The meteoric rise of ‘B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)’ has been impossible to avoid. Since Hackney-born garage connoisseur Eliza Rose dropped the five-minute 58-second banger back in June it's generated 108.k TikToks (and rising), held a steady run as the most Shazammed track in the UK and become the go-to closing track for any crowd-facing festival DJ. When it entered the official UK Singles Chart three weeks ago (at #96), it was a welcome surprise for the rave set. But, as it catapulted to #45, to #10 and then last week — to #2, it suddenly became very obvious that we have something very special on our hands. As 'B.O.T.A' makes its bid for UK #1 this week, it's become a rare example of an underground dance music/mainstream crossover. So what is it about Eliza Rose's Sound of The Summer that has made it so universally appealing?
Created from a 30-year-old sample of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam's ‘Let the beat hit em (ll w/love rc mix)’ — the underlying, '90s-rave-inspired instrumental was created by Interplanetary Criminal. It was a nervous wait for Eliza, who'd been devising the track alongside the Manchester DJ and producer, AKA Zach Bruce, via Instagram DMs. “He didn't send me anything for ages and I was kind of thinking: 'wow, you're taking a piss now.'” When the track did come in, however, Eliza was awed — and a little overwhelmed, with what the perfect vocal hook would be for the track. While staring at a wall in her partner's house, borrowed mic in hand and searching for inspiration, she found it from an unlikely source: “In my boyfriend's bedroom, he has a poster of the Pam Grier 1973 blaxploitation film Coffy,” Eliza reflects. “The poster says something like 'She’s the baddest, one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!' and I was like, 'that's really cool'. It adds to the Black female empowerment that runs through the song already.” Once the Pam Grier-inspired vocals were laid down, it was time to press send... well when Eliza finally remembered to. “I actually forgot to press send,” she laughs, “I thought [Interplanetary Criminal] hated it but as soon as I did press send he got back to saying he loved it."
Despite her newfound chart success, Eliza is already a familiar face within the club circuit. Born and raised in East London, the budding DJ, producer and vocalist has releases on imprints such as Peaky Beats Records, Dan Shake's label Shake and her four-track EP 'Shades of Red' which dropped on Lobster Theremin back in March — even launching her own label, Rosebud Recordings. As a DJ, she's become renowned for combining beloved '90s rave sounds, 4x4, 2-step and forward-facing club cuts, having graced the decks at the likes of The Cause, Risen festival, We Out Here and fabric, alongside residencies on Rinse FM and Balamii.
Upon dropping 'B.O.T.A' in June, she'd already become a favourite of garage aficionados. Two days later at her set in Mixmag's Lab LDN, crowds packed into our office in the early evening — on one of the hottest days of the year — to catch her in action, earning rapturous applause as she dropped her new single, mixed in from Ministers De-La-Funk's 'Believe' feat iconic house vocalist Jocelyn Brown. For both Eliza and Zach, the realisation that the track could be a hit was at Glastonbury, after hearing drops from the likes of Peach, Shanti Celeste, Call Super, Saoirse and others, much to the delight of Rose. Twitter user ROUNDTH3BEND tweeted: “Sitting on the stone circle today someone was playing music on the speakers, a random song came on and a girl came out the crowd and started dancing saying ‘I made this song!’ And all her mates started going mad fucking boss moment.” From that point on, it seemed the festival crew were completely swept in the "‘B.O.T.A.’ effect" — with the track dominating Love International, Outlook, Field Day, Dekmantel and more.
Soon it spread to TikTok, as everything from clips of cars being crushed to a grandma unable to sleep due to the heatwave were suddenly soundtracked by 'B.O.T.A'. “There's loads of people's grandmas just going ham to the song on TikTok," Eliza says. "I absolutely love that. So hilarious. Like those grandmas are just smoking and just raving it up. I'm like, yes, grandma come through. That's literally gonna be me.”
