Every year, without fail, around the turning of the solstice, when the days get a little longer, the nights a little brighter, someone decides that this will be the year that garage music returns. The genre might come back as 2‑step, or something with a 4x4 beat – slinkier, more subtly sexy – or, on rarer occasions, go balls-to-the-wall and speedy. But the main thing is, like death and taxes: it’s coming.
The truth, of course, is that garage music never truly goes away – it just sounds better in sunglasses with a skinful of iced rosé, and only a lunatic would suggest either of those as a remedy for the UK’s miserable winter nights. And so, like a groundhog roused by the first hint of sun, out it comes from its involuntary slumber ready to fill another summer’s worth of festival fields.
All of which is to say, that if Eliza Rose and Interplanetary Criminal’s B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All) was 2022’s song of the summer, then the sound of the summer was the M1 organ: that twinkling, gunfinger-skank-summoning staple of the speediest garage around, cropping up everywhere from Beyoncé’s Break My Soul to the sesh-head anthems of Bad Boy Chiller Crew.
A cocktail of crop tops and cargo trousers being back in fashion helped set the stall for the annual garage revival. Beyoncé and Drake both going house-bound with their musical returns aided, too – and triggered a wider discussion about the Black roots of dance music. But despite all this foregrounding, B.O.T.A. was an unlikely hit, having been initially released in June without much fanfare on Rose’s own Rosebud label. And while both Rose and Interplanetary Criminal had built steady followings over years of circuit DJing, they were more modest than chart-moving.
B.O.T.A. was inspired by the 1973 Blaxploitation flick, Coffy, starring Pam Grier as the eponymous vigilante seeking revenge on a drug dealer profiting from her sister’s heroin addiction. The movie’s tagline – “the baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit town” – provides not just the hook for B.O.T.A. but its verve and attitude, too: Rose’s vocal flits between cutesy purr and femme fatale voiceover, chugged along on a wash of claps and taut organ stabs.
Buoyed simultaneously by underground DJs (crowned as Glastonbury’s unofficial anthem) and hundreds of thousands of TikToks (soundtracking everything from laundry to tennis court painters and someone knitting a flower-shaped hat for their cat) the B.O.T.A. buzz built over a period of weeks.
After the deep-pocketed Warner Records picked up the track with a licensing deal to give it a final push over the line, the song cinched its spot at the top of the charts for two weeks in September – making Rose the first female DJ in 22 years to achieve the feat, and securing B.O.T.A.’s place in the canon of British summer bangers.