danny weed and dj target discuss the history of grime
To celebrate our #StreetSoundStyle series, Grime’s original architect’s Danny Weed and DJ Target talk Sidewinder, Akademiks and the origins of all things 140BPM.
Seminal figures in musical subcultures can occasionally be outshone by the stars of the scene. While it would surely exist without Roll Deep's Danny Weed and Target, grime wouldn't be grime as we now know it. We talk to the producers/ DJ's/ club promoters and record label owners about working in Wiley's dad's patty factory, spending £15,000 on Iceberg and how they helped to create arguably one of the UK's most important genres of music…
You grew up together in Limehouse, right?
Danny: Yeah we all grew up together. Darren (Target) is friends with my older brother, Dominick.
Target: Me and Dominick were born two days apart in the same hospital.
Danny: Our Nan's knew each other, our mum's knew each other and that relationship is the same with all of us; Scratchy, Breeze... Both of our first jobs was for Wiley's dad's patty factory.
Target: Wiley's dad had a patty business; making and delivering patties to Caribbean restaurants. He employed us all
Danny: We got free patties and shit money.
Target: We all got the sack. We got caught having a food fight. Wiley's dad came in and caught us. Sacked us all.
Break down your history in Grime, the role you both played in the creation of the culture.
Target: I was Pay As U Go. That started from Rinse FM. We all had sets on Rinse; Me, Wiley and Maxwell (D) had a show and we were called Ladies Hit Squad, at the time. Plague, Slimzee, Geeneus - who started Rinse - Major Ace and God's Gift, they had a show on a Sunday afternoon. For some reason, every Sunday afternoon when their show was on, the pay as you go network used to go down, and everyone could call into the studio for free. It kept happening so after the fourth week they was calling it the 'pay as you go show'.
That's how the name started. Then it turned into the group or crew or whatever. Their show was doing really well, our show was doing really well so we said why don't we team up and call ourselves Pay As U Go crew or Pay As U Go Cartel. That's how PAUG was born. We did that for a few years, making garage. Champagne Dance - I did that with Geeneus. That was our first hit. I still get PRS for it…! But that whole time, Danny and all the crew from Limehouse, they were all my original friends. I met a lot of PAUG through music, through Rinse. They were my friends, they still are my friends, but Danny, Wiley, Dominic, Scratchy, Breeze and them, they were my bredrins. So when PAUG started to come apart and Roll Deep was already formed, it just made sense for me to join them officially and be in Roll Deep with my friends.
Danny: When we were making the first Roll Deep album Darren was in the studio anyway, that was at the end of Pay As U Go.
Target: So yeah Roll Deep had started and we were all making tunes that are now known as 'grime', like Creeper, Igloo. I had a track called Earth Warrior that Wiley says inspired him to make Eskimo. No one knew what the music was called then; we were just making instrumentals for the MCs, as opposed to Garage, where you were making vocal tunes or tunes for the girls to dance too. With early Grime instrumentals, it was for the MC's - music that we thought MC's would sound sick on.
Danny Weed: We're so dinosaur in this, ain't we (laughs). I was a DJ at first, before Roll Deep had formed properly. We were all in little bunches; I was doing a set on Rinse FM at that time with Breeze and Scratchy. Wiley would come and do my show sometimes but he was normally doing Pay As U Go. It started like that and then we had the idea of coming together as a collective -even though we were all together anyway - as Roll Deep. I got into production off the back of Wiley. He was like 'Look, I've got a remix today for two grand. We're gonna do it. Don't worry, you can do it, trust me, this is all you have to do. Start with the drums'. Classic Wiley. I'd seen Darren and my brother and Wiley making beats in the studio this whole time anyway, so it wasn't totally new. I gave it a go and he gave me half the money - a grand or whatever it was at the time - and I was like 'Ok, I can produce now, thanks for that Will!' Creeper come about when Wiley and Dizzee and everyone was doing a session. That was when they were all managed buy the same manager, Nick [Denton] - Diz is still managed by him. When they all went to sleep I was like 'Right, this is my opportunity to practise again'. I got onto Nick about making a beat, and we actually made that beat, Creeper, together.
I decided from there I decided I was actually a producer - even though I really wasn't technically that good! I dropped the DJing out towards the end and started putting most of the Roll Deep albums together. I think the four biggest tracks I loved the most aren't the ones people always like. Obviously Creeper, that's the tune I'm most recognised for. Salt Beef definitely. That was my favourite. Rat Race but then Roll Deep Regular was bigger. We had a version with Dizzee and Wiley and that's when we started doing vocal versions of the tunes, so there was a vocal version that we'd play on the radio. We'd still have the instrumentals too, but that's when we started doing 'Devil Mixes', where we'd take all the drums out and play them at the raves.
How much did the physical environment of Limehouse and Bow inform the sound of the music. It was so abrasive, so cold…
Target: That was our whole influence; where we grew up and that lifestyle.
