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DJ Mag Best of British awards 2022: the winners

The votes have been counted and the results are in! Here are the winners in DJ Mag’s Best of British awards 2022

DJ Mag's Best of British awards returned for its 16th edition this month. Shining a spotlight on the artists, clubs, festivals, labels and radio shows that continue to place the UK scene at the forefront of electronic music, Each year, DJ Mag staff choose five nominees across a wide range of categories, which are then put to a public vote. There are also three special awards – Innovation & Excellence, Outstanding Contribution and Game Changer – with recipients chosen by the editorial team. 

2022 also marked our first IRL awards show since 2019, after pausing the annual event for the past two years due to the pandemic (and running a digital awards show instead). Taking place at The Steel Yard in London on 15th December, the event was hosted by Jamz Supernova and featured DJ sets from artists and DJs nominated across the awards categories: Patrick Topping, anu, Erol Alkan, Girls Don’t Sync, LF System, KILIMANJARO. As part of our ongoing partnership with Youth Music, Manchester-based artist and Next Gen Fund recipient PERiiSU played  the opening set of the night. 

Below, you can read the profiles of all the winners announced on the night. Congratulations!

Patrick Topping side profile in a coat
Best DJ
Patrick Topping

“I’m like really, really happy about it, really buzzing,” says Patrick Topping when we ask him how it feels to win Best DJ at this year’s Best of British awards. “It’s just the perfect way to round off the year, it’s been incredible this year and then to be awarded that — the title just doesn’t seem real.”

Considering the year the Newcastle-born DJ has had though, it’s no surprise how real it is. His Trick label just spent the summer in Ibiza absolutely smashing up its first DC-10 residency, while continuing to pump out shimmering club tools in all sorts of 4/4 flavours from artists including Rawfox, Ose, Josh Micky, Gary Beck, Airwolf Paradise and Mr. Topping himself. The label boss, meanwhile, has spent much of the last year flying between DJ gigs in Australia, the US and Europe. The current question on his mind is how is he possibly going to top this year? ”I’m very lucky the way my career seems to have progressed,” he tells us, sounding genuinely surprised at how things have turned out for him. “I say each year, there’s no way it can be topped, like, this is the pinnacle — and then somehow every year is better than the last.”

As someone who started going out to the White Isle every year from when he was 18, sometimes twice a summer, Trick landing a summer residency at Ibiza’s legendary DC-10 was definitely something of a career-high. “It’s been like a big part in shaping who I am and became a massive goal of mine,” he tells us, gently shaking his head, “so playing there has been really, really special.” 

Throughout the summer, DJs including Heidi, Lauren Lo Sung, Alan Fitzpatrick, Chez Damier, Kevin Saunderson and Skream made the journey to DC-10 to join Topping at Trick. The closing party at the end of August featured DJ Minx, Dense & Pika, Ewan McVicar, Joris Voorn, Krystal Klear and Nora En Pure alongside Topping. We wonder what it’s like behind the decks at DC-10, at peak time, at the final party of the year, placing a small bet with ourselves as to what his answer will be. We win the bet: “Aww, it’s just mint. It’s a buzz, man!”

Like his productions, Topping’s DJing has morphed and developed over time. He initially built his name showcasing the highly polished percussion loops and big room b-lines of main room tech-house, but over the years has developed a more expansive sound, stretching out into playing other genres and tempos, and Trick has allowed him to play as freely as he wants. “As a DJ, you have to adapt to where you are at different parties, so you’re not gonna turn up to Cocoon and play a disco set... but when you’ve got your own night, it’s a release and you can really just do what you wanna do — and that really came out in my DJing. So whether I’m playing at Trick or away from Trick, I think my DJing has kind of evolved because of that freedom I’ve been allowed there.”

As ever though, Topping is looking to the future, and with plans to take Trick to new territories in the States, Italy and Tenerife in 2023, he’ll no doubt be attempting to repeat this year’s successes, or more likely aiming to somehow beat them. 

“I feel so proud of it all,” he continues, “and I feel so grateful and lucky to have had this career. You get caught up in it and it becomes normal but I do have these, like, pinch myself moments still, where I get blown away by it. That’s also why I like to be sober, so I can enjoy it. I step back from it and it literally just makes me so happy.” HAROLD HEATH

Best Producer Interplanetary Criminal
Best Producer
Interplanetary Criminal

It’s an exciting time for Manchester’s Zach Bruce, best known as garage DJ/producer Interplanetary Criminal. Though he’s been releasing music under the name since 2015, the last few years have seen his profile snowball, with releases on Instinct, Time Is Now and Warehouse Rave introducing a growing audience to his caliginous basslines and stripped-back beats. Able to turn his hand to murky 2-step and propulsive speed garage alike, he also clinched a No.1 record in 2022 alongside DJ, producer and vocalist Eliza Rose,‘B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)’. Built around a gorgeous synth riff sampled from a remix of Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s ‘Let The Beat Hit’ Em’, its addictive vocal, driving b-line and 4/4 garage drums worked like a dream.

After years spent grinding in the underground, the single's success took Bruce by surprise, as its production happened in the most natural way. “Eliza’s DJ sets are incredible,” he says. “I’ve listened to her for time, and when I first met her, I was like, ‘I really wanna work with you’. She was like, ‘Oh, likewise!’ When she sent back the ‘B.O.T.A.’ vocal, I was blown away really. There was something really exciting about it. But no way did I expect it to be as big as it was. ‘B.O.T.A.’ was made to be a club tune.”

That track contrasts sharply with the material on another current Interplanetary Criminal release, the ‘Coming On Strong’ EP, released on Shall Not Fade offshoot Time Is Now. Veering between the sinister synths and raw raps of Killa P on ‘Gangster Time’ and the speed garage juggernaut of the title track, it reflects many of his influences, which range from El-B and Big Ang to Horsepower Productions and labels like Shelf Life. I’ve always liked the darker style of tunes, for a while really,” Bruce says. “I’d say that the scene we’re in, everyone’s influenced by the old skool. It’s totally authentic, and it’s based on what came before.”

Though he started out making house and breakbeat, garage is Interplanetary Criminal’s primary musical love, and his rise has tracked alongside the genre’s popularity in recent years. “It blows my mind a little bit that it’s so current,” he says. “Every year that I feel like it might drop off, it gets better. The UK just loves garage, it was so close to a lot of people, it was in the charts, so without realising you like it, you do because you’ve grown up listening to it. It’s really sick to be a part of it. I think it’s here to stay for a little while, definitely." BEN MURPHY

Best Live Act: Fred again..
Best Live Act
Fred again..

If 2021 was the year Fred again..’s tracks made their mark, then 2022 has been the year of playing them out. From finger drumming to piano, singing and DJ tricks, Fred’s live show has wowed audiences enough to scoop this year’s Best Live Act award. 

