​logan sama’s life of grime

Grime’s gatekeeper Logan Sama ensures the scene continues to thrive…

by i-D Staff
|
07 July 2015, 1:15pm

Throughout Grime's many incarnations, there has been one constant; Logan Sama. The former KISS and now BBC 1Xtra DJ has remained true to the scene as it teetered between its origins and the charts, diverted to Road Rap and proclaimed itself 'dead'. Now everyone's back on the bandwagon, Logan is still standing, fighting the good fight for the scene, ensuring it retains its essence and refusing to sell himself or the genre short. "I'm just a facilitator to get people heard. I guess I'm like a curator at a museum exhibition or the librarian watching over the collection of books…" Join Logan as he takes us on a personal journey of the last thirteen years…

"The first time I remember hearing the word 'Grime' was Matt Jam Lamont mentioning it to EZ in a conversation about tracks he was playing. It evolved out of describing the music as grimy garage; even when Eskimo and Boy In Da Corner were made it still wasn't called Grime. It kind of highlighted the difference between that darker sound and the polished champagne lifestyle of UK Garage.

I can't pinpoint when I first heard what we now call Grime; the early tracks were coming through on the UK Garage pirates I was listening to. I used to go to places like Temple, Leisure Lounge and Bagleys across London where they played a different type of garage to what you'd hear in your local Luminar nightclub or Weatherspoons. I was always into Garage MC's as well as the music itself. Creed was one of the first MCs to actually say something but then Viper and B Live came along on and flipped it all round.

Around this time, pirate radio was the focal point for underground Garage - Freek, DeJa, Ice, Delight - I had a copper rod hanging out my window to pick up these stations. So Solid came together like an amalgamation of all the talent that was on Delight FM. I'd just started collecting records a few years earlier, learning to mix, so hearing the likes of Dilemmaand Oh No in garage sets…. they stood out like a sore thumb - but in a good way. It was sonically exciting like, 'What is this new shit?'

Just as Garage was getting stagnant for me and many others, there was access to production technology that we hadn't had before with cracked PC software and games console music sequencers. So at the same time as these early Grime sounds coming through there was what was going on down at FWD>> which would eventually lead to dubstep. FWD>> wasn't really my vibe cause I'd hear these wood block sounds and ghosts noises, it was pitch black... It was a zombie vibe whereas I came from a rave background. FWD>> was more about listening to the tunes, smoking weed and zoning in a head nod. I'm still about high energy now. There was the Zinc and Oris Jay stuff that crossed over and some of the work under Zed Bias' aliases. EZ, Hatcha, Fonti and of course Slimzee would play it all. Underground Garage was about playing what worked, not rigid genre definitions.

I did a guest slot in 2001 on a local pirate in Billericay, Essex with a guy called DJ Sus. I got my Rinse show in 2002 from being involved with Uptown Records website forum; Uncle Dugs, who was running the station with Slimzee, asked me to record a demo. There were thousands of people on the forums back then; imagine everyone's Twitter following congregated in one place to a worldwide audience. 'Social Media' wasn't really a thing at the turn of the Millennium.

Back then I was bunking off University lectures to go and get the latest white labels and test pressings from City Sounds, Uptown, Blackmarket, Planet Phat, Big Apple… I spent most of my Uni days, when I was meant to be studying maths and physics at Kings College, mixing at the counter of City Sounds in Farringdon (I ended up dropping out of my degree in the second year).

When I got my Rinse show, it was 7-9pm on a Friday night and I was gobsmacked because that was prime time. It was right before Roll Deep's new show at 9-11. The first show I did I was playing Garage and all this new shit and I'd cut a load of dubs. At the same time, Pay As U Go (who I'd never met before) were being interviewed behind me for The Guardian off the back of Champagne Dance's success. I just remember Wiley being very quiet compared to the other members. We actually ended up forming a company together that same year. It wasn't a friends thing, I wanted him to be successful; I just saw that he was making this incredible music and needed to be free to just create so I thought I could help with that. It didn't really work out in terms of the working relationship but he went on to do well. There's a lot of pressure in this country if you're making music you love but labels don't know what to do with it. Two or three people in this country decide if you're eating from music.

What was great about these days was there was so much opportunity to consume the culture; you knew what time Pay As U Go were on radio every week. You could go to Sidewinder every month and get what you wanted. They were also championing the man on the estate and that became our 'American dream'. It became a meritocracy as new talent was able to push through. But one thing Grime suffered from then and still does now is a lack of an infrastructure. While we've built an industry where there was nothing, many of the problems remain with the business. Grime suffered massively in its infancy from bootlegging and a lot of magazines treated Grime like a cultural safari.

My first Kiss FM show was in 2004. I'd done a mix CD that I'd hoped Sidewinder would include in their Awards pack but it never got on. Someone blocked it. So what I did was individually burn 200 copies, wrote on them all, and took them to every record shop. It ended up in the hands of Kiss FM.

When I got a show on big Kiss FM I thought I was sorted; six months later I'd only had one booking and I was only getting paid £50 a show, still driving my mum's Ford Escort. I might be intelligent but I'm thick in some senses - I'm unable to sell myself, I can't convince people to do things I know are great ideas… It's been very frustrating for me. Look at the RWD AAA CD we gave away at Ultimate Music Seminar at Earls Court or the Nike Oneaway Style CD, better than any compilation the majors did and full of future stars. This is a running theme in Grime; we didn't appreciate the importance of what people were actually doing at the time. And the industry wasn't hailing it up either. Grime tended to get swept under the carpet for a long time. People started dropping out around 05/06 but that was also when a lot of new collectives started coming through, like Boy Better Know and The Movement. It's ironic that at the time people were talking about 'Grime is dead', but that era is looked back on as golden.

What excites me today, as well as the music, is seeing people adopt new business practices. People who used to shot [sell drugs], who went into pressing up records, people performing to bigger and bigger crowds, going from London to worldwide audiences. It warms my heart watching Skepta in front of 100,000 people and doing music that can comfortably sit next to tracks he made 10 years ago sonically. The same energy and vibe. The live element is the most exciting part. Look at Straight Outta Bethnal; they were awesome cause everyone was there, hungry, wanting to be on that mic. There are no dedicated Grime events at the moment and that needs to change. We do the Boiler Room stuff and others are pushing as well, but there needs to be more. Bigger and better to reflect the size of the impact Grime has had on British musical culture. I'm just a facilitator to get people heard. I guess I'm like a curator at a museum exhibition or the librarian watching over the collection of books. I could talk about this for days….

As told to Chantelle Fiddy. Check the latest Grime news and music on Logan's website keepinitgrimy.com

Credits


Phootgraphy Ashley Verse

Tagged:
Grime
BBC 1Xtra
Rinse
Logan Sama
Street, Sound & Style
music interviews
street sound style