This article originally appeared on CLASH.
“I’m an obsessive person with whatever I do – there’s no, ‘I’ll just buy one or two’,” says former Kiss FM DJ Logan Sama, hunched over a table in the basement of a central London Starbucks. Dressed in a pale blue hoodie, he fidgets with the wrapping of a half-empty bottle of water, only pausing to check and then recheck his iPhone.
“When I started to get money, I started spending it on shit, stacking records I guess,” he shrugs.
Logan’s fixation with music began with a hi-fi system he used to tape garage shows –predominantly Tough Jam and Steve Jackson sets – off the radio. It was in the same period, the late 1990s, when he handed over change for his first record: a RWD promo released on iconic garage label Public Demand.
Originally from Brentwood, Essex, his own radio debut came on Plush FM, a pirate station based in the neighbouring town of Billericay, where he gradually acclimatised to the art of DJing by “messing around and getting used to talking to people”.
“I used to listen to real DJs who took their craft seriously,” he says. “The only reason I owned turntables and mixers was [DJ] EZ.”
“Then looking at DJss like Westwood, Kay Slay, Funkmaster Flex and David Rodigan, I saw that there was a lane there for me. Especially Rodigan, who essentially broke reggae to a wider audience in the UK.”
The capital eventually came calling in the early ’00s, with Logan heading to London for university, spending large doses of his time – and his student loan – in stores like Release The Groove and City Sounds. And with student life in London inevitably came the nightlife.
“In the charts at the time, you had the more commercial 2-step stuff. But when you’re listening to pirates and you’re going to the raves, you hear the tougher stuff and get exposed to the underground beats.
“Producers like Todd Edwards and Tough Jam were making the 4×4 stuff, along with Jeremy Sylvester and other guys. Then you had Sunship and Bump & Flex making the more straight-up 2-step thing. But then you also had guys like Wookie, Steve Gurley and Groove Chronicles making stuff that I had never heard. It was crazy. The sounds they were making just really captured me.”
Aside from his bi-weekly slot on Plush, Logan was heavily involved online in the early grime and garage forums, uploading “really shitty quality media files” containing his early mixes. It was one of these that eventually found its way toUncle Dugs, a jungle DJ who at the time was running Rinse FM alongside DJ Slimzee. The demo he recorded for the pair lead to Logan landing a show on the station’s revamped Friday night schedule, claiming the 7pm slot, prime time on pirate radio. The slot after was occupied by a new crew, Roll Deep, formed by Target, Wiley and others on the back of the break up of garage crew Pay As You Go Cartel.
“From there I networked, because Roll Deep were doing the show after mine,” he says, explaining how he built contacts. “You had Wiley, Danny Weed, DJ Wonder, Dizzee Rascal making all these sick tunes, and you’ve got MCs like Flowdan and Jamakabi. It was a sick, sick show.
“I also managed to make a lot of connections through Slimzee, because not only was he a great DJ, a really important man in terms of running the station, but he was also a real stand up gentleman.
“Slimzee always introduced me to people, we used to go to the cutting house and cut dub plates and after he would link me up with producers. When it’s Slimzee who is introducing you, the producers were always going to be forthcoming with the music. It got to a point where my show was pretty stacked with music.”
It was around this time, 2002-2003, that ‘grimey garage’ began to unfasten, unknowingly unravelling into a genre of its own. Despite dominating the ’90s with the mainstream-accepted likes of Artful Dodger, Pied Piper and DJ Luck & MC Neat, garage was tumbling out of favour both in the charts and on the underground circuit. Pop remixes ground to a halt and producers began shuffling into alternative genres.
“Eventually it reached a period when the music that I was playing didn’t really sound anything like the 2-Step and the 4×4 stuff that I started off with,” Logan says. “So, you’ve got people making this crazy experimental stuff that’s in around 135-145 BPM, but literally the only thing tying it together to that is that, the BPM range. You take something like ‘Eskimo’ and listen to the sounds in it and compare it to any 2-step garage record, and they might as well be from a different planet.”
Instinctively, grime drew cultural and sonic influence from the fibres of black and British music that were widely popular in the years leading to its formation, a happening only amplified by the UK’s large West Indian contingent – second only to the Islands themselves.
This was a trend that made Britain, and London in particular, a hotbed for prevailing strands of West Indian music, stretching back to Duke Vin and Count Suckle with Britain’s first sound systems in the ’50s, through to the ’80s and ’90s with the international explosion of reggae that flung Jamaican festivals like Sunsplash and Sting into Europe, often accompanied by legendary live performers such as Beenie Man, Nicademus and Bounty Killer.
“You’ve got guys in the UK that are second or third generation West Indians, and their dads or their uncles have been involved in sound systems in the ’70s and ’80s, or grew up in jungle,” Logan says. “Wiley, Riko, God’s Gift and Target were all involved in jungle, and Dizzee famously started off as a jungle DJ before he was an MC.”
“Then, in the ’90s you were listening to Tupac and Biggie,” he recalls. “All that kind of stuff seasoned garage music and it became grime. With that it created a huge diversity of sound – something I will always love about grime, even ‘til this day.”
Logan is embarking on something new, now: he set up Keepitgrimy.com after leaving Kiss, after 10 years of service, in the spring. So keep eyes peeled for the man’s future adventures – and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.