Elijah & Skilliam: 10 Years
Ten years into our partnership, reflecting on 10 key moments, relationships and pieces of work.
Before I share some of our work. I still have some of the radio sets that inspired us to get started from some of our favourite artists, and people we ended up working with later on down the line. Whether you are just getting into Grime, or are a die hard fan, I really recommend listening to these:
Plastician & Skepta — 2006 // Geeneus vs Tubby — 2008 // D Double E — Jungle Set 2008 // Nasty Crew — 2003 // JME — FWD>> 2008 // Newham Generals + Tempa T — 2007 // Wiley & Karnage — 2003 // My archive of nearly 100 classic sets is still available here.
1. Rinse FM
Without Rinse FM giving us an opportunity in 2008 neither of us would have taken this seriously as something to do as a career. Across 6 years we did exactly 300 shows mainly focused on the producer side of Grime. It was the backbone to developing relationships with artists and listeners globally. We left in 2014 as we wanted to focus on new challenges like developing our event brand Jamz, the label and other personal projects.
Download some of my favourite shows below
We also recorded some studio sets with MCs in their spare room too in 2014.
This was our final show in September 2014. Features Allstar MCs and Stormzy breaking through towards the end. We haven’t been on Rinse since and will probably never be again.
2. Butterz: The Label
There weren’t many outlets specifically for Grime in 2010, and most people had stopped releasing vinyl. The vehicle for our overall vision label wise started in 2010 with a release from Terror Danjah, followed by early contributions by D.O.K, TRC, S-X, Royal-T, Swindle, Champion, P Money & Trim.
The first few years flew past, with us getting a bunch of different 12"s out in the world. Most were well received and eventually sold whatever we pressed of them vinyl wise, and helped share what we were doing with the rest of the world. It was never a big earner, and we put any money we made straight back into developing the artists and projects.
A transformative year for us was 2015 when we released two retrospective EP’s from the Newham Generals and Rapid, had a big EP from Royal-T, with remixes from Kahn & Neek + Wen, started TQD with ‘Day & Night’ and released our first album by Swindle: ‘Peace, Love & Music’. Taking our time and building up the label gradually allowed everyone to pull in separate directions without compromise, just leaving Skilliam and I to make sense of it as a unit. Special shout to David Kelly for being the art director from the start to present day.
Our best videos 2015- Present
3. Butterz x Hardrive @ Cable
Our residency in collaboration with Terror Danjah’s Hardrive imprint at London night club Cable started in August 2011, the same week as the London Riots and only had 5 events across just over 2 years, but as there weren’t many parties playing our music at the time, it was our opportunity to show what we could do in a big room. The main room was 800 capacity with no stage, and was the biggest Grime night at the time. As well has having the established names as guests, it helped break Champion, Royal-T, Swindle, Flava D and ourselves as DJs.
The audio that we shared from the nights spread our vision quicker than we could have hoped for. We streamed a few of them live on Youtube which was rare at the time (Boiler Room was only in it’s second year) and it changed the format of Grime nights to be not be orientated around MCs, but around DJs.
Download some of our favourite sets from Cable
Features sets from P Jam, Darq E Freaker, Flava D, Terror Danjah, Joker & Swindle feat JME & Skepta, Lil Silva, Champion, Royal-T and D.O.K.
Cable closed suddenly 2 weeks later.
In 2013, we wanted to have a more regular, smaller club night with other guests we couldn’t fit into the bigger Cable nights every quarter. Before we even did the first one Cable had closed down for good anyway and The Alibi became a chill spot for us to do a run of parties until we started our big London ones at Fabric again later in November that year. We kept them going alongside our fabric residency as they were so fun, and then we gradually expanded to Manchester, Berlin, Liverpool, Bristol and Leeds where it really took off.
We did 77 parties between 2013 and 2016 somehow and the ‘no set time’ policy led to some of the coolest sets I’ve ever been apart of. You could get random b2bs, extended sets, all night sets (which weren’t happening in Grime at all before we started doing them) and music you typically wouldn’t hear being played in many other places.
