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Gettin’ Hyper: An interview with Miss Dynamite (2001)

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Steve Goodman
London Hyperdub HQ
Originally published in 2001

Boo! It’s produced by Sticky(Richard Forbes) and is perhaps the best London underground tune of the 21st century so far. Featuring badass ragga chat vocals from Miss Dynamite, a buzzing bassline and hard twisted 2step beats, Boo! was originally released on Jason Kaye’s Social Circles label and has been ripping up the garage underground for some time. It has now been signed for general release by London records causing some tensions with regards to contracts in which, let’s just say Miss Dynamite is not a winner. However, bets are on a high entry in the UK charts when it gets general release. Piss weak garage pop, this ain’t.

Miss Dynamite is only 19 and hails from Camden, North London. She has just signed her own big album deal with Polydor which will see her applying her vocal skillz in practically every field of so called ‘urban’ music.

She runs with her crew Bigga Beatz, has MC’d with So Solid on ‘They Don’t Know’, the Middlerow crew, Juiceman and Sweetie Irie, and has been produced and remixed by, among others, the Wideboys, Dubholics, B15 project, Sunship, Ed Case and Zed Bias. So we sent our Softwar Agent Steve Goodman to check out what all the fuss is about.

SG: So you have just signed a record deal with Polydor. Tell us a bit about that.

Miss Dynamite: Basically, it’s an album deal and loads and loads of different artists from all different genres of music from soul, swing, R&B, ragga, soca and garage will be involved. I want to get a bit of everything on there, at least the essence of every genre I have inside me, that I have grown up with. We haven’t really planned to much but what we have planned we wouldn’t like to give away. Fingers crossed, the ideas that we are coming up at the moment are really interesting ideas.

SG: Which sounds have influenced you most?

Miss Dynamite: Reggae & revival because that is my mum and dad, my aunts, my uncles, my granny and everyone I grew up with.

SG: Is all you family from Jamaica?

Miss Dynamite: My dad. Also hip hop definitely. As I have grown up, probably around 11 or 12, I started getting into hip hop. My lyrics, my concepts and issues that I feel it is necessary to address and talk about are definitely influenced by hip hop. And when it comes to the vibe, it has to be ragga and dancehall.

SG: One thing that is special about your track Boo! Is the fact that you both sing and MC.

Miss Dynamite: Yeah, well I’m not sure about the singing. I try, I try. I’m a person that will try anything, and I’ve always written songs and poetry and been tempted to sing. I wouldn’t say I’ve got the greatest voice in the world but I am getting there slowly. I think a few vocal lessons are needed.

SG: Who is your favourite singer?

Miss Dynamite: Obviously there is the great Aretha Franklin and Anita Baker, but for me it’s Mary J (Blige) because of the power and tone of her voice, the way she sings in all the videos I have seen and her attitude and outlook on life. I think she is a strong role model for young black women. For me all of these things are just as important as being a good singer. I think she is good at what she does.

SG: Again, in relation to the Boo! Track, unlike a lot of vocal garage, you have some real lyrical content. And your lyrics don’t revolve around romance or love gone wrong or anything like that.

Miss Dynamite: Yeah, I physically cannot chat something just because it rhymes. I’m full of so many ideas that I have to be talking about something. If I haven’t got something to say that is worth listening to then I just won’t talk. With the Shola Ama tune that I did, well that was all about love and that for me was the hardest lyrics I have ever written. When you listen to it, it sounds really basic with easy kind of lyrics but that was the hardest thing because it was talking about. . .I don’t want to sound rude, because I love the tune and think she is wicked. . .but love is so cliched. I found it so difficult to find good things to say about men. . .just kidding.

SG: I can see the hip hop/ reggae influence in your lyrics in the sense that you report on what is happening on the street or in the dance. The message of Boo relates to what is going on in a very small minority of garage clubs just now, i.e. the tension and the violence. What motivated you to write those lyrics?

Miss Dynamite: Well, to be honest I don’t feel it is such a massive thing. Recently there has been a lot of controversy about violence in the garage industry or scene. But for me there is violence wherever you go and the rave is a small part of it. It is a metaphor for life in general. You live life, you only have a certain amount of time here so you might as well have a good time i.e. in a rave, you are there for a certain amount of time. You have payed your money not to just stand up and watch each other. Why start fights. A lot of innocent people get hurt. It is not in every rave. I have done so many P.A.s up and down the country and 90% of them have a wicked vibe with wicked people who are supportive. It is the other 10% that bring it down for the rest of us and give the garage industry a bad name. In a sense, a lot of people since I have been doing interviews have really picked up on this point and have magnified it, but a lot of the little incidents that happened across the scene are getting rolled into one. You can’t just say it exists in the garage industry because it exists in life and I just chose to address that.

