A new project documents the heritage and legacy of De Underground Records, one of the cornerstones in the foundation of UK hardcore, jungle and drum and bass music. The project is being presented as a limited-edition booklet/poster, audio trail and hour-long podcast as part of Newham Heritage Month 1-31 May, 2021.
De Underground Records was at 18 Sebert Road, Forest Gate (1991-1996). Run by Mike De Underground, DJ Randall, Cool Hand Flex and Uncle 22, the shop and its numerous labels were responsible for many releases including Lennie De Ice’s We Are IE. Collectively the DJs and producers who were associated with the shop and this sound, were highly influential in the development and dissemination of this uniquely UK sound.
Rendezvous Projects CIC who devised this project, capturing oral history interviews with key protagonists in the establishment of the shop and its legacy, including DJ Hype, DJ Randall, Cool Hand Flex, Uncle 22, MC Fats, MC Navigator, MC Rage and A-Sides, some of whom have not given an interview in over 25 years.
This project, entitled Crate Digging: The Influence of De Underground Records, celebrates this previously undocumented history, drawing a line of influence from the area’s sound system culture of the 80s through to more recent grime artists such as D Double E and Footsie, as well as highlighting the important contribution young people have made to the development of British culture.
You could definitely feel that it was special and that I was involved in something that was important in terms of UK dance music culture and UK identity. De Underground is one of the original platforms that made this music what it is and gave people like me, Randall, Uncle 22, Cool Hand Flex, a springboard. MC Navigator
We were guys that had nothing, all we had was our music and this scene that was starting to evolve. We were just passionate about that. I didn’t know I’d be still here at this age still out there playing music to the masses. – DJ Randall
It was a prime example of what an underground record shop and underground label should be. – A-Sides
The archive established as part of this project will be deposited with Newham Archives and Local Studies Library, this includes the full-length oral history interviews, photographs and playlists.
Rendezvous Projects is a Community Interest Company based in East London. Its main purpose is to find creative ways of exploring and capturing social history. Recent projects include Sweet Harmony: Radio, Rave & Waltham Forest, 1989-1994 and Lightboxes and Lettering; Printing Industry Heritage in East London, both National Lottery Heritage Funded. See www.rendezvousprojects.org.uk for more information.
This event is taking place as part of Newham Heritage Month, an annual celebration of the borough’s local heritage, led by the community. The programme of events will be running online throughout May, with free events and activities for everyone. This year’s theme is ‘Shops, Docks and Factories – Newham’s Urban Heritage’ embracing the rich history of industry, innovation and creativity in Newham. The month of heritage and arts festivities will explore the businesses, places and people that make Newham an exciting, friendly and welcoming place to live, with a range of artist-led heritage projects. The vibrant programme will explore what it means to be a citizen in Newham today, living amongst the rich social history of the area.