Cru Faith: How the CruCast collective injected new life into bassline
The CruCast collective has injected new life into bassline, playing massive venues, touring the world, and spreading positivity. As the major players tell DJ Mag after a big show at Printworks, it’s all about the family mentality, and a faith in the sound
Six PM Saturday: a cold winter night in Rotherhithe. Londoners mooch around their south-of-the-river suburb, families settle down for a cosy night in front of the telly, pubs slowly fill with the same old regulars. Uber Eats deliveries make up most of the traffic... and slap-bang in the middle of it all, in the epic industrial rave playground that is Printworks, Darkzy has just laid down an absolutely ridiculous set.
File under ‘have a word mate’. You don’t get sets like this at every rave. It’s intense, dank and aggy; the young crowd are all elbows, sweat and manic eyes. The low ceiling acts like a pressure cooker. It’s a one-in-one-out scenario, but no one is opting out. Not that those who are trying to opt-in seem to mind. Their queue snakes halfway up the cavernous main room, which is being torn apart by two certified bassline godfathers: Jamie Duggan and DJ Q.
We’re in the eye of a chaotic 11-hour rave storm, and this is a perfect moment that captures this story; not just the tale of the remarkable rise of the CruCast collective and its fizzy, fired-up crowd, but also the persistence and evolution of bassline, the genre CruCast has largely (but not exclusively) made its name in. Right here we have two of the bassline scene’s strongest, longest-standing pillars who fought for the sound to exist, and they’re totally demolishing the main room; in room two, one of the movement’s brightest new generation stars is ripping things up with his first ever public dubstep set. It’s not even Darkzy’s main slot, it’s just a cheeky extra; later on he’ll shut down the brand’s biggest party to date, sending the mixed crowd of mainly 18-25 southerners, northerners and a fair few Europeans home with his big signature bass riffs looping in their heads and even bigger grins on their faces.
Prior to his life as a touring artist, and being one of the main faces of the new bassline sound, Darkzy was fresh out of school and working in an office designing packages for a gift box company. In fact, he got the sack for making his breakthrough track while on the job.
“I got really behind on my work and they fired me,” grins the larger-than-life character, who’s developed a fierce fan base due to his straight-talking, humorous videos and posts online, and his reputation for getting involved in the party and getting into the crowd during his sets. “It was like, ‘Okay, the music has to pop now, or I’m fucked!’ Then it went from zero to a hundred.” The track in question was a bootleg of Drake’s ‘One Dance’. It was caned by some of the biggest DJs imaginable and it turned Darkzy — aka Elliot Fisher — into one of the genre’s most in- demand DJs overnight. The tunes that followed — ‘What’s Going On?’, ‘Gun Fingers VIP’ and more — cemented his role at the forefront of bassline’s new wave.
Musically he’s showing more signs of diversity and variety with every release, too; his latest single sees him peeping over the mainstream precipice, with a sing-along tear-up twist of the ’80s Eddie Murphy classic ‘Party All The Time’, and he’s about to dig back to one of his earliest inspirations and launch a dubstep label.
“I was too young to catch it in the club. A lot of people who support my music are too,” he explains. “I think it’s time to bring that vibe back.”
With plenty more singles and musical departures lined up for 2020, Darkzy’s life as a touring artist, and one of the main faces of the new bassline sound, continues to evolve. The gift wrapping business’ loss is bass music’s gain.
Printworks has been on the receiving end of many monster raves since it opened three years ago, but CruCast’s debut standalone party last November is particularly noteworthy. Just two years before, in November 2017 (almost exactly to the day), the Oxford-based brand held its first party in the city. Just like Printworks, it was sold out. Unlike Printworks, it was at XOYO, a venue a fraction of the size.
“And it was a Wednesday, too,” notes CruCast founder Joe Perry, or Lazcru as he’s often billed. Perry’s spent the last four years building a collective of exciting new-generation bassmiths, who are already much more than potential future headliners, as many of them have been selling out their own headline tours for several years. Skepsis, Bru-C, Darkzy, Kanine and Indika are CruCast’s main acts, but the network and affiliates who regularly play at their events reads like a who’s who across the UK bass spectrum; TS7, Bou, Hedex, Distress Signal and Problem Central are on tonight’s line-up alone. “Then the following year, purely coincidentally in November again, we sold out Electric Brixton,” Perry continues. “Where do we go next year?” It turns out to be a rhetorical question; they’ve got even bigger designs on 2020, but it’s the backstory DJ Mag is more interested in. CruCast only launched as a YouTube channel for bassline DJ mixes in summer 2016; it became a label shortly after, but only started hosting events in late 2017. Yet it’s now one of the most prominent and consistent collectives in UK bass, with a growing reputation across the genres it covers.