SG: One cliché about garage is that men like the bassline tunes and women like the full songs or more melodic tracks. Booo! Scrambles that completely with its bad bassline and hard lyrics.

Miss Dynamite: I understand that in relation to the ‘girls’ tracks, if it is not sexist to say that. But for me, I love the dark, dirty, grimy bass. That is what is in my heart, that is what I am feeling. I’m not really into the kind of poppy stuff. There is usually the odd one that will come through and I will be surprised at myself for feeling it. A lot of girls are into the ones you can move to. I don’t think you can say it is a man/woman thing any more. I think girls are just as much into the bassline tracks.

SG: So were you a big junglist?

Miss Dynamite: I love jungle.

SG: Is that is what is coming through you?

Miss Dynamite: Yeah, definitely. You’ve got it in jungle, in hip hop and in ragga. There is nothing that can replace that feeling of being in a club with that bassline going through you. There is nothing like it.

SG: If you ignore the violence thing completely, why have crews become so central to the garage scene. I know you have your own crew. . .

Miss Dynamite: yeah, Bigga Beatz. I’m not sure. It is something that has always been there. If you look at top of the pops you have bands. So it is the same thing but on a different scale or level. I have done a lot of solo work and I love it, but to get up on a stage and be with the other MCs in my crew, like Moss, Biggins and Tubby. . .well it is all about ‘vibesin’ off each other. There are some MCs who can get up on a stage on their own and mash up the dance, but when you are up there with another MC and have the vibe running between you, and you are hyping and vibesin of each other. . .there is nothing like that. Also I think I get bored of the sound of my own voice, so when someone else comes along it adds a different edge. When you have people who can sing or whatever, it adds versatility to what you can do as a collective. When you link up with other people and push your ideas through each other, you become more motivated. The ideas come from other places because the other MCs haven’t necessarily had the same experiences as you. . . .

SG: When did you start Mcing?

Miss Dynamite: Well as a bedroom DJ, writing poems and trying to chat along to the radio. It was probably about 2 years ago. Then I started on a pirate station called RAW FM with another female MC called Creation and a guy called DJ Method. Wicked. Heavy Heavy DJ. From there I moved to Freak FM and started a show with MC Tuff Luv and Lady Fusion. I then started at a rave at Trends in Hackney. It was the first rave I had done was absolutely shittin myself. . .I was really crappin myself, very very nervous and I remember going in there with Freak Djs and MCs and Viper, Melody and Charlie Brown. I can remember saying to Viper, “Listen, I am crappin myself, don’t leave me on the stage on my own. I don’t know how to vibes them yet.” I hated the sound of my talking voice. I was alright when a heavy tune came on but when it is a vocal tune it is more like hosting with little one liners and I hadn’t really conquered that yet. So I was like “Please don’t leave me.” So I am standing there with the mic in my hand and I turn around and there is no one there. That was it. It was make or break. Funky Smith was playing at the time and he dropped 138 Trek (by DJ Zinc) and at the time I had never heard it before so I was like “Thank you, you’ve been listening to me,” and went off on one and the crowd went crazy. I got a bit of confidence in what I was doing and started to believe in myself more. SO when I got off I said to Viper, “I hate you” but he said to me “You did it though.” I will never forget that.

SG: You mentioned big bassline tracks and 138 Trek. What do you think of the more breakbeaty tracks that are coming through?

Miss Dynamite: As long as it has a heavy bassline, I can chat over it and I can feel it in my heart, it doesn’t matter what kind of tune it is. They could do some mad punk come garage come ragga tune, but as long as it has the bassline then I’m feeling it. But yeah, breakbeat, it’s cool.

SG: In your ideal situation, who would produce for you?

Miss Dynamite: In garage at the moment, there is Sticky (Richard Forbes) obviously who is wicked at what he does.

SG: What was Jason Kaye’s role in Boo!

Miss Dynamite: Initially it came out on his label and him and Sticky are really tight and work together.

SG: So who else?

Miss Dynamite: Wookie obviously, I like some of his stuff. Oris Jay, I really predict big things for him. He is bad. Right now he is probably one of my favourite producers. He is hot stuff definitely. Zinc is wicked, Zed Bias is cool and Karl H. Who else? Ed Case is wicked as well. In garage there is probably a thousand who I haven’t thought of. I’m feeling Timbaland and think he is heavy at what he does. Neptune is bad and Jay-Z.

SG: Will you work with any of them for the album?

Miss Dynamite: There is definitely stuff in the pipeline, I’ll put it that way. I’m not at all saying that Britain doesn’t have wicked R&B and hip hop producers, but I feel that with hip hop, it was created in the US and I would rather be influenced from the heart of where it came from. Or with ragga, I would rather go to Jamaica, even if nothing gets done. That is where the heart of the music is and to take that on would help me at the end of the day.

