These days, T. Williams is known as a dance music staple, appearing on bills all over the world.
Whether he’s smashing out tunes in sweaty Balearic clubs, Amsterdam Dance Event or on Zrce Beach, it’s house where he has made his name. However, in early days T. Williams went by the name Dread D and was a grime producer, part of Jon E Cash’ famous Black Ops crew, his classic ‘Invasion’ beat still gets spun at raves to this day.
Having dropped ‘Siege’, an EP which saw him go back to his grime roots, via Local Action, and then smashed up a Rinse FM set with AJ Tracey and Jammz, two of the best MCs around at the moment, it’s fair to say that Dread D is back in business. We’ve also seen a growing nostalgia for old grime beats over the last few years, with everyone up to Novelist and Stormzy jumping on classic instrumentals with a fresh take on old beats.
With this in mind, here are some of the best grime producers who stopped producing or left the scene behind them for whatever reason, and some of their most famous instrumentals…
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The fact that nobody ever really wrote anything down in the earliest days of the grime scene means that myth and legend is easy to spread. One of the most famous myths in the grime scene is that XTC produced one single instrumental in his entire career and then disappeared from the face of the earth. As the story goes, that instrumental was ‘Functions On The Low’, and went on to become one of the most enduring grime classics of all time.
Despite its minimal stylings, symbolic of that early Ruff Sqwad sound, 'Functions...' became a classic, best summed up by the inimitable Dan Hancox in an interview for The Guardian as “a breathtaking five minutes of longing, a fleeting glimpse of the love of your life disappearing into the night – neon lights seen through a torrent of tears”.
As beautiful as the myth is, it isn’t true, and XTC went on to make plenty more music. In fact, he’s literally still making music now, as can be seen from his Soundcloud. These days, ‘Functions…’ is probably best known to new grime fans as the instrumental behind Stormzy’s ‘Shut Up’ freestyle, despite the fact that the beat is actually as old as some of them.
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Most famous for creating ‘Boooo!’ With Ms Dynamite, Sticky is a bonafide UK hitmaker, having a slew of top 40 hits under his belt, taking in garage, grime and more. One of Sticky’s finest moments came in 2005, when SLK jumped on a reworking of Sticky’s ‘Golly Gosh’ instrumental and created ‘Hype Hype’, which hit the Top 20. In theory, the song should never have gotten anywhere near the charts and looking back, it’s an amazing achievement.
With the ‘Golly Gosh’ instrumental sounding like a souped-up version of Timbaland’s ‘Cop That Shit’, SLK’s MCs Flirta D, Van Damage and Lady Envy had to bring serious energy to the riddim to compete. Flirta’s mind-bending flows and sound effects continue to mystify and energise grime listeners to this day, and Hype Hype is still one of his best performances.
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That Chinese Boy is a grime scene legend, and drifts somewhere between a cult hero and a figure of fun depending on who you’re talking to. However, there’s no denying that he made some actual, genuine classics back in the day, with ‘Orchestra Boroughs’, a lively hype tune which featured Crazy Titch, Flirta D and JME on mic being a particular standout.
As with XTC, there are literally thousands of rumours about what happened to Mr Wong and what he did in his long hiatus from the grime scene. We know that Prancehall turned up at his mum’s shop, and we know he jumped back into the scene briefly to make a wardub during the 2013 wardub competition, but other than that we’re still waiting for the release of his album, ‘The Yellow Michael Jackson’ (no, seriously, that’s what it’s called).
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One of the grime scene’s most memorable one-hit wonders, Rebound X never got remotely close to topping their magnum opus, ‘Rhythm N Gash’. The beat, which has seen huge names like Skepta, Jammer, P Money, President T and more vocal it, remains as popular today as it ever was. In fact, 2015 saw it rise even more in popularity, culminating in it causing an almost literal riot when Lethal Bizzle spat over it at Wireless Festival.
The only version of ‘Rhythm N Gash’ available on iTunes is Sir Spyro’s pace-setting remix, and whatever happened to Rebound X, we hope that they’re enjoying seeing the crazy reactions their tune is getting these days.
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Jon E Cash
The head honcho of the same Black Ops crew in which Dread D made his name, Jon E Cash was behind some of the grime scene’s most legendary beats, with ‘Spanish Fly’ and ‘Hoods Up’ in particular being firm favourites and still span to this day. More recently, Novelist spat over his classic War instrumental earlier this year, which brought yet another classic beat to the forefront for a lot of fans who will have been too young to hear it first time round.
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There haven’t been many collectives in UK music history which have seen as much talent pass through its ranks as Roll Deep, and Danny Weed is one of the original grime crew’s founding members. Having produced the instrumentals for countless classic Roll Deep tracks, from edgy, schizophrenic grime beats such as ‘Shank Riddim’ to feel-good festival pop like ‘Green Light’, Danny Weed’s impact on UK urban music is huge.
Perhaps his most-loved track, however, is still ‘Creeper’, with a creaking, rusty strings riff rocking over a simple grime beat beneath it, one which has been vocalled by a literally infinite number of MCs over the years, both onstage at Eskimo Dance, or at the back of the night bus.
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Words: Paul Gibbins (@PaulGibbins)