Danny: I saw something the other day about how people don't exactly stop making grime when things are going well, but it definitely plays a role. When you've got nothing, I suppose it did inspire us, we were around that energy, we were from council estates, and that's what naturally came out. So when things do start to go well, and life's a little bit more glossy, you don't naturally make that music I suppose.
Target: It felt like a lot of grime artists - including Roll Deep - as time progressed and you had the chance of being in the charts and selling loads of albums, the music did get less gritty
Danny: What have you got to talk about when you're not just stuck on the estate with nothing?
Target: But we're still on the estate sometimes now. In those early days, we weren't trying to make it in the music industry, it was our outlet to make music with our friends and talk about where we grew up, what we know, inner-city London streets. That was what came out without us realising it…
You got some criticism for In At The Deep End being too commercial. But if you listen now, it's actually pretty dark…
Danny: I don't think In At The Deep End was a million miles off really. We tried to get the balance right. Grime was our thing at the time. We've always had Wiley, and that's what separated us from everyone else, because he's good at making commercial music, naturally, he's a genius at it.
Target: Making those tunes in those days was different to when we got them numbers ones a few years ago. We was making them just for fun. We had Wiley and we thought we were going into a bigger world and we would have to try some stuff, but it wasn't as calculated as people over the last few years trying to get a song on Radio 1. We didn't even know who George Ergatoudis (Head of Music at Radio 1 and 1Xtra). Pirate and Sidewinder was our thing. 1Xtra and the charts wasn't our thing
Danny: We should have run with When I'm Ere as the lead single.
Talk us through the style back then; you lot were serious collectors of clothing right?
Target: I feel like we was way ahead. We were wearing Bathing Ape way before anyone else. Danny had that Maharishi jacket that glowed in the dark too.
Danny: That Bathing Ape jacket was on Wiley's first album.
Target: The first grime uniform though was Akademik's tracksuit and Custom Air Force 1's that you got sprayed at this place in West London, Global, and then a place opened on Roman Road. They'd have Looney Tunes and 'E3' or your name or whatever grafittied on there. Cos it was West, Shepherd's Bush, no one in East knew about it. We've always been the travel for trainers type people and we knew they had some Huarache's at Global. There was no Footlocker then either; I'd go to the one Footlocker in Lakeside and there was one in Clapham Junction too but no one in East knew where they were. You'd come back with your trainers and people would be like 'Oh my god you've been America'. Nowadays you can buy it all online, easy.
Danny: We - me, Wiley and Darren - went down to Global cos we knew they had some Huaraches down there. But then we saw these customised ones. I had the DragonballZ on mine. I used to love those trainers. I remember the statement of that. I remember the first day I wore those trainers down the Roman Road. Remember, Darren, if you go down the Roman Road it was like a catwalk.
Target: We smashed it! You had to save all your best clothes for Saturday.
Danny: I had the Akademik's tracksuit and a pair of the DragonballZ Air Force 1's. We'd just turned up to Global and the guy had just done them. They were two bills. I was like 'What size are they? Perfect'. Wiley wanted them but they were my size. I got them and wore them down Roman and it was such a big statement. 'What the fuck has he got on his feet'. You'd look like an idiot if you tried to wear them nowadays, but then….
Target: If you wore them to Eskimo Dance you was winning. Fresh Akademik's tracksuit and them - that was the first uniform. It's changed so much over the years though. In the Shake A Leg video I'm wearing a t-shirt and the arms are down to my elbows, all baggy, American fitted. Now everything's fitted tighter.
Danny: All that old stuff is so big it don't fit me now.
How did fashion become so closely associated with the music? How did the style spread?
Target: The first ever images of grime artists in magazines, the first thing you'd see was these guys in Akademik's and it spread quick. Then it was fake Akademik's tracksuits…!
Danny: The tracksuit thing clearly started because we was obsessed with Dipset and people like that; that's where we got Akademik's; that's what they was wearing so we started wearing it. That was at the same time as Grime emerging, but it wasn't a big planned thing. At the same time, it was tracksuits in the day - Wiley, it was always tracksuits - we'd always dress up of we were going to DJ at a rave. Iceberg jeans, Iceberg jumpers, Moschino, Versace. I remember when Wiley first got his album deal, he went and spent £15,000 in some shop on Iceberg. Just me and him. Cos we were so obsessed with clothes he was like, [Wiley voice] 'Ok, we'll get something each. Get something Dan, get something. This is the day we're going to get everything. We're going to this shop and we're not holding back. We're going to spend every penny'. £14 or £15,000. He got a massive discount, obviously. Actually Logan was there that day too. He wasn't a DJ then, he was like Wiley's financial advisor or something (laughs). Anyway, we got so much stuff that day. The jumpers were £450 each. Iceberg History jumpers that were shit, terrible, but on the day we were so happy. Wiley's always been super generous. After we picked a few items, he was like 'Seriously, we're getting everything, we're going all out'. I'd never seen £14,000 in my life. That massive box turned into 'the box'. It was in my house and anyone that came round that didn't have nothing to wear it would be like, 'Get the box, Danny, get the box'. Everyone would have an Iceberg jumper. I'll see old picture of people now and they're wearing things that came from that box. I've still got some of it.