SG: Have you though about producing yourself?

Miss Dynamite: Definitely. I can’t wait, because I watch all these men in the studio with their buttons confusing the hell out of me but it’s definitely something I want to do, because when I am there, I hear so much and I can’t really get it out.

SG: Your first gig at Trends in Hackney. Obviously, you are shittin yourself. How much of the pressure was because you were a female MC do you think? London Mcing is competitive as hell, and being female must add to that pressure. What reception have you had in relation to this?

Miss Dynamite: Well I am always nervous and panicking because that is in my nature. So I don’t really think it was because I was a girl. Don’t get me wrong, the first time on a pirate, we used to do a thing called the ‘war rinse out’ every Sunday when every MC would get together, and obviously they are all men. There was one other girl. That was very intimidating, but not because of them because they were so supportive. It was obvious, most men seem to have more natural confidence about them. That is something that is very apparent, especially in this industry because it is so male dominated. As a female MC, I’ve had good and bad experiences. There are the men who are more supportive towards you because you are a woman or they don’t see you as a threat. Then you get the others who are like “She can’t do it, she is a girl.” That made me want to do it even more because I am a Taurus, am stubborn and have to prove myself. You get a lot girls saying “Who does she think she is, she think she is too nice. . .” For me they don’t understand that that is good for me. When they try to bring me down, it drives me. Recently, because of the success of the tune a lot of stuff is on a plate for me. It is too easy to get blazay. SO these girls help me check myself. Keep writing and doing what you are doing and I will never, ever, ever let their insecurities bring me down. If I fail in this industry it will be because of something I have done, and not because of what someone else has said. Every negative has a positive. In the garage industry, because there is not a lot of females doing what I am doing, and because I am the first female to get the success that I have, I get all. But is good and makes me want to fight back. Obviously not violently or physically but lyrically because that is what I am about at the end of the day. That is what I fight my war with and I am not going to loose. I have to say that I have had it quite easy compared to some people. The majority of the raves I go to, all the women are genuinely happy for me and they can see what I am trying to achieve and they are taking from it to inspire them. That is what I am here for. My life would be nothing if I wasn’t inspiring or helping other people. So it is a good thing.

SG: What would you be doing now if you weren’t in music?

Miss Dynamite: I wanted to do a degree in Social Anthropology because I love learning about people, culture and history and what makes people the way they are. Life, class, gender and all that. If we took a second to understand that, other than just saying “fuck them”, then we could do something about various problems. I would probably have been at Sussex University. And I have to say, I’m glad that I’m not. But education is important, feed your mind. You can never get enough mind food.

SG: The role of the MC in the rave is obviously heavily influenced by Jamaican Sound System culture and the wider importance of the oral tradition in black culture, generally. What do you see as the role of the MC?

Miss Dynamite: For me, it is someone who hypes up the dance no matter how, By talking, by dancing and so on. A lot of sound system tapes you hear, they are cussing each other but it is all a way of hyping up people. Sometimes I listen to the tapes and think they are so coarse, the things they say, “your mudda this. . .” but as I said, with every negative there is a positive. People are shocked by the rudder stuff and more hyped, the dance is lifted. A bit of hosting to interact with the crowd as well. There are some DJs who can go in the dance and smash it, without an MC, but with an MC you feel a Dj in another way, because the MC will highlight certain tunes and this sticks in the crowds minds. The MC is there to support, magnify and amplify the vibes that are created by a tune, by so many people being gathered together in a room. So the MC’s job is to pull these vibes out and spread it.

SG: Tell us a bit about your crew?

Miss Dynamite: My crew consists of MC Moss, Daddy Pickings. They are brothers and are wicked. Moss also sings as well, and has an old revival flavour. There is guy called Tubby who is a singer/chatter as well. He has the voice of an angel. He also has the bashment influence. Then there is another female singer called Sam and a guy called Sly who is a producer. They there is our management, Tyrone and Dez who manage Bigga Beatz. That’s us.

SG: Where are you playing in London just now?

Miss Dynamite: Everywhere. Because Boo! has kicked off I haven’t even had time to think. I see my mum about 5 minutes a day. To try to do a regular set every week would be impossible right now. Everything is so unpredictable at the moment. Rather than have a residency and keep letting people down, I’ve just put it to the side for just now. It is not forgotten at all. We have all been Mcing up and down the country. Last week we did Shefield and that was wicked.

SG: Do you feel a difference with the crowds outside London?

