The UK garage scene that swept the nation in the late 1990s and early 2000s originated nowhere other than gritty old London. In fact, south London's So Solid Crew released their debut album 'They Don't Know' 14 years ago this week - and if you were lucky enough to experience the buzz of two-step's musical genesis then these are the signs that would have identified you as a certified garage lover:
1. You put in the work to reach the raves
If you were old enough - or looked the part - you went to as many garage raves as possible, from the Club Colosseum in Vauxhall to Bagleys in King’s Cross. You didn’t let late night travel across the capital put you off. You were also willing to visit record shops such as Spin City or Baseline Records to buy your tickets days in advance, and you carefully prepared your outfit. Moschino jeans, Iceberg and Patrick Cox loafers were solid raver attire.
2. You brought the rave home
If you weren’t old enough to experience garage raves in all their sweaty, smoky, bass-filled glory, you may have frequented under-18 raves like Bigga Fish, downing a bottle of Hooch beforehand. Failing that, you stuck all the big rave flyers on your bedroom wall to live vicariously through them, while listening to rave tapes like the Sun City 8 pack.
3. Original pirate material locked down your aerial
Pirate radio was your Spotify/Apple Music/Tidal. From recording Delight FM’s Solid Sundays on tape, to requesting rewinds from the comfort of your green screen mobile phone, pirate radio was a massive deal. Smooth Garage mixes of Kele Le Roc’s 'My Love' or Aaliyah’s 'One in A Million' would be interspersed by grimy tracks such as DJ Zinc’s 'Kinda Funky'. Indo’s 'R U Sleeping' was the best track to sing along to and when you finally heard someone give you a shout out, it made your day.
4. Everyone you knew was a DJ or an MC
90 percent of your crew considered themselves garage DJs or MCs. You got to hear the grimiest beats and silky smooth R&B and garage mixes first during hours of listening to DJs in the mix - and these consisted of teenagers perfecting the crossfade with hyped-up MCs emulating their lyrical heroes. Technics, a microphone and a bunch of carefully sourced records was all it took to give any bedroom DJ that garage hype.
5. You loved So Solid Crew
Garage always felt special to you because it was an underground London movement. But as the scene grew it became clear that a group of talented south Londoners had raised the bar and broken into the mainstream. So Solid made you proud, even if you were from north, west or east London. You still remember the first time you saw the '21 Seconds...' video and the precision timing on each verse. Their music lives on through heavyweight DJs like EZ flying the garage flag and new acts like Disclosure giving garage a whole new spin.