"...it used to be all about bass."

Last week saw a collaboration that many grime fans have been fiending for for a good few years now, as Zomby remixed Wiley’s Step 20 freestyle - originally produced by Rude Kid - and came out with Step 2001, featuring a range of classic eskibeat clicks, sounds and samples and a dark, twisted melody.

The spacious sound and lack of percussion (with the exception of a classic eski snare) in Step 2001 is reminiscent of Wiley’s old devil mix series, which at the time really pushed the envelope of grime production. Wiley’s devil mixes involved him removing the drum patterns from and remixing a series of classic instrumentals, which allowed a greater focus on melody and bass, as well as letting MCs dictate the energy of the tune or the rave.

In an interview which, in grime terms, is practically an ancient relic, Wiley claims that the idea for the devil mixes came from his father and soundsystem culture, “obviously my dad used to be on a soundsystem, it used to be all about bass. You used to get parts of the tune that were all dubbed out. Just bass running and then the beat coming back in”. Eventually, Wiley called time on the devil mix series, claiming that he was cursed with bad luck following their release. According to him, he wrote off a brand new car that he bought with the money he made selling the famous beatless Eskimo mix.

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The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune may have cut the project short, but the influence of the devil mix series is still felt today. Wiley’s Eskimo devil mix, which sampled one of the aliens from Toy Story in the intro, plus Wiley saying “Eskimo” and “Roll Deep” backwards, was remixed by Skepta to eventually make Gunshot Riddim.

When the scene’s biggest producers went seriously old-school and decided to have a little war between themselves in 2013, Skream resurrected his grime pseudonym Mr Keas to produce a devil mix war dub. Unsurprisingly, Novelist – who takes his cues from early 2000s grime - has indulged in some beatless remixes of some of his instrumentals, which have been dubbed angel mixes, presumably to ward off Wiley’s cursed luck. One of these, a remix of his Yakuta Riddim, has been played by Novelist’s DJ Grandmixxer on Rinse FM. When Mumdance curated Fabriclive 80, he supplemented his hardcore influences with some incendiary remixes of grime tunes including a devil mix of Inkke’s Choong instrumental.

Grime has always been a highly creative and interesting genre, production-wise and projects like Wiley’s devil mix series were perhaps slightly ahead of their time. Back when people considered grime as a natural progression of garage music, or a British answer to hip hop, experiments like this could have been considered a bridge too far. Now that there is a space for innovative and inventive grime music in clubs, thanks to the likes of Butterz and Boxed, hopefully we’ll see more and more interesting instrumental grime music which continues to push boundaries in the way that Wiley’s devil mixes did back in the early 2000s.

Let’s hope nobody writes off any more cars though…

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'Step 2001' will be released on September 24th via Big Dada - pre-order link.

Words: Paul Gibbins

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