Releases — The Roots of Dubstep / Various / Tempa CD007

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The Roots of Dubstep

Various

Tempa CD007
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Tracklist

BUYLiner Notes

As dubstep enters a new phase of popularity and reach, "Ammunition and Blackdown present: The Roots of Dubstep" is the first project to return to the nascent dubstep scene circa 2000-04 to document its birth.

From El-B to Horsepower, Artwork to Skream, Zed Bias to Steve Gurley these are classics steeped in the memories of FWD» at the Velvet Rooms, Ghost live at the Big Apple Christmas party or Hatcha behind the counter at Croydon's now defunct vinyl emporium.

These are The Roots of Dubstep.

 

Hotboys (Dub) – Steve Gurley (Allstars / 2000)
Former junglist with Foul Play, Steve Gurley had a key impact as the very first roots of dubstep were beginning to grow. His track 'Hotboys' bookends the opening of The Roots of Dubstep. While Gurley's day-to-day involvement in dubstep's early movement was comparatively small, the impression his high-quality productions made on those two key innovators – El-B and Zed Bias – were to have a massive effect. Although his 2step garage output is also highly regarded, in a dubstep context little beats 'Hotboys'. Crisp drums and moody, reversed electronic tones put this 12" well ahead of its time. The original A-side, not included here, features the complete vocals of Missy Elliot's 'Hotboys', placed exquisitely after the bass drop and enticingly late into the arrangement. A timeless classic in both vocal and instrumental mixes, this is a 12" worth digging for. It still sounds fresh – and dubstep wouldn't be the same without it.

Express – El-B (Ghost / 2000)
Much is made of the 'dub' syllable in the word 'dubstep', but in the original phrases of the movement it had two equal meanings. Of course 'dub' referenced 'dub reggae' but it also came from 'dub' as 'instrumental', the opposite side to the vocal version of a garage 12". In reality, be it ragga jungle or bassy speed garage, the dub influence has long since run through UK urban music, so pinpointing the very 'first' dubby garage is futile. Nonetheless the transition of El-B from Groove Chronicles (known for their peerless UK garage productions such as 'Stone Cold', '1999' and Myron remix) to his Ghost Camp serves as some kind of boundary. Of all the Ghost productions the 'Dancehall EP', from which 'Express' is drawn, is arguably the most overtly dubby. How fitting that on the very record that should mark the beginning of dub reggae in dubstep, the vocal refrain should repeat: "mmm sweet/never forget... the influence is so much/words can not express..."

Buck & Bury (Original) – El-B feat. Juiceman (Original Unreleased Mix) (dubplate)
As a teenager who rolled on the edges of the Metalheadz crew in the 90s, El-B developed a love for deep sub bass and dark powerful space. Yet like many producers of that era, he never got his break in jungle and when garage came along he found a place for his ideas and creativity to explode. Yet amidst the waves of late '90s soulful 2step garage El-B never forgot his bassy roots. Without this confluence of influences, dubstep – or "nu dark swing" as Kode9 initially described its weighty yet intricate syncopations – might never have existed.

The original mix of 'Buck & Bury' is quite possibly El-B's greatest dubstep production, though in truth that is a hard fought contest. From the rainforest intro to the soca-swung drums that mesmerise, the original mix of 'Buck & Bury' is a warrior charge that evokes memories of dubstep's founding club FWD»'s short lived Velvet Rooms residency. It remained tantalisingly unreleased until this compilation. Even years later, its dark swing never sounded so new.

