Hardcore and the birth of Ragga Jungle (1990 – 1995)

In the late 80s as Acid House and Techno were thumping and chirping into the ears of drug-enhanced ravers and club-goers, a new strain of music was bubbling up in the UK. Acts like Rebel MC, SL2, Ragga Twins, Altern 8, Shy FX, 2Bad Mice, 4 Hero and countless others were experimenting with a new take on the 4/4 dance music that incorporated “breakbeats,” or the percussive rhythm samples from which this genre takes its name, and gave birth to Breakbeat Hardcore.

Taking a cue from Hip Hop turntablists who would use the breaks in classic soul tracks to create new tracks on the fly for MC’s to rap over, these producers began to experiment by sampling these same breaks. James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” and “Give it Up or Turn it a Loose,” Lynn Collins’ “Think (About It)” and The Incredible Bongo Band version of “Apache” were staples of the Hip Hop scene, and were starting to be incorporated into Hardcore Breakbeat. Another staple sample was The Amen Break, which is a whole story in and of itself that you can see here, was a drum break from The Winstons’ song “Amen Brother,” which has become the most widely sampled 6 second sample in history.

Hardcore Breakbeat producers were taking Hip Hop beats, speeding them up and creating uptempo dance music. From 1990 to 1995 some of the most seminal Hardcore Breakbeat tracks were released. SL2’s “On A Ragga Tip” (1992) , The Prodigy’s “Charly” (1991), 2 Bad Mice’s “Bombscare” (1994), The Awesome 3’s “Don’t Go” (1992) and so many more excellent tracks were released. Hardcore was firmly established as a staple in the underground rave scene. But this was just the beginning.

As samplers became more sophisticated, the complexity of the music did as well. By 1994 the complexity of the breaks being used grew exponentially. The Hardcore Breakbeat scene was evolving, and as it did the sound splintered off into different camps. It was at this time that the Ragga Jungle came into it’s own.

The most visible emerging artists in this scene at this time were firmly rooted in Dub Reggae and Dance Hall. Rebel MC, The Ragga Twins, Phuture Assassins, Roller Express, MC Lenny, Shy FX and UK Apachi were all part of a scene that incorporated these elements into the music, creating early forms of what would be Jungle. This was being called “The Sound of Urban Britain,” primarily because most of artist making Jungle were people of color defining their own careers on their own terms.

In part 2 of our series, we’re going to explore how Jungle mutated into various strains. How did this sound evolve into Techstep, Drill ‘n’ Bass, Intelligent Jungle and Jazzstep? And what does this have to do with EDM today? You’ll find out in our next Throwback Thursdays. In the meantime…


2 bad mice bombscare

Altern 8 – E-Vapor-8 (1992)

SL2 Way in my Brain Original Mix Awesome Records SL02

4 Hero – Mr Kirk’s Nightmare

uk apache & shy-fx – original nuttah

Phuture Assassins – Roots ‘N’ Future (Make Dem Know Mix) (1993)

(Ragga Jungle Sound Clash 95) – Side A & B (Dj R.A.W.)

BBC 2 jungle documentary 1994 1 of 3

BBC 2 jungle documentary 1994 2 of 3

BBC 2 Jungle documentary (All Black TV; 1994) 3 of 3


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