Meet Skream: Croydon’s musical wonderkid. At 15 he discovered making music. Five years later he’s changed the course of UK urban music, having helped build the foundations of London’s most exciting new musical style, dubstep. But he’s barely started yet: because right now, Skream is an artist on fire.
Skream’s story begins in Croydon, in secondary school year 11. He wasn’t getting on with teachers and they weren’t getting on with him: but he was getting on with his music. But two friendships cemented then would start him onto the path to musical success.
First he met Benga, another talented Croydon kid who was starting to make music. Then he met Hatcha, soon to be one of the most influential and pioneering DJs in urban music. Around 2000 Benga and Skream set about building on the early dark garage flavours that were to be found on the pirate airwaves around Croydon. Through Hatcha’s sets at club Forward» and releases on the seminal Big Apple label, they were about to create a new phase of dubstep.
At first Skream specialised in one flavour of dubstep: dark. His clipped, techy minimal style became a trademark sound. Long before grime existed, it reflected dark murky streets and sinister nights, the sound of decaying London and its frustrated communities, stuck out in satellite towns and sink estates with nothing but a PC and freely available software to channel their frustration into. Stuck in front of a PC for days on end, that’s exactly what Skream did.
Then two years ago Digital Mystikz burst onto the dubstep scene, expanding the sound with new flavours and vivid colours. Skream became even more inspired. It not like he wasn’t prolific already – rumour has it he’s made over 1500 tracks – but out poured a host of bright new tracks from the wonderkid. “Indian remix” took him into trippy Asian territories, “Cheeky…” into Arabia, his unreleased mixes of Sunship fused Jamaican dancehall smut with hooky Kraftwerk melodies. “Smiling Face” broke out cheerful reggae skanks on dancefloors.
But his biggest tune was yet to come. Enter “Midnight Request Line” – on Tempa records – an anthemic explosion of electro arpeggios and dub sub-bass. It’s a tune you can sing along to: Skream has it as his own ringtone. When it got dropped by DJ Youngsta at club Forward» grime dons Wiley, Jammer and the rest of Roll Deep began to shock out, flashing their lighters out of hard earned respect. The flip of this mighty release is bassline boomer “I,” an excursion into deep dub basslines and shifting cinematic textures.
Since the huge success of “Midnight Request Line” UK & International DJ gigs have been coming thick and fast, with Skream getting a rapturous response at New York’s rammed Dub War event, as well as at shows in Leeds, Belgium, Bristol & Germany. He’s also been busy releasing classic after classic on the popular Skreamizm EPs, now into the second volume. From the Amen heavy rinse out of ‘Lightning Dub’, to the masterclass in LFO-wobbling sub-bass ‘Blipstream’, these tracks are rewound at every dubstep rave, have received glowing reviews and are appearing in sets by DJs as diverse as Mr Scruff, Freq Nasty & Ricardo Villalobos.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise he likes sub-bass, Skream has grown up around it. His older brother was a member of Croydon’s notorious jungle hell-raising raving outfit Intanatty Crew, which featured Radio 1’s Grooverider and Bailey’s 1Xtra as members. Ollie, Skream’s real name, is no stranger to a bit of hell raising himself, famous for his up-for-it behaviour at parties or out on the town. In fact he’s the only known music artist with a subdued alter-ego. Most rock stars are quiet by day with flamboyant alter-egos. Our wonderkid is the other way around. But then that’s wonderkids like Skream for you: unique.