Breakbeat Science – Roxy (Bison / 2001) Although much of the inspiration came from El-B, Ghost were very much a crew. From Roxy to Nude, Blaze to Jay Da Flex, the camp worked out of El-B's studio, to be found down a winding garden path in south London's Streatham. Funded by the advance of Groove Chronicle's abandoned R&S album deal and built by the crew by hand, the studio allowed El-B and the Ghost camp to burn the midnight oil for over two years, producing a rich vein of dubstep. 'Breakbeat Science' is perhaps one of the more obscure Ghost releases, but Roxy's programming using El-B's sonic drum signature – the woodblock – is peerless. Combined with a deadly yet beautifully sculpted sub bassline, and it still sounds frighteningly advanced. The only known release on a alabel started by a local affiliate of the camp, 'Breakbeat Science' has stood the test of time

551 Blues – Phuturistix (Locked On / 2001)
Given the garage climate of the time, it's difficult to overstate how strange '551 Blues' was when it first appeared in 2001. Locked On Records was a flagship UK garage label, with vocal street-smashes like Monster Boy's 'Sorry', Artful Dodger's 'Movin' Too Fast' and Zed Bias' own pop hit 'Neighbourhood'. Then came '551 Blues', a strange, shuffling down-tempo record that evoked dusty modal jazz records of the 1970s while echoing the broken beat movement that was going on at the time, over in West London. Zed Bias was to have a massive impact on the dark garage sound of the time in a number of directions, particularly with raging breakbeat garage anthems like 'Supafine' (Soulja) and broken-beat influenced albums as Maddslinky (Laws of Motion) and Phuturistix (Hospital).

But '551 Blues' remains a slab of foresight: the shape of things to come.

Gorgon Sound – Horsepower Productions (Tempa. / 2001)
Just like '551 Blues', in retrospect 'Gorgon Sound' was years ahead of its time. Released in 2000, its sublime cinematic textures and dubbed out tones set out a new and unique direction for Tempa. While incorporating swing, it sounded little like the vocal pop UK garage hits of the day, instead suggesting a whole new series of directions for dubstep. If Zed Bias and El-B firmed up the role of dark textures in dubstep, Horsepower suggested glorious new patches of light, introducing Detroit techno, Chicago house, Asian, Far Eastern, soca, funk and cinematic flavours into the scene's palate.

Classic Deluxe – Horsepower Productions (Tempa. / 2002)
Horsepower's 'In Fine Style' remains one of, if not the, greatest dubstep albums to date and in many ways 'Classic Deluxe' is the pinnacle of it. Built around a loping soca beat, there is a method behind 'Classic Deluxe's' total badness. Purley's Horsepower were the master scavengers of dubstep, using black music's rich past to move forward. With the Classic Deluxe Method™ they set about raiding already seminal musical moments and repositioning the pieces into one master anthem. Thus in one tune you find Detroit synths, jungle sub bass, classic breaks, funky horn stabs and jazz riffs that are all faintly familiar. Horsepower's genius, however, was to make the sum not just greater, but far, far greater, thatn its already great parts.

Highland Spring – Benny Ill vs DJ Hatcha (Tempa. / 2003)
If there was one criticism you could level at the untouchable Horsepower back catalogue it was that some of it could have had greater dancefloor impact. Not so of 'Highland Spring', although several other of their big remixes including Return to E's 'Return to E', Elephant Man's 'Log On' or New Flesh's 'Stick and Move' also brought some crowd urgency. A collaboration between Horsepower's Benny Ill and Croydon's DJ Hatcha, 'Highland Spring' became an anthem in the latter's sets as club FWD» moved from central London's Velvet Rooms to east London's Plastic People. Although known for his productions, Hatcha's strength was as a DJ, and his headlining sets at Plastic People circa 2003-4 were to prove massively influential on the path of dubstep. With exclusive access to Horsepower, Artwork/Menta, Benga, Skream and later Digital Mystikz and Loefah dubs, these sets at FWD» and on Rinse 100.3 were to usher in a new era of dubstep. 'Highland Spring', with its haunting refrain, was perhaps merely a warning call

Sholay – High Plains Drifter v Goldspot Productions (Epic Mix) (Tempa. / 2003)
Is 'Sholay' the greatest dubstep record to date? Perhaps... yes quite possibly perhaps.

It was built by Benny Ill, central force behind Horsepower, and Goldspot, alongside DJ Abstract, one of the first US producers to embrace the new dark garage mutants. It remains certainly one of dubstep's most powerfully emotive moments, with its offkilter drums, Indian melodies and delayed cinematic dialogue. Shimmering like a hot, hazy subcontinental evening, 'Sholay' is a masterclass in understatement and emotion. It is also one of the earliest examples of garage's attempts (be it through grime or dubstep), to incorporate Asian and Far Eastern instrumentalism into a bassy, UK urban format, thus exploring new avenues outside of the traditional US/Jamaican black music axis of influence.