The track's proverbial rinsing throughout festival season is one thing, but 'B.O.T.A didn't remain a "festival banger" for very long. As it spread from soundsystems, to home hi-fis, to headphones, to TikTok — talk quickly grew of B.O.T.A's "Sound of The Summer" potential. The "SOS" is a beloved UK institution, we've all seen the Limmy tweet about Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ with Pharrell. It is a title that's been held by Katy Perry's 'California Girls', Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa's 'One Kiss' — going all the way back to England's Euro 96 anthem ‘Three Lions’. It's an honour that isn't given out lightly, instead one decided by consensus. And with 'B.O.T.A's' entry into the singles charts, it's impossible to deny — the people have spoken.
Is 'B.O.T.A's' popularity a result of our first real summer back then? as we return back into the festival and club sphere after two long years of closures? Is it that everything is falling apart around us so a feel-good, euphoric, female-vocal anthem is exactly what we need to lift our spirits?
Regardless, its universal appeal has become undeniable. Inching further up the UK charts, 'B.O.T.A' currently sits at #2, while it is looking at a potential second week at #1 in the Irish Singles Chart. For Zach, just to come this far “feels surreal,” he explains: “In my whole career of DJing, it was never something that seemed doable. So you don't really think about getting into the charts. I told Eliza: ‘You know what, to share this moment with you is for me the biggest thing in the world,' and it really is.”
If 'B.O.T.A' makes it to #1 this evening, it will be a significant moment for underground dance music's chart history — as well as for female electronic artists. While in the '90s rave heyday artists like Frankie Knuckles, The Prodigy, Inner City, Orbital and Rui Da Silva found chart success; and in the 00s UKG legends such as Wookie, Oxide & Neutrino and Sweet Female Attitude could comfortably find themselves in the UK Top 40 — the decline of record stores and the rise of streaming has created an impenetrable fortress for independent, club-facing rave music. Instead, charts are ruled by major labels and artists such as Calvin Harris, Joel Corry, Becky Hill and ABBA, still, whose greatest hits album 'Gold' has spent more than 1,000 weeks in the Top 100. From the offset, rarely has a woman ever reached the Number One spot with a dance track. Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ made it up to #1 in 1977, while Sonique’s ‘It Feels So Good’ made it to #1 for three weeks in 2000.
Recently, BBC Radio 1 DJ and friend of Eliza’s, Jaguar released a new report through The Jaguar Foundation which shows the extent of the gender disparity in dance music. Her report found that just 5% of dance tracks in the UK charts were exclusively made by female or non-binary artists. “As you can see from Jaguar there is still a huge divide,” Eliza says adding: “Hopefully [‘B.O.T.A.’] inspires other young women to get into electronic music and see it as a credible career, a space that they have access to. I want it to be more accessible and more mainstream. I want to see more women doing the crossover of underground and mainstream and getting respect. Maybe we’ll get the next Calvin Harris.”
“I think even the music video has representation, authenticity,” Eliza proudly announces. Working with queer art collective Faboo TV, the music video honours the queer nightlife of Hackney, with much of it filmed in The Karaoke Hole and Dalston Superstore. “I thought it was interesting that the video was, shot in a bar in Hackney with lots of drag queens,” Zach says adding, “I’ve watched Ru Paul. I know that loving and empowering yourself is such a big thing.”
So maybe that's the secret after all. 'B.O.T.A' taps into our subconscious — it makes us feel empowered, we're the 'Baddest of Them All'. Eliza shares that she thought of people she reveres when writing the lyrics to 'B.O.T.A': “I’ve got so many talented women, female-identifying people, queer friends in my life, and all these people live authentically and follow their dreams. They’re definitely a big inspiration for the track.” This sense of “authenticity” seems to be the key to its success according to Eliza, “Just be yourself, living authentically as yourself - that’s how you become the baddest of them all. Be a good person and be an empowering person but also make space for people that maybe haven’t been empowered throughout their life.”
As we gear up to find out what has made it to #1 this week, I ask Eliza and Zach how they will celebrate if they hit the top spot later this evening. For Zach it’s simply to “meet up with Eliza and all her team and celebrate with an espresso martini”. Eliza on the other hand is already planning to jet off celebrating no matter the result saying she’ll be “living it large up there Kevin and Perry style”.
So, do you wanna dance, baby? Load up B.O.T.A. then, chuck it on loop and get moving until this banger finally reaches that well-deserved top spot of #1.
Becky Buckle is Mixmag's Video and Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter