Jungle: a genre that has refused to budge for almost 25 years. For those old enough to live through that initial amen explosion it was certainly a special time. The evolution from acid house to hardcore was certainly something special but it was when the music started to get dark when it got really interesting and formed a sound that was inherently UK, or London if we’re going to be more specific, to its core…. A sound that would eventually spawn drum & bass.
The genre’s influence and roots have gone in and out of prominence within drum & bass over the years but right now they’re unavoidable. There’s a healthy use of breakbeats being sampled in tracks, artists such as John B and A.M.C & Turno have delivered incredible jungle-referenced bangers on Drum&BassArena’s The Breaks EP, Friction’s just released Mad In The Jungle, Bladerunner has just released Jungle Jungle (a tune so good he named it twice) while labels such as the Bristol-based Ruffneck Ting and DJ Hybrid’s Deep In The Jungle imprint are consistently delivering.
Now is a perfect time to get perspective, dig deep into these roots and observe some of the tracks that really flew the jungle flag and paved the way for everything that followed. It’s by no means a jungle bible but it’s also not your standard ’20 easy tracks for supermarket compilation’ list either. Consider it a snapshot of one of electronic music’s most exciting movements that still won’t budge almost 25 years later….
Double H Productions – How Dark It Is
(Global Dance Records, 1993)
Taken from ‘The Swinging In The Trees EP’ this superb track combines that ever so popular element of dark, twisted synth stabs with mashed up breakbeats, 4/4 segments and that memorable vocal sample. Dark.
DJ Eruption – In Jeopardy
(United Dance Recordings, 1993)
In Jeopary demonstrated at the time that even producers of the happier side of hardcore can make great breakbeat jungle tunes. Granted a piano riff is featured here but if you were crossing the lines in ‘93, you were going to be mixing elements of genres anyway.
Smokey Joe – A Special Request
(Labello Blanco Recordings, 1994)
An early cut from Smokey Joe who eventually came to produce some massive drum and bass anthems a few years later. A Special Request featured in a ton of DJ sets and was certainly a firm favourite at nights like Jungle Fever. If you like this, you also need to check Smokin Hornz from 1995.
Danny Breaks – Firin Line
(Droppin’ Science, 1994)
Don’t be fooled by its mellow introduction, this is as tough as they come for ’94 and caused major devastation whenever and wherever it was dropped. Recognise the sample? It was also used to deadly effect on Pressure Crew’s Ready on the Left from 1998.
DJ Hype – Dawn Of The Fever
(Suburban Base Records, 1994)
By 1994 DJ Hype was firmly established at the top of the foundation jungle tree both as a producer and DJ. Case in point: this roughneck construction. The B-side to the hugely popular GQ-featured Roll The Beats remix, Dawn Of The Fever took a lot of fans by surprise with its blatant hard-nosed brew of breakbeats and gritty vocal samples.
DJ Nut Nut – Special Dedication
(Hard Step Records, 1994)
Hard step was championed by DJ Rap and a few others. Some considered it a subgenre, others considered it jungle with less beats. Either way it was a massive influence and this became something of an anthem as Top Cat’s vocals provided that perfect element of atmosphere and the bass that would hit afterwards had you shivering for days.
The Dream Team – Stamina
(Suburban Base Records, 1994)
Way before Joker Records and their arsenal of jump up tracks, The Dream Team (AKA Brian Johnson and Dean Vincent) made some polished jungle tunes. This was no exception. The way the mashed up amen breakbeat would just stand still always seemed to put both the crowd and MC off guard momentarily before “the warriors are coming