Snake Charmer – Menta (Road / 2003)
Working out of Croydon's now defunct record shop Big Apple, the thread that connects Menta to Artwork and back before that various house and techno productions is Arthur Smith. In retrospect Menta was perhaps an appropriate name for him, as the influence he had on a young Benga and Skream was considerable.

With a techier and sometimes breakier sound, the influence he had on a young dubstep scene was considerable too. Tracks like 'Sounds of da Future' were massive FWD» anthems, although built around a classic hip hop break it fitted in better in the early breakbeat garage sound of Oris Jay and Zed Bias than the dubstep continuum. 'Snake Charmer' however was a cheeky and catchy riddim that evoked the Far East or Arabia. Once it got its infectious venom into you, there was no cure.

Red – Artwork (Big Apple / 2002)
Is 'Red' the original Hatcha anthem? There is no doubt that its memory is inextricably linked with the Croydon DJ and his sets at the original FWD» venue, the Velvet Rooms. Working closely with Artwork, Hatcha had 'Red' on dubplate from early. In fact the version that he broke this riddim with was far simpler, yet it contained all the unique techy swing and bass bounce qualities that were to make 'Red' a lasting anthem and arguably the blueprint for much of the early Benga and Skream sound.

The Judgement – Benga vs Skream (Big Apple / 2003)
Like many producers of the time, Benga and Skream started off as fans of the dark garage dons around them in their Croydon environs, most notably El-B's Ghost Camp and Big Apple's Artwork. Throughout 2002-03 however, they pioneered a new clipped, dark, minimal style that – through DJ Hatcha sets – lead dubstep out of the swung 2step era and into skunked-out techy paranoia. Of the vast amount of material written by the young pair – they amassed thousands of unfinished tracks between them, a large proportion of which were lost in the "Great Benga Hard Drive Crash" – 'The Judgement' is undoubtedly the strongest.

Featuring the warping TS404 bassline – the 303 of the early dubstep generation – generated by the easily accesible Fruity Loops software they'd adopted and inspired in part by both Artwork's 'Red' and Musical Mob's influential proto-grime 'Pulse X', this anthem encapsulates the time when two young Croydon mates began majestically re-wiring garage for their own ends. Indeed with pioneers El-B, Zed Bias and Artwork increasingly taking new paths outside of the sound, the entire genre seemingly narrowed to one dark thread. It wouldn't really be until the arrival of Digital Mystikz and Loefah that technicolour would return to light up the dark. In the meantime, everyone faced their 'Judgement'.

Touch – DJ Abstract (Tempa. / 2003)
Surrounded by South London producers, 'Touch' is an anomaly. Definitely ahead of its time, 'Touch' was part of a comparatively small dubstep output by America's DJ Abstract but remains nonetheless a veritable classic. With glitchy r&b drums, fragmented house vocals and introspective techno washes, it foretold things to come without realising it. Even it's kick/snare pattern broke from the 2step mould of the time, echoing 2005 half-step's asymmetric rhythms without actually informing them. Such an isolated offering from Abstract only leaves you wondering, to the soundtrack of wistful post-Detroit beates: "if only he'd made more dubstep...?"

Pathwayz – Digital Mystikz (Big Apple / 2004)
Paired with Steve Gurley's 'Hotboys', Digital Mystikz' 'Pathwayz' neatly bookends an era in dubstep. On one hand with 'Hotboys' you have the 2step garage days as the first signs of darkness are about to be teased out. On the other, four years later, with 'Pathwayz' you have the transformation of the scene into one of its own unique identity and cultural blend. There is so much material from the early days of Digital Mystikz and Loefah that could be mentioned, not least Loefah's first halfstep innovations through 'Horror Show'. But in truth the track to put the DMZ collective on the map was 'Pathwayz', first played to jaw-dropping effect by Hatcha in his scene-shaping closing sets at FWD» circa 2003.

