Behold the crowd at DnB AllStars festival in Gunnersbury Park, West London, late summer 2023. There’s a bloke wearing bin bags for shin pads, a bucket hat printed with the word “cunt” about 50 times, a full Tinky Winky suit, short skirts, long skirts, fishnets, ketamine chic T‑shirts, mullets, and some joker who circumvented the no umbrellas rule with a rainbow coloured umbrella hat, queried by security until the boss stepped in, declared it “classic” and waved him through the gate.
All of this is to say, drum’n’bass is alive and well. Some may argue that it always has been, that since evolving from jungle in the late ‘90s, the genre has sustained itself thanks to a cult fanbase and a dedicated division of DJs, even while subsequent sounds like garage and grime and jungle (again) dominated the column inches of more trendy media outlets. Now, TikTok trends and breakout stars like PinkPantheress, Becky Hill and Kenya Grace are taking d’n’b high into the UK charts. And jump-up – the rowdiest iteration of the d’n’b sound – is dominating raves and festivals around the country.
As drum’ n’ bass’s new gen ravers rush to the clubs, it is those at the front, the masters of ceremonies, who are chaperoning the sound into the future. Where once the drum’n’bass MC was a footnote on a flyer or an anonymous voice in a rave, streaming services are increasingly encouraging MCs to take centre stage. On the summer’s foremost anthems, MCs rock the mic: Bou and Chase & Status’s Baddadan (with MCs Trigga, Takura, Flowdan and Irah) Vibe Chemistry’s Balling remix (with Songer, OneDa, Mr Traumatik and Devilman) and Nottingham MC Bru‑C’s No Excuses have all broken the Top 40 with MCs front and centre.
Following in the footsteps of legends such as Stevie Hyper D, Shabba D, Skibadee, Det, Harry Shotta, Strategy, GQ, DRS, Stamina, Chimpo and Eksman, there’s now fresh talent the mic and d’n’b raves. Below, four new gen MCs share their perspective of the past, present and future of drum’n’bass.
B Live 247
“My mum was a junglist. I grew up in a house where I was hearing General Levy’s Incredible and Leviticus and all them tunes. Then you start to hear Skibba and Shabba and Stevie Hyper and Det, and I’m starting to think ‘Right, okay, they sound like they’re rapping, but it’s faster and they’ve got a London accent.’
I wanted to win all the Sidewinder Awards when I was a kid; I went and won all of those. I wanted to win all the Drum and Bass Awards; I went and won all of those. Then, bit of a glass ceiling. I’m looking at my peers, I’m looking at Skepta and thinking, fucking hell, he’s flying. So that’s the game plan now, levitate into a next world. And it just so happens at a time when drum’n’bass, jump-up, from the streets, is fucking exploding.
Bou, the DJ that I roll with now, he’s the hottest kid in the scene. We’ve got a tune called Fuck Jump Up, it’s like an anthem. That was just me sending him a voice note. Next thing you know, I open TikTok: he’s uploaded it and it’s gone viral. The funny thing about Fuck Jump Up is, since I’ve been into the scene, there’s been this higher order that we could never penetrate. We could never get near like Wilkinson or Sub Focus, these really well-produced, polished outfits. Not only that — promoters that were booking those people at big shows would look at our thing and be like, “No, we don’t want them round here. We don’t want the riff-raff round here.” It’s always been “Fuck jump up”, from the big promoters to everyone. But now they want to unfuck jump up real quick because the runt of the litter has grown into the fucking big dog in the room.
The thing about our scene is the rebellion. It’s like the modern-day punk. It’s fuck the Tories. It’s everything to do with that emotion. I know what we look like from the outside. We’re the working-class problems of the nation. But we’ve got all classes in there now. It’s become the trendy thing to be into. And I think TikTok plays a big part in that. It might have seemed to some people that it lost a little bit of authenticity to how it’s being spread. It doesn’t matter. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day. And I say bring them in. Everyone’s welcome. Let’s just fucking go.
Unfortunately, maybe if it’s not protected well, everyone swoops down and eats the flesh from the carcass and then swoops away, leaving the bare bones. But drum’n’bass has already proved, five times over, that this is an underground scene. It is not going anywhere. People will continue to come out in their thousands, no matter what happens.”
Deekline and B Live 247’s Dead MCs is out 13th October via Hot Cakes. Sigma and B Live 247’s Bad Man (Buss One) is out 15th December via 3Beat
“I think back in the day there was that big separation between jungle and drum’n’bass. The drum’n’bass that I listen to now sounds like jungle and drum’n’bass. Like Baddadan – that’s jungle and drum’n’bass really, isn’t it? I think the fact that it’s like merged now has made it more cool. And the fact that MCs are more in the forefront.
