In North America, the jungle/dnb community grew naturally out of the seed of the early breakbeat hardcore scene. If you had a rave scene in your city then you had UK Hardcore and tunes like Charly, Way in my Brain, Bombscare and Trip to the Moon were heard often. In a town dominated by House music a few heads heard these sounds, stood up and went in a different direction by creating some of the biggest shows at the time and spawning major DJ talent like Danny the Wildchild, Phantom 45, JJ Jellybean, Snuggles and Slak. Behind the scenes and on the decks was RP Smack, who at the time was pushing the Chicago junglist agenda harder than anyone else in the area. From playing shows to throwing some of the United States’ largest drum & bass massives, RP Smack put Chicago jungle on the map and helped kick off a national revolution. We caught up with RP to find out a bit of the history of Chicago Jungle and see what he is doing today.
Let’s start with what brought you to the jungle DNB community in the 90s?
1991 – The break beat and the ragga elements. I was always into that more than any house or techno vibes. I was into 80’s Hip Hop like Schooly D, Mantronix, P.E, Big Daddy Kane and well into Ragga & Dub: King Tubby, The Scientist. All the On-U sound, Tackhead, The Mafia w/Mark Stewart; that’s how I got turned onto the all those great Dub, Roots & Reggae producers and artists. I started collecting them immediately – that sound has always been good for the mind & soul. And those early Hardcore, Breakbeat Jungle tracks incorporate those elements, grabbed me and took hold of everything I did and still do to this day.
The Chicago Hardcore Authority was one of the first crews to bring jungle/dnb to the forefront in the mid west, who were the members and what were some of the best moments?
CHA was one iconic junglists response to us – Ripe. CHA was Jason Jellybeans idea and it was JJ Jellybean, Brian ( MC Blackeye – R.I.P) Myself, Justin Tewn, Hunter AD, Brian (Phantom 45) & Phil Freeart got involved. Also the Bad Girls & several others I’m probably forgetting. Highlights would be cutting one of the first dub plates stateside and playing it out – that was big for us. Two of us from CHA morphed into Jungle Ting with Dubshack. Our first show (for CHA as Jungle Ting) would be 1994 Fuse @ 3333 W. Grand Warehouse where we snubbed Keoki ( he was the bait / paid our production bills ) and replaced him W/DJ Phantasy from rinse FM. Trace from Kool FM and Ruffneck from Toronto. DJ Phantasy just produced the beats to a mash-up Em’s “Rap God” beat with MC Shotta’s lyrics. The fasted lyrical challenge to Eminims. After 20 years in the game – DJ Phantasy’s still very relevant – YUSS!
Psychosis was one of the first large scale jungle raves in the Chicagoland area, what was it like bringing that together?
Cray but in the end worth it. A lotta help along the way with MC Biggs, Frosty, Lori, Shawn, Hunter AD, Big D & Justin Tewn. But We’ve pulled off 8 or 9 of them; Psychosis – all extra large. 1995 would be my favorite with a van load of all real deal original Junglist from ROAST UK / Kool FM. And they played on a 80,000 watt EVMTsystem. That’s the one where we shoot roman candles at the E-tards. They made easy targets.
You hosted names like Trace, 5-O, Dj Ron and helped bring stateside legends like Phantom 45, Danny the Wildchild and legendary producer 3d to the world. What is the legacy or moment you are most proud of?
Big source of pride to be the first to put $$$ in their hands for their unique talents and launch so many good times for those Jungle Dons / DJs. Example: whenever Danny TWC started playing out of state I said – “When Danny goes – we all go” So true because back then we were so few – so we were one. But so many awesome moments because we’ve produced well over a hundred productions. So it’s hard to name just one. First, getting away with it; that applies to all our undergrounds large and small. Expo centers & grimy warehouses – we had a good production formula that made a lot of great memories for attendees. Memory makers – creating opportunities from adversity – that’s us, all of us Junglists – Y.O.U.
