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Toddla T picks his 10 favourite soundsystem culture tracks

Toddla T traces the history of soundsystem music with this Carnival-ready playlist

  • Toddla T | Intro: Safi Bugel | Photo: Kojo Dwimoh
  • 30 July 2021

Born and raised in Sheffield, Toddla T is now a name that has global appeal. The producer, DJ and radio host has been making big moves since the ‘90s, from an 11-year stint as a BBC Radio host to recording in Jamaica and throwing parties in Ibiza, all the while armed with selections spanning reggae, dancehall, UKG and R&B.

Read this next: Toddla T leaves BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra after 11 years

Shaped by his early listening habits, soundsystems are a major part of Toddla T’s identity. He’s been a regular on the Notting Hill Carnival circuit since his teenage years, as both a partygoer and a curator. He’s also thrown his own Spring and Winter Carnivals to echo the spirit of the summer street party.

This month, he released a new single ‘Shaker’, made in collaboration with Jeremiah Asiamah and Sweetie Irie. To celebrate the release, Toddla T has collated his favourite soundsystem culture tracks, from old skool dub and dancehall to more recent Carnival anthems. Check them out below.

1
Augustus Pablo 'King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown'

"1974, Augustus Pablo a melodica player linked up with King Tubby - arguably the inventor of dub. Dub being the essence of modern sound system culture worldwide but particularly within the UK. Stripped back, big, bad & everything how we like it."

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2
Sleng Teng Riddim 'Instrumental'

"From 1985, the year I was born, this was one of the first Jamaican riddim tracks to incorporate digital. Funnily enough it was like a bit of a preset on a Cassio MT4 keyboard which they used and flipped - genius - and it kind of led to modern digital music or modern electronic music all the way from dancehall through to house, jungle, dubstep, grime etc.. that we’ll visit later in this list, but to me this is the foundation for modern popular music."

3
Buju Banton 'Bogle'

"1992, a golden era of dancehall music - stripped back, heavy and built for sound systems. Buju the iconic voice Bogle dance inspired by the legendary dancer of dancehall fav Mr. Bogle, Bogle, Father Bogle however you wanna call him. Produced by one of my top producers of all time Dave Kelly… bassweight music at its finest in the most authentic way."

Read this next: 28 photos of soundsystems through the ages

4
BLACKSTAR feat. TopCat 'Champion DJ'

"Musically I believe Jamaica and the UK are cousins. I feel like Jamaica is our big cousin when it comes to music and we always are inspired by and look to what is going on there and it’s happened all the way from the Windrush generation up until now. Scoping and moulding the sound of the UK is definitely rooted in the islands of the Caribbean and the proof is in the pudding! This is TopCat and Blackstar, early jungle days when the UK loved the ragga sound and reggae sound, but flipped it in a European way, uniquely British breakbeats and reggae connected in rave music and these are the type of records that the UK made that still slap on any rig."

5
Krust 'Warhead'

"As ragga jungle (what they used to call it) developed in to more of a drum 'n' bass sound, less vocals and more rhythm driven, this is an example, this is Bristol at its finest. Bristol is the home of many amazing soundsystem records but Krust is a hero of mine. The bassline on this is basically reggae but presented in that Bristol way and this one just sounds ridiculous on any sound system still."

Read this next: The gentrification of jungle

6
So Solid Crew 'Oh No' (Oxide Remix)

"Off the back of jungle came UK garage, it got kinda more major key and happy and then it got dark and heavy again. So Solid were at the front of that and I’ve always thought this production was genius, particularly the Oxide Remix which stripped it right back down again and was perfect for sound system shellings. I still play this and even the instrumental version now and it just sounds so weighty."

7
Menta & Ms Dynamite 'Ramp'

"Ms Dynamite & Sticky 'Booo!' is like the greatest song ever made and I say that with my chest! But this one here, 'Ramp', is a bit of a hidden gem. It was produced by Menta who then became Artwork, a part of Magnetic Man and who is now more of a house and disco DJ. The bass on this is so nasty, I used to play it in Sheffield next to the local bassline sounds of Yorkshire and the Midlands and it just sounded so disgusting, and Ms Dynamite being 10 out of 10 on top of the riddim as per normal, plus the message of it is unique. And that’s the thing about sound system culture, particularly back in the day before radio or tape packs or of course streaming, the sound system carries social commentary. So every now and again you get a soundsystem tune that’s got a message and I think when those two boxes are ticked you get authenticity."

Read this next: Bad Boy Chiller Crew: The rowdy Bradford rappers taking bassline to the masses

8
Wiley 'Eskimo 2' (Devils Mix)

"Obviously off the back of the garage scene came grime, which to me was a proper turning point in UK music; a new generation made it theirs and to my ears it was the most exciting moment of my musical journey. I love the way that MCs produced versions of instrumentals and did different shellings on it at raves - which goes back again to the Sleng Teng riddim or the Augustus Pablo we played at the top, where it’s about the instrumental and different artists going on it mainly on a soundsystem. The Devil Mix of 'Eskimo' is just that, stripped back to the bone, it’s the bass going mental and people used to just go mad to it! This to me is literally the UK version of Sleng Teng. Genius."

9
Digital Mystikz 'Anti War Dub'

"Off the back of grime when it got super dark a few producers specifically from the South of London created the dubstep sound which was less mids, less tops and concentrated on the bottom end and back to the dub essence and this one is a seminal classic in that area again with a great message on top. It’s an absolute rattler, a UK anthem."

Read this next: THE BEST 13 MID-2000S DUBSTEP TRACKS

10
Breakage 'Hard' ft. Newham Generals

"And then Breakage came along and mixed the two worlds with 'Hard' featuring Newham Generals which is a dubstep style riddim with grime vocals on the top. And you had the best of both worlds. This is a Carnival anthem for me."

Toddla T, Jeremiah Asiamah, Sweetie Irie feat Stefflon Don & S1mba 'Shaker' is out now, get it here

Safi Bugel is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

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