Tomorrow night will be the second installment of Full Flex. A UK Garage focused night by Good Room and Mush Post who are bringing Darling Chuck, Sheepshead, DJ Far East, girlsgetlow, Mite, and James Cook to rinse out the night.
Predominately loved by the English and influenced by Drum and Bass, Jungle, Speed Garage and the early 2000 club scene, the musical genre has slowly, in the last 10-15 years, gained a pop cult following by the likes of Disclosure, Jamie XX, Skream, Craig David and Drake. The genre is responsible for harboring and spawning other genres like Dubstep, Grime and even a Billboard Top 10 hit in the US, I Gotta Get Thru this by Daniel Beddingfield.
Since the late 90’s and early 2000, UK Garage was in the shadows of soulless, heavy, mechanical, beat driven music like Drum and Bass, Hard House, Trance, and Breakbeat. Before crossing the Atlantic to England, early DJs and producers like Todd Edwards, Armand Van Helden and Roy Davis Jr would champion sped up, baseline driven, House music in clubs around New York City later dubbed Speed Garage. The pioneers of the sound took four to the floor House and Disco anthems of Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage, The Tunnel, Limelight and chopped them up to create a syncopated shuffle to break up the monotony of the club and give a more intimate and non abrasive vocal break during late night drug infused parties. Speed Garage has given us songs like Spin Spin Sugar by The Sneaker Pimps and Roy Davis Jr’s Gabrielle which are still club classics on both sides of the pond.
When it reached the UK and it started to brew on the pirate radios and underground club scene, it transformed in the posh nightclubs of London. The genre took its own life and was adopted by champagne drinkers, bottles, and Mediterranean beach vibes. With the soulless mechanical beat-driven music that was played at Fabric, there was little outlet for female vocals, dancing, and conversation. UK garage allowed this outlet for artist like Artful Dodger, MJ Cole, Zed Bias, Matt Jam Lamont to take the sound to the mainstream clubs and radio stations to encourage interaction and vibrations between club goers.
For the most part of the 2000’s, UK Garage was a vehicle for UK producers to get their remixes on B sides of Pop record releases. It cultivated an underground economy of low-quality bootleg records illegally pressed and sold to DJs around the world. Eventually, anyone from Janet Jackson, Tweet, 3LW, Usher, and Sisqo would be remixed into UK Garage and launch careers like Craig David. It was the late 20th century underground version of Disco music, where it became saturated with formulaic pop ballads sung by men and women longing for the time that was.
During the 2000’s, technology continue to advance along with DJ gear (Serato), music sharing (Torrents) and broadcast systems (streaming radio). In the UK, BBC 1xtra was started as a digital radio station to compete with pirates like Kiss FM and Rinse FM to promote ‘new black music,’ which included Dancehall, RnB, Drum and Bass, Garage and Deep House. Shows like The Dreem Teem, opened the outlet for mass intercontinental broadcasting, listener feedback and conversation outside the independent record pools, online music forums and P2P communities. It was at this point where UK Garage did a feedback loop and returned to the states in cities like Dallas, DC, Baltimore, New York and Chicago.
Fast forward 15 years, we championed this old and new sounds on both sides of the pond, allowing other UK Garage sub-genres like Bassline, Sublow, Funky a place to exist. The genre is a timestamp and possibly one of the first genres of new music that traveled around the world through the internet and the last to travel through record exchanges and pools.
UK Garage style can be heard in a lot of 21st-century music, but if you ever get a chance to go to a night where it is strictly this, I highly encourage it. It gives one a fun time to sip champagne, dance to cheesy vocals, and shout BO BO BO during a record rewind of your favorite 90’s RnB song remixed in a way you have never heard before.