Monday, 5 November 2007

RINSE OUT! - London record labels (1997-2002)

Growing up in a leafy 'burb of London during the late nineties, I was well placed to hear a lot of new music that was coming out of the city at the time. Drum'n'Bass had already become incredibly influential and thrown off it's "jungle" monicker, growing to incude sub-genres like "jump-up" and "tech-step" among others. UK Garage was also growing like crazy - during this period it would eclipse, then be re-overtaken by Drum'n'Bass in one of the country's most musically exciting times - especially for me since I was there.

Drum'n'Bass and UK Garage went on to become famous for the things that largely killed their London scene. So Solid Crew - Garage's most famous export (not counting crooner Craig David) marked the end of the UK Garage experience and drove a wedge between the scene's R'n'B/Hip Hop/Bashment and House/US Garage roots. In Drum'n'Bass too, the crowd completely changed during this time period from one that represented London to one that increasingly only represented the suburbs (partly my fault?). The music became more influenced by trance and rock and pretty much lost it's soundsystem feel. Point being, if you're not from London and weren't there at this time, take a moment before writing off these musical genres. This was a real live urban music scene like punk, hip hop, dancehall or any other and made it an exciting time for an 18 year old in the city.

Over the next few months I'll go over some of the more influential labels that sprang up, letting you know why they were big for me and the people I enjoyed the music with. The records and labels that I'll feature aren't necessarily exclusive to this period but reflected stuff that was popular on mixtapes and more importantly in clubs.

Seeing as we're starting in 1997, and I wasn't buying UK Garage vinyl at this point, it would make sense to start with a Drum'n'Bass label.


natty label

I'm starting with Congo Natty because even at the time it seemed as though this was one of the last jungle strongholds. A jazzier more "rolling" sound with fewer vocals had become the norm by this stage, with artist like Roni Size acheiving national exposure on television and radio. The more party, bassline driven, "jump up" sound was still popular though and it was during sets by DJs of this style and particularly DJs based around Blackmarket records in London, like the shop's founder, Nicky Blackmarket, that Congo Natty tracks got their biggest outlet.


According to the label's discogs page what "all Junglists have come to think of as Congo Natty is really 4 seperate labels", but I don't remember that being a problem. All of my records that I thought were on Congo Natty were on Congo Natty but I do remember nobody really making a deal out of the artists who produced the music. DJs would ask "got any Congo Natty?", at records shops and thus the label became a by-word for a certain sound of reggae-infused drum'n'bass which was less dark and more accessible. This was particularly true for younger people who hadn't been to raves and didn't understand the importance of sound systems. The vocal hooks and melodic bass-lines were easier to hear on small stereos and headphones which made the sound perfect for tape-packs, the biggest market for which was under 18s.

I'm going to post two Congo Natty tracks. The first - "His Imperial Majesty" by Tribe of Isaachar - because of how big it was for me at the time and the second - "Exodus" also by Tribe of Isaachar, which achieved more longevity than other releases on the label as it was played into the early '00s. Both are aliases of UK Hip Hop/Jungle innovator, Rebel MC who is also the founder of Congo Natty Recordings.

↓ Tribe of Isaachar - His Imperial Majesty ↓

↓ Tribe of Isaachar - Exodus ↓

Congo Natty: discogs/wiki

Bookmark and Share