This year, Rinse FM comes of age, as the radio station is turning 18. It is choosing to celebrate in predictable style with two huge raves, opening this year’s Warehouse Project on the 28th September before returning to London’s Brixton Academy the following night. Joining the seemingly never-ending cast of regulars for the shows will be dance music behemoths like Diplo and Modeselektor.
The grandiose scale of these nights is a far cry from Rinse’s humble beginnings, which is documented in a series of videos on their YouTube channel. In the clips, founders Geeneus and Slimzee reminisce about setting up the pirate station and how they originally broadcast out of various rooms in Hackney, constantly changing the location of their studio and aerial to avoid detection from the police. Their stealthy practices did not always work however and in an attempt to thwart their illegal broadcasts Slimzee was famously given an ASBO that banned him from being above the 4th floor of any building in London.
Those days of petty crime are long gone, as the now fully licensed FM station is an institution in the British music scene. Rinse can claim to have played a significant part in the cultivation of grime and dubstep, two of Britain’s most exciting and eclectic music scenes and its greatest exports of the last decade. Its patronage and promotion of grime legitimised the concept of ‘UK hip-hop’, fostering a whole generation of brazen MCs. The likes of Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder all perfected their flows on Rinse long before garnering international renown. Whilst grime’s greatest sons departed for major label to achieve their all-conquering chart success, Rinse decided to bring dubstep to the masses by itself, releasing Katy B’s “On a Mission” last year. The album layered sultry vocals and synth hooks over sparse dubstep beats, re-imagining the genre as pop music and spawning two top ten hits. The album’s production was mostly handled by Geeneus, who only 17 years earlier had been crawling over rooftops in East London trying to set up radio transmitters. How things change.
Whilst some things do change, a lot remains the same as even after all these years, Rinse is still at the forefront of the UK underground music scene. The current crop of taste and beat makers grew up with the pirate and hold it in the highest regard, choosing it as the place to debut the freshest tunes and test out their latest mixes and freestyles. The dynamic and essential record labels Hessle Audio, Swamp81, Butterz and Hyperdub all have regular shows on the station that serve as forecasts of where underground music is heading. Along with this they are simply peerless performances from masters of their craft, effortlessly producing fantastic mixes week after week. I implore you to listen if you have not already, all of the shows are available to stream or download on their website www.rinse.fm.
Truly, Rinse FM is the articulation of the British musical avant-garde in its purest form, free from any commercial pressures, cloying traditions or establishment rules. The emphasis is on quality, allowing those more knowledgeable and talented to dictate what should be heard instead of pandering to public opinion. Along with this, Rinse is dedicated to representing London youth culture in an honest and positive way, a breath of fresh air in comparison to the dismissive tone the mass media usually adopts when discussing the residents of Tower Hamlets. The youthful nature of Rinse in the face of such cynicism is vital to its appeal; so it seems rather apt that whilst it appears to have been around forever, it is still in the flushes of youth. Happy Birthday Rinse FM.
By Alex Beazley-Long