Warehouses changed the game for raves. How did you attack that at the time and bring the level of production to the table that you did?
We teamed up with other promoters that specialized in their specific genres be it Techno / Hardcore – Drop Bass. House – Vibe Alive. Hip Hop – Zulu Nation. So our sound systems weren’t the usual shity DnB second system that ppl would complain about. Eventually later in 1994 – 96 we got on a roll w/Syrous in Toronto and were able to pull real DnB Jungle Dons and incorporate them into our one offs.
Dubshack was one of the first jungle/dnb culture shops, what was your involvement with that? What did that attention bring to the Chicago scene?
My involvement, not much other than a mixed tape Angelic Anthems DubShack – DUB – 005
.Scott and The Lady Kay were instrumental in our Chicago scene. Few Jungle DJs wanted to put it on the line – they were comfortable with a time slot, many still are. While others have seriously raised game. DubShack was a Godsend. Here’s a couple (both professionals) from the far Northside that went to London in 1993 on vacation somehow ended up a ROAST night and went back for more Jungle raves / clubs. They brought that energy and passion back to Chicago and through CHA linked up with us – Ripe. Scott was meticulous about bookkeeping and would get vinyl & jungle tape packs from the UK and press up their own shirts and send them out to all requested points stateside. This is pre Breakbeat Science. We later combined resources and formed Jungle Ting. A production company that later produced this monster:
What made you decide to pull back from the community? At what point do you think things slowed down?
We sold our house in western Chicago burbs and moved to Phoenix. There wasn’t much of a DnB scene at that time however there was a night that popped off called UK Thursdays were the old school jungle DJs blended in well with the Dubstep DJs and the crowd loved it, we did as well. That was one of the main influences for DubGrind. A project we do now to pull ppl into jungle.
Looking at the EDM community today, what would you offer to a new promoter or dj on the come up who wants to push jungle/dnb?
Be honest with yourself, The Jungle game is ruff but there’s a rewarding place for everyone. Trust, not many make a career out of it on the label side, and as a promoter or artist. Do it for the love and not the recognition and everything else will come in time. Resist any stereotypes and look at our past – at the people that took the risks to get this music heard. Determine the boundaries and break them. Never settle and make Jungle AWOL. The music has a mission from the early days. As my friends DJ Crash & MC 5ive-0 have put it ” Jungle…it’s in our blood. No color, race or creed….just one universal vibe and rhythm – for real!” So facilitate that. Jungle DnB is the Multicultural Musical Montage. Put that notion first when you produce. Work hard to develop your talents and to be of service to others. Everything grows from that.
What have you personally been up to in the time since?
Personally – Career & Kids and all that goes with that, Climbing mountains in CO. and exploring canyons in AZ with the love of my life – that’s since I left IL in 04. I’ve been back now (In Chicagoland) for a several years (2012) and honestly; recovering from some serious PTSD. So a big shout to all those struggling with that. Stay up for your loved ones and those that love you. Don’t give up. I’m lucky I can go home after work or to the studio and immerse myself in beats & projects – Jungle DnB – Def takes the edge off. Yeah, mainly beats & visuals and working the warehouses – up to my old tricks where I feel most comfortable. Ripe Production.
What is on the horizon for you moving forward?
Continue producing Dubgrind / The DNB Guild & Combat Records USA with Mr. Frosty & DJ Oracle. And def back in my element as a Producer / Promoter with ripe – meaning finding & exploring warehouse space and producing undergrounds and or finding an expo center, field house, ski resort ready for business – You know of any?
Is there anything else you wanna say or shout out feel free!
Thanks for this opportunity and Big Up all Junglist Worldwide. Chicago & Midwest Massive: Urban Agenda, MIA, DnBid, Recon, Abducted, 117, Bassdrive, Syrous and all the Naughty North Massive. Stay driven – full of tenacity & perseverance. It’s Yours.