"He’s a tricky one to introduce because he’s that talented,” said the host of Fred again..’s now-legendary Boiler Room back in July. “I think this set just created a whole new generation of dedicated house heads,” said someone else in the comments. Neither of them are wrong. Those 70-odd minutes are all the evidence you need to be convinced that Fred again.. is the live act of the moment. Five months later, the video has had over 11 million views. When DJ Mag asked those ranked in the annual Top 100 DJs poll about the best set they had seen in the previous 12 months, that Boiler Room was the most popular answer. And he only branched out as a solo act in 2021. So why did it strike such a chord?

First and foremost it’s the energy and emotion that the Grammy nominee brings. He smashes through bouncy club, sentimental house, chart-bothering dance, scuffed-up garage, grime, jungle and plenty more besides, often with a heart-tugging vocal or hint of bittersweet melody. By and large, everything he played in that set was something he was involved in making, too. But it’s not just what he played — how he played it was just as remarkable, often spinning out of one tune midway through and into the next without so much as a missed beat. Anyone can play wall-to-wall bangers, but to play them with such brightness and catchy emotional content is a gift.

All this makes Fred a millennial pin-up whose tracks speak to a generation. Each one is like a personal scrapbook of thoughts and anxieties, they’re riddled with voice-notes from friends, Instagram videos and samples from the records he loves. Many, such as 2021’s ‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’, dealt specifically with the feelings experienced during lockdown, while the latest of his three diaristic solo albums features standouts like the barreling festival house of ‘Delilah (Pull Me Out Of This)’ and infectious shuffle of ‘Eyelar (Shutters)’.

His live shows are just one reason the South London singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and live act is as hot as they come right now. When not playing around the world, he’s crafting ambient sketches on his phone, or writing songs with Stormzy and Charli XCX, or dropping three solo albums in the last 18 months. He’s also sung for former family neighbour Brian Eno and made a mixtape with drill titan Headie One. His ubiquity in the dance music world puts him on par with Ed Sheeran, who does the same in pop. And yes, of course, the pair have worked together plenty in the past.

Like Sheeran, Fred comes across as a low-key guy despite his eye-watering success. When he arrives on stage backed by a screen showing his signature video clips, he might only speak once to thank his fans for being there. But when he gets to playing, he has real flair that includes the famous finger drumming routine and other tricks that defy logic and boggle brains. He can also lay down beautiful piano solos and sing with captivating tenderness when required. More than just dances, Fred again.. live shows are full-on experiences — and they’ve clearly left an impression on DJ Mag voters. KRISTAN J CARYL

Girl's Don't Sync
Breakthrough DJ
Girls Don't Sync

Matty Chiabi, Sophia Violet, Hannah Lynch and G33 are the four DJs that make up Girls Don’t Sync. With a drive for continuing the conversation of inclusivity in our industry and an unrivalled energy in the booth, this year we’ve witnessed their meteoric rise. “We were all DJs in our own right, with shared values and visions for teaching, empowering and creating spaces for other aspiring, upcoming female DJs both up North and in London,” they tell DJ Mag.

They formed during lockdown, and with livestreams that have amassed thousands of views, they’ve quickly built a dedicated following with bookings across the UK and Europe. Their sets are high energy and display a love for UKG, bass, dancehall, Afrobeat and various other genres. Landmark moments this year include playing Glastonbury, Parklife and Lost & Found, and they’ve just made their debut at Rise in the French Alps to play alongside Eats Everything for his History Of Rave series. 

“We are so gassed!” they exclaim, when they hear the news of their Breakthrough DJ award. “It is such a big achievement for us to be recognised and nominated amongst so many DJs, producers, labels that we admire, but to WIN it?! Wow, we are speechless! We don’t want to sound cliché but we have to mention the obvious— we’ve not had the easiest time as four diverse women newly navigating this industry, and you only have to listen to the intro of our [recent DJ Mag] HQ stream to get a taster of some of the abuse that not only us but most female DJs have to put up with daily.

"So to be celebrated on this scale, and to have real ownership that cements our places and faces in this industry as the Best Of British Breakthrough DJs, feels like a small salute to all the doubts, disbelief and scrutiny we’ve had over the past year. And to counteract that with all the overwhelming support and love we’ve received, especially around this voting process — it’s so powerful."

Their aspirations for this coming year are to “continue to build and nurture our ever-growing community, and allow other like-minded DJs, producers, artists, venues to connect and collaborate with us on a journey, and our mission to bring much-needed representation to underrepresented dance floors. To kick off 2023 they’ve announced a debut UK tour that will see them headline YES in Manchester, Sheaf St in Leeds, Patterns in Brighton, Green Works in Bristol, Werkhaus in London, Meraki in Liverpool and Hope Works in Sheffield, so be sure to catch GDS in a city near you very soon. ANNA WALL

Nia Archives
Breakthrough Producer
Nia Archives

Capping off a year of big wins, even bigger gigs and some of the biggest tunes in electronic music, new-gen junglist Nia Archives has been voted the Best Of British Breakthrough Producer of 2022. Nia was in a pub with her manager, nursing a quiet drink ahead of a gig, when she heard she’d won DJ Mag’s 2022 Breakthrough Producer award. “I thought he was joking, I couldn’t believe it,” she tells DJ Mag. “It’s been an absolute whirlwind and I’m still processing it all. I feel honoured to be representing a new generation of junglists."

It’s been a year since we last spoke with Nia Archives, the producer forging new flavours of junglism in the underground, and in that period she’s picked up a slew of awards: NME’s Best Producer, BBC Music Introducing Artist of The Year, and most recently the MOBOs Best Electronic/Dance category. Next month she’ll find out if she’s taking home that other coveted gong: The Brit’s Rising Star.

Archives has been at the forefront of a junglist revival for the better part of two years, having released her debut EP ‘Headz Gone West’ in 2020 and ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ last February. Her productions are a heady mix of lo-fi and lush, steeped in the dub and breaksy sonics of her youth. But while ‘Headz Gone West’ was born in the peak of lockdown insomnia, ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ was made with the sound system in mind — and with that, Archives declared 2022 the Summer of Jungle.

And she more than delivered. Between May and September the artist released ‘Mash Up The Dance’ with jungle heroes Randall, DJ Die and Dismantle, featured on a Clipz cut alongside dancehall royalty Beenie Man, and collaborated with house-come-techno head Mall Grab. She also smashed out sets at Glasto, Reading and Leeds festivals, held down a residency on BBC Radio 1, and connected with fans abroad with a US tour, as well as dates in Australia and a video shoot in Brazil (check out the bossa nova-inspired ‘Baianá’).‘Forbidden Feelingz’ was even added to the FIFA 23 Official Soundtrack.

Archives’ faith in the music and the scene she represents means she’s never been one to shy away from difficult conversations. Production aside, she’s keen to push the representation question for her generation of Black dance music artists and in April published an open letter to the MOBOs, calling on the award ceremony to reinstate its long-neglected dance and electronic music categories. “I cannot stand by and watch the music I love continue to be gentrified and whitewashed... electronic/dance music is music of Black origin,” she wrote in an Insta post. “I’m not afraid to acknowledge it, why are you?”. Fast forward half a year and Archives was picking up a MOBO. “I felt so happy and proud — it felt like a moment I will 100% look back on when I’m older,” she says about the win. “Big up MOBOs for making it happen.”

