As another year draws to a close before we begin to look ahead to what the new year might bring, we’ve been taking the time to look back at the bangers that got us moving, shaking and skanking throughout 2018. Whether it’s an infectious bassline, an ability to conjure a sense of ominous dread, or just sheer lyrical mastery, these are the tracks that we’ve had to reload time and time again throughout the year. Naturally we’ll keep bumping them long in to 2019 and beyond but in the meantime let’s look back and reflect on our favourite tracks from this year. In no particular order, here we go…
Grady – Trends and Boylan with Spooky Bizzle
Trends and Boylan have certainly taken the year by storm with tracks such as Krueger with the London City Warlord, Riko Dan threatening to ‘buss out ya head like the bludclart Freddy Kruger’ and a shutdown Keep Hush set. The culmination of their sound was their EP, released at the end of the year, Bedlam. With its definition of uproar and confusion and its archaic derivation from the infamous Bethlem psychiatric hospital, the title to the EP seems ever more appropriate as you delve deeper into the dark horrors of the project. The duo’s flare in production comes from their skill in using haunting samples from horror films such as Hitchcock’s Psycho to make up hard hitting beats that are bound to make you feel like you need to be physically restrained. To use an example, one track, Pam, is literally made up of a petrified woman’s (I presume Pam’s) final screams. Enamoured with movie dialogue and blood curdling violin strikes, the duo manages to successfully merge provocative ragga influences and grating bass horns together with classic grime beats to form a terrifyingly brilliant project. If any track were to provoke a random act of violence or even just a mental breakdown, it would be Grady. Only a system can do it justice, however, I would personally be afraid for the lives of those in that dance. The track is sure to have a maddening effect.
C5 – Hodge and Ishan Sound
Two of Bristol’s biggest selectors teamed up to create this minimal dubstep heater. This one is on my list because, although these two hail from the same city, their individual styles contrast completely. Whilst Ishan Sound is very much influenced by dub and dubstep, Hodge resides in the darker realms of techno. With vibey synth triplets and simplistic bass kicks, this track brings both of their sounds together beautifully.
One More Rep – Hi5ghost
Hi5ghost continued to provide his fast paced grimey riddims throughout 2018, with standout tracks such as his CYMK edit and, of course, his Bandulu release, Talk Bad. It was this track inside his Isoulate EP, however, that really brought this selector’s year to a fantastic close. His characteristic vocal samples are used continuously throughout, with merciless machine gun snares and warped synths to create something completely unique. The baseline is, for me, the component that puts this track on the list. Dragging behind the chords with a menacing aura, it seems to mould itself around the melody in dark nonchalance. This one is sure to tear up dances in the New Year and the many years to come.
Ginnichio – Loefah
It’s been a busy year for Loefah. With a large number of Rinse FM mixes, sets up and down the country and big releases on his label, Swamp 81, this man hasn’t taken a break. It’s for his reason, perhaps, that he has been slow on his own releases. Ongoing hype generated from his mixes, especially his b2b set with DMZ at Outlook, showed evidence of brand new unreleased dubs in the works. Most doubted any of their releases, and certainly did not expect him to upload this huge track to his Soundcloud. The entire track is essentially 4 alternating bass notes that slowly move through subtle transitions in tone and delay, giving us snippets of Loefah’s techno influences. It’s only at about 30 secs in where the slow 140 beat is added. The moment this is placed underneath that base tone, the track seems to take a suddenly more recognisable shape. It’s this simple transformation that gives this track such a legendary status for me.
J Sparrow – Jah hear me
Sparrow’s label, Navy Cut, has moved from strength to strength this year, with huge releases from the likes of Distinct Motive and DubDiggerz to name a few. As one of the most talented producers in the scene, Jack Sparrow always manages to bring an original flare to his sound. From the old school dub chords that make up his iconic Pula Riddim to the jazz trumpet solos over undercutting bass hits in Good Old Days, he always seems to add to the ever growing dynamic sound of the genre. The only time I heard this track properly on a system was Mala’s set at the Bristol Deep Medi gathering. As the deep vibrations started to pass through the freshly varnished Mungo’s Hifi cabinets, each and every person in the crowd began to skank with newfound energy. The dark intro is made up by one of the eeriest sounds I’ve ever heard, almost like the low moan of some satanic cult. It really is dark. There’s a painful pause that invites the bass in with a cold gesture as it cuts deeper than you can imagine.
