When it came time for the quintessential drum & bass MC to start work on his debut solo album, he knew he was breaking new ground.
Most vocalists, up to that point, had been sidelined with guest spots, single-only excursions, and rocking out live for DJs. For Dynamite MC, it was time to show the world that junglist rappers could, and should, make full length artist LPs.
“I believe I was the first one to do a full album,” says Dyna. “Conrad was doing stuff, but just features. Stamina was doing stuff, but never an album. Skibba did Tika Toc with Crissy Criss, but that was a hip-hop track…I was out there. It was uncharted waters.”
The Reprazent rhymer wanted to fully showcase his talents, confound expectations, and test himself on the mic and the sampler. Across 16 tracks he spat lyrics as different personas [Mar-Val-Luss], produced and co-produced beats [Visions and The Scene], and assembled a crack team of cutting-edge producers to cover his vast musical influences.
Heavyweight UK hip-hoppers like Skitz and Stone provided the boom bap and futuristic street beats early on, setting the stage for garage dons like Wookie to build on, before the D&B rollers from Roni Size, Zinc, and Andy C took us home. All the while, Dynamite flowing like a badman on the mic, throughout.
“Lyrically, I wanted to represent all my sides over these beats,” he says. A track like Visions was me at my most conscious, talking about the state of society. Then Rush The DJ was about me being pestered for the mic in the booth. And The Scene was my salute to all my drum & bass people. Then there were a lot of tracks of just lyrical dexterity, on that ‘don’t test’ kinda vibe [laughs]. And then Pressure was me just shaking it, at the party. I just wanted the album to be different, and showcase everything I could do.
“It was a real musical safari for me, man. And I felt like a better explorer when I came out.”
DRS & Dynamite MC’s new album, Playing In The Dark (opens in new tab), is out now on Hospital Records.
World Of Dynamite track by track with Dynamite MC
“I guess I was, in some ways, minutely insecure that people wouldn’t know who I was, or my history, so I used this intro to run through all the classics [laughs]. So, you get vocal snippets here of all the things I’ve been on. So, anyone could listen and go ‘Oh. He did Brown Paper Bag', or whatever.
“It was just my Reprazent discography over this orchestral Roman chanting beat. I wanted it to sound like something big was about to happen. Like it was an opening of a show. Like, ‘Here we go!’".
“Skitz produced this beat. It has three different changes in it, so I did vocals as three different characters - Luss The Rusty Cutlass, Marv The Miracle, and Val Kilmur. One was the struggling hip-hop artist, getting held down because of his accent. One was a very aggressive street man. Then the dancehall energy guy at the end.
“I had people ask me how I knew these guys, like they were real [laughs]. I loved that ‘crew element’ of groups like Wu-Tang. I wondered how I could be a crew all-in-one.”
“I produced this under the alias D Muli. I just wanted a producer name, so it wouldn’t get confusing. It’s my middle name, and my son actually goes by Muli MC now.
“The track is me on the MPC, chopping up samples all day. I caught in the groove and had to write to it.
“It made me feel sad. It had emotion to it, and tugged on my heartstrings. So, I wrote about my vision of what a perfect world would be, and a vision of this dog eat dog society we’re trapped in.”
“Stone produced this. He was a friend of Roni’s [Size] and making hip-hop that didn’t sound like anything out there. It still doesn’t. We went in the studio and just wrote. We did a few tracks - this and Pressure.
"He was a joy to work with - a very forward-thinking guy, who cared about the music. Then Debbie French came in to lay some vocals down. I’ve never met her before or since - crazy. She did a great job. I wrote the hook all about the nice, bubbling bass.”
Pressure (The Warning)
“This features [dancehall legend] Elephant Man. I’m a huge fan. He was in London doing ‘track swaps’ with us, MJ Cole, and others who only had an hour each with him. It wasn’t the smoothest operation. I said, ‘Just do what you wanna do, and we’ll work it out later’. So, he just went nuts on it, and then it was the next producer’s turn. We took all the stems and cut them up and built it from there.
“It sounds like it’s from 2028! The only thing I can compare it to is Roots Manuva’s Witness. It stands the test of time.”
“Fusion, from Fallacy and Fusion, produced this. I was so happy to work with him. I loved the track Ground Breaker. He came through with loads of beats and we wrapped this up really really fast. It was just all about getting on the dancefloor and shaking it. It had that energy. I wanted it to be fun. Not taking yourself too seriously. It was a, ‘Bad man, I don’t care if you don’t wanna get your shoes dirty’, type of thing.”
Rush The DJ
“This did really well, and is still an anthem. It was garage. So, I was happy with that, as it wasn’t really my genre. It’s about being hassled for the mic. I’m MCing and people are asking if they can, ‘Have a go’. That’s what people used to say back then. Nobody would ever go up to the DJ and say, ‘Can I have a go? I’ve brought three records from home…’ They’d be like, ‘Are you nuts?!’. But, for some reason, the microphone is this kind of… communal implement [laughs].”
