Many dubstep fans are currently suffering from a hole in the heart left by the absence of skunked out vibes and crap jokes synonymous with Youngsta and Task’s M.I.A Thursday night Rinse FM show. Although what’s exactly going on is unsure, the chinese whispers as to why the pair are off the air have started and are already as fuzzy as the frequencies of the station itself. Whether you choose to believe that they’ve been sent to the dog house for getting up to mischief, or that they’ve been learning Tai Chi at Dagenham’s Social Club in a bid to reconnect with their bass-rattled, smoke filled souls, is up to you. I’m inclined to believe the latter, as despite Task’s constant references to weed and ‘gash’, the two seem pretty innocent. Either way, there’s some relief from the withdrawal symptoms in the form of recent guest slots on Kiss fm and Kode9’s Forward>> show. This months release of Tempa’s second Dubstep Allstars Vol 2 CD mixed by Youngsta also goes someway towards filling the void despite lacking the buzz of his live sets and radio shows. In a role that only Hatcha before him has received, Youngsta’s Dubstep Allstars, is yet another milestone in a career that’s almost as weighty as his sets and quite simply, proves the hype born of forums, blogs and dancefloors. In a bid to further plug both the hole in my heart and Priminister Yunx’s electorial campaign and in continuation of last weeks ‘Shooting Stars’ post, here’s an interview with the man himself, conducted a while back at his BM Soho workplace.
Infinite: When did things start for Youngsta?
Youngsta: When I was about 12 after hearing music from people like my sister [Ammunition boss Sarah Lockhart aka Soulja]. As soon as I started mixing, I loved it. I was just banging it out at first but after a year or so, found myself progressing quickly. By 13, I’d done my first radio show with Freek FM.
I: Do you think your age and DJ name interests people just as much as your sound?
Y: Yeah, it was the gimmick once but now it’s just silly cos I’m 20. When I started it was perfect cos I was pretty much the youngest dude on radio. Freek was even known for having me on there because of my age. Then other young DJ’s started cropping up but I still had that extra little touch- “he’s got tunes, he can mix, and he’s dirt young.”
I: What styles did you play back then?
Y: I always had fresh beats but they were different to now. I was playing more 4×4, soulful and 2steppy garage. Near the end of my career at Freek, I was playing more of a mixture- from a Zinc Bingo thing to an Ammunition or a Soulja, everything from breaks to garage.
I: And when did you start playing out at clubs?
Y: From 13…Sarah had to take me to them because I was so young. She would get me to radio as well because I had graveyard [shift]. Then I got a break in this place called Phoenix in Seven Sisters, North London. It was a proper shit hole with sweat dripping off the ceilings but it was my first proper break so it was heavy. It progressed from there, with bookings off the back of Freek and eventually Rinse and Forward>>.
I: So how old were you when you started playing at Forward>>?
Y: I’m not sure, but I swear it was like 14, 15 when Sarah started it with Neil [Jolliffe]. They selected a few DJs, I was one of them and obviously, I had to start with warm up sets and gradually prove my point and show that I was bad!
I: What did Fwd>> mean to you then?
Y: I was a resident at the equivalent of Metalheadz but in this scene and it felt good to be in one of the top sort of crews. It wasn’t the popular type of crew either, wasn’t in with the now, we were just doing what we were doing. Because it wasn’t that publicised it stayed underground and I stayed with them. I owe a lot to Forward>> because that’s what I’m about and where I push my style.
I: How did your distinctive style come about?
Y: I think it’s when you start getting into music seriously, when you want to be the controller of the sound that people are listening to that it changes. You can’t say “oh I don’t mind this,” you’ve got to be fukking in it! I found that the stuff that I was really, really in, after going through it all was this dark, dubby or halfstep sound. I was getting bored and the only stuff that really excited me was the stuff I’m playing now which is… I dunno what you’d call it, dubstep, or grime, cos that what it’s established as…but let’s call it dubstep. Even though dubstep’s one small thing, I think I’ve cut it down even more again, because I only play a certain amount of producers.
I: Actually, your choice to play the music of just a handful of producers (D1, Digital Mystikz, Loefah, Skream) was my next question…
Y: I’ll cut more, when more are ready! I’d rather just play 100 percent set of all the stuff I like when I can and not have to play certain tunes that I don’t like just to make myself a bit more popular; I stick to my guns. There are other DJ’s that cover other styles which means I can get away with specialising in one. Besides, not every tune’s the same, it’s more that the whole set has that one feeling, that one depth. It’s not so much that I choose to play this stuff, it’s just the way I feel I have to be, it’s where my heart is.