Did you wear the clothes for yourself, for girls, for each other…
Target: Clothes were always important, since Jungle. Since we was in school, 14, 15 years-old listening to Jungle, that whole scene was all designers, Moschino and that, so we were always into it, we'd get hold of it however we could.
Danny: There was always someone on the estate who was older that would look smart and we wanted to look like that. When we was starting, we were going to Garage raves with Creed and that, which is where it stemmed from. They was in different outfits, it was a bit more smarter. They wasn't in Akademik's. It was shirts and loafers and Patrick Cox shoes.
Target: My house got burgled when I was 18 and all my Mosh, all my sick stuff got taken in the burglary. I caught a guy wearing my jeans walking down the street a year later. He had to take them off.
It's gone full circle; from Akademiks through Ed Hardy and Louis Vuitton manbags, it's come back to the tracksuit again; Stormzy and Nov are always in adi or Nike…
Danny: That's the culture, that's the street thing, that's where they get their energy. It needed to come back to that.
Target: It needed to go back to basics. That's why grime is having such a good time now. Everyone was getting confused; people wanted to do chart stuff and the people left doing grime, people weren't really looking at them and it was a bit awkward. It went back to basics and people took it back to what it was actually about. Skepta obviously led that resurgence, and the youngers like Novelist and Stormzy and Bonkerz are doing a great job of bringing that energy back. We're starting to see that original energy. Even we were like, a couple of years ago, what's going on, this isn't happening
2002/2003 - what are your memories of those years?
Danny: It's less memories more a film that needs to be shot.
Target: I lived on the same road as Dizzee and Tinchy. Diz used to come and buy records off me, he was a DJ originally. My main memories are being in the studio catching the most jokes. And Sidewinder. I used to look forward to Sidewinder so much. That was our Top of the Pops, or getting a number one single - getting that primetime slot, fucking up Sidewinder and getting loads of reloads. That was as good as the phonecall we had when we went to number one. It was such a sick feeling. I go to Eskimo Dance or other grime raves, and you see their version of what they think that Sidewinder energy was. But that day and age, you can't beat it. You had to go to Sidewinder to see the artists, there was no YouTube. If you wanted to see Wiley or Dizzee or Roll Deep or whoever, you had to go from wherever you lived in the country to Milton Keynes.
Danny: Not everyone could get to Milton Keynes.
Target: Now people can't be bothered, they'll just go and watch YouTube or a livestream.
Danny: People talk about doing promo; promo then was doing Sidewinder.
Target: Making the tapepack. They used to get everywhere. That's how it spread so quick. People were taping Rinse in London and posting it to their cousins in Birmingham. I was getting calls from people in Birmingham, 'Who's this kid Rasklart?'
So how did the internet change things?
Target: It just made it accessible for everyone; which was good and bad. That deaded the rave scene. Well, not that alone. There was the police locking things off too…
Danny: And girls stopped going too cos it was way too aggressive.
Target: But before the internet and YouTube, if you wanted to hear or see Grime, you had to go to Eskimo Dance, go and buy the records in Rhythm Division, you had to listen to the radio. People used to write about Grime being a scary scene; there was only a few outsiders that weren't shook to get involved. There was incidents like there would be anywhere. But it was more stereotyping; loads of black kids with their hoods up.
Danny: But it was full on. It was probably intimidating for certain people. It was normal for us; it wasn't normal for a lot of other people. My favourite moment was Sidewinder Bonfire Night. It was me and Karnage on the decks. Wiley, Dizzee, Flow Dan, Scratchy… Jamakobi might have been there. That was the set before either of them [Wiley or Dizzee] had done their record deals. It was so full on and I remember we left that rave and were driving home, almost silent, like 'That's the biggest response we'd ever seen. That was a moment'. We all knew that we had a bit more power. It was the headline time. I've got it on DVD.
Jumping forward 12 years, you've now got Pitched Up, the night, at Birthdays and the label, to who you've signed Bonkaz.
Target: They both stand for the same thing; new music and pushing things forward. We had Simz headline the first night, and since then Skepta, Stormzy etc. With the label we have TC4, Bonkaz, Elicit and Hannah V. It feels like a good time, with this whole new energy in grime; not that it's purely a grime label or night, but that's part of it.
What advice would you pass on to the next generation?
Target: Keeping passionate is so important.
Danny: Believe in your own sound. There's so much I want to tell younger people. I feel like we didn't pay attention enough to people that came after us. When we were doing Grime we didn't pay attention to the influence we might have had on the youngers beneath us. So this new generation needs to not forget the next generation.
Text Hattie Collins
Photography Olivia Rose