Listen carefully: as the mystical melodies and otherworld vocals filter in, a new chapter of dubstep – where technicolour innovation is possible and passionate multicultural audiences expand to previously unthinkable sizes – is about to unfold.


Martin Clark / aka Blackdown
London / 2006

GiveUpArt's 5 favourite Dubstep tracks: (in no particular order)

  • Kode9  –  Babylon (Dub Mix) [Hyperdub]
  • Benga  – Skank [Big Apple]
  • Loefah  – Truly Dread [Tempa]
  • Menta  – Rubba [Sounds Of Da Future]
  • Skream  – Skunk Step [Big Apple]
  • Horsepower  – When You Hold Me [Tempa]
  • "It's all about the Southside...'
Top

Singles/EPs

Hodge & Facta Spheres Of Costa Rica Tempa 096

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Truth & J:Kenzo Tempa Remix Tempa 095

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Various Tempa Allstars Vol. 7 Tempa 094

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Nomine Nomine's Chant Tempa 093

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Skeptical Echo Dub / Chain Reaction Tempa 092

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Wen & Parris Caught / Collide Tempa 091

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Biome Cromos Tempa 090

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Nomine Enma Tempa 089

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J:Kenzo J:Kenzo VIP Tempa 088

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AxH Destroy Tempa 086

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Truth How Strange Tempa 085

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Youngsta & Seven Architects / War Cry Tempa 084

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J:Kenzo Magneto (Feel It) / TVR Tempa 083

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Truth Chicks & Drugs / Empire Tempa 082

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J:Kenzo Eyes Wide Open (Remixes) Tempa 081

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J:Kenzo Bloodlines EP Tempa 080

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Killawatt & Ipman Darkplace / Sur Place Tempa 079

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Nomine Nomine's War Tempa 078

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Proxima Thermal Vision / Valve Wars Tempa 077

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Truth & Yayne Devil's Hands / I Belong Tempa 076

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SP:MC Declassified EP Tempa 075

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LX ONE & Youngsta Responsibility / No Cure Tempa 074

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AMIT Acid Trip / Don't Forget Your Roots Tempa 073

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Skream Skreamizm Vol. 7 Tempa 072

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Nomine Nomine's Sound / Searching Tempa 071

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Youngsta Destruction / Poseidon Tempa 070

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Proxima Lie Detection / Brainstem Tempa 069

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Soap Dodgers ill Minded / Contact Tempa 068

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J:Kenzo Invaderz / Depth Charge Tempa 067

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Consequence Injunction / Chamber Music Tempa 066

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Truth & Yayne Dreams / Last Time Tempa 065

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Proxima Formal Junction / Grunge Tempa 064

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Skream Anticipate feat. Sam Frank Tempa 063

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J:Kenzo Ruffhouse / Therapy Tempa 062

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Skream Skreamizm Vol. 6 Tempa 061

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SP:MC & LX ONE Hunted / Oh My Gosh Tempa 060

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Horsepower Productions Justify / Good Ole Dayz Tempa 059

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Horsepower Productions The Lost Tapes EP Tempa 058

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Dub War The Funky Deal / To The Depths Tempa 057

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J:Kenzo The Roteks / Protected Tempa 056

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Coki Boomba / Carbon Aliens Tempa 055

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Skream feat. Sam Frank Where You Should Be Tempa 053

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SP:MC & LX ONE Down / Judgement Tempa 052

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Various Tempa Allstars Vol. 6 Tempa 051

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Skream Listenin' To The Records On My Wall Tempa 050

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Benga Phaze: One Tempa 049

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Cosmin TRG Now You Know Tempa 048

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Headhunter 3 Mad P's Tempa 047

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Headhunter Prototype (Remix) Tempa 046

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SP:MC & Joker D Taiko Dub Tempa 045

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Data / Cell Doors Of Perception Tempa 044

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Benga Buzzin' Tempa 043

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Horsepower Damn It / Kingstep Tempa 042

