A monthly round-up of the best Grime & Dubstep out each and every month — here are January 2022’s picks.
Album of the Month: Footsie – ‘King Original Vol.6’ (Braindead Entertainment)
Consistent as gravity
1. Sweaty Betty
2. Bere Stabs
3. Wash Up
The years might keep on rolling by, but Footsie keeps on delivering. ‘King Original Vol.6’ forms the sixth dispatch in his King Original instrumental series since first debuting back in 2013 and as with past volumes, captures him in full creative bloom. Although best known for his work on mic alongside D Double E and as one half of the Newham Generals in his own right, his beat-making remains arguably just as prestige. Here, he shifts between tense, shock-and-awe grime (‘Bere Stabs’), pensive rollers (‘Blue Ones’, ‘Convo’), floaty, late-summer heaters (‘Summer Run’, ‘Sweaty Betty’) and contorted, de-tuned club barnstormers like album standout ‘Wash Up’ on 10 tracks that lay down a firm marker; there’s only one King Original – and he’ll never forget his roots. 8/10
Tune of the Month: M.I.C & Nammy Wams – ‘Naoki Urasawa Could Have Written This Shit’ (Bandcamp)
M.I.C & Nammy Wams have come to form a formidable due over the last 12 months, particularly after releasing last summer’s ‘YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING’ – a six-track grime tape dripping in punk-y, do-whatever-you-want energy. With Nammy now a core member of Bok Bok’s AP Life label, his status as a producer dissecting the intersection between grime and drill has only benefited M.I.C – a barrer always keen to explore, push boundaries and hurl grime into new spaces. His idiosyncrasy is front and centre on the brilliant ‘Naoki Urasawa Could Have Written This Shit’, a track defined by its reflections on Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and Jeff Bezos, but also by M.I.C’s nonchalant, syrupy delivery and a Nammy beat that freeze-frames the bleakness of Tory Britain circa 2022. 9/10
Jammz – ‘Free Up The Riddims Vol.4’ (I Am Grime)
Jammz unlocks his latest treasure trove
The fourth volume of Jammz’s coveted ‘Free Up The Riddims’ series is, as ever, every bit as good as we’ve come to expect. Written specifically for radio – and perhaps more importantly, with the room for MCs to express themselves – these are beats honed in years of experience; as both a celebrated mic-man, but also a producer with an astute, finely-tuned ear. There’s room for mellow moments anchored in menace (‘Searching’, ‘Back 2 Reality’), skeletal, dub-leaners (‘The Show’), skippy, cut-and-paste bruisers (‘Who You Wit?’) and even UKG bloomers like ‘Text Me Back’, as well as the instrumentals for 2019’s ‘So Wait’ with Syer B and 2021’s ‘Dark & Light’. In short – essential. 8/10
Lemzly Dale – Ryūjin / Saviour (Bandcamp)
There are few superlatives left to chuck at producer, DJ and illustrator, Lemzly Dale, but on ‘Ryūjin’ – one of his most cherished and sought-after tracks – he finds us clutching for more. Named after a sea deity in Japanese mythology, ‘Ryūjin’ is triumphant, boss-level, end-credits fare; a track that melds booming, Bristol-calibre bass pressure with glitchy, 16-bit era tweaks a la E.M.M.A’s ‘Mindmaze’. Flipside cut ‘Saviour’ is equally as good, throwing out crunching beats and gorgeous, ethereal melodies that seem to spiral in-and-out of focus, in turn generating their own sense of heady, addictive euphoria. Dropped at minimal notice with no fanfare – a true Lemzly Dale hallmark – this is a release more than good enough to traverse multiple EOY lists come December. 10/10
Qwirk – ‘Bubbly’ EP (In:Flux Audio)
Manchester’s Qwirk is the latest to step up to the In:Flux plate and he does so with plenty of panache on new EP, ‘Bubbly’. The squelching pressure and scatter-shot laser FX of space-y opener ‘Bubbly’ border on giddy at points, while the dizzying rattle of helter-skelter club wrecker, ‘Oppress’, is reminiscent of early Caspa & Rusko. The two originals come backed up by heavyweight remixes from S3 Dubs, who turns a rasping, percussive hand to ‘Oppress’, and Ekula, who takes things one notch further with a scorching, breaks-y drum melee of his own. 6/10
Drone – ‘Gamma Ray’ (Bandcamp)
More intriguing music from one of Bristol’s best
Drone – now a fixture at Alix Perez’s 1985 Music and with releases on V.I.V.E.K’s SYSTEM label also to his name – is a producer who continues to grow with every record. Albeit inspired by the rich lineage of Bristol-based producers before him, he’s now honing a tense, brooding sound that feels distinctly his and on ‘Gamma Ray’ – his first soft drop of 2022 – he builds out that vision further. Cut with more of a rolling, UK techno lean than the guttural dubstep twang of previous Drone material, ‘Gamma Ray’ is still shadowy and unnerving in tone – and big on low-end – but perhaps signposts a new direction; more of a gradual, winding turn than a sharp hairpin right, though. 8/10
PK x Lolingo – ‘After Work’ (Bandcamp)
Still one of grime’s most dynamic and charismatic MCs, PK shines bright again on ‘After Work’ – a new single produced by Lolingo. The instrumental (‘Come Dine With Me’) is playful, choppy and almost slapstick in places, with PK’s vocal – and memorable adlib repertoire – mirroring the same bubble gum energy. Grab! 8/10
Emz – ‘Mask’ (Bandcamp)
Different flow, same result!
