It's the tail end of 2019 and Bradford's Bad Boy Chiller Crew are setting the stage alight at Trance Party, a regular night at South London's Corsica Studios. Alongside electronic artists like Varg2 ™, Total Freedom and Lisa Pinup, the three of them stick out like a ket halo. But their frenetic topless bassline MCing quickly turns the crowd into instant fans – PC Music’s Danny L. Harle is at the front with his hands in the air, and the atmosphere is sweaty and full on. Afterwards, BBCC’s Gareth Kelly – otherwise known as GK – heads to the green room, getting emotional. It's the biggest night they've ever played, he says, and it means a lot.
BBCC – made up of GK, MC Clive and Kane – are more than a crew. They're an autonomous media company. They've remixed UK garage tunes into Bradford-style bassline bangers. They've released branded music partnerships with a carwash. They've created their own universe of comedy characters online, based on their experiences growing up on council estates. And their Jackass-style skits have been getting serious organic numbers – over 150 million, according to their manager Darren AKA Dr Google (his dad used to run an adult website, Go Ogle, hence the name.) In one video, Clive (the one with the mullet), puts a traffic cone to his mouth while the rest of them pour whatever drinks they can find down it, cans and all. I had to go and meet them for myself.
Myself and VICE host Tir Dhondy wound up driving to Bradford to film BBCC and the West Yorkshire rapper S-Dog for a documentary about the trio, which you can watch below. Crowded into a small studio in someone's back garden, they came across like a hit-making machine; churning out two brand new belters in a few hours, with each MC taking turns to spit bars about doing keys, copping three Phantoms and local fiends robbing goldfish from Pets At Home.
Tir asked them why they chose to MC over bassline rather than something like drill. Kane shrugged. “It’s what we like. It’s what we listen to,” he said, simply. “It’s always been popular in Bradford,” GK laughed, “'cause we’re still 20 years behind!”
GK might be joking but he's got a point: breathing new life into forgotten genres is a rich tradition in regional scenes in the UK. BBCC’s music and antics could be seen as belonging to a bygone era, one we recognise from the 2000s, but which now only exists in Facebook echo chambers. Their world is an irresistibly nostalgic jacuzzi bubbling with UK bassline, stunts, sesh culture and people calling each other “charva”. Even so, it seems to have built them an army of new young fans, and in quite a short space of time.
After their studio sesh, Tir and I jumped in their BBCC branded van. They took us to a spot affectionately dubbed, “Top O’ World” – a hill overlooking their estate – so I popped off some stills.
A week later, we returned to Bradford to catch them performing a gig for their underage fans at a local social club ahead of their then-upcoming world tour, which – before the coronavirus pandemic – was supposed to take them to destinations as far-flung as China, according to Dr Google.
Outside the venue, legions of kids sporting MC Clive’s trademark mullet were hanging about in groups. Tir asked one of them if the mullet was a popular haircut in Bradford. “Oh yeah, mullets and curtains are,” he said, before going on to promo his own MC crew. These kids are barely in their teens, meaning they definitely wouldn't have been around for the first wave of UK bassline. It might be a stretch to claim that BBCC are kickstarting a bassline renaissance, but they're definitely ushering in a moment right now.
A couple of the kids had bunked off school to get tickets and a glimpse of the crew. “Do you actually do coke?” one of them asked BBCC, followed by fits of laughter from GK and Kane. With lyrics like, “Lines of the flake to get my heart pumping,” and “Put your guns in the air and get your keys out,” it's not an off-topic question. Tir asked them why they mentioned drugs so much. “We’re just demonstrating what we’ve been brought up around,” explained GK. “We believe taxpaxers' money don’t make Bradford go round, it’s white and brown powder.” More fits of laughter followed.
As the gig kicked off, hundreds of kids started shouting along and even grabbing the mic themselves to perform their own renditions of their favourite BBCC tracks. The vibe had the same energy as the time I watched the Vengaboys at a Mecca Bingo in Southend-on-Sea – euphoric, candy blasts of bassy pop where you unconsciously knew most of the words but had no idea why. (The lads also cite the Vengaboys as a major influence.)
After the show, Dr Google took to the stage to announce the winners of a raffle – another way of generating income – and we spoke to the lads for the last time IRL. “What’s next for the Bad Boy Chiller Crew?” asked Tir, congratulating them on their performance. Kane seemed hyped. “We’re goin’ on tour mush and we’re goin divvy,” he replied, oblivious, like the rest of us, to the global pandemic which lay ahead.
Since COVID-19, the lads are having a Beatles-style Hamburg moment. They've relocated to Dr Google’s permanent residence in Minsk, Belarus, to escape the UK, hone their craft and for GK to finally get the chest reduction surgery he’s always wanted. In the meantime they’ve been pumping out the social content, from GK documenting his hospital experience to bottle service club appearances with live snakes to MC Clive necking an entire bottle of voddy and shitting in Dr. Google’s prosthetic leg.
Right before the documentary's release, I arrange a Zoom screening with BBCC and the London label House Anxiety, who released their recent single “450 ft. S-Dog” and EP Full Wack No Breaks. The crew all answer the call topless while getting massages in their hotel room. It’s probably the strangest screening I’ve ever done, but I'm relieved to hear they enjoyed the film, with Dr Google giving us his seal of approval. “I reckon this’ll put VICE on the map,” he says.