In a tiny nutshell, this is the evolution of UK Garage.
Emerging from the underground London scene in the early-mid 90s and born from a melting pot of influences, UK Garage is a genre that is continually reinvented and reshaped. This month’s playlist tells the story of this dynamic sound that is a staple of UK culture.
On the streets of New York, tucked away in a cosy club, the tale of this genre begins. From 1977-1987, Paradise Garage was a renowned safe space for Queer and Black communities to come together and party. Here, the iconic DJ Larry Levan would spin together a signature style of disco fused with soulful vocals that would later become known as ‘Garage’. Through the late 80s and early 90s, after Paradise Garage closed, Levan’s influence reigned strong over the underground club scene in New York City, this combined with the newly popular genre of Chicago House saw the garage genre develop even further to become ‘Garage House’.
Back in the UK, the 90s saw a rave renaissance with genres like Jungle, D&B, hardcore and progressive house taking off, creating layers of subcultures and communities centred around dance music. It’s important here to emphasise how the majority of genres such as Jungle, Techno, House, Jazz, and here Garage, were born in Black and marginalised communities, without their influence, these instrumental genres would cease to exist.
After DJs started to get hold of garage records from the US, the high BPM influence of the current rave scene combined with MCing from the Jamaican junglist soundsystem culture meant that the years of 1990-95 saw the birth of UKG. Lyrically and MC-focused, 4×4 beats, shuffled rhythms and a prominent bassline are the distinct recipe for an OG garage track.
Pioneering this sound was Pirate Radio, where satellite stations were illegally set up on council skyscrapers and rooftops with the intention of spearheading new sounds that were far removed from mainstream culture such as grime, garage, jungle, ragga and drum and bass. To this day, Rinse FM, which started on the East London block airwaves, remains one of the most influential UK based stations.
During the late 90s and early 2000s, as garage began to seep into mainstream culture, more experimentation happened with its sound, as tempos increased, the bassline was amplified and sub-genres such as 2-step garage and speed garage were born. Leading this movement was the North and Midlands in cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham. Specifically, at a Sheffield-based club called Niche, the new genre of Bassline was born, rising to popularity in the mid-2000s.
In a tiny nutshell, this is the evolution of UK Garage. While different variations of the genre rise and fall in popularity, it’s a sound that is endlessly recreated. Inspiring new generations of producers, it has an everlasting chokehold on the UK scene.
This playlist features all dimensions of UK Garage, with more contemporary takes from producers such as Interplemerary Criminal and Main Phase, to OG veterans of the scene DJ Luck & MC Neat, Somore and Wookie. Moving through to more 4×4 speed garage sounds with Indo, Bump N Flex and 2-step with Black Jack and a sprinkle of bassline with Mr Virgo.