Our sound has always been known for its quality, it’s above the other stuff that’s about. A lot of people are too scared to go near it, they’re not in it, or they try and it doesn’t add up, so I’m just stuck with this lot for now and I’m happy with them. There are more people coming through but there’s also a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t touch. It’s good that there’s more music on the shelves that aint as fukking complexed, because people think, “yeah I can have a go” instead of, “oh fucking hell, look at that standard of…Loefah,” or whatever.
I: Who do you feel is next to come through?
Y: Cyrus [Random Trio] will be ready soon; not quite yet, but that’s just my opinion so no disrespect. To be honest, I could cut his stuff now, but I’m being that extra bit fussy!
I: I’d be very surprised, but do any of the producers that you push ever give you anything which you think is shit?
Y: Nah, not really. They’re at a level now where they aint going backwards, they’re just naturally good. Sometimes they might do a track which is slightly different to what I’m playing and I won’t be able to fit it into my set because its a bit nicer than this dark thing that I’m into at the moment.
I: Can you explain this dark thing exactly?
Y: Yeah, It aint like a nasty thing or a hood thing, I just like that dark feeling! Some people like that happy vibe, but I like that serious sound. Its not like “it’s dark and we’re nasty,” it’s more of a deep sound.
I: What are you’re favourite tunes at the mo’?
Y: That’s hard… what I’m feelin’ will change by the time the interview is out. At the moment- Loefah’s Root and Midnight and for Mala…Neverland…that’s an amazing tune. Coki’s difficult cos all of his stuff is bad too.. I’ll say Haunted. Skream would be Midnight Request Line and I and D1 would be a tune called Molecules. It’s bad, and hardly anyone’s heard it yet. Oh fuk knows, that’ll do.
I: So why haven’t we seen much from you in the way of production?
Y: Because I’m concentrating so much on my DJing and because I’m a bit of a waste man who smokes too much weed! If I stopped smoking, I know I’d write more music. I’m in the shop and I’m playing out every other week so I’m not always in the right frame of mind to produce. I haven’t had the time to learn as much as I want to and I’m definitely not gonna put out stuff until it’s ready, especially when I’ve got such high standards. I’m just waiting ’til the time’s right, ’til i can say “bang.”
I: You said “bang” to Twisup remix [Youngsta and Task]. How did that come about?
Y: Because the original [Loefah] was already there, it was like I could do what the fuk I wanted to it. I didn’t have to make the time to get in it and create something. It’s like, “here are some sounds, go and fuk ’em up!” which is good practice for someone who’s learning to write.
I: I swear I’ve heard you play another track that you and Task produced…
Y: I did do another track with Task that I feel is up to scratch but it was only on dubplate anyway so nothing’s gonna happen to it.
I: As someone who works in a record shop and is also a DJ, what do you think of the fact that there are so many dubplates yet so few releases?
Y: Well it’s to do with politics and the way sales work. It would be lovely if all the stuff that was on dub was released. There are a lot of tunes that me or Hatcha or one of them boys play that don’t go out, because there aren’t enough labels. From that fine line of stuff that is out there, the labels are picking the very best of what hyped up the most, what dropped the best. Because the market for this sound isn’t that big yet, it would be a risk putting something out which isn’t as strong. Say you picked the hottest two tracks out of ten, and put them out, what would be the point in putting out the rest if they’re not as hot as the others? Once the market grows, more of the dubplates that get forgotten about will come out…everything I cut is well worthy of putting out.
I: You’re known for having some of the freshest, most sought after dubs in the scene which undoubtedly adds to your popularity- do you think more releases would affect the way people react to your sets?
Y: No because I’d still be one step ahead. I’m on the front line. Part of the thing about Forward>> and DMZ is that you get to hear stuff that you haven’t got. If the market gets wider and more and more people are buying the tunes, I’ll still be that first man with it anyway. I’m not really bothered in that aspect, I want there to be more tunes, more releases, I want more people to give me competition within my scene, I want to have to merk people!
I: So is the competitive aspect of dubplate culture part of the appeal of DJing?
Y: No, no, part of it is that I love it! I’m doing what I’m doing and finding that what I put my heart, effort and mind into naturally, is becoming popular. Even if it stopped becoming popular, I’d still be in it, still be doing it. I don’t know if I’d have to start working on a labour site to eat, but I’d still have to mix as a hobby if that was the only way it could be. It’s the one thing I love; music and this particular music in general.
I: To date I’ve only ever seen you play from dub or vinyl. What are your views on CD-J’s?
Y: Each to their own but to be honest, it aint even a case of whether you prefer CD or dubplate; it actually sounds better on a dub and that’s the bottom line. Dubplate sounds better, someone’s mastered it for you more or less, whereas if you play it straight from a CD, it hasn’t been touched. The benefit of having a dubplate is that you’ve got sound through a needle which is totally different to a digital sound and you’ve got the bonus of a dub being warm. All of them things just piss over CD.
