Yesterday, dubstep DJ and producer Benga announced his retirement from Djing on his Facebook page, saying: "im engage to Holly-Jae Treadgold the love of my life, my djing career is finished i just wanna start a family. big up to all my real supporters its been a lovely time", and signalling an abrupt end to a near fifteen-year career as one of dubstep's leading lights.
Whilst retiring from DJing doesn't necessarily mean an end to his production and song-writing work, the response from fans was a heady mix of shock and support. At just 26 years old some see it as wildly pre-emptive for Benga to step away from the spotlight, and especially at a time of massive crossover success for the Croydon lad, after co-writing hits for Katy B, Miss Dynamite and Kano most recently, but Benga has had a comparatively long and influential career. Having released his first 12" on Big Apple Records at the age of 15, three subsequent LPs, and dozens of 12" and EPs in between, Benga's journey from the underage kid on the FWD>> dance floor to festival headliner has been a pleasure to watch.
To mark the occasion, we've picked some of our favourite Benga cuts; from old school wobblers, to his more recent pop-leaning successes.
'Dose' (Big Apple Records, 2002)
The B side of Benga's first release on Big Apple Records, the now near legendary label and shop that was at the centre of the beginnings of dubstep. Within 'Dose', you can hear so many of the influences that played a part in what we now know as dubstep; the shuffling, two-stepping beats, a twinkling of a melody that would slide easily into garage, but all tinged with a darkness that give the tunes an edge.
'The Judgement' (Big Apple Records, 2003)
If you don't have good headphones or speakers, you're wasting your time playing this over any shitty laptop speakers. This 2003 release saw Benga teaming up with his partner-in-crime Skream, and would set them on their way to becoming the prodigal sons of the dubstep scene. While not one of their most well known tracks, listening back now it hints at both of their adeptness as producers, with multiple layers and samples that set it apart.
'A New Age' (Southside Dubstars, 2006)
It's sometimes easy to forget when listening to some of his more recent output that Benga made some of the best minimal tunes of the time. Everyone always talks about the bass when they mention dubstep, which is fair, but sometimes it's the small embellishments that really made a Benga track stand out; the teases of haunting melodies that would drift in and out, giving them so much more depth than just snare, kick drum and a bass line.
'Military' (Hotflush, 2006)
These days you'd probably get laughed out of the room for suggesting Benga could put out a song on Hotflush, with Hotflush now dedicated to house and techno. But back in 2006 it made complete sense, and thankfully so, otherwise we wouldn't be graced with this absolute beast.
'10 Tons Heavy' (Planet Mu, 2006)
The name says it all, really. A collaboration between Hatcha and Benga really couldn't have sounded like anything apart from this. The combination of the sinister vocal sample, looped over and over again as the bass line shuffles onwards. It's dark, it's heavy, and it just about sums up everything a crowd-pleasing dubstep track should be.
'Crunked Up' (Tempa, 2007)
If you've heard this on a big system, in the middle of a dark, sweaty club, then you'll understand this. The melody at the start of the track would build up the anticipation, and everyone in a club would know what's about to happen 55 seconds into the song - but that just made it all the more effective.
'Night' (Tempa, 2008)
Dubstep's first crossover hit? Quite possibly. Some people might roll their eyes at this song now, but compare this to any dubstep cross-over hit you hear these days, and I know which one I'd prefer to be hearing out in clubs regularly. Benga has always had an ear for a melody that would get stuck in your head for days, and after you've had a listen to this you're not going to be hearing anything else in your head for a good 24 hours.
'Emotions' (Tempa, 2008)