Max Roach, talking to George Lipsitz, about hip hop/LL Cool J:
"The rhythm was very militant to me because it was like marching, the sound of an army on the move. We lost Malcolm, we lost King and they thought they had blotted out everybody. But all of a sudden this new art form arises and the militancy is there in the music".
Melody Maker, 1996
by Simon Reynolds
Ganja and Frontline are the labels run by two allies in the realm of ruffneck junglism: DJ Hype (a.k.a. Ganja Kru) and Pascal (a.k.a. Johnny Jungle, HMP,
P-Funk). Over the last four years Hype has pursued an unswervingly raw-to-the-core
trajectory, banging out killa tracks like "A Shot In The Dark", "The Chopper", "Roll The Beats" and "You Must Think First" with an almost scary consistency; Pascal's no slouch either. So don't expect any concessions to "intelligence" or soft-core smoothness on Still Smokin'. Packed with exclusive remixes and dubplates, Smokin' is an exemplary document of the kind of purist hardstep that's too moody'n'minimalist to win much affection from the non-junglist world.
Last year, jungle gradually purged almost all of its obvious ragga elements, but dancehall's influence persists in the basslines, which are metallic, atonal,and joylessly bouncy in a way that vaguely suggests Nintendo. With the disappearance of rude-boy ragga chants, hip hop gangsta-isms have stepped in to supply the ghettocentric menace. Hype's "Freestyles of Bass", for instance, has G-funk's sinister synth-melodies wafting wraith-like over the kind of miasmic, maggot-wriggly bass-frequencies first heard on Tek 9's "We Bring Anybody Down". Origin Unknown's brilliant remix of H.M.P.'s "Runin's" harks back even further for its gangstadelic vibe of trepidation, draping what sounds like blacksploitation era wah-wah guitar over an awesomely stark and stealthy groove.
As with the best in current jungle, a vague air of militancy pervades "Still Smokin'"; the rhythms are basically James Brownian funk tightened and tuffened
into strict-time martial percussion. But the renegade, Us-Against-Them politics
only get explicit on Hype's "We Must Unite", with its black demagogue sample: "what you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences... unite on the basis of what we have in common". Angry but apolitical, jungle offers its followers a grim-faced solidarity in oppression, apocalyptic paranoia (Redlight's "The Future Is Dark") and love-of-ganja. With its unstable beats and landslide/landmine bass, jungle creates a sound-picture of '90s reality in all its dread and tension; at the same time, the music's inexhaustible, remorseless energy gives the junglist street-warrior the will and the stamina to survive. The "resistance", if you listen with your nerves and your motor reflexes, is in the rhythms.