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Plastician: 10 essential Croydon tracks

Chris Reed, aka Plastician, has been pivotal in the growth and evolution of grassroots UK club music since the early 2000s. From being one of the first figures to showcase the dubstep sound through his own club night, to being a resident for the likes of FWD>> and Rinse FM, Reed has always made it his duty to champion innovative sounds through any platform available. Today he operates under the same philosophy, running the Terrorhythm imprint that’s notably surfaced artists such as Joker and Om Unit, and continues to unearth fresh talent.

Coming from Thornton Heath, an area in the south London borough of Croydon, Reed has always made sure to pay homage to his roots and to what the area has achieved musically. After all, it was Croydon that birthed the beginnings of dubstep, with the legendary Big Apple Records becoming a hub for the likes of Skream, Benga, Hatcha, and a whole lot more.

Croydon’s knack for producing such talent has continued in recent years, with new a wave of grime and UK rap artists like Stormzy, Section Boyz and Krept & Konan all emerging from the area. So what’s in the water down there? We asked Reed to guide us through what he feels are some of the most important – and personal – musical moments to emerge from the London borough.

Catch Plastician at Field Day, June 11 in London’s Victoria Park.

1. Stormzy – Shut Up 

I grew up in Croydon and have lived here all my life. I lived in Thornton Heath, which is where Stormzy is from. When this first came about I was impressed because when I was growing up, there weren’t that many people from Thornton Heath doing music. It was rough back then and probably still is now but it’s not as bad as a lot of people make it out to be, so it’s good to see something positive coming out of it. It’s got over 30 million hits on YouTube in a year, it nearly went to Christmas no.1, I mean, in terms of Croydon, it’s got to be one of the most successful songs to come out of it… Not just with the scene that I’m involved in, but in chart history, so it had to be in the list!

2. Artwork – Red

Big instrumental and one of the first tracks that a lot of the east London Grime DJs were playing – people like Slimzee and Carnage from Roll Deep. I had a couple bits played by Slimzee at the time but it was nice to hear more stuff from Croydon crossing over into that east London territory, where back in the day everything was still a little bit segregated in terms of London sounds. I could have put any of Artwork’s tracks in the list, he’s a legend round here. If you’ve had any success through music and come from round here then you’ve probably worked with him at some point in the last twenty years.

3. Skream – Midnight Request Line 

Massive crossover record that went beyond dubstep and grime, I mean you had people like Villalobos playing it. It was still very much a London scene at that time and in terms of dubstep, that was still very much a Croydon thing. So when you had people like Villalobos dropping it you were like “hold on a minute, how did this guy hear it?” It was one of the biggest tracks that I’ve had the pleasure of playing from a dubplate, to seeing what it actually did in clubs. One of the biggest records in the last twenty years and a game changer.

4. Digital Mystikz – Anti War Dub 

Got to be one of the top three dubstep songs of all time, I’m not going to go into that debate but it has to be one of the best dubstep records ever. It‘s one of those timeless records that people will always be listening to. It encapsulates a lot of good memories for people, and for me that record is one of my favourites from that era of 2000-2010. It’s a really useful record as well if you’re playing out. I remember playing at FWD once and it was JME’s birthday, it was probably the craziest I’ve ever seen FWD at Plastic People. I was told to chill it out a bit and Skepta and God’s Gift got told to stop MC’ing because people at the front were going too nuts. I stopped the music briefly, and then played ‘Anti-War Dub’ and it just calmed everyone down. It’s still a vibe, but on a different tip.

5. Benga & Coki – Night

Another massive instrumental track from the dubstep scene that crossed out and went into the charts, it was one of those tracks that was getting played in your cheesy Saturday nightclubs. A lot of funky DJs were playing it, remixes were floating around, even people like EZ were dropping it in their garage sets. It went beyond and deserved recognition beyond the underground scene.

6. Mad Professor – Asylum of Dub 

He used to live in Norwood and had, at the time, one of the largest black-owned studios in the UK – he was a trailblazer for black musicians… And living in Croydon. It was one of those records in the early days of dubstep that some DJs would open their set with as their intro track. It’s just a really clean, well-produced dub record and definitely my favourite track from him.

7. Section Boyz – Trapping Ain’t Dead

Going back to Thornton Heath, these boys grew up in the same area that I did. It’s been really inspirational to see all these kids come through and make it big out of nowhere. This is my favourite Section Boyz track, it was one of the first ones I heard from them. It’s good to see those boys doing as well as they are, credit to them and their management, they’re putting out solid music at the moment!

8. Krept & Konan – My Story 

The reason I’ve picked this track is because I grew up on the same road as Konan. The incident that happens in this track happened ten doors from the house that I grew up in, so it’s real close to home. It’s interesting to hear because I knew about what happened but didn’t know the ins and outs of it all, so when I heard this track it was almost like reading a record about the night that his step dad was killed in the house. The way they delivered the whole track and the video is spot on, you really feel like you’re living it when you’re listening. They’re two artists from Croydon who have gone onto big things and should be proud of themselves from the way that they’ve come through in the last couple of years.

9. Elephant Man – Log On (Horsepower Productions remix)

This is one of those records that kind of defines the term dubstep. It’s that 2-step garage mixed with reggae and dancehall sound, it’s the epitome of what dubstep is supposed to mean. Horsepower are legends – their style of production is just totally unique. I’ve never had the pleasure of sitting in a studio session with them but from speaking to Skream he was always blown away by seeing Benny Ill in the studio. The way he samples from this mad VHS collection and the fact that he used to use an Atari to write beats on is mad. As all this technology moves on and kids get deeper in the production game he’s a really good example of it not mattering how you get the results, but just about the end product.

10. 187 Lockdown – Gunman

I remember listening to this on my way to school, it was around ’98. It’s a classic speed garage record by Danny Harrison, produced in Croydon. It was around the beginning of UK garage and another track that went in the charts. Back then it was very rare that anything from the garage scene was heard on the radio or that you could buy as a CD single, it was always just the underground vinyl DJs playing it, you couldn’t walk into HMV and buy a copy. Having been at school myself when this came out, I still remember buying the single on CD because I didn’t have decks. It was exciting to be able to buy a garage single and this track really reminds me of just walking to secondary school with my CD Walkman.

Plastician plays Field Day, 11-12 June in Victoria Park, London. Tickets and info available here.