DJ Hype was a DJ on one of London’s pirate stations, Fantasy FM, and has been popular on the international DJ circuit, landing awards for Best Male DJ and Best Radio DJ (in 1994 and 1995, respectively) at the UK’s Hardcore Awards. He is also one of the London radio station Kiss 100’s main attractions, and was a player in Suburban Base’s compilation series, ‘Drum and Bass Selection’. A champion of jungle’s dancefloor purity, DJ Hype has also rallied consistently against jungle’s compartmentalization into artificial “scenes” in the late 1990s.
He began producing in 1989, engineering and co-producing tracks (including chart-toppers such as ‘Exorcist’ and ‘The Bee’) for hardcore staples Kickin’, Strictly Underground, and Suburban Base. Although he never lost touch with his breakbeat roots (even going so far as to spin hip-hop instrumentals over house tracks to add a bit of rhythmic flair), it wasn’t until he launched his own Ganja label in 1994 (with the single ‘Cops’) that he began seriously focusing on the post-rave possibilities of sampled breaks. The Ganja label gained almost immediate popularity, primarily through floor-fillers such as ‘You Must Think First’, ‘Tiger Style’ and DJ Zinc’s ‘Super Sharp Shooter.’ That popularity peaked with the release of their first LP in 1996: ‘Still Smokin’, a label compilation released jointly by Ganja and cohort Pascal’s Frontline imprint. The album became one of the highest-selling independent jungle compilations. Re-released in 1997, its success also led to a major label deal with MCA’s Parousia sublabel and the establishment of True Playaz, a DJ Hype-led DJ, and production unit also including DJ Zinc, Pascal, and Rude Bwoy Monty.
DJ Hype is a very busy man so I was overjoyed when I got to spend a few minutes chatting with him about the music he loves and his Playaz nights. If you want to catch the man in action he is set to play Shockout Festival on Saturday 24th February.
Whilst having a coffee I thanked the man for his time and asked what he had been up to with his day… “I have been with Potential Badboy having a meeting about his next release on Playaz, and then I’ve been working together with Annix on a track we’re doing. After that, we all went to Kiss Radio to pre-record my radio show with Annix as a guest; Eksman came along too as I had to have a meeting with him to talk about couple of ideas for working live, then I went to Hoxton to look at a space underneath Daddy Earl’s off-licence with the possibility of having a recording studio there (I am trying to get into a better routine of doing productions again)… that’s my day so far.”
DJ Hype has been involved in the Drum & Bass and Jungle scene since its very beginning. I asked Hype to talk about some of the biggest positives and negatives about the Drum & Bass and electronic music scene, as a whole, over the years. “I think that the great thing about drum and bass is that it’s a global scene with a good underground infrastructure that keeps moving forward all the time, giving room for development and new artists to grow. This enables the scene to keep refreshing and moving forward. When you have a scene that becomes popular and the top producers within it go on to become pop stars, it can cause the underground side to crash and burn because everyone’s gone pop.” He added… “Luckily, we always have a great underground that is still supported by myself and a lot of other DJs, label owners and promoters who put a lot of passion and work into the underground… Long live the underground.”
In my opinion, Drum & Bass is sounding as good as it ever has with so many new fresh artists emerging, and the old brigade continuing to get better and better. I asked Hype to talk about some of his favourite newcomers to the scene, and the ones to watch. “Too many really but here are a few – and I mean just a few… Critical Impact, Current Value (who is not actually new, but on fire at the moment), Limited, Profile, Flatline, Bou, Leaf, Simula, K Motionz, Eazy, plus loads of others… It’s hard keeping up with ‘em all.”
DJ Hype and Pascal run Playaz Recordings and have been causing waves together with the label for what seems forever. I asked Hype to tell me about how the label first came about and what he has on the horizon for 2018. “Pascal was the original Johnny Jungle, we met thru a guy call Sponge back in 1992 I think; we became friends quite quickly and helped and advised each other with our own separate projects and labels etc.”
Pascal and I got on so well that we decided to join up and do a label. Back then, I had a young new producer called DJ Zinc who I brought in and the three of us were Playaz back then. We parted company with Zinc many years ago but we have continued with Playaz, signing artists such as Sub Zero, Potential Badboy, Hazard, Tyke, Taxman and Jam Thieves (from Brazil). We are just planning out 2018 now really…
Hype commented that they are always looking for new artists, and even hinted that we may be seeing a compilation album later in the year!
I could not have sat and chatted with DJ Hype without mentioning Fabric and their ongoing relationship over the years. I asked his thoughts on Fabric’s closure and his thoughts on the terms in which the club was reopened. “It was a shock when it closed and after 15 years of hosting Playaz nights there, we were left with a huge void that needed to be filled. Happily, Fabric did reopen, but Playaz had to move on because we had no idea if it would open ever again and had to secure a new London plan of action. Since then, we have had 2 sold-out shows at Electric Brixton, a stage at SW4 Festival and a sold-out New Year’s Eve at Brixton Academy – all in 2017. Plus, this year we are doing Printworks and a few other Playaz nights tied in with Lock & Load. I am DJing a 3-hour set at Fabric on the 23rd of Feb and I am sure we will get a Playaz night there too. I love Fabric and have missed playing there monthly.”
Over the years the UK has had a great history in taking music from overseas and using or combining those influences to forge new genres of music such as Drum & Bass, Dubstep or Hardcore. I asked Hype why he thought we have such a strong history of doing so and whether it had stagnated in recent years.
“I think the combination of the UK being so multi-cultured and also having a strong pirate radio scene, which was a quite unique London thing, helped develop music styles without support from commercial radio who would never support anything underground. Things are different now of course with internet etc, but the UK definitely had the head start over everyone else when it comes to multiculturalism in music.”
Besides DJing, Hype is involved in all aspects of the scene from A&R to putting on events. I asked him if he preferred any particular area over the other… “I love DJing the most… but you have to do it all these days. I suppose I moan a lot about it all and I get stressed dealing with it all, but at the same time I love it and I am proud to be still flying the flag and popular.” Hype can often be seen playing a back to back set especially at larger events, so I had to ask whether he preferred playing a DJ set on his own or as part of a back to back. “I like playing b2b with Hazard and of course, I like DJing on my own, but I do find it hard doing b2b with other DJs and try not to do them too much.”
In today’s world artists have to have a presence on social media which can often be a huge responsibility. I asked Hype his thoughts on social media today… “It is what it is. It’s good but sometimes it can put me right off a certain artist in what bullshit they post, or I can end up liking an artist more because of the bullshit they post. However it’s part of today’s society and everyone does it, so it’s a part of the game. Self-promotion I suppose.”
I have often thought to myself that Drum & Bass tracks often age very well. I asked Hype his thoughts on this… “Some drum and bass ages well, but is that not the same for any genre? You have ya classics and also a hell of a lot of throwaway of-the-moment tracks that never become a true hit. Also, Drum and Bass/Jungle producers are probably the most-skilled technically, so you’re bound to get good hits when they come out.”
As a man that spends his life immersed in Drum & Bass and Jungle sounds I wanted to know what he liked to kick back a listen to when he had a few minutes to kick back and chill… “I listen to all music from Nat King Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Chronix, 80s soul and reggae, house, trap, jazz, world music… in a nutshell, I am open to all music.”
You can catch DJ Hype on Tuesday nights from 9-10pm on Kiss Fresh for the best in upfront Drum and Bass/Jungle. Plus, you can follow him on Instagram.