2023 is looking packed already, with global editions of Up Ya Archives parties planned among releases that veer ever more leftfield. The Bradford-born artist who began making beats on a cracked version of Logic has come a long way, and we can’t wait to see what she does next. “I love this music and I’m happy to be pushing it forward alongside my peers, while also redefining what a new-generation junglist looks like.” Congratulations Nia! RIA HYLTON

Best MC/Vocalist

Among the varied figures within the UK rap and grime game, Novelist is one of the most consistent players. Using his words percussively and boasting tight rhyme schemes, the Lewisham MC has a natural instinct for the mic, bearing an instantly recognisable flow. He’s no stranger to a badge of honour, having been nominated for a Mercury award for 2018 album ‘Novelist Guy’. His DJ Mag Best Of British award for Best MC “feels nice,” he says. “It’s good to have an accolade for something I consider to be my forte. It’s a reaffirmation of who I am.”

This year there’s been no sign of the South-East Londoner slowing down. He toured Australia and contributed to what has become a rite of passage for UK spitters, GRM Daily’s Daily Duppy series, where he referenced Top Boy, Ghostbusters and his Christian faith, demonstrating next-level wordplay in the process. He dropped his ‘4 Tha Homiez’ mixtape, a G-funk inspired release which took London to the West Coast and slotted in at No.1 on the iTunes UK, hip-hop and rap chart. That project was “really just for me and my homies,” he admits, “but it was amazing to see the supporters really get behind the project the way they did”.

The self-directed video for ‘Don’t Wake Me’ saw Novelist bringing that US flavour to the UK capital, and that wasn’t all in terms of transatlantic connections. Earlier this year, Dean Blunt leaked ‘LONDON TONIGHT FREESTYLE’, a track featuring A$AP Rocky, Skepta and Novelist, with the two UK MCs spitting alongside Rocky’s sung musings.

Ever unafraid to pivot to different sounds and BPMs, he upped the tempo in 2022 too, decorating Mall Grab’s breakbeat-stacked ‘Time Change’, the production for which was done by the Australian producer with Novelist in mind. He then teamed up with one of d&b’s most coveted producers, Rockwell, for an EP titled ‘Peak’ that saw him injecting his flow into darker, shadowy sonics. “Rockwell is a really calm guy,” he says. “He has a really nice collaborative working style and was open to the ideas that I brought to the table. We just made it happen.”

Novelist’s always been active and outspoken politically — his ‘Stop Killing The Mandem’ became something of a lightning rod during the Black Lives Matter protests— and title track ‘Peak’ samples trade unionist Eddie Dempsey of the RMT Union talking about how “the general public in this country know that they are being mugged... the people at the top of the economy, they’re having a disco”. Tackling soaring energy costs and government corruption, it’s really a track for these unstable, anxiety-filled times: “I’m Novelist, I tell it how it is.”

What can we expect from the talented MC next year? “Next year looks like more of me,” he says simply. And, as the vocalist behind iconic Mumdance collaborations on ‘1 Sec’, we couldn’t resist asking Nov whether he’d consider teaming up with the producer again, now that he’s back making music, to which Novelist simply replied: “Yes”. Watch this space... FELICITY MARTIN

Breakthrough MC/Vocalist
Breakthrough MC/Vocalist

Following his massive single ‘Zidane’ and numerous Scottish music awards, Bemz’s Breakthrough MC win marks another landmark moment for the rising rapper. Rather than telling DJ Mag how this year has changed his life, Bemz shows us instead. Standing sentinel on his nightstand are a host of trophies he has been given in recognition for his trailblazing achievements in the Scottish rap scene. He has been recognised as Male Artist Of The Year by the Proudly Black and Scottish Awards, the Best Live Act at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, and the BBC Scottish Act Of The Year — to name but a few. He has even been presented with a bottle of King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut whiskey, a gift which the iconic Glasgow venue reserves only for the artists who sell it out.

For all the world, being crowned DJ Mag’s Breakthrough MC/Vocalist may seem like just another in an ever-lengthening string of accolades, but for Jubemi Iyiku, this marks a definitive turning point in his mission. “I’m going to be very honest with you,” he says, “the reason why the DJ Mag award feels mad is because it’s the first time that I’ve ever been recognised outside of Scotland."

Born into a Nigerian family of six siblings, he spent his youth in a mode of survival in the estates of South London. Following the untimely loss of his mother and the murder of his older brother, at 14 years old, his father sent him to live with his aunt in the improbable coastal town of Stranraer in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. In our previous Meet The MC interview with Iyiku, he said: “I went from being one of many to living in an environment that wasn’t really made for someone like me.”

A sense of isolation and estrangement from ‘home’ defined his adolescence. He was drawn to music to rekindle that lost connection, not only to his culture, but to his brother. Scottish rappers have historically been underrepresented, unlike the indie, rock and techno scenes, which boast mainstream talent. The lack of infrastructure has created something of a glass ceiling in the Scottish rap scene, but with the recognition that comes with this award, Iyiku is primed to break it. “Obviously, everything I’ve achieved so far is an amazing feat, but this is the first time I have proof that people outside of Scotland are listening. Even if I didn’t win, I knew being nominated was a big, big step for me. So now, to actually win it... It’s mad."

After his garage-infused single ‘Zidane’ was met with acclaim this year, Iyiku is ready to drop a new project in 2023, titled ‘Nova’s Dad’— named in honour of his daughter. It promises to be an introspective body of work, his most personal so far.He’s focusing on collaboration next year; creative alliances with Scottish talent that will demand the UK’s attention. “There have been sleepless nights, a lot of sacrifices,” he shares, “but it’s finally starting to pay off. I just can’t believe this is my life. It’s been a fantastic journey so far, and it’s only the beginning.” SOPHIE WALKER

XL Recordings
Best Label
XL Recordings

The Best Of British awards are all about celebrating the finest electronic music artists and institutions the UK has to offer. Suffice to say, this imprint, first set up way back in 1989, easily meets quality control standards. More so, for decades it has torn through them to set benchmarks others can only hope to meet.

For a 33-year-old imprint, XL Recordings — 2022’s Best Label winner — knows what it means to stay fresh. Building on a huge legacy name-checking legends from The Prodigy and SL2 to Basement Jaxx and Blawan, the past 12 months alone have seen the team get behind standout releases from Overmono (as a pair and collaborating with Joy Orbison), John FM, Mefjus alongside Camo & Krooked, Arca, Ibeyi and The Smile (Thom Yorke, Tom Skinner and Jonny Greenwood’s new project). On-point, varied, and at the vanguard of music as a whole, focusing on specific names almost seems reductive. Recent successes have been set to the uneasy backdrop of a music industry emerging from lockdowns into what’s best described as a very brave new world. Uncertainty reigns.

