Crissi Vassilakis aka Madam X is a vital thread in the fabric of Manchester’s club scene, and has proved to be one of the biggest proponents of its grime and bass artists since she co-founded label and club night BPM (‘Big People Music’) in 2010. She’s a prolific DJ and tastemaker, having brought her slick blend of grime, techno and garage to nights like Manchester’s Warehouse Project, Deviation and Eskimo Dance, as well hosting her own slots on BBC Radio 1, NTS and Rinse FM. In 2014 she launched her Kaizen label with Kaizen Movements Vol. 1, which presented future-facing club ammunition from the likes of Murlo, Sudanim and Dark0, before dropping Biome’s stellar Griddled EP last year.
Madam X is certainly no stranger to the plethora of underground talent that’s come out of Manchester, so it’s only right we invited her to guide us through some of the tracks that have shaped the city’s sound in recent years – and some that just plain go off in the clubs. There’s loads of heaters in here, including a collaboration from Chimpo and pioneering jungle MC Trigga, a track from the Swing Ting crew, and everyone’s favourite collective, LEVELZ. Let Madam X educate you below, then reacquaint yourself with her 2013 Halloween Hyp mix special and catch her at Bristol’s Love Saves The Day festival in May.
1. Chimpo & Trigga – Drama (Gaza)
Undoubtedly one of the biggest anthems to come out of Manchester. Chimpo & Trigga… say no more! It was circulating the clubs for ages before it saw an official release on Stripes, but it still goes off like it did when I first heard it. Gunfinger music at its gulliest.
2. Skittles – Mr Song
Skittles is not only one of my favourite people on the planet, but one of the most talented out there. This one you would’ve heard from Dub Phizix’s Fabriclive 84, and the plans for it have been very hush hush. Produced and vocalled by the man himself, Skitty’s been hard at work setting the foundations for his new record label ‘PropaTop’ which will see Mr Song’s official release, and much more Manny heat to come. Ya heard it here first!
3. Biome – Squelch // Griddled
You won’t find a full version of either of these tunes online as we released this on Kaizen on a vinyl only tip, but this one’s a radio rip of Loefah spinning two Biome tunes that we put out on my label back in January. Had to plug it for obvious reasons! Biome is a beast.
4. LEVELZ – LVL09
You can’t really do a piece about Manchester and not mention LEVELZ. This lot are constantly making me laugh, inspiring me to better myself and just enjoy life. The fact the music is so brilliant is just an added bonus but the LEVELZ experience is more than music, it’s like an infectious bundle of energy that takes over the whole city. Manchester’s “Wu-Tang meets the Happy Mondays.” If you haven’t seen them live yet do it and you can thank me later.
5. Dub Phizix & Skeptical ft Strategy – Marka
Manchester’s Dub Phizix and Strategy killed the Internet when this came out. I’ve seen this tune shut down a stage of 8000 people in the past. Over 4 million views and counting. Speaks for itself really!
6. DRS ft LSB & Tyler Daley – The View
This one’s responsible for LEVELZ taking the final round of the Red Bull Culture Clash to go on and win. General Levy was brought onto the opposing stage, Liam Bailey performed Blind Faith for the Made in Manchester crew, but nothing felt more Manc than when LEVELZ brought DRS onto the stage with a Tyler Daley dub in the back, and you could hear the arena singing at the top of their lungs. Everything about this song works so well, there’s no reason it couldn’t be a mainstream hit if it wanted to be.
7. Swing Ting & Fox – Headgone
One of my favourite club nights in Manchester with Fox as resident MC, if you’ve not been to a Swing Ting dance yet, then you’re missing out on a really unique raving experience. I’m surprised this one doesn’t have more views to be honest, but the whole EP was amazing. With a heavy Chimpo remix on the B Side – definitely check it out.
8. Zed Bias & Paleman – Furrball
Still sounding as relevant as ever, listening to it again has reaffirmed my love for this Swamp collaboration. Two absolute Gs from Manchester, this is the kind of magic that happens when you put an electronic godfather and a legend in the making together in one room. More collabs please.
Featured image: Vicky Grout