 5HQ Records, Easymen, F Project and more, releasing hundreds of tunes and proliferating the clubs with an unstoppable flow of dance floor-focused cuts ranging from jump up to deeper, more melodic jungle and futuristic drum’n’bass.
Check out our DJ SS playlist below… Nonstop vibes!
An incredibly hard working artist, label manager, DJ, A&R and promoter, SS was at the centre of much of what was happening outside London during the height of mid-nineties jungle and beyond. From his home base in Leicester he become a go-to for up-and-comers from outside the capital wanting to get their big break. SS was a trusted, and highly respected, source of new music and, with his co-sign, a lot of new artists were able to break through.
“SS was so responsible for a lot of things in the early days. Anything past Luton, right up to the north up to Scotland was SS’ territory,” says Bryan Gee. “He had a big influence on everything in that region, with the label, his nights and his DJing. So I’ve got nuff love for SS, he’s probably one of the hardest working guys in drum’n’bass and always has been.”
As if the labels, his own creative output, DJ gigs and discovering new talent wasn’t enough, SS also launched one of the world’s biggest drum’n’bass party brands: World of Drum & Bass. The party dominated Miami Winter Music Conference for a number of years and, under SS’ visionary guidance went on to conquer Russia and parts of the world where many of its protagonists could never have imagined the music would take hold.
“SS opened the doors in places like Russia. He pretty much broke drum’n’bass over there,” Bryan explains. “He was the first person to bring me to Russia. He brought me to a lot of places I’d never even heard of, or expected to play, before. Israel, Ukraine… he went far beyond the regular places and it was just him on his own making it happen like that, so I have to take my hat off to him.”
Big up Leroy, a true jungle genius who is still proudly flying the flag. Respect!