I: So you’d rather fork out £30 per dubplate then use CD’s for pennies?
Y: Yeah, I figure as long as I can afford to do it, I’d rather cut dubs. Even if I couldn’t do it, I’d play vinyl, I’d have to.
I: What’s your advice for the hundreds of bedroom DJ’s trying to break through?
Y: I know that everyone says it, but follow what you really love and just keep doing it. Even when times seem hard just keep going. It’s like being a footballer this music shit, it’s a tough game unless you’re hooked up to the max’ with contacts. It’s such a big popular thing to wanna do but if you’re that good, you’ll get noticed eventually, just like if you’re that good a football player.
I: So you like football then?
Y: Yeah but I don’t support a football team anymore. Even when I was a kid I’d rather play it then watch it, that’s the sort of kid I was. I didn’t give a fuk who was on the squad, I’d just play football bad! I went from playing Sunday football to getting scouted by West ham, Leyton Orient, Charlton. I got scouted to rep’ Romford and I might have ended up at Essex but I started getting into drugs and music.
I: Do you have any favourite DJ’s yourself?
DJ’s that I’m feeling at the moment are people like Zinc, he’s an amazing DJ. Who else is bad? I really rate those DMC people . I think they’re the ultimate boys cos they can do it all; the mixing, the chopping, the clashing, so nuff love to all of them.
I: Currently, there are no known female dubstep DJ’s or producers and up until recently, seeing more than about five women at an event was pretty rare . Do you think there’s a reason why there are so few women into the sound?
Y: I don’t think I’m being sexist by saying that a large majority of girls don’t seem to like dark, deep music. It seems they’d rather have easy going, let you’re hair down music. There’s nothing wrong with that but I think that’s why there are less girls within our scene. When you go to other places that play nicer music, like an Edward’s bar, or even a Jungle rave, which has got it’s nicer jump up bits, you see girls there. A lot of girls I speak to don’t even own a radio in their house. They still go out to places and hear music, but they don’t seem to care about it as much. If they don’t like dark music, they’re certainly not gonna be able to get there heads around our music cos it aint easy going or easy listening and generally it’s the agginess of the big B-lines that you hear before anything else. Saying that, I do know girls that love the music that I love so you could just as easily ask why so many men like it.
I: Okay, so why do you think it’s mostly blokes that are into dubstep?
Y: It’s even steven’s with men. There are just as many men that like dark music as there are men that like nice happy music but with girls, its unbalanced.
I: Do you think the increase of women at dubstep events this year is a sign that things are looking good for the scene?
Y: Yeah it is but things always look good, the scene’s just slow. There have been little stops where I’ve thought “oh fuk!” but it’s never that bad and it keeps going. It never goes backwards, always keeps moving.
I: Speaking of women, which star sign are you?
Y: Virgo…I’m a p-p-perfectionist. Sometimes it pisses me off how picky I am. Whether that adds up cos I’m a Virgo, I don’t know, but I definitely like things to be the way that they should be or better.
I: Could this explain why you’re mixing’s so precise?
Y: Maybe, maybe, I think music should be heard exactly how it’s supposed to be heard, it should sound right.
I: How does the Allstar’s CD sound to you?
Y: It’s definitely worthy of putting out, but it goes back to that perfectionist thing again. I always think things could be better and I’m always gonna think that no matter how well I do!
I: Why did you choose these particular tunes?
Y: I chose them cos I want people to know what I’m about. I didn’t change my selection for the CD. When Hatcha did his one, he had to be natural Hatcha. When I did this CD, I played how I would naturally play. Apart from the Forward>> Live record, it’s the first actual CD I’ve done, so I’m hungry to do more and to smack it.
I: Any other plans for the future?
Y: To get busier. I’d like to get out there more, fukking blow up, push the sound and do more shit. Ultimately, getting to the age I’m at, I’m getting a bit freaked out about dying and stuff. I don’t know why, cos I’m only 20. Maybe it’s the drugs. Sometimes I regret that I smoke, and in a way I wish I didn’t. At the end of the day, I could live longer than the next person who doesn’t smoke, but I’m slimming my chances. Smoking is the one thing that I would take away, but at the same time I love it!
I: What will happen when Youngsta really does become Oldsta?
Y: Like 40?
I: Yeah, I guess that’s pretty old in dubstep age…
Y: I dunno. Hopefully I’ll be big enough to say “I’m changing my name now!” Nah I think I’ll always be Youngsta. I’ve got a baby face anyway, I still get asked for ID and…yeah man, that’s a compliment that.
Happy Birthday Youngsta (21 any day now).
Tempa’s Dubstep Allstars Volume 2 mixed by DJ Youngsta, out now in all good record stores.
Thanks once again to Dubway for the mp3 linx. To listen to more archived Youngsta sets, visit www.dubstep.blogspot.com