Newham and its surrounding areas were the focal point for the musical movement Footsie helped create, but with all the chart-topping hits and Mercury Prize nominations to bear in mind, nowadays the genre’s widely recognised beyond its East End roots.
This Friday Footsie is set to unite young guns like Novelist and Sir Spyro alongside his own father’s dub sound system at his eponymous party session, King Original. Ahead of the date we caught up with Footsie to hear more about dub’s connection to grime, how jungle and drum & bass inspired the birth of a new scene, and where the genre’s headed next.
You’re repping as part of King Original this Friday, a name also used for your father’s reggae sound system. How much do you remember about his music when you were growing up?
I remember it all, it was an important part of my music schooling. Basslines that could literally make you feel sick, MCs with various styles, clubs that weren’t really clubs, but spaces. It’s my foundation.
Do you feel it had a direct impact on your decision to get into music – would you still be doing this without his influence?
The impact it had was and still is immense, and to have my dad playing this weekend makes it even more special.
Your work as an MC has spanned jungle through garage, 2-step and grime. Do you feel like these strands are more connected nowadays?
Yes, the dots are a lot more connected for sure. I think it’s mainly down to the Internet, which has made all different types of music so much more accessible.
“Any beat needs banging drums and bass.”
How do you think dub feeds into the grime world in a club context? Is there anything you’ve got planned for bringing the two sounds together with us?
For me, dub fits in because of the drums and bass it’s built on. Dubstep uses its core, and so does grime up to a certain point. Any beat needs banging drums and bass, and in dub that’s a standard.
Throughout the 90s and early 2000s jungle and drum & bass were very prominent sounds in East London, was there also a lot of awareness of dub music did you find when you were growing up?
Definitely, a lot of the early jungle and drum & bass had dub and reggae samples in, because the tempos fitted so the samples could be played back at normal speed, which gave them a relation straight away.
“The catalyst was jungle and drum & bass.”
A lot of the grime's pioneers grew up in Newham and its surrounding areas – was there ever a clear catalyst or starting point for this musical movement?
The catalyst was the strong jungle and drum & bass movement happening around us. Locally I had a shop called The Underground, where I’d watch the likes of Randall, Marley Marl and Cool Hand Flex mix and sell records. It was the first place I saw Goldie in person – that was a moment for me as a youngster.
A big part of grime’s exposure was fostered by pirate radio and the likes of Rinse FM through the early 2000s – how do you think the scene has been affected with these outlets becoming bigger (and no longer illegal) recently?
I think it’s a natural progression, it can benefit young artists and artists more generally as the platforms are bigger now. So getting your music heard on these stations doesn’t have the limit that it once did.
We listened to King Original playing reggae on Rinse recently, but arguably that may have been harder to imagine in the station’s beginnings…
It wouldn’t really have fitted back in Rinse’s infancy, but with me being part of the station for so long, it makes perfect sense now.
“The Internet has helped and broken music in the same breath.”
Obviously the Internet was a big part of the grime genre growing, but you’ve also spoken previously about how some people can get big just through having an online presence. Do you think it’s been a help or hindrance for the health of the scene overall?
I think it’s helped and broken music in the same breath. I suppose it’s easier to get noticed as an artist today, which is a very good thing, but you can also get your time before it’s due and end up back under the radar because of a lack of foundation. Music isn’t actually worth what it used to be thanks to the Internet, but on the flip side accessibility is worth something.
There’s often talk about creativity being stifled in London due to high prices – have you noticed this in your hometown and its local scene?
I can’t say I’ve noticed it myself, but I know your own personal circumstances connect heavily to your creativity, and there’s a lot of music still being made here no matter what.
Is there anything else about London you feel threatens the underground music scenes in any way?
The ability to connect stuff to music, even when it has nothing to do with it.
With Novelist getting a Mercury Prize nomination earlier on this year, do you think this shows that grime is headed on a more popular trajectory in the years to come?
Nov getting nominated is a sign of doing what you believe in and following it through. It will definitely help grime’s future – he’s proof of that.