Nevertheless, XL has continued its unwavering commitment to supporting real talent, taking risks, and pushing boundaries with sounds and ideas. A vital role at any point in the recorded music timeline, arguably never more so than today, it speaks volumes as to why this Best Of British win is more than deserving. “At XL, we are fortunate to work with many different types of artist who operate in quite different areas of culture. I think our biggest achievement has been providing effective support for these artists and seeing their creativity thrive, after what’s been a very challenging time for the industry, Covid-wise,” says William Aspen, Director of A&R at XL Recordings, when asked what aspect of the business in 2022 he’s particularly proud of. “I think the way people engage and listen to music has changed massively in the last few years, and is still continuing to do so. As a record label, we need to pay close attention to that and make sure we’re still presenting an artist or a release in the most suitable and meaningful way."

“It’s extremely important to take time to listen to the various perspectives from within the team and then together with the artist, carefully decide on the best way forward from there,” William continues, before our questions turn to the future, and specifically this coming year. “In terms of XL, we get excited by music from all corners of the globe, made by all different types of people. Our goal is to build an environment for these artists to thrive and for their creativity to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. In the wider industry, there are so many talented artists, labels and events we admire. I hope we can work collaboratively in order to make the industry a welcoming place, where artists from all backgrounds can be supported and explore their creativity fully.” MARTIN GUTTRIDGE-HEWITT

Time Is Now logo
Breakthrough Label
Time Is Now (Shall Not Fade)

UKG has been back in the spotlight for so long now that it feels less like a revival than a permanent return. When Bristol-based Kieran Williams started our Best Of British Breakthrough Label of the year back in 2019, though, things were very different. “The inception was very organic and unformulated,” he remembers. “There was no long-term vision or plan.” The start came when an artist he already worked with on parent label Shall Not Fade sent in some tracks under a new alias. They didn’t work for that outlet, but Kieran thought they had to be released somehow. “Everything we’ve ever done across all our labels have been 100% passion projects and pretty self-indulgent,” he says. “I genuinely thought no one would be interested!” Some 60-odd releases and three years later, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

In that time the label has become one of the freshest sources of red-hot new garage tackle, has helped establish names like Interplanetary Criminal, Y U QT and Holloway, and has even served up some classics from Kieran’s youth. Operating at the darker end of the spectrum, the label takes in murky swingers, glitchy steppers, raved-up breaks, bowel-emptying bass and low-end wobblers.True to the history of this scene, everything comes on vinyl and has a distinctly UK feel with a bass-heavy Bristol twist — whether it’s speed garage, breakbeat or jungle. Which makes sense, because UKG was the genre that originally got Kieran into dance music.

This year, he paid homage to that and was proud to put out some of the seminal DJ Pantha bassline tracks that he was raving to around 15 years ago. “My introduction to dance music was growing up in Bristol and going out to clubs around 2004 when dubstep and garage were emerging. It was always my dream to release music like this,” he says, explaining that the policy since TIN001 has just been to “release music we like and not really follow specific genre restrictions. I’d never release something on the basis that I think it would sell well.”

By now the label has a super-tight family of artists and so doesn’t actively go hunting for demos or new names. “Not because there aren’t other amazing artists out there, but more that we run a tight ship and treat our crew well so they want to come back and continue with us." Kieran also recognises that the UKG scene is “very saturated now versus when we started out”, so he thinks the fact there’s some familiarity in the artists they release helps keep things legit.

There has been one album on the label to date — 2020’s “conceptual project”, ‘Rites Of Passage’ by Fiesta Soundsystem, which was a celestial jungle adventure that Kieran says was “refreshing to work on”. Another will come next year from long-time friend and sometime Bristol housemate Nicky Soft Touch. “The label was started purely for my love of this city,” he beams, having worked with local artists like Wilfy D and Daffy. “I grew up here and discovered music here. I’m so proud of how this community has grown, and we are starting a monthly Time Is Now party to help to showcase the scene.” We’ll see you down the front. KRISTAN J CARYL

Best Album
TSHA 'Capricorn Sun' [Ninja Tune]

When London-based TSHA, real name Teisha Matthews, graced DJ Mag’s cover in September this year, the artist was gearing up to the release of her Best of British award-winning debut, ‘Capricorn Sun’. It was a period of personal transition for Matthews, not just in terms of the LP, but also as an artist. Behind the scenes, after a string of tense incidents with live streaming, and her performance anxiety hitting its peak, she was struggling to connect with her identity as a DJ, and feeling lost in the midst of it all.

The release of ‘Capricorn Sun’ in October not only marked Matthews’ next sonic chapter — the sunshine peeking out from behind a clouded few years — but it also set the stage for TSHA as a live artist, with her first performance now confirmed for Barcelona’s Primavera Sound festival next Summer. Released via Ninja Tune — the London label home to artists like Bicep, Jayda G and I. JORDAN and 박혜진 Park Hye Jin — the tracks on ‘Capricorn Sun’ were produced from the beginning with live performance in mind. Piecing together new productions with cherry-picked tracks from previous EPs and singles, the LP re-contextualises TSHA’s signature sound into a full-bodied package alive with powerful emotion, femininity, raw feeling and beautiful soundscapes. “I feel relieved,” Matthews says about finally having the LP out in the world,“but I have yet to fully register in my head what it means to put an album out. I hope I get to stop at some point to really enjoy the fruits of my labour.”

Across the 12 tracks on ‘Capricorn Sun’, Matthews explores and affirms her own lived, human experiences, asserting herself as an artist who understands what it really takes to make music that provides connection and intimacy. From album opener ‘Galdem Intro’, which features an encouraging, girl power-filled voice note from her best friend Effy, to the soaring euphoria of ‘Giving Up’, produced alongside fiancé and artist Mafro, and the album’s final track ‘Nala’, dedicated to Matthews’ beloved Cavapoo, the project is brimming with empathy, positivity and personal moments. “The response so far has been great,” Matthews says of the reaction to the project. “I love hearing little stories of how it has helped someone when they have been struggling or that it soundtracked a happy moment in their life. It’s great to be able to serve people through music.

Another standout on ‘Capricorn Sun’ that shines with personality is, ‘Sister’, taken from Matthews’ 2020 EP, ‘Flowers’. Shimmering with impassioned chords and soft, heartfelt vocals, it’s a love letter to her relationship with her long-lost sister Amy, who she reconnected with during lockdown. Despite the early release —Matthews previously told DJ Mag she released the EP as there was no promise of live music returning — it was always intended that ‘Sister’ would make up part of the LP’s tracklist. “My favourite part was getting to create music that was part of a whole project,” she says about the process of building ‘Capricorn Sun’, “and have everything geared towards one thing, which was the album.” With her debut out in the world, everything is gearing toward’s TSHA’s debut as a live artist, and her next full-length project. “These are my two main focuses,” she affirms, “I’m excited to share my music in a new way and explore all the creative possibilities.” AMY FIELDING

 Best Track Eliza Rose & Interplanetary Criminal 'B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)'
Best Track
Eliza Rose & Interplanetary Criminal 'B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)' [Warner Records x One House]

"Coming from the underground scene, it’s not a thing we’d usually strive for, and it’s something that I never even thought I was capable of doing,” says London DJ, producer, vocalist and label owner Eliza Rose, on her unexpected No.1 smash. “It was a lovely surprise, and amazing to have the underground get the respect that we deserve.”

