There was a short lived period in 2007-2008 where parts of the dubstep world – Joker in Bristol and Hyperdub in London mainly – found kindred spirits in the unfolding beats revolution happening from Los Angeles to Glasgow. I’ve discussed this crossing over a while back, when I was working on the talk that led to the book.
The idea for it came from the Rinse FM show Kode9 and Flying Lotus did in November 07, and from chats I’ve had with Kode9 about his own interest in the west coast’s scene, the woozy-like quality of the synths that people like Sa-Ra mastered (and which influenced his own work for a short while during the late 2000s) and his releasing tracks by Samiyam and Rustie when they were still mainly MySpace phenomenons. Going further with it I also include Loefah in this, especially his early work that would define the halfstep template in dubstep for years to come. There was a clear link in those productions between the sound system pressure of dubstep and the snapping drums of classic hip hop. Feeling like I was perhaps a little crazy at the time I mentioned it to Martin Blackdown – arguably one of the historians of dubstep and grime in London – who agreed that it wasn’t such a stretch, especially considering Loefah’s avowed love of classic 90s NYC hip hop.
And then on the beats side the interest comes not just from kinship between the likes of Kode9 and Flying Lotus, but also the increased importance of sound systems on the L.A scene, focused on Low End Theory. Whether it was Sam XL and his Pure Filth rig (which Kode first told me about and many in L.A confirmed as a big source of inspiration) or Daddy Kev’s own knowledge and interest in powerful systems (as discussed in our chat), the L.A beat kids soon became hooked on big sounds, boosting the beats with sub bass that rattled as hard as southern productions.
But there was another radio show from the same period that’s equally important, two in fact though they’re under the same name. Brainfeeder Radio, which would ultimately spawn Flying Lotus’ label of the same name and 6 years later find a new lease of life on GTA V’s radio stations. The first broadcast was October 07, a month before the Rinse FM show and has Flying Lotus joined by most of the people who’d end up on the label: Ras G, Samiyam, Gaslamp Killer as well as Sacred, the reclusive L.A producer and DJ who Kutmah first put me on to and whose invisible influence spreads wide. I’d totally forgot Sacred was on there (back when I first heard the show I didn’t know who he was), so it was a pleasant surprise listening back to see him appear. That show features a ton of music that would become central to the explosion of beats and the hype bubble that would close the 00s. The second show followed some six months later to celebrate the release of Flying Lotus’ Los Angeles album on Warp, repeating the extravaganza of the original with a six hour broadcast. What’s interesting with that one is to notice how much the sound has moved from a more blunted, mellow hip hop vibe to something more electronic and bass heavy with a lot of dubstep-minded tracks from Martyn, Kode and others.
It’s interesting listening back to both shows today, now that most of those featured have become household names – Hud Mo, Rustie, Flying Lotus, Ras G, Gaslamp Killer etc… It’s also strange to me that Brainfeeder has never made more of those broadcasts, considering how integral they seem to be to the genesis of the label. The first show wasn’t available online at all anymore until a friend of mine put them back up on YouTube when I asked about them the other day (see above). The second one is archived on Dublab here.
If you want a better understanding of where Brainfeeder and the second wave of L.A beat makers came from, then make time for these.