Miss Dynamite: Definitely. In London, there is a lot of good and bad. But when we go up north, it is all good. It reminds me of when I first started raving. Just going out to have a good time. No one is watching each other. Everyone is in to the music, they don’t care how they dance, who is watching them or anything. There is some of that in London, but not enough. Out of London, the crowds are more supportive. To me, they see me as wow, some amazing person, and it is only just me.

SG: Do you think Londoners are spoilt for choice? Miss Dynamite: I wouldn’t say they are spoilt, but they have seen it all. I would prefer to be seen as Miss Dynamite, who cares. They have had us all the time. They have supported me from the beginning up until now. It is not really anything new to them. But if you go to Scotland for example, then they are more likely to take it on board because it is so new to them. It is a nice feeling.

SG: What about outside the UK?

Miss Dynamite: In Februrary, I went out to Ayia Napa, just to see what it was all like because I didn’t go last year. A lot of my friends and crew have been and told me, but unless you see it for yourself, you don’t know. I went over there with Megaman from the So Solid Crew and did a little club there. They were really into it. It was a good foresight into what I need to get used to. There was no English people there, they were all Cypriot and they all loved it. I did 3 P.As in Miami in March and they went down really, really well.

I have also done Switzerland. It was a ladies night that Pure Silk were doing over there and that was with Lady Spirit and Emma Feline. Both are very good at what they do and neither gets enough props. The women out there were lovely. They didn’t really understand what I was saying but seemed to dance a lot.

SG: So there must be a lot of travelling on the schedule now. Where next?

Miss Dynamite: Obviously up and down the country. But the main places I want to be are Jamaica and America because of the musical influences.

SG: Have you been to Jamaica and do you think you could get a garage thing going over there?

Miss Dynamite: Maybe. I don’t think the light hearted tunes would. The ones with the ragga influence already, but there is such a soca, jump up element to garage that it could work.

SG: What about the remixes of Boo!?

Miss Dynamite: Well there is the original remix of Booo! Which is the dirty, hardcore, grimy, cussing, straight to the point version and then there is the radio edit. There has been a few other mixes as well, including a house one and I am feeling all of them. And I do not like house at all.

SG: What don’t you like about house music?

Miss Dynamite: When we went to Miami that was all they listened to. I went into the club and I said to myself, “I am going to stand here and make myself get into this. To see a room full of people vibesin as they were, there must be some way I could get into this. I was there for 2 hours and I just couldn’t dance.”

SG: What about 4/4 garage?

Miss Dynamite: Well there is certain tunes I can get into, but house. A lot of people say, garage come from house etc. but maybe it is just that I didn’t grow up with house.

SG: And drum’n’bass jungle?

Miss Dynamite: Jungle yes. And Zinc’s stuff yes. But when it gets close to techno, I don’t really feel that. But my heart will always be in jungle.

SG: With the rise of crews, is Uk garage turning into a new version of uk hip hop?

Miss Dynamite: Maybe in structure. But garage will never be hip hop. Hip hop emerged out of struggle. It was a way for young black men to express their oppression. It was a way of speaking out about contraversial issues. It came out of a very hard time. But garage isn’t really about that. It is about vibesin.

SG: So what is the equivalent in this country for you? It is certainly not all roses over here either?

Miss Dynamite: You’re right, it is not all roses, but for me, there is no equivalent, because people in this country will sit down and accept what goes on here. Americans will talk if they have something to say, generally. If something is not right with black Americans, they seem much more willing to stand up for themselves.

SG: Why do you think that is different? Miss Dynamite: It is not necessarily that black people in England are not as upfront as in the US. But I feel that the UK is a lot more clever in how things are run. We are led to believe in this country that there is no racism. But people sweep it under the carpet here. Whereas in the US they tell you, here it happens behind your back. It is all smiles and then you are gone, they turn. I don’t exactly know how to explain it except to say that the UK is not as blatant about racism and oppression as the US. Everything here is very calculated. It is in your face but not at the same time here. We have been encouraged to tolerate things here. Look at Stephen Lawerance. Everyone knows who killed him but they are still walking the streets. That says to black people, time and time again, “what is the point.” So some people just say “fuck it” which leads to them taking it into their own hands and them ending up in prison, or nothing gets done. This country needs some action. I’ll be queen or Prime Minister or whatever.

SG: Oh, so you are running in the election, are you?

Miss Dynamite: Nah, I’ve had enough bloody politics in the music industry. Never mind, I am always up for a challenge.

SG: Thank you.

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2001 – Reprinted with permission.

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Riddim.ca was founded by DJ/writer paul autonomic (aka Mr. Bump) in February 2005 as a hub for North America's nascent grime and dubstep scenes. Since then we've helped promote events across the continent and made friends around the world. Mostly dormant now, we're host to one of the web's largest collections of writing on the late-Garage dis/continuum as well as a growing collection of rare audio and scans (coming eventually).