First released in June 2022 on Eliza’s Rosebud Recordings, ‘B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)’ —her collaboration with Manchester’s Interplanetary Criminal — swiftly took on a life of its own, becoming an enormous viral hit on TikTok. Chiming with the current affection for UK garage, its winning combination of elements —a dreamy synth sample from a remix of Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s ‘Let The Beat Hit’ Em’, Eliza’s lush vocal, that bubbling bassline and jacked-up 4/4 beats —was also a recipe for pop success. Re-released via Warner Records, it became a ubiquitous summer smash, hitting No.1 for two weeks in early September and evoking the late-’90s/early2000s era when garage was frequently in the charts.

‘B.O.T.A.’ was created remotely after Eliza and Interplanetary Criminal (Zach Bruce) met at the club Hidden in Manchester and decided to collaborate, the track drawing lyrical inspiration from misty-eyed memories of her early years. “When I listened to it, I immediately felt a sense of nostalgia,” Eliza says. “It took me back to my holidays in seaside towns when I was younger, and I could imagine this track as being something you’d hear in an arcade.“It was also inspired by a Blaxploitation film called Coffy starring Pam Grier,” she continues.“On the poster, it says something along the lines of ‘She’s the GODMOTHER of them all, The baddest one chick hit squad that ever hit the town’.”

Eliza, whose vocals have also graced tracks by Angel D’lite and Cody Currie, and whose Rosebud label has become a buy-on-sight cult vinyl imprint, says that working with Interplanetary Criminal was a breeze, and she reckons more collabs could be in the works soon. “He’s such a kind person, which I could also sense from his IG,” Eliza says. “I would be very surprised if we don’t get back into the studio. We have a lot more to give, so watch this space!”

She’s thrilled to win the public vote for Best Track, and admits that ‘B.O.T.A’’s success has far surpassed what she thought was possible. “It feels incredible,” she says. “I always felt like this track was the people’s rhythm. The community came together to push it and get it to where it was. It became a bigger entity, and it was a beautiful thing to see.” BEN MURPHY

giggs x tiny boost
Best Rap Track
Giggs x Tiny Boost 'The Family’ [Produced by RichMade Records] (Self-released)

If there’s one thing Giggs and Tiny Boost know, it’s patience. In Giggs’ case, it’s how he pushed past years of Form 696 and cancelled live shows. For Tiny Boost — who, after Giggs, is probably the most prolific of the SN1 set — it was what got him through nine years of a highly controversial IPP sentence. “I was just rapping to keep myself off the streets,” he tells DJ Mag, “to keep me out of trouble. That was my first priority.” And thank god they did, because even the most self-assured person in the world must have doubted, even for a moment, that it might all pay off quite as well as it has.

This year, voters in DJ Mag’s Best Of British awards have crowned Giggs and Boost’s ‘The Family’ the Best Rap Track. Released in February, it proved a big hit for the pair and became Boost’s most successful of the year — and in the top five of Giggs’ most successful. Of course, this is far from their first together, but whether it’s a case of timing or something even harder to pin down, for whatever reason, ‘The Family’ seems to have really clicked with fans. “It’s just authentic SN1,” Boost explains. “That’s what they really want. People like seeing us together. This is the first one we done together for a while, and we brought all the mandem out for the video.”

With success so hard-won and with so many years in the game, Boost knows the value, but also the fragility, of success better than most. In a way, he tells DJ Mag, he’s somewhat relieved his success didn’t come overnight. “You’re here today and gone tomorrow. I’ve seen it happen a lot. I’d rather just be here, at least. So if you get a hit, make sure you get all those proceeds and keep hold of them. Because itc ould be gone in a heartbeat.”

That kind of success couldn’t have happened when he first started making music in the mid-to-late 2000s, before his hiatus. On ‘Street Paper’ extract ‘Sleeping In The Cemetery’, Boost laments that “I’ve built all this muscle off carrying the streets and I ain’t had a thank you yet.” He laughs when we bring that up, adding: “I should’ve said I ain’t had a public thank you.” In truth, it took a while for Boost and the rest of SN1 to get their kudos, even once Giggs had broken through.

A big part of that was the way rap was documented at the time. It was patchy, to say the least. In his eyes, a lot of rap history is being lost and without this continuous fight, the contributions of figures from road rap history are being forgotten. “A lot of these documentaries,” he says, “I don’t want to say they skip past me, specifically, but they skip past my era. There’s too much information so everyone feels like they know best and they didn’t need to worry about anything else. And that’s with everything, even down to clothing.”

Boost is hopeful for the future, though. “We’re getting better documentaries now,” he says, although he’s acutely aware of the challenge ahead. “Hip-hop’s young in this country. It’s at a stage now where a lot of these kids didn’t grow up on the essence of rap that I grew up on. Right now it’s a convincing game. You’ve got to teach the kids. That’s the most important thing.” JAMES KEITH

loyle carner
Best Rap Album/Mixtape
Loyle Carner 'hugo' [EMI]

When Loyle Carner broke through in 2014, amidst the industrial clang of resurgent grime anthems like ‘German Whip’ and ‘That’s Not Me’, his brand of earnest, endearing boom-bap-inspired UK hip-hop struck a chord with listeners searching for something a little softer and more reflective. Loyle’s self-released debut EP ‘A Little Late’ introduced his laidback flow and unflinchingly honest lyricism over soulful, jazzy productions. A critically acclaimed debut album — ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ — followed in 2017. Sophomore release ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ represented a great commercial success, but it was less lauded by critics. For some, the sweetness of his soul-baring had become sickly; the album was critiqued for putting deeply personal, often painful moments on wax and then seemingly going nowhere with them. Loyle had acquired the reductive label of UK hip-hop’s ‘nice guy’; an unproblematic fave, who’s music was so far removed from any moral panic that it could be enjoyed by everyone. His third album, ‘hugo’, dissects that ‘nice guy’ label, explores the roots of his identity, and creates important space for nuance.

When he spoke to DJ Mag back in October, on the eve of the album’s release, Loyle was understandably nervous, aware that the album’s darker, more challenging themes represented a departure. Its themes are just as diaristic and family-focussed as his previous work, but with layers of complexity for listeners to absorb. At its core is his decision to reconcile with his biological father, a Black British-Guyanese man who left the family home when he was a child.The enforced stillness of lockdown, coupled with the knowledge that he’d soon be a father himself added a sense of urgency to his resolve; this was something he was doing for himself and his unborn son.

The challenges posed by this reconnection with his dad, and his Black heritage, reflects in Loyle’s writing on ‘hugo’; the edgier darkness that he might’ve felt pressured to shoehorn into his work in the past surfaces organically here, as part of the journey of personal growth he’s been on. On first single and album curtain-raiser ‘Hate’, Loyle raps with a chest-puffing directness that we haven’t heard from him before, about the societal injustices and two-dimensional tropes around Blackness that he hates, the “disgraceful” zeroes in his bank account that he loves, and fundamental to the project’s narrative, his deepest fears. “Wisdom, I fear him / Yeah, I fear the colour of my skin / I fear the colour of my kin,” he admits frankly, the directness in his voice wavering slightly, before bursting forth again with an affirmation of love for “The colour that’s within”. The track captures his commitment to presenting a more complete version of himself across the album’s 10 tracks.

