The evolution of bassline in 10 records
From its '90s beginnings in Yorkshire clubs to becoming a nationwide dance music phenomenon and chart success, the bassline sound has survived and thrived against the odds. Here, to accompany his DJ Mag feature documenting the genre's history, Matt Annis charts the sonic evolution of the sound from its origins to today
In a new feature for DJ Mag, writer Matt Annis documents the history of bassline. From its origins in Yorkshire clubs in the late ‘90s and eventual chart-topping success, to the aggressive attempts by police and club licensing authorities to crush the bassline scene in Sheffield, he explores how the sound has survived and thrived against the odds. Its enduring influence on the fabric of UK dance music is also documented, with quotes from Niche club founder Steve Baxendale, resident Shaun Banger Scott, scene legends DJ Q and T2, as well as Flava D, Finn McCorry and more. The influence of iconic tracks such as High Jinx’s ‘California Dreaming (Proof & Banger's Bad Boy Mix)’, Double 99 vs. Tina Moore’s ‘Ripgroove vs. Never Gonna Let You Go’, T2’s ‘Heartbroken’ and Big Ang’s ‘Over Now’ are woven into this story.
To accompany the piece, Annis has selected ten tracks that chart the evolution of the bassline sound. From the early bassline house bootlegs that filled the dancefloors of Niche and grime-influenced bangers, to contemporary big-room house and d&b crossovers, this non-exhaustive list threads one potential path through the genre's history. Check it out below.
When bassline house first emerged, the scene relied on a steady stream of bootleg remixes of classic cuts created with the dancefloors of Niche in mind. This warped, bassline-driven, ‘Ripgroove’ influenced revision of CeCe Peniston by Shaun Banger Scott is an early example.
Along with Jon Buccieri and Big Ang, DJ Booda was one of the leading lights of Sheffield’s first wave of bassline producers, with this 2003 sing-along being one of his biggest scene hits.
While warped, speed garage-style basslines dominated in Yorkshire, down in the Midlands a new wave of producers, including Ecko Records co-founder Davey Boy, prioritised Korg M-1 basslines, soaring house vocals and hands-in-the-air piano riffs.
When he began turning his hand to bassline in the mid 2000s, Dean Harriot AKA D’Explicit brought with him all the distinctive sounds of grime; the results would have a profound effect on the bassline scene.
During the mid-to-late 2000s, bassline’s creative fulcrum had shifted from Sheffield to West Yorkshire, where grime and 4/4-influenced newcomers TS7 and T2 traded sonic blows via tunes dedicated to their respective home cities of Bradford and Leeds.
The crossover between bassline and grime continued apace in the late 2000s, with MCs joining in the fun. DJ Q’s chart-bothering hook-up with MC Bonez may well be the pinnacle of this crossover.
In the wake of the success of T2’s ‘Heartbroken’, numerous bassline cuts placed high in the UK Singles Chart, with this chunk of early 2000s bassline house revivalism reaching the dizzy heights of No.2.
By the end of the noughties, bassline was big business, with leading grime artists such as Skepta frequently turning to scene pioneers such as Jamie Duggan for remixes.
By the dawn of the last decade, producers raised on bassline — Birmingham’s Chris Lorenzo being a notable example — were importing warped basslines, cut-up vocal samples and other sonic trademarks of the style into their big room house productions.
By 2021, bassline had become such a part of the fabric of UK bass music that its sonic trademarks could be found within many other styles — this Flava D fusion of drum & bass and classic bassline house being a significant example.