Black History Month - Album Restrospective: Early 2000s
This week in our exploration of Black arts and culture for #blackhistorymonth, we're looking at the boom of early 2000's Garage music and the pioneering Black British musicians that popularised the genre.
Craig David ‘Born To Do It’ 2000
It would be incredibly short-sighted to talk about the rising scene of UK garage music without mentioning the debut album from the then 19-year-old Craig David. ‘Born To Do It’ perfectly captured the sounds of the fresh, thriving scene of the new millennium. Prior to the album, Craig David began cutting his teeth through the club scene as a DJ and MC in his early teen years, but his featured vocals on the 1999 hit ‘Rewind’ by fellow Southampton garage act The Artful Dodger was where the spotlight shone upon him. With the genre now fully in the public eye thanks to a number 2 UK chart position, Born To Do It further cemented mainstream appeal by blending the garage beats with the smooth R&B and soul influences found across Craig’s debut album.
The partnership with Artful Dodger was invaluable to Craig’s career, as he had appeared on various tracks on the ‘All About The Stragglers’ album. Due to a lack of finances, payment for his vocals came in studio time and production assistance, which of course went towards the creation of Born To Do It. The album was created before the duo were signed or had a deal in place, as they approached labels with the tracks ‘7 Days’, ‘Walking Away’, and ‘Time To Party’. These demos ended up making the final cut. The last track to be recorded and added to the album was the opening track and first hit ‘Fill Me In’. The previously mentioned Artful Dodger track Rewind had just began to make waves in the charts, so Fill Me In was written to bridge the gap between the garage elements of Rewind and Craig’s more soulful sounding project. This blend of styles is evident throughout Born To Do It, as American R&B had a huge influence on Craig’s teen years. He would create his own amazing melodies that often weaved his now trademark narratives through them, with Artful Dodger there to reign in the sounds and help inject a level of Britishness to keep the tracks grounded. Of course, the garage roots never strayed too far, as in tracks like ‘Time To Party’, which introduced fans to the MC side of Craig.
Born To Do It offered a homegrown alternative to the influx of American R&B that dominated the airwaves at the time. The album spawned five hit singles with Fill Me In and 7 Days hitting the UK number one spot, with the latter landing in the top 10 on the US Billboard Top 100. Not bad going for a couple of Southampton lads!
Ms Dynamite ‘A Little Deeper’ 2002
Another stand-out album which emerged from the UK garage scene in the early 2000s was Ms Dynamite’s critically acclaimed debut offering ‘A Little Deeper’. Drawing on soul, hip hop, R&B and Caribbean reggae, A Little Deeper explores perspectives surrounding social and political empowerment. By taking music back to these roots, Ms Dynamite used her platform to provoke thought through pointed social commentary whilst giving these warning messages a positive twist. Known for activism, having appeared at anti-war rallies and donating money to medical research through the years, Ms Dynamite’s continued incorporation of these messages into her lyrics is not out of place.
Raised in North London, Ms Dynamite started rapping in clubs at the age of seventeen and became a local figure, which wasn’t forgotten after debut single ‘Booo!’ reached No.12 in the UK Charts and catapulted her into the mainstream. Even with her new-found fame, the then 21-year-old MC’s local ‘from the block’ image remained. Donning slicked back hair, big earrings and Adidas tracksuits, she really maintained that connection with her initial audience. Played regularly on pirate radio stations before it’s official release, Booo!’s infectious beats and rhythmic twists, vocal mix of rap and melody – reminiscent of Lauryn Hill – and lyrics portraying her observation on violence in London clubs, has stood the test of time; it would still create that same high-energy atmosphere during a rave today.
A Little Deeper was produced by Salaam Remi, known for his reggae-influenced approach to production and for working with American rapper Nas, and American hip hop, soul and reggae group Fugees. Bringing her streetwise personality to the forefront, Ms Dynamite’s fierce delivery and performance carry the album just as much as the production. Opening track ‘Dy-Na-Mi-Tee’ is another of Ms Dynamite’s smash hits, with its autobiographical lyrics highlighting not only her personal journey, but the journey of the urban multi-cultural British youth. The remix of the song features Nas, simultaneously utilising Salaam Remi’s partnerships in the genre and expanding Ms Dynamite’s reach. A Little Deeper’s genre-bending tracks explore this garage rapper and R&B singer’s perspectives on life.
Dubbed a revolutionary and life-changing album, ‘A Little Deeper’ helps the listener realise that they should just be themselves. With tracks traversing the pitfalls of society, heartbreak and learning, through slow R&B songs to hip hop and electro numbers – all held together with elements of dance – there is something for everyone on this Mercury Prize award-winning debut album. As the first black female artist to win this coveted award, Ms Dynamite paved the way for female MCs.