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Various Artists Tempa Allstars Vol.5 Tempa 041

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Skream Skreamizm Vol.5 Tempa 040

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D1 D1:V3 Tempa 039

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Headhunter Prototype Tempa 038 Proto

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Headhunter Grounded Tempa 038 Ground

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Headhunter Physics Impulse Tempa 038

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Benga Pleasure Tempa 037

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TRG Decisions Tempa 036

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Skream Midnight Request Line Remixes Tempa 035

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SP:MC Trust Nobody / Future Tempa 034

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Skream Skreamizm Vol.4 Tempa 033

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D1 D1:V2 Tempa 032

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Headhunter Initiate EP Tempa 031

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Benga & Coki Night (Zinc & Digital Soundboy Remixes) Tempa 030 R

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Benga & Coki Night Tempa 030

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Various Artists Tempa Allstars Vol.4 Tempa 029

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Skream Skreamizm Vol.3 Tempa 028

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Headhunter Futurebound / Descent / Entity Tempa 027

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Benga Crunked Up Tempa 026

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D1 Trial Run EP Tempa 025

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Coki Tortured / Shattered Tempa 024

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Benny Ill & Kode9 Fat Larry's Skank - Remix Tempa 023

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Skream Tapped / Dutch Flowerz Tempa 022

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D1 Missin' / Cocaine / Firin' Blanks Tempa 021

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Skream Skreamizm Vol.2 Tempa 020

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Various Artists Tempa Allstars Vol.3 Tempa 019

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Various Artists The Roots of Dubstep Tempa 018

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Skream Loefah Remixes Tempa 017

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Skream Skreamizm Vol.1 Tempa 016

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D1 Degrees Tempa 015

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Skream Midnight Request Line Tempa 014

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Various Artists Tempa Allstars Vol.2 Tempa 012

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DJ Hatcha Dub Express Tempa 011

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High Plains Drifter Sholay / On Tha Run Tempa 010

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Various Artists Tempa Allstars Vol.1 Tempa 009

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Benny Ill v DJ Hatcha Highland Spring Tempa 008

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Benny Ill, Kode9 Fat Larry's Skank Tempa 007

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Horsepower Smokin' / The Swindle Tempa 006

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Horsepower Fist Of Fury / To The Beat Y'all Tempa 005

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Dub War Murderous Style Tempa 004

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Horsepower Vigilante / What We Do (Remix) Tempa 003

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Horsepower Gorgon Sound / Triple 7 Tempa 002

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Horsepower When You Hold Me Tempa 001

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Albums

Proxima Alpha Tempa CD023

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Various Artists Dubstep Allstars Vol.11 – Mixed by J:Kenzo Tempa CD022

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Various Artists Dubstep Allstars Vol.10 – Mixed by Plastician Tempa CD021

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J:Kenzo J:Kenzo Tempa CD020

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Various Artists Dubstep Allstars Vol.09 – Mixed by Silkie & Quest Tempa CD019

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Various Artists Dubstep Allstars Vol.08 – Mixed by Distance Tempa CD018

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Horsepower Productions Quest For The Sonic Bounty Tempa CD017

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Skream Outside The Box Tempa CD016

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Various Dubstep Allstars Vol.7 Tempa CD015

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Headhunter Nomad Tempa CD014

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El-B The Roots of El-B Tempa CD012

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Appleblim Dubstep Allstars Vol.6 Tempa CD011

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Benga Diary Of An Afro Warrior Tempa CD010

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N-Type Dubstep Allstars Vol.5 Tempa CD009

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Skream Skream! Tempa CD008

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Various The Roots of Dubstep Tempa CD007

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Youngsta & Hatcha Dubstep Allstars Vol.4 Tempa CD006

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Kode9 Feat. The Spaceape Dubstep Allstars Vol.3 Tempa CD005

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Youngsta Dubstep Allstars Vol.2 Tempa CD004

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Horsepower Productions To The Rescue Tempa CD003

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Hatcha Dubstep Allstars Vol.1 Tempa CD002

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Horsepower Productions In Fine Style Tempa CD001

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