“It just took its own momentum,” explains Perry who, prior to launching CruCast, was promoting Oxford’s 1500-cap Switch events. “I started getting into organising DJ bookings, I picked up Skepsis when he first started out, then Bru-C got on board because Skepsis recommended him to me, then Darkzy. We’d started to develop a bit of a family.” “Joe was a lifesaver,” Darkzy chips in. “Things just went mental after my first single. I was getting all these bookings and I didn’t have a clue how to manage it all. It was getting bloody massive, and Joe helped me out — then CruCast got massive!” Darkzy wasn’t even 20 when this happened, Skepsis is a similar age and MC Bru-C is only a few years older. Yet during 2016-17, they became household names for anyone following the heavier end of UK bass music, around the dubstep, garage, bassline axis. Alongside other acts that came through at the time, such as Holy Goof, Notion and Bushbaby, they were heralded as the new generation of bassline artists. Their sound felt new and re-energised. It was harder, and more drum & bass influenced than the garage-based bassline incarnation that had enjoyed a certain amount of mainstream crossover success in the 2000s. This time, the movement also seems supportive, open and positive.
Original new-generation bassline soldier, Skepsis was one of the earliest young protagonists in this new bassline chapter and has taken it around the world as a result. After heavy support of his breakthrough from the likes of Diplo, he attracted attention in the US and last year went full tour-bus levels with EDM-bass hammerhead Jauz. He’s also played high-profile baller events like Holy Ship! and a premier bucket-list billing for any ambitious act: Coachella.
“That was a mad experience,” says Skepsis, real name Scott Jenkins. “It’s kind of unheard of in our music, but Holy Goof and I went over to the desert and represented. It went down really well, too. It’s exciting seeing the sound reach that far and I feel really proud to be part of that next stage of the evolution.”
Skepsis’ personal evolution includes a lot more music in 2020. Several years of nonstop touring have slowed down his release rate, but he’s back in the studio and already has eight new tracks ready to drop. Original future bassline soldier.
“When I first listened to bassline as a kid there were a lot more MCs and it was all pretty gritty and raw and northern,” recalls Bru-C. “The crowds were different, there was a lot of naughty stuff going on. It’s a different audience now, though.”
He’s right; the crowd at Printworks are young, friendly and happily wavey. There’s no aggro, awkward eyes, obvious cases of knuckleheadism. Joe describes the entire scene — fans and artists alike — as “a community, beef-and-politics free”. Usually this would come across as PR fluff, but attending the events and interviewing many of the artists in the genre for the last three years, you do get that impression.
Although what Bru-C (real name Josh Bruce) fails to include is his own influence in this new shift of culture and audience behaviour. While bassline and its infamous incubation hub Niche in Sheffield were once tarnished by street murkery, gangs, fights, and stabbings that happened around particular venues and had no direct link to the music (Jamie Duggan spent years negotiating with the authorities to DJ in his own town, to host bass events, and legitimise it as a genre), this new chapter is rife with genuinely positive artists putting out the right messages. “We’re just lads off the ends,” grins Bru-C. “We didn’t come into this to make millions or be superstars, we ain’t got egos, we just do what we love to do. The people who come to party with us vibe off that and respect that.”
If anything, the way bassline was badly stamped on by the authorities during the late 2000s/early 2010s has helped the scene re-characterise itself and recalibrate its attitude. “It had been away for so long that it didn’t have the established fan base like drum & bass has always had,” says Skepsis. “It didn’t have that generation of fans with expectations, so when we all started making this music, it was a blank canvas in a way. And now you’ve got so many styles working together; there’s the deeper housier side, the techy rolling sound, the tear-out sound and more experimental guys. There’s something for everyone.”
Skepsis also explains how the original generation of artists — longstanding bassline OGs such as TS7, Bassboy, DJ Q and Mr Virgo — have welcomed the new generation. “That’s the community spirit, mate,” he explains. “Me and TS7 share tracks together all the time. We help each other level up and better ourselves. It’s good to stay on your toes.”
It wouldn't be hyperbole to say Bru-C is the voice of this new bass phenomenon. One of only a few prominent MCs in the new bassline chapter, he’s been out
there on the frontline since 2016. Fresh off his own sold-out headline tour, Josh Bruce’s sharp-tongued Notts-flavoured flow has run deep through the CruCast discography since its earliest releases, and he’s collaborated with some of the biggest MC peers possible, such as D Double and P Money. He’s also behind another cult brand in bass: Krudd, a crew famed for heavy parties and limited apparel drops. But this is no new thing; Bruce has been grafting towards this since the age of
11 when he wrote his preliminary bars. Growing up on original bassline mic men who dominated the sound during its earlier incarnations in the mid-to-late 2000s (Trilla, J Star, MNT and Deadly), he applies the original craft, but in a way that relates to the scene’s young crowd.
