Deep, dubby, cheeky, metallic. For the next several weeks, XLR8R will profile eight young DJ/producers exploring different facets of dubstep, the low-end sound of the London underground. For our final installment in the series, we listen as a Croydon kid and his mentor sound off on street bass.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Bullfrog Records owner Cluekid, a 19-year-old producer and Star Trek mega-fan from South London, had never heard of dubstep. He and frequent partner-in-crime Cotti, who runs the Bassface imprint, were busy churning out dirty, under-processed white-label tracks as part of the nine-member grime crew 4N Format. One day, the elder, Cotti–the son of Cluekid family friends–took young Clue to DJ Chef’s house and changed his production course. “Cotti was talking about Skream and I never heard him before. Then they played me ‘Glamma’ and ‘Midnight Request Line,’” says Clue, on the phone from Chef’s house, with a new track they’re working on blaring in the background. “I thought it was fucking big, man! Straight away, it reminded me more of the vibes of jungle and the tunes sounded more quality, so no need for MCs.”
Cluekid and Cotti got deeper into the dubstep sound, unleashing the squelchy techno-fied ragga of “Legacy” and their brutal Barrington Levy version “Sensi Dub.” Solo, Clue produces darkcore rave rinses like “Hovercraft” and Cotti’s got grime MCs Doctor and Jammer dropping conscious verses on “Calm Down” and “Dem Fi Know.” “Clue usually goes for a more tech-y, electro-y sound while Cotti’s usually more dubby and more ethnic,” says Chef of their respective styles. “And Clue can be typically a jungle guy, like old-school ragga ’94 stuff.”
“That kind of vibe is where a lot of my influence comes from, those punchy-sounding 808 subs,” concurs Clue, who got exposed to jungle classics like Remarc’s “R.I.P” and DJ Nut Nut’s “Special Dedication” when he was about 13. Growing up with a guitar player dad, Clue had already been around music from a young age, jamming on drums with his dad and listening to his Jimi Hendrix and Who records.
He’s yet to add the classic rock vibe to dubstep, though he’s definitely mining his adoration of Star Trek, using Captain Kirk samples and laser sounds in tracks. And now that he and Cotti are putting so much effort into beats and basslines, he says they don’t fuck with MP3s or CDs anymore; like most of the dubstep scene, the pair strictly plays vinyl and dubplates, which, at £30 per two-sided 10-inch, is no cheap endeavor.
But it’s not really about the money for these two, who have plenty to come with their joint Minus -30 label and busy DJ schedules. “They’re both chill,” concurs Chef. “Clue’s more disorganized; he just goes with the flow, just going deep and having a good time. But they’re both cool, honest people, and they just do this music every day, all day, same as me.”