Despite being rocked by the deaths of some major players in 2017, including the irreplaceable Marcus Intalex, d’n’b is happier and more unified than it has been in a long time – and for perhaps the unlikeliest of reasons.
‘Jump-up’ – a bouncy-basslined brand of high-energy bangers best served via rocket-fuelled MC-revved raveathons – was for several years considered an embarrassing, shouty urchin in the sprawling d’n’b family. That is, until a new wave of knife-sharp producers, grime-style MC acts and a knack for outlandish media stunts raised the bar.
“We’ve changed the minds of a bunch of people, both inside and outside the scene, who never took it seriously before,” says DJ Phantasy, of old-skool rave crew Fantazi and now the veteran behind SASASAS. “That’s one of the hardest things to do in music.”
Perched cheekily between grime’s muscularity and old-skool rave’s pantomime inclusivity, the collective comprises jungle-era microphone dons Skibadee and Shabba, former N.A.S.T.Y. crew member Stormin, and magnetic poster boy Harry Shotta – whose London Tube rave stunt made national news in April – alongside Phantasy and kingpin producer Macky Gee, the young buck behind an avalanche of hummable bassline bombs.
“Rampage was the turning point,” says Phantasy of Belgium’s 5,000-capacity indoor bass festival in April where SASASAS stole the show (and got more than a million views on YouTube), setting in train a run of festival appearances, international bookings, sold-out headline gigs and even an open-top bus rave round London’s landmarks that shows no sign of slowing any time soon. “It’s real,” says Stormin. “You’d never get a four-MC stage act sharing a bill with Andy C. Now it’s normal.”
A cult figure all on his own (much like the other five members), Stormin’s well-documented ongoing battle with skin cancer is a poignant narrative that runs counter to the groundswell of optimism that follows SASASAS around. “There have been times when he physically can’t make shows,” Phantasy says, “or is visibly struggling. He’s a warrior and the crowd is aware and shouts encouragement. There’ve been some goosebump moments.”
And it appears this thing runs deeper than anyone imagined. “I came on stage in Australia and they knew every word,” Stormin recalls. “I had to turn away.” A documentary launches soon, along with a new label, a tech tie-up with Sub-Pac, and a soon-to-be-revealed monster deal for new shows that will top anything seen so far. For SASASAS, and the scene thriving in their slipstream, the party is just getting started.
Ewen Cook is Mixmag's Drum 'n' Bass Editor. Follow him on Twitter