Hankering after some hip hop? Searching for some soul, R&B, grime, dubstep or bassline, but don't want to take the chance with an amateur promoter at some shabby club? Here's our guide to London's most reliable urban music venues
St Matthews Church, London, SW2 1JF (www.mass-club.com)
Mass by name, massive by nature, this multi-purpose Brixton institution runs on two levels and across three rooms, which may operate individually but together can hold 1,500 people. Its labyrinthine layout is home to such radically different club nights as the long-lived Torture Garden and Rodigan's Reggae, but it also boasts a diverse live music programme that ranges from hip hop, R&B and grime to hard house and trance.
21 Notting Hill Gate, London, W11 3JQ (www.nottinghillartsclub.com)
Dedicated to polymorphic pleasures of very much an arts-based kind, this scruffily chic basement centre is home to – among other regular events like RoTa and Radio Gagarin – YoYo, which is still rammed every Thursday after almost a decade of programming hip hop, garage/grime, dubstep and bassline-heavy acts.
Built on the site of a former Wimpy, Plan B's décor is pure industrial chic (exposed brickwork, metal pillars, geometric furnishings) and boasts a rampantly eclectic music programme. You can expect to see everything here from UK hip hop stars like (local lad) Roots Manuva to a reggae-ska septet, but it's a good place to head for urban sounds in general.
It's certainly more a DJ club than a live music venue, but it can be a fine dividing line where the tiny, celebrated Plastic People is concerned, as live PAs are frequent and the odd band proper has played here. This seriously committed basement venue runs the stylistic gamut, cramming both serious deckheads and up-for-it partygoers into the small, dark performance space, which is (unsurprisingly) dominated by the DJ booth and (top-quality) soundsystem.
This dark, rather rough-and-ready venue has shifted its profile since first launching with an alt.rock remit. It's opened up an open, café-styled bar on the street front and built on the increasing reputation of its concrete-floored back room for hip hop, R&B, garage/grime, dubstep and bassline acts. Respected club nights (eg Pipedown) are regulars here, often free and running until the small hours.