“I feel like MCs like myself and Window Kid don’t hold back with how we are either online or on stage. We’re open and honest and I think that makes people part of something real,” considers Bru-C, who’s no stranger to seeing whole arenas rap
his lyrics back to him. Renowned for his positivity, he’s now focusing on supporting the next generation, having recently brought new rising MC Window Kid through onto CruCast. “We have to be. We’ve come to party just as much as anyone who buys a ticket, this is a family vibe and everyone just wants to enjoy themselves.”
Listen to his debut artist album ‘Original Sounds’, and it’s clear Bru-C’s enjoying himself. Trampling unapologetically over genre boundaries, it’s not just CruCast’s first artist album release but a full salute to the whole bass canon, with the likes of Bou, Simula, Tsuki, Mr Traumatik, Wa-Fu and even bassline godfather Jamie Duggan all representing.
“I wanted the album to say a lot about me musically, and including these guys was part of that,” says Bru-C. “I know this is a business at the end of the day, but the personal aspect is much more important to me. We’re growing together, this is much bigger than one person and I feel we’re all just warming up. We’re ready...”
It’s this sweet spot between generations and sounds — and indeed genres, with most CruCast DJs flexing a whole range of styles in one set and not just sticking to one sound — that’s really helped to galvanise this new movement for both CruCast and UK bass.
“It’s actually really reminiscent of the early drum & bass days,” says Perry, who’s a decade deeper into the dance than most of his artists. As a DJ and promoter, he’s seen the cycles go around a few times now. “There’s a lot of artists inspiring each other with friendly competition, and the crowd are madly passionate about it.”
The passion is certainly not exclusive to the London crowd, either. The UK capital is just one of many locations where CruCast has thrown down an event. Since its very first tour, CruCast has always focused on regional dates that cover the whole of the UK and not just the big obvious cities.
“It’s often the further afield places that are some of the better shows,” says Skepsis. “Where they don’t get DJs coming through so much, they’re often more grateful for it, it’s a rarity for them. Wales parties are always wicked, anywhere up north. Nottingham obviously...”
The Nottingham connection is one of the strongest threads in the CruCast story — Bru-C, Darkzy and Window Kid all come from the Nottingham area, and historically it’s always been a strong bassline city. It played a lead role in the return of the sound with the launch of the label Tumble Audio in 2012. Eight years later, however, and the sound is endemic across the UK... and beyond.
“The scene in general has come from up north in terms of the sound and the main artists, and it’s gradually made its way south,” considers Perry. “Now we’re starting to creep over internationally. Australia and New Zealand are our second most popular destinations, with the tours out there getting bigger and bigger. It’s picking up in America and it’s catching on in Europe, too. It’s not just a UK thing anymore. It’s exciting.”
It’s an exciting time for CruCast and for bass music at large, with a whole new generation coming in and refreshing the page. With the international development, things will only get more exhilarating. But right now, at this moment, 11pm on a cold winter Saturday night in Rotherhithe, it definitely feels like a UK thing. Ravers mooch around the suburb with big smiles on their faces, crews settle down for a cosy night sesh, Ubers make up most of the traffic taking people on to the next party. And slap-bang in the middle of it all, in the epic industrial rave playground that is Printworks, CruCast has just smashed out an absolutely ridiculous party. Have a word mate.
Digga D 'No Diet'
Skepsis 'Pull Up'
Boombox Cartel 'New Wip (Chris Lorenzo Remix)'
James Hype 'I Was Lovin’ You (TS7 Remix)'
Hoda & Eloquin 'Kicks VIP (ft. Dread MC)'
Denney 'Low Frequency (Skepsis Bootleg)'
High Contrast 'If We Ever (Unglued Bootleg)' [Qlank Flip]
NuBass & Deppz 'Wombabombom VIP'
Skepsis 'Hold It Down VIP (ft. Bru-C)'
Baauer 'Harlem Shake (Contaktz Bootleg)'
NLMT 'Somebody’s Watching Me'
AC Slater & Chris Lorenzo ID
Tiesto & Dzeko 'Jackie Chan (ft. Post Malone & Preme) [Holy Goof Remix VIP]'
Deppz & Forca 'Girls'
Bru-C 'Take It Slow VIP (ft. Skepsis)'
Distinkt 'Shegs VIP'
Bru-C & Window Kid 'Weekend Boys (ft. Jamie Duggan & Booda)'
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