'I hope people can see the ‘nice’ me is in there on this album, but alongside the other side that maybe I haven’t shown. I always used to put my good days on paper, and kept my bad days secret. So here’s some of my bad days as well,’ he told DJ Mag when we last spoke. It’s a level of depth and honesty that’s obviously chimed with listeners, earning him this year’s Best Rap Album/Mixtape award. ROB KAZANDJIAN

Best Compilation
PinkPantheress ‘To Hell With It (Remixes)’ [Parlophone]

Bursting into the world with last year’s debut ‘To Hell With It’ mixtape, PinkPantheress, aka Gemma Victoria Walker, secured a major label deal after posting clips of her productions on TikTok. Crafting modern pop that floats in a nostalgic dream world of repurposed melodies and breakbeats, this year has seen her cache rise even further. Winning the BBC Sound Of poll, she set off on a sold-out tour of the UK, EU and US, featured on the soundtrack to the latest Marvel film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and hosted her own Boiler Room.

Now she adds the Best Of British Best Compilation to her resume. ‘To Hell With It (Remixes)’ recruits a diverse cast to put their spins on Walker’s originals. In some cases this means guest spots from male vocalists (a glimpse of the future, perhaps), Powfu giving ‘Pain’ a Soundcloud rap edge, El Guincho adding Latin flavour to an alternative take on ‘Just For Me’. But there are plenty of big dance names, too. Flume warps and stretches Walker’s vocal over his epic twist on ‘Noticed I Cried’, Nia Archives ratchets up the drum edit pressure on ‘Nineteen’, and Anz transforms ‘All My Friends Know’ into a sexy garage banger.

LSDXOXO, meanwhile, flips ‘Pain’, removing the Sweet Female Attitude sample to turn in an exquisite bittersweet alternative. Such curatorial excellence serves to underscore the strength of the source material, while also providing a host of fresh perspectives on this rising young star. JOE ROBERTS

Michael Bibi
Best Remix/Edit
Michael Bibi ‘La Murga (Michael’s Midnight Mix)’ [Solid Grooves]

It’s hard to think about the UK’s modern tech-house landscape and not immediately think of Michael Bibi, the DJ, producer and co-founder of one of the genre’s biggest exporters, Solid Grooves. While soundtracking some of the season’s biggest ID requests with unreleased, rolling tracks from scene mainstays and newcomers, it was his own remix of his own edit, the June-released ‘La Murga (Michael’s Midnight Mix)’ — a vibrant, ecstatic take on salsa musician Willie Colón, Puerto Rican singer Héctor Lavoe and the late Yomo Toro’s track of the same name — that ignited dancefloors this year. “It’s always nice to get recognition for a piece of your work,” Bibi says. “I’m happy that people have enjoyed listening to the track, hopefully as much as I enjoyed making it.”

Produced on the road, it saw its first club play in North America. “The first time I played it was at Space Miami,” he continues. “I’d just made the first edit in my hotel room that morning and played it to test how it sounded. It blew the roof off the venue, and I knew I was onto something.”

It’s been a busy year for Bibi and Solid Grooves in general — “Incredible, fast-paced, and fun,” he says — with the label boss and collective, alongside a string of huge guests, taking over DC-10 every week this summer. He assures us more original music, parties and edits are on the way, too. “Recently I have been thinking to start releasing a lot of the edits and originals that have been stacking up on my hard-drive... Watch this space.” AMY FIELDING

Shy One, Anu, Lupini and Ross Allen
Best Radio Show
Soup To Nuts, NTS

Soup To Nuts, the daily late-morning show on NTS, has become like a friend— or given its multiple hosts, perhaps that should be friends— to many this past year, offering eclecticism and regularity at the same time.

“I always find that the NTS shows are kind of a release,” anu says of Soup To Nuts, and we tend to agree. The daily show is hosted by a rotating crew that also includes Shy One, Ruf Dug, John Gómez, Lupini, Scratcha DVA and Ross Allen. It recently extended from one to two hours to allow the hosts to go even deeper into their own collections. anu's selections, for example, represent every facet of the multicultural capital, from hip-hop and indie rock to vintage house, soul and beyond, while Ruf Dug explores leftfield, dub and synth pop. Shy One does classic disco and hip-hop, and Ross Allen often investigates funk, soul and jazz. 

“My show is actually very heavily prepared,” says anu, who does characterful illustrations for each one and recently hosted specials on J-pop and Taiwanese new wave. “I might get an idea early in the year and then prep it for the rest of the year.” Whether that’s a specific artist, movement, an era in music or based around something like Diwali, “I often go into very deep rabbit holes where I’m discovering connections between producers and musicians,” she says.

The other hosts are just as esoteric in their approach and each has their own style on the mic, which makes for some continuity even when the sounds are eclectic. For anu, coming up with a narrative around the music is “a form of artistic expression that’s important for me”. Speaking for her fellow hosts but also the producers who help bring the show to air, she says: “Soup to Nuts is most definitely a group effort, so it feels really great to win this award.” KRISTAN J CARYL

Best Club Event

From house party to globally renowned event and Best Of British award winner, PXSSY PALACE continues to create QTBIPOC-centred spaces featuring the very best electronic music. PXSSY PALACE began life as a house party in Bethnal Green, seven years ago. “When we started there were hardly any club nights centering the needs of Queer/Trans Black and Brown people, while also prioritising sound and being explicit about intentions,” Nadine Noor, PXSSY PALACE founder, tells DJ Mag over email. “Now there is so much choice, catering to so many niches, it’s really beautiful.”

In 2022, PXSSY PALACE held down sets at Glastonbury, Ibiza, and played alongside Eliza Rose, Natasha Diggs and Kush Jones at Honey Dijon’s Radiance party. It also held a series of delightfully themed parties (fairycore, sports day, girl boss) and for Halloween decided to shake things up again with its first over-25s-only event. A controversial move for some, but it paid off. The collective had also planned Overflo, its first day festival, for September, but the Queen’s passing put it on hold, forcing organisers to fashion a low-key event at their favourite venue, Colour Factory.

Moving into 2023, the PALACE is stronger than ever, a globally recognised clubbing event fostering the best in queer underground talent and setting the agenda when it comes to best club care practices. PXSSY PALACE has plans to broaden its offering in the year ahead, creating more space for art, building on its sustainability practices and, of course, holding more banging, ‘slag-friendly’ raves. There are also a few hush-hush collabs in the pipeline, but nothing that can be revealed just yet. And what about Overflo, we ask Noor — still on the cards? “Inshallah.” RIA HYLTON

Best Large Club
Printworks, London

When Printworks opened its doors in 2017, it marked a turning point in London’s club culture. With a capacity of 6,000 and its industrial aesthetic, there simply wasn’t a space like Printworks in the capital. A massive operation on all fronts, it’s the dedicated staff who are responsible for the club’s iconic reputation. “The last six years has been an incredible journey that has been made possible by thousands of people working behind the scenes, plus countless guests, artists, labels, and partners that have contributed to our success,” say the team. “To be recognised as DJ Mag’s Best Large Club and to be nominated alongside other iconic clubs is an incredible honour. This is a nod to the hard work and energy that has gone into building Printworks over the years, and perfect timing as we announce our final season in its current form.”