The sound that has become today’s version of Bassline seemed to bubble early in Leeds with Royal-T, DJ Q & Flava D all making regular appearances at the run of weekly parties we did at Wire back in 2015 and 2016. The community we built there was just as special as the Cable nights we did in London for us, and a lot of my best clubbing memories period now will be from those Leeds nights.
We ended the nights as like our situation at Rinse FM, as we wanted to change things up again and keep it fresh. In the future we will definitely look into starting another party. It’s central to why we do this.
5. Butterz x Fabric
From November 2013 until it closed temporarily in July 2016 we held a quarterly residency at fabric, which was our biggest run of nights in London. We had JME, Wiley, Skepta, Kano, Newham Generals, Flowdan, Big Narstie, P Money, Novelist, Riko, Ruff Sqwad join us on stage with countless DJs, many making their fabric debuts joining us on the decks.
We got to do an edition of their FABRICLIVE series, and on the launch did a 4 hour set in Room One with Skepta, Newham Generals, Flowdan & Riko on the mic.
These nights built on the original format we developed at Cable, but with higher sound and lighting production and a stage which gave the performances a concert feel in the middle of the night sometimes.
I have to thank Shaun Roberts and Dave Gamble for giving us an opportunity there, especially with the CD. A lot of people look to what fabric are doing and it helped us do many cool nights elsewhere.
This was a podcast about music and money that we ran across 2015. The original ideas came from conversations I was having with artists behind the scenes about how they make a living today. It was short lived, but if you want some insight into the different angles of the scene, from the DJs, producers and MCs involved speaking in depth about how they get by, streaming, ups and downs in the business and more it is still worth a listen. I’d like to revisit this format soon. I have to thank the guests for being so open with us in these sessions.
The film above, directed by Luke Carlisle (who also directed Scars, Letter To EZ and Happy) caught an interesting time in the scene just before Stormzy blew up, and the same month that ‘Man Don’t Care’ surfaced.
7. Butterz Japan
Our relationship with artists in Japan began around 2011 when we noticed people listening from Tokyo on the Rinse FM twitter and MSN account that locked in every week to our show. We invited people to send music, and played supported some on our show until it ended in September 2014. The week after our last show on Rinse FM we visited Japan for the first time and we asked all the MCs and producers that we were interacting with to link up with us so we could record a set together. Big shouts to Pakin for organising the studio, and more MCs that we hadn’t come across yet.
As far as I know we are the first DJs from the UK to do a set completely in Japanese. We just had to listen to flows and follow the vibe of the room. It got pretty hype in both sessions, which transcends any language barrier.
DBS, a long running party based in Tokyo who have booked Swindle many times helped us get a Japanese distribution deal for Butterz, which helped the profile of our music there.
To understand Japan better, we spent a month there in December 2015 going to shows, shops, and studios and got a great insight into the underground music scene, and how wider youth culture in general works there.
We barely scratched the surface, and it felt like the country is a bottomless source of inspiration. That aside, we made many great friends that we are so grateful for. Music connecting people globally isn’t a cliché for us, it’s real.
We stayed in Tokyo until early January 2016 and recorded another set with MCs. We will continue developing a dialogue with Japan, whether it is us touring there or highlighting talent representing the music there. Stay tuned on twitter via Butterz Japan.
8. Butterz x Mishka
Special shouts to Michael Cohn for making this happen, and helping build a presence for us in the USA with this collaboration which inspired 4 T Shirts and a New Era cap, from 2012–2014 and sparked the link up and mixtapes with DJ Shiftee.
We learned a lot from this collaboration, and have kept T-Shirts central to all projects since. They have helped us pay for the records, and always made us feel at home when you see someone repping in the club.
9. Artist Collaborations
Over the past ten years we have worked with some of our heroes in different capacities. It’s inspired too many things musically, in life, in business to mention. But special shouts to these lot for massively impacting our creative practice.
We first met when he came as a surprise guest to shoot the video for Flow Of The Year at fabric with JME after a long break from putting out music. People were excited to see him, and we booked him for a full set in January 2015. He ran through his classics, and a bunch of material that he had never performed before like Ghetto Kyote, Ice Rink, and Get Set. The response was crazy and we did 5 more cities together in one week in May of that year.
