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The Drum & Bass MC: Convoking or Controversial?

MC, D&B, drum & bass, jungle

Earlier this week DMNW shared our favorite anthems from the realm of jungle, which we all know helped pave the way for what became drum & bass. So while the sounds of the rudest riddims are still fresh in your head, we want to discuss one of the more controversial topics in the jungle/drum & bass community that exists today – we’re talking of course about the MC.

The drum & bass MC has been around as long as the sound itself. From the early days of jungle back in the warehouses of London and Bristol, the MC has always played a major role in upping the tunes and helping hype the crowd, but that’s nothing new.

If you look back on the genres that helped influence drum & bass, an MC has been prevalent in almost all of them. Beginning with jungle and going back down the ladder with hardcore, hip-hop, reggae, etc; all the way to its roots in dancehall and the days of soundclashes in Jamaica. But while the history of the MC goes back much further than drum & bass, or even electronic music as we know it, for the sake of this article we’re going to focus on their role within the drum & bass world today.

The role of the MC has always been to hype up the crowd and hype up the music. They bring another element of the raw energy that adds to the overall experience of a live drum & bass show. In other words – they’re there to get the party started.

Depending on the style of the selector, a live show without someone on the mic can be a bit flat. A good MC knows the music, knows how to read the DJ, and knows how to read and interact with the crowd. Some are even innovators. You know that infamous “double time” flow commonly used with MC’s in the jungle/drum & bass scene? It can be credited to a single artist, Stevie Hyper D. A pioneer of drum & bass MC’s who paved the way for names like Rebel MC, the Ragga Twins, Dynamite MC, and even names closer to home like Vancouver’s MC Think Tank.

But just like every other profession in the world, there are going to be people who are good at their job, and some that are not. Don’t get us wrong, it’s definitely not something everybody can do, but an MC that is even slightly off can kill the vibe of an entire crowd pretty quickly. Just like a DJ that can’t mix.

It’s part of the territory that comes with being in the spotlight – you have very little margin for error. The bigger the crowd, the less room an artist has to make mistakes. Which is why it takes as much talent and dedication to rock the mic as it does the decks. The best MC’s in the world add such an under-appreciated element to the sound of drum & bass and it’s not fair to see them take the heat that they do. It’s part of the culture. It’s part of the scene. And as long as the community sticks to its roots, the MC is, and always will be, a part of drum & bass.

Fans of the sound either love or hate the MC, there’s often no middle ground. It’s not uncommon to hear frustrated sighs coming from the crowd when someone gets on the mic, but more than likely those sighs are being made by people that just haven’t experienced a proper show; something along the lines of Andy C & MC GQ, two legends in their own right.

MC GQ, Andy C, D&B, drum & bass

Unfortunately, many people’s experiences with drum & bass are from shows with inexperienced MC’s or, more often than not, listening to them on a recorded mix. There’s something that just doesn’t transfer well from the live stage to an audio format, and the MC often sounds like they’re recording over top of the mix. This may lead to where people’s love/hate relationship with the MC comes from.

As much as we tell ourselves that we don’t, we generally seek instant gratification in our lives. And if our first experience of a drum & bass MC comes from a shitty quality YouTube video, most people are going to hold grudges or move on to something else.

We get it, dancing around like a maniac while our favorite DJ throws down is something we all love to enjoy. But while buying a ticket does give us a voice in the crowd, it doesn’t give us the right to be disrespectful or start thinking we know what’s best for an entire genre of music. If you don’t like how something is done, start channeling your energy into doing it yourself, the way you like it. Until then, the MC will continue to remain a central figure in the world of drum & bass, rewinds and all.

Have you experienced a live drum & bass show that featured an MC? How do you feel they affect your overall experience? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter, or get the conversation started by sharing your voice below!

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Part man, part buffalo, part maple syrup. Pretty much the Canadian version of Grizzly Adams.

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