In true Printworks style, they’ve pulled out all the stops to see out the closing season. Several leading festival brands, promoters and labels, including AVA London, Body Movements and Drumcode, will soundtrack the last dance(s). Considering the club has already hosted artists like Aphex Twin, Goldie, Helena Hauff, Peggy Gou and Pendulum, to name a tiny few, the team are maintaining their top-tier booking policy ‘til the end. “While the venue will close for a period as the site is redeveloped, we continue to work in partnership with our landlord British Land to secure a future for Printworks as central to the plans,” say the team. “So it’s hopefully not the end of Printworks, just a new chapter that we look forward to starting with you.” NIAMH O’CONNOR

Night Tales
Best Small Club
Night Tales, London

Tucked away under the railway arches of Hackney Central is the 750-capacity club Night Tales, a venue that has recently shone through as one of London’s most treasured gems. It’s East London’s largest terraced bar and nightclub, with a powerful sound system and a set-up that is constantly evolving. The weekly Friday and Saturday line-ups strive to be musically diverse— all are booked and promoted in-house, which is somewhat of a rarity these days — and stand strong alongside the city’s larger venues. In 2022, the club invited the likes of Derrick Carter, John Talabot, CEM, Todd Terje, Gerd Janson, Egyptian Lover, Prosumer and many more to play. “Collecting feedback has always been really important to delivering the best events we can,” says Liam Cross of Night Tales. “We believe this has helped us build trust with artists and clubbers; and this year we have really felt the love.

Back in April, the club joined forces with DJ Mag for a fundraiser in support of Ukraine that raised over £14,000 for the Disasters Emergency Committee. “Every year we promise to offer something new to our visitors, so next year won’t be any different. This year we developed our second club arch, and improved the sound, lighting and terrace DJ booth,” Cross tells DJ Mag. ”It’s a little too early to announce our plans for [2023], but we are planning for our most adventurous and exciting project so far. We’re gonna go big, much bigger.” ANNA WALL

Outlook UK
Best Festival
Outlook Festival UK

2022 was a tough one for promoters; ticket sales were unpredictable, costs went up, and bookings were still playing catch-up from Covid. To launch a new festival in the midst of all that was a brave move, but the team behind Outlook took on the challenge and made it look easy. Of course, they did have a world-renowned brand already; Outlook has been one of the best-loved Croatian festivals for over a decade.

Through its years at the iconic Fort Punta Christo and now back in Tisno, it’s been a summer haven for followers of sound system culture. “We like to think we’ve done a good job over the years of representing the UK scene abroad and it felt like a good time to bring this celebration to home soil,” Outlook co-founder Joe Barnett— one of many Brits on the team — says of the move. “Outlook UK is an event that will continue to champion the various scenes here in the UK, while also giving a platform to partners and collectives from elsewhere. There are less limitations in regards to travel and logistics and this allows us to switch things up a little and get creative.”

This year brought together celebrated labels, parties and artists like Deep Medi, Metalheadz, Ilian Tape, Keep Hush and Mungo’s Hi Fi, Ghetts, Skream, SHERELLE and the Hessle Audio crew outside a castle in the English countryside— “a dream come true,” Joe says. Hold tight for 2023 announcements. “We have had a lot to reflect on after this year,” he continues, “how we can continue to deliver the show sustainably, continue to do the brand justice and ultimately bring that community together each year.” BEN HINDLE

No Bounds Festival
Best Boutique Festival
No Bounds Festival

"I just want people to come away with a net gain of energy,” said Liam O’Shea, director of Sheffield’s No Bounds and founder of the Hope Works club, when we interviewed him about the festival’s sixth edition back in October. It may sound like a simple goal on paper, but it’s one that holds a lot of weight when considering the level of care that goes into putting on this annual event, which marries full-throttle rave NRG with thought-provoking art in an industrial setting. Taking place over a crisp autumn weekend in venues around the city, No Bounds thrives thanks to its carefully curated programme and community-centred ethos.

This year, there were once-in-a-lifetime live performances from Blackhaine and Blawan in Sheffield Cathedral, adrenaline-charged DJ sets from the likes of SHERELLE b2b Kode9, I. JORDAN, Nia Archives,Tim Reaper, LTJ Bukem and many more at Hope Works, and art installations in spaces such as the Moore Street Substation and the SADACCA community centre, exploring ideas relating to data, AI and climate change. Performances from local acts including 96 Back, The Black Dog, Gracie T and Diessa re-emphasised the festival’s commitment to championing the Sheffield scene, while still welcoming a stellar cast of international talent.

With this year marking its second time winning the Best Boutique Festival award (the first being 2017), it’s a method that’s clearly working. “Once is amazing, but winning a second time solidifies this into a ‘definitely not a fluke’ category,” O’Shea jokes. Looking ahead, the No Bounds crew hope to keep expanding, experimenting, and being an exemplar for adventurous electronic music in the North, all while “maintaining the vital balance between art and fun as we go,” says O’Shea. Now that’s energising. EOIN MURRAY

Jeremy Sylvester
Underground Hero
Jeremy Sylvester

“It’s amazing,” says a chuffed Jeremy Sylvester over the phone from his home in Birmingham when we call to congratulate him on winning our Best Of British Underground Hero award. “It’s nice to be recognised for what I do. I’ve been doing it for 30 years and never won any awards!” 

2022, he says, has probably been his busiest year ever in terms of gigs, the renaissance of garage shining a new light on his extensive career as a producer. Spending the late ‘90s ensconced in the Nice ‘N’ Ripe studios, working away at its now iconic back-catalogue, his 30 or 40 aliases listed on Discogs, he tells us, don’t include various other names he put out bootlegs under. 

“I haven’t really deviated too much away from what I was doing at the beginning,” he says. “It’s crazy everything that’s happening now, especially on the garage scene, it’s kind of going back in time,” he adds, describing how clued up the new generation of ravers are on tracks made before they were even born. His dad was part of UK disco act J.A.L.N. Band, so he ”always had roots in disco, soul and funk music”. But his earliest productions, when father and son shared a studio in Birmingham’s Custard Factory, were under Dubtronix as part of the nascent jungle scene. 

Moving to London to work for Nice ‘N’ Ripe began a hugely prolific period. And as well as bringing a love of US house and garage, his rave background lent his sound a distinctive twist. “At the beginning I was heavily influenced by my jungle roots, so it was four-four beats with jungle samples. It was quite heavy and bass-orientated. Then I went through a transition of the various styles of garage, the 2-step stuff, the more soulful R&B stuff with my Club Asylum moniker.” 