We spoke in depth as part of the Rhythm&Cash® series, and seeing his show every night made me have a deeper respect for his creative process and his approach to performing live in particular. I think he has the most polished live show of any MC in the UK right now, and in the last two years I’ve seen it grow from a straight forward DJ + MC set up, to a live band, all the way to small orchestra level.
I’m grateful as we got to warm up for him on tour around the UK, and get a real insight into how the live business works compared to the club world. Skilliam and I treated it like work experience again, learning first hand from his management, the tour operators and the team behind the scenes about how this kind of show is put together. I have to thank Richard Thomas for letting us see that side for the first time. We applied a lot of what we learned during the Made In The Manor tours to the TQD project.
P was the first MC to embrace the label back in 2010 when we were starting out, and would occasionally jump on our Rinse FM shows and sets at FWD>>.
He was also the first MC to appear on the label with ‘Boo You’ and has made several appearances since, and will hopefully continue to as new projects emerge. He is one of the MCs always interested in new producers and sounds and hasn’t been afraid to lend his voice to a lot of other people’s songs and share different sides of his personality. Check ‘Numb’ with Starkey or Priority with Mr Mitch, both under the radar classics.
As other MCs have moved towards concert style performances, P has remained doing more traditional sets in clubs with different DJs and remains a strong act for it.
The last time we worked with him was on ‘Ghosts’ for TQD’s album which we did a week before the album actually came out and he turned the vocal around within a day of us asking. Not many MCs would do that, and it helped take the album to the next level.
Nobody embodies the independent spirit in Grime better than JME. We’ve only worked together on occasions across the years but he has gifted us moments we will never forget. He performed in the crowd when ’96 Fuckries’ first came out back in 2012 at Cable, and came down to just rave with us numerous times after that.
His biggest gift to the label is his collaboration with Swindle — Mad Ting which is one of our best selling songs.
He’s been a distant mentor to us from the start inside and outside of music. Just keeping the focus on doing what we enjoy, as simple as it sounds has been core to all our successes personally and professionally.
Across this blog you will see some of the same names popping up across all projects. The Newham Generals have been part of nearly everything we’ve done in some way, from inspiration through to appearances on the label and countless live shows together. They were two of my favourites for bars, beats and radio sets growing up so it’s been an honour to share the stage with them.
Releasing ‘Scars’ in 2015 was a highlight, something I thought would remain a lost dubplate forever. It’s one of my favourite releases on Butterz for the music, the art direction by DK and it gives us an artefact to remember this kinship by.
Being asked to DJ for D Double E’s first major concert earlier this year will be something we’ll never forget either. We ran through his classics to present day alongside all the heavyweights in the Grime scene.
If you are a DJ. Make physical product, trust me. People have it in their cars, their homes, in their offices for a long time. These albums have travelled further and wider then I’ll ever get to DJ in person.
Rinse:17 came out in 2011 after a few years on the station carving out our own sound with the new generation of producers at the time like Swindle, Royal-T, Faze Miyake, TRC, S-X, Preditah, Mr Mitch etc. In 2011 we met Martin Clark to do sleeve notes for it, and it is an early insight into our creative process in great detail.
Fabriclive75 came early into our residency at the club, and we wanted to play from 130–160 BPM in a way we wouldn’t do in a rave. We recorded in early 2014 just before Mumdance & Novelist dropped ‘Take Time’ and Skepta dropped ‘That’s Not Me’ so they feel like glaring omissions now, but it’s still one of my favourite mixes we have done.
The motivation behind the now annual Grime compilations is to give people 40 of our favourite tracks of the year. Most Grime comps have traditionally featured new tracks mixed with classics and we wanted to swerve that entirely. We roughly use disc one to run through the anthems, and then disc two for the producer led tracks with MC features. They’ve been a pain in the ass to licence, and you can’t get every track you want, but I do believe they still strongly reflect where the vocal side of the scene is for the time they came out. Our role in this is in the background as more curators than creatives. Hopefully people will refer to these for years to come, as they have sold well outside of our core fan base. Big up the team at AEI for making them happen.
This took a long time to compile and made me appreciate the last ten even more, and has given us a whole bunch of ideas on what to do next. Big shouts to everyone that helped us along the way there are too many names to mention.. Here’s to the next 10!
Elijah & Skilliam X