What frantic music genre tumbles into your ribcage with runaway train energy? Answer: jungle. For over two decades, the genre’s gone hand-in-hand with super-size spliffs, designer-style and bass-driven, extreme bliss.
Writers Andrew Green (AKA ‘Two Fingas’) and Eddie Otchere (AKA ‘James T. Kirk) first stumbled across the rewind-hailing movement in the early 90s, in its ecstatic golden age. Together, they channeled the genre’s culture-bursting, live-wire sprint in the 1995 cult novel JUNGLIST.
Combining super-raw prose and lived-through experiences, the book tells the story of four young Black men coming of age during a sticky, rave-heavy summer in south London in 1994. Think: hyper-real style-bible descriptions of Ministry of Sound’s 90s aesthetic, merged with electric inner-city documentation, told across one lively weekend in excitable, stream of consciousness.
After being out of print for more than twenty years, the avant-garde pulp gets the very sick reissue treatment this week, with a re-release by Repeater Books and a new introduction from Sukhdev Sandhu. Below, is a chapter about hearing the track “The Burial” from Leviticus in the back of a car, featuring exclusive photos from Otchere. Dial in after the jump.
Q pulls away from the kerb and down the lit street, charging up to 90 in a 30mph zone. I’m stoned in the back with my chin stuck to my chest and I’m ready to go. I just need something to jump start my energy level. I lean forward, stretching, reaching, fingers clawing at the air as I try desperately to turn on the radio. I’m a fake-ass wrestler trying to make a tag, having been beaten on for the past ten minutes, as I stretch closer and closer, with my opponent close, breathing down my neck. Find a massive spurt of energy and dive forward into the tag. I hit the knob with my forefinger and spin it on. The car jumps a beat as the music comes in. I fall back, released. Slumped in the back, eyes half closed, head nodding on the beat. Dance to the bass, close my eyes and slip away.
A crystallisation of thought and sound. Crystal forming, pressurised, crushed flat. Broken. Pressure exerted, new forms created, faceted mirrorlike. Reflection of reflection of reflection. Eyes caught, iris wide, attraction, sensation, rub along the palm, brush light, gasp. Dry throat from a sunbeam to a sunray. Flooding, illuminating. Wind, wave, colliding, collapsing. Breaking down. Watch it roll, high peak. Flowing trickle like water.
53 inches above sea level, 93 million miles above these devils, soaring, punching through the atmosphere into the clear inky jetness of space. Tumble frozen. A statue in motion. Contradiction of self and space. No weight, but momentum carrying me forward. Vacuum. No sound, purgatory. Median. Space between.
Fall backward. Heat, force. Tumble. Fall, fall. Icarus. Clipped wings, flight curtailed. Flesh burning, searing, scorching. Ripped from me in strips, flowing behind me. My cloak, my form. Fall forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. Eternity waiting below me. Eternity covering me.
Slip through time — past, present, future.
Whose future? Images within my skin curling forward, wrapping around me. Images, my skin tattooed with light, with form. Fall, fall. Lights around me, angels calling.
Eyes open and I hear the call for the rewind. Strange nebulous underwater sound as the DJ spins that record backwards. Q’s already leaning forward to boost the volume to try and blow his mum’s speakers. I sink back even further into my seat and let Leviticus flow over me. The Burial. Those angel voices whisper and hum. The sound soft and gentle. OOOOOOOO! Hearing it, my spine tingles: I know what comes next. Breath comes quicker, head nodding with the bassline that hasn’t arrived yet. An imperceptible movement. Neck-driven, wind- assisted. A leaf moving in the breeze. Let the intro go. Hear it for what it is. An intro. A space before the bass, a signature, maker’s mark. Letting you know what’s coming next and who’s coming next. So we sit and wait. Letting it come towards us from the depths of subliminal bass. To heart, overtaking strident patterns of aural imagination. The Burial. As the bass makes itself known, Shaquille O’Neal-style, slamming its way through the speakers, heads move forward in unison, nodding. Getting it. The knowledge that you dance on the bassline, not the beat. The bassline. Bass is all. Going back to the beginning of everything. Our primal tribal roots. Our African ancestry. The tribal notes, the lost civilisation of drum and bass. What makes Black music so special is the bassline. Bass that overrides the heartbeat, that interrupts its normal pattern, its normal rhythm and makes it move to the bassline. Bass is the vanishing point on the horizon, where all Black music disappears back to. The rhythm, that heartbeat which entwines itself around your own, pulsing with it. Taking it to another dimension.
Heartbeats thumping strong and powerful.
Bass. The beginning and the end. The rhyme with no omega. Clip your wings and bring you down to earth and show you what life is worth.
Bass. The heartbeat. The bassline becomes you on a level that is impossible to define, so close are you. Drum and Bass, the engine that drives Jungle. It drives us as we nod our heads to The Burial.
Before The Burial, there was The Helicopter Tune, Shuffle, Sweet Love.
After The Burial, there is Warning, Dead Dread, Fire, and they keep coming.
Anthems for a generation returning to its spiritual home. I let it all wash over me, leaving me limp. Head nodding. Jungle is me and I am the Jungle — no distinction, no separation. Siamese twins joined at the chest, the heart. Try to pull us apart and we die. Can’t and won’t live without you.
I pull out my phone and turn it on, pushing the address button, scrolling through until I get to the right number, push dial and wait. Connection.
— Yeah I’d like a big shout out to…
Excerpted from JUNGLIST by Two Fingas and James T. Kirk (Andrew Green and Eddie Otchere) (Repeater Books, 2021). Reprinted with permission from Repeater Books. The London launch for JUNGLIST takes place at Rough Trade East, London on the 19th of August with authors Andrew Green and Eddie Otchere in conversation with Johny Pitts, author of the award-winning Afropean.