It’s [been] a hard one for me because I got kicked out of three schools. I was just a naughty kid. In the church we had a choir. I just wanted to rap. Back in the day, people just knew me as OneDa the MC. People know me for d’n’b now, even though I’m only quite new. But I believe I’m gonna be the sickest female spitter in d’n’b, no doubt. Clip that. IN CAPITALS. Nah I’m joking!
I know female producers that do drum’n’bass, but not really female spitters. It’s few and far between. It’s naturally masculine because it’s filled with masculinity, if you know what I mean. So the more females like myself that come out and show we can spin it as good as the guys, it’s gonna infiltrate some of that female energy. Because look at hip-hop: if you go back 15 years, female rappers were few and far between, but now if you talk about rap, you wouldn’t say it’s a male-dominated thing anymore. And it’s not just men that listen to d’n’b. Girls are filling out the clubs.
For me, I feel safe in drum’n’bass, but because it’s quite raw, some people may not feel as safe. Like, when Traumatik got cancelled not too long ago, because of a homophobic slur… no one would really do that in hip-hop now. So I think there’s still that rawness to it. I’m a lesbian through and through. I thought that was peak. You can’t badmouth another group of people just because it’s not what you do.
I think it’s going in a global direction, cos it’s gonna have about four generations. It’s 50 and 60-year-olds that remember when drum’n’bass started — I was too young for that — and then you’ve got 30-year-olds that love drum’n’bass, then teenagers. So it’s getting very powerful. It’s crossing over generations.”
OneDa’s new EP is out 18th October
“I heard drum and bass early, probably when I was like 13, 14. I used to go to under-18 raves in Bristol, where my group of friends started drinking, smoking and, um, whatever else comes with that. It became a big part of our lives, and as soon as we started raving, that was it, we were sold. We were going every weekend for god knows how many years.
I grew up in Wokingham, just outside Reading. There’s some cool drum ‘n’ bass collectives in Reading [and they] would always be throwing events, and I might either just go to the event, or MC the event. [But my] bars were terrible. I can still remember some of them… “Fuck a restaurant, I’ll take your girl Maccies /Bet she wants a whopper, so her hands are in my trackies.” Shit like that.
I definitely wanted to be a rapper. I just didn’t think it was realistic. If you’d have told me at 14 I was going to be a rapper, I would have told you you were an idiot. I was still working at Nando’s at that point.
I think it’s overdue for drum’n’bass MCs to get the respect they deserve, because of how talented they are, how consistent they are. B Live is a perfect example, Harry Shotta as well — those two MCs are unbelievable rappers, but they don’t get put in that same conversation.
I think it will become a globally recognised sound, and you’re gonna have artists from every continent on the planet making that type of music. I just think liquid drum’n’bass is too beautiful not to have its plaudits at one point. All it will take is Drake to do it one time and then: bang.”
“I feel like the real heads that are on this music, they live and breathe it, and I do as well. I listen to drum’n’bass on the daily. I would have been probably 13, 14, at school, and my boy showed me the UKF channel on YouTube, I think it was Netsky and maybe High Contrast, and I remember being hooked. I used to get the bus half an hour early to school, just so I could go to the ICT suite and listen to UKF.
When I was 19, it went to a new level. D’n’b became my life. I was entering competitions to play at raves, just playing everywhere I could, any rave that I could get my way into, then I developed and you sort of find yourself, who you are, on the mic.
I kind of see myself as an artist. I play a lot with DJ/producer] Monrroe — obviously it’s a DJ set, but he plays bare of my tunes, he plays his. It’s more of a [live act] than just me MCing it.
Way back in the day, drum’n’bass had this big moment, with Goldie and Marky the man that were really pushing it, but it was very rave-orientated. That’s why I feel like this has kind of grown, especially for vocalists and vocal drum’n’bass. Cos back then, it’s just people shelling raves, whereas now, it’s almost considered a mainstream genre. [Pop] Vocalists are getting on drum’n’bass tunes, and it’s hitting the charts.
People like your PinkPantheresses, your Kenya Graces… certain people might call it “pop drum’n’bass”, but to me, that’s drum’n’bass. That is the flavour, and I feel like, anyone that looks at that and thinks “that’s not drum’n’bass” – that ain’t cool. Because, bro, that’s so good for drum’n’bass. It might be a tiny bit slower, but it’s drums bro. I feel like it’s the best it’s ever been.”