TEXT: JAMES KNIGHT, PHOTOS: JAMES PEARSON-HOWES AND BEN RAYNER,
ILLUSTRATION: KATE MOROSS
STYLISTS: LOLA OKUYIGA AND KYLIE GRIFFITHS Bassline house was born in a magic place called the North of England, mainly in rainy, violent, miserable towns like Sheffield and Leeds. For most Brits, their first introduction to bassline house was to hear it blasted out of car-stereo subwoofers by thuggish, murderous poor kids with too much gel in their hair and fancy shirts that you can’t make fun of them for wearing or else they will cut your face open. The cars were usually cheap Citroëns, modified to within an inch of their lives with blue neon strips shining from underneath them and windows tinted so dark that it must be illegal and clouds of skunky weed smoke pouring out of them and… You get the idea. That was who liked bassline house first. We recently went to a bassline house night in Leeds to meet some of the punters. Come along…
Armani Exchange hoodie
Bassline broke big at the end of last year with the release of T2’s track “Heartbroken.” Suddenly Pop Idol pig Leona Lewis had been turfed from the number one spot after 67,000 consecutive weeks of yawn-inducing inanity and everyone in London was claiming they’d been into bassline since copping a few “Agent X white labels in Uptown to mix with their DJ Narrows records back in ’02” or some such lie. It’s more likely that at that time these people were listening to abysmal DJ Hell compilations and taking worse cocaine while they snooped around the internet looking for the next wagon to hitch their turncoat ponies to. But we digress…
Stone Island jacket
Now bassline house has spread to the States too, with a few very (sadly) influential music critics (who shall remain nameless in these pages because, like most demons, saying their name only increases their power) putting bassline on their 2007 best-of year-end listy thingies. Keep in mind that this is the same trajectory that little things out of the UK like trip-hop, jungle, the fucking Klaxons, M.I.A., grime, and “nu rave” traveled. In other words, you are going to be dealing with bassline house in one form or another in 2008.
Lyle and Scott Sweater, Evisu jeans
Meanwhile, bassline continued to grow in places up North where people talk funny and do things like put engravings of Lucozade bottles on their murdered friends’ gravestones. Pirate radio, 16-CD mixtape packs and the notorious Niche nightclub gave the sound an identity, but Niche was closed due to repeated police raids that revealed organized gang-related crime, drug trafficking, and gun and knife violence to be endemic within the bassline scene. A little-seen BBC North documentary last September detailing the extent of the violence in bassline, combined with the sound’s imminent total takeover of the charts (tracks by Delinquent, Dexplicit, and T2 have all been licensed to majors) persuaded us to go and check out what the Yorkshire Constabulary have called, in typical alarmist British-cop pussy fashion, “currently the greatest threat to our area’s youth.”
Armani Exchange t-shirt
Despite its ominous name and preceding police reports of further gang violence at bassline events in Hull and Huddersfield, the Leeds nightclub that we visited, Rehab, was filled with the kind of kids you could imagine having a good time at any suburban London club—only here it was with exciting, bass-heavy music that if you’d been paying attention, our columnist Prancehall has been telling you about in Vice UK for over a year, assholes.
(l-r): Armani Exchange dress; Armani Exchange top and skirt; Evisu skirt
The promoter, the majority of the crowd, and the DJs were happy to talk to us. In fact, the only guy who gave us any shit was Science from Big Brother 4. Or was it 5? We’re not sure because we didn’t watch it but he definitely wanted us to help launch his rap “career.” What we’re trying to say here, in an incredibly longwinded way, is that bassline is just like any other scene from jungle to grime that has been wrongly branded as a threatening pariah by those that have never even set foot in a rave or met any of the people involved. But we did, and we do it a lot, and it’s pretty great. In fact we’re off back there next month, and we’re going to keep at it until bassline inevitably appears in yogurt and shampoo commercials, at which point we’ll find something new and tell you about that, but, as usual, you won’t listen until it’s almost too late.