“Wookie made the beat, and we recorded it in his studio. You can actually hear him singing in the background! I like this beat. I like the style. It wasn’t like anything else that was happening. Is it fair to say he was garage? He deserves a broader description. He was a very musical producer. I wanted to take advantage of that. I wanted us to make something good.
“Tracks like Rush The DJ were made for, and caned in, Ayia Napa. But this was a bit more of a… mature sound.”
“DJ Zinc on the beat here. It was the first time we ever worked together. This is a real noisy, chaotic track, but with an organised structure to it. I was very attracted to that.
“I was trying to prove myself with this album, and really trying to push my limits with how fast I could perform the lyrics, but with that clarity and diction. I was saying I’m ‘topped up’ with style.
“Me and Roni [Size]. I wanted to do something different to what we were known for with Reprazent. I think that’s evident in the sound. This was… raw. I didn’t want him to over-produce it. I was like, ‘No. Leave it. It’s done. It’s done.’ He’s a man who can add more layers.
“And this track was all about the double-time flow for me. I rhymed as fast as humanly possible.
“I kinda wanted my own anthem, too. So, it says my name – ‘Dy-na. Dy-na’. Zinc still answers the phone to me like that now [laughs].”
“Me and Roni again. I did the bass. I really wanted to get hands-on. I was producing myself at the time, and this was my record, so I was definitely pushing it in a certain direction. Very much, ‘Let’s make it sound like this’. Roni had a million things going on, so he didn’t have a problem with that.
“We did all this in Channel House, Bristol. On an SSL desk. Neumann, again. RED Focusrite (opens in new tab). Pro Tools (opens in new tab). Lyrically I just wanted to salute all my fellow drum & bass family, and the junglist who influenced me.”
“High Contrast made the beat. It made me want to sing. I’m not the world’s greatest singer, but I can carry a tune. He came over to Bristol from Wales and recorded it in Channel House. I’d written the tune already.
“He made it all on Cubase (opens in new tab). And he said, back then, he was one of the few producers who worked 100% in his computer. No hardware. Everyone else had samplers and keyboards. He used a chopped up disco sample, I believe. He loved that vibe.”
“This was a link up with DJ Marky and XRS. We did that in London in Soho Recording Studios. I did a lot of stuff there.
“I’m singing again. It’s just that beat! Marky is from Brazil, and I used to live in Brazil, so I know that kinda style, and I know what Brazil feels like to walk down the street. I speak a lot of Portuguese when I’m singing.
“I never used any Auto-Tune (opens in new tab). I hear tiny little bits now and think, ‘Mmm. I wish there was Auto-Tune.’ It’s fine. It was raw. This tune still gets played.”
“Tear out! Produced by Andy C and Ant Miles. Who better to deliver some absolute thunder and lightning?
“I recorded it in Ant Miles’ shed in the garden. There were all these cobwebs and spiders, and I went, ‘Arrgh! There’s spiders in here!’ on the end of the song. I hate spiders.
“It came out really well. I witnessed Andy C play this out a lot of times. It was built for the dancefloor and it worked on the dancefloor. This track was getting spun, for real.”
Over Here Now
“I’d known Skibadee for time. It just felt right to get him on the mic, here. He’s very versatile. He came down to Soho studios and laid down his verse.
“It was TNT who produced this, rest in peace. He wasn’t a drum & bass producer, so you can definitely hear that, if you have that ear.
“I thought by putting me and Skibba together on it that we could have some fun. A bit of back and forth. I’m so happy he got to feature.”
Switch It Up
“This is the last tune of the night. It starts off as hip-hop. I wanted people to think, ‘Oh. It’s the last one. He’s slowing it down. The security is getting ready to throw everyone out’ [laughs]. But then it jumps into this ‘drum & bass verses with a hip-hop chorus’ track. I really liked it. There weren’t many tunes that did that.
“When I did my live tours of this album this was actually the song I started with, which was a bit weird.
“It was produced by DJ Kalm, who was the son of my A&R, so there’s some nepotism there. But he was a good producer. I was really happy with it. And it was a nice way to close the album.”
In the studio with Dynamite MC
“My studio was good. It was small. I was making a lot of beats back then. I was using an [Akai (opens in new tab)] MPC2000XL. I loved that so much. I would sample a lot from vinyl, pitched up. I had the 1210s and microphones set up. It was pretty simple.
“The MPC was so user friendly. It was the perfect machine and great fun. I was very influenced by Wu-Tang and DJ Premier.
“To record vocals, I would go to other people’s studios like Channel House in Bristol, where we did all the Reprazent stuff. The preamp compressor was a Focusrite RED 7. An SSL desk. The mic was a Neumann. This is what Roni loved.
“When I worked with Zinc we used a U-47, so that was a pretty ‘big man’ microphone. Andy C’s place had a Mackie (opens in new tab) 328 desk. And he was running Cubase. He also had a Drawmer 1066 compressor, and an E-MU 6400 sampler.
“I used Pro Tools. High Contrast used Cubase. Zinc used Logic.”