While often found sparring with talented Bristol producer Sir Hiss, Emz enlists another of his city’s stalwarts on dark and venomous new single, ‘Mask’. Produced by OH91 – a go-to grime producer for the best part of 10 years under the mentorship of Sir Spryo – ‘Mask’ instead fixes its mast to drill. The beat is wheezing, fractious, moody, while Emz’s bars are direct and fierce – a far cry from the breezy, lo-slung rap of tracks like 2021’s ‘Finna’. Does it matter? Not one bit. Whatever mood he’s in, Emz continues to prove he’s one of the UK’s brightest young MCs. 8/10
Boylan – ‘Cursed’ EP (Mean Street Records)
Boylan returns to Trends’ Mean Streets imprint with four of his best on new EP, ‘Cursed’. More minimalist in focus than some of his more scything material, the title-track opens with eerie calm, lurching forward as sinister, rumbling beats and an oddball sense of ‘50s cinema keep things tense, while second track ‘Grid’ flips the 8-bar cowbell grime script to devastating effect. Third track ‘Operation Grand Slam’ lands somewhere in the middle of the EP’s first two tracks, deploying hammer bass blows and razor-sharp stabs despite its spatial, skeletal structure, while final track ‘Germs’ – a breathless collaboration with Trends – is pure breaks-flavoured pressure; unrelenting, uncompromising, lethal. 8/10
Various – ‘Time Volume 4’ (Slimzos Recordings)
The Slimzos stable do business quietly and with minimal fuss, churning out a high volume of records from Slimzee’s cohort of talented and hungry grime producers. ‘Time Volume 4’ – the fourth volume of the label’s popular multi-artist compilation series – is a testament to that ethos. Comprised of a mammoth 22 tracks, it provides a widescreen 4k snapshot of where grime may be headed, sampling tracks from veterans like Spooky, Owlybeats and Slimzos co-head DJ Garna, as well as up-and-comers from across the roster. Our tips include ZimZima’s low-end monster ‘Yoshi’, Gizmo’s ‘KwikFire’ and the snarling, weaponised crunch of DJ Garna x AS.IF KID’s ‘Bully’. 7/10
Top 3 Selected
— Shining a light on some of the month’s best DJ Mixes —
Neffa-T at Keep Hush Live: London – January 12th 2022
He’s ranked as one of grime’s best technical DJs for years, but sometimes it takes a live camera setup and a bustling Wednesday night crowd to remind everyone just how good Neffa-T is. Rocking up to DJ Oblig’s Birthday Bash at Keep Hush – housed at Corsica Studios for the night – with an extra CDJ deck under his arm and a USB full of ammo, Neffa-T unloaded a set for the history books. Running Flirta D’s ‘Warp Speed’ acapella through quickfire blend after quickfire blend, it was WIZE’s ‘Dark Fire Hydrant’ dub that caught the night’s biggest wheel, sending the GoPro nearest the decks flying.
Beauty Blender w/ A.G & Manara on NTS Live – January 7th 2022
A typically rowdy volume of A.G & Manara’s standout monthly show on NTS, taking in tracks from all corners, eras and conceivable genres and stitching them together like a technicolour patchwork. Cutting in-and-out of South Asian club flavour, 90’s dance anthems, Boxed-era grime, nostalgia-reaching RnB and cutting-edge electronica, it’s a riot from start to finish – listen out for Nimco Happy into Basement Jaxx at the 10 minute mark; pure ecstasy!
DJ Oblig b2b Jack Dat b2b Plastician on Rinse FM – January 7th 2022
Oblig’s Rinse show has become a jump-off point for anyone looking to get to grips with the best grime, drill and what-do-you-call it club music over the last three years. The secret? He makes every show feel like an event. His one off triple-threat b2b with Jack Dat – another brilliant technical DJ – and scene OG, Plastician, is well worth setting aside two hours for, serving as another nod to Oblig’s curational nouse.
It’s been a jam-packed start to 2022 and it doesn’t let up in February (!) – look out for ONHELL’s new beat anthology ‘Grime Beats Vol.II’ via Deep, Dark & Dangerous … and a new full-length EP (‘Now You See Me’) from precociously talented new gen MC/producer, Duppy … there’s also a spellbinding new Commodo record on the way via Black Acre – first taste ‘Living Bones’, a grizzly, dungeon-dwelling electronic twist on grunge-y ‘90s punk, released in January, with the full EP (‘Deft 1s’) out February 17 … and Bristol stalwart Gemmy is set to debut on Infernal Sounds – consistently one of the UK’s most on-point dubstep outposts – later in February, too. New music also worth a mention in January includes J Beatz’s breezy ‘6 Flavours’ EP – a record traversing grime, UKG, drill & more – as well as Ziplokk x 11th Hour’s booming ‘Heads Up’ EP on Eyesome, Slick’s snarling, hyper-moody ‘Shape Delay’ four-tracker on Kenyon Sound and a trio of Bandcamp releases from Spooky, including ‘The January’ EP; a hazy, poolside beat excursion from the fast and furious grime instrumentals that have long been his calling card.