Having seen through garage’s lean times by sticking to his lane, these days he’s an elder statesman, putting out sample packs, offering a mixing and mastering service, and sharing his extensive back-catalogue and new productions via Bandcamp, a platform that has enabled him to engage directly with fans. On the horizon is a first album under his own name, pencilled for next year via his own long-running Urban Dubz label. “It’ll be drawing influence from tracks I used to make back in the day,” he tells DJ Mag. “So you’re going to hear a couple of jungle tracks, you’ll hear some garage and some garage house. It’ll be my story, a true reflection of what I’m about.” 

He’s also started his own party, Garage Paradise, which has found a home at East London’s Basing House and will also be holding events in Birmingham and the North. Centred around what he calls “the real garage sound” and casting it through a new filter, it’ll be enlisting “producers that I loved back in the day, Eddie Perez and the Ron Trents and Kerri Chandlers of the world”. With the next edition at Basing House on 21st January, you can catch Jeremy joined by Ray Hurley and Chicago’s CZ Boogie. JOE ROBERTS

Jamal Edwards
Innovation & Excellence
Jamal Edwards MBE

In 2007, while YouTube was still in its infancy, a 16-year-old Jamal Edwards took his first step towards blasting Black British music’s furious, industrial, MC-led sound up towards the stars. He filmed two mates exchanging bars, capturing grime’s any-time-any-place, DIY essence. The video became the first post on his fledgling YouTube channel, SBTV. At the time, grime’s visibility was limited; gifted MCs who might be stars on their blocks and in their boroughs were relatively anonymous outside of them. Jamal tapped into the endless reach that YouTube presented, making grime’s Microphone Champions accessible to fans everywhere. 

SBTV became a buzzing hive of grime and UK rap content, from interviews and music videos to behind-the-scenes footage that demystified a scene for curious outsiders leaning into fandom. It represented an inclusive online community of fans, artists and commentators, and at its glorious peak the channel felt like the lifeblood of the scene. 

Jamal became a household name after starring in a 2011 Google Chrome advert that immortalised the birth of SBTV, and was awarded an MBE in 2015’s honours list for his services to music. He curated playlists for Apple Music, campaigned for mental health charity CALM, and helped propel the careers of so many of the people around him, from national treasures like Dave and Stormzy to the staff he employed at SBTV. 

For Isaac Densu, who joined SBTV in 2016, and is now the company’s managing director, lifting people up and seeing the best in everyone he encountered is Jamal’s most enduring legacy. “He would push everyone to be the best version of themselves. He was obsessed with others unlocking their potential and dedicated his life to this.” 

The news of Jamal's passing in February this year, aged just 31, was a tragic loss for the music scene, both in the UK and throughout the world. In recognition of all he achieved in his lifetime and the impact his legacy continues to make, DJ Mag has posthumously awarded the 2022 Best Of British Innovation & Excellence award to Jamal Edwards MBE. ROB KAZANDJIAN

DJ Flight
Outstanding Contribution
DJ Flight

DJ Flight celebrated 25 years of DJing in late 2022, but that’s not the only reason we’ve named her winner of this year’s Outstanding Contribution award.

Having earned her stripes working in a record shop and holding down the graveyard shift on pirate radio in the late ‘90s, Flight became a resident at seminal jungle/drum & bass parties Metalheadz and Swerve around the turn of the millennium. In 2002, she joined the fledgling BBC Radio 1Xtra, becoming the first woman to have a drum & bass show on a national radio station, which would become a major global access point for the sound. She released music with Breakage under the name Alias, and launched her own label Play:musik, focusing on supporting artists early on in their careers, such as Martyn, Survival and Heist. 

Supporting others is a dominant theme throughout Flight’s career. For the past nine years she’s been part of the Prison Radio Association (PRA), working directly with people serving sentences to create radio shows aired at prisons across the UK. “It’s been probably one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever been involved in,” she says. “I don’t think people quite realise the importance of it and how life changing it can be for people in prison.”

Through PRA, Flight began Windrush Stories, a series in which she interviews members of the Windrush Generation and their descendants, creating space for the stories of multiple generations of personal Black British history to be told. 

Back in drum & bass, Flight is a core member of EQ50, a collective that encourages the diversification of drum & bass via talks, workshops and a mentorship programme that’s helped uplift artists like Nia Archives and Mandidextrous. She was also the voice of this year’s Turn It Up drum & bass documentary series, in which interviewed numerous artists about the genre’s history for BBC Sounds.

“I’m a huge believer in helping others as you were helped when you were coming through,” she says. “There needs to be a lot more of that.” Amen. BEN HINDLE

Game Changer
Double 99 ‘Ripgroove’ (Ice Cream Records, 1997)

Few tracks have had such a long-lasting impact on UK dance music culture as Double 99’s ‘Ripgroove’. An instantly recognisable blast of tight, shuffling drums and chopped up vocal samples, all built around the repeated delivery of that sub-rupturing speed garage bassline, it has repeatedly returned to relevance in the 25 years since its initial release. It’s because of this that DJ Mag has awarded ‘Ripgroove’ with the title of Game Changer at its 2022 Best of British awards. 

Having played a huge part in helping detonate a scene which The Guardian newspaper described as “Britain’s richest cultural movement” at the turn of the Millennium, the track’s lasting legacy has been brought back into focus again as the pendulum that is fashion swings back towards UKG.

In the years following ‘Ripgroove’’s release, the sound of UK garage would come to dominate the charts and commercial radio, and breathe new life into the British music industry. Part of the beauty of the impact of ‘Ripgroove’, though, is that despite eventually becoming a commercial success (more on that later), it’s a club record made by club DJs, and for club DJs. Produced by Omar Adimora and Timothy Liken, aka Tim Deluxe, under their Double 99 alias, it was originally released as part of a double-pack on their label, Ice Cream Records, in 1997.

In the years since, the track has gone on to be played, either in its original form, or remixed/ edited/bootlegged, by DJs as disparate as LTJ Bukem, Ben UFO, Mary Anne Hobbs, Diplo, Jamie xx, Loco Dice and, of course, a supporter from the record’s initial success on pirate radio through to modern day, DJ EZ. The most obvious of the moments that have brought the record back into focus recently is when SHERELLE dropped the Fixate refix of ‘Ripgroove’ during her live stream at Boiler Room’s Bass & Percs Special in 2019. 

“‘Ripgroove’ was like a godfather to many genres and sub-genres that sprung up in the years after,” Adimora explains. “Scenes like dubstep, grime, and even drill... without ‘Ripgroove’ kicking down doors of radio, clubs... I don’t know whether [they] would exist. We weren’t the only one. But we were the first to really make an impact.”

“It dipped in the early noughties,” Liken adds. “It was weird. It went away. And then there was a whole new generation of people who discovered it.”

“It [shows] ‘Ripgroove’ is bigger than Tim and I now,” Adimora adds. “It’s gonna outlive us. It dips and fades over time and just comes back.”

“In some ways it isn’t our record anymore,” Liken agrees. “It belongs to everyone.” ROB MCCALLUM

Keep an eye out for an in-depth feature on the history of ‘Ripgroove’ on in the new year.

Best Of British Photography: Sophie Harbinson and Mike Portlock