Council Flat – M Huncho
From his second EP, 48 Hours, the ballied up rapper finally achieved recognition in the last year with his Wireless performance causing hysteria in the crowds. With bangers such as Come Up and Elevation, it’s not surprising that this EP topped the UK rap charts early last year. Allegedly, all 8 tracks were produced in 2 days, which, if this is true, is quite a feat. The back of the EP cover itself even gives you the day and exact time the track was recorded. Personally, I am not such a fan of auto tune in UK rap, however Huncho really did the sound justice in this EP. Whilst his lyricism in Council Flat undoubtedly boasts trap influences with the usual flex; All black trackie make you nauseous // Brick so fleeky, yeah, she flawless, his melodic autotune smooths over the heavy 808s to give a laid back feel to the track.
Hokusai – Mr. K
With the likes of Egoless, Sir Hiss and Eva 808 as well as many others exploring the realms of Middle and Far Eastern samples, the sound has been taken to many new and exciting realms this year. Off the Don’t Trip EP, Mr. K, certainly masters this sound and takes it to new levels. Named after the famous Japanese artist, the track boasts a beautiful Japanese Koto melody that is matched with a powerful baseline and topped with a graceful flute layer.
Reflecting – Suspect
After his hit track FBG took YouTube by surprise and caught the attention of Rockstar, who quickly put it on the GTA V radio in 2017, it was clear that the Woolwich rapper had great things coming for 2018. His EP, Still Loading proved this, with features from Chip to Skepta and JJ Soloman, OTB Sus certainly put a lot of work into the project. Reflecting sees Sus looking back at to his life as a teenager where he witnessed a lot of his friends ‘turn from glad to sad’ – either through prison or worse. What’s so great about this track, though, is how he maintains his relentless energy – with his characteristic tone and charisma shining through the tough scenes he describes. This, combined with slick production from Flyo makes this one hard as nails. The drums standout particularly, with hi hat brushes, cowbells and all sorts filling the gaps with great complexity. As we know, Sus is still loading and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for 2019.
Oh My – Nines, SL, Yung Fume & Tiggs Da Author
It would be wrong to leave Nines out of my top 10 with a release like his second studio LP Crop Circle under his belt in 2018. He released a short film 3 days prior to the album under the same title on the 4th of April (4/20) giving us a glimpse of the great things to come from the project. Each track moves through a narrative of describing a life of hard grind, close calls with police and, of course, huge stacks of money. What really shines through the album, however, is Nine’s refined and laid back flow. Each bar rolls off his tongue with ease. This is particularly prominent in Venting feat. Dave which was one of the other many contenders from this project. It’s the hook in Oh My that makes it for me. Tiggs’ croaky voice works so well, not to mention his cheeky lyricism: ‘In a coupe, getting whoop, from your wiiife // She was yours, but she loose, now she miiine.’ I just hope that Nines doesn’t take another long break between projects. Hopefully XL Records will keep him on his toes in 2019.
Cool kid – Loski
Sporting a melodic, dancehall style in tracks such as Forrest Gump as well as his slick, hard hitting drill verses shown in his debut 2018 project, Call me Loose, Harlem Spartans’ Loski has certainly shown his versatility in the past year. This track really stands out from the project, with a super energetic rhythm and a hook that will be bound to have you yelling ‘Cool kid got my block hot’ when its on in the car. His timing and surgical lyricism is something that also can’t be overlooked. We can’t forget his Mad About Bars (arguably the best I’ve seen) and his incredible fire in the booth last month where he sang over a 4×4 beat in the 3rd verse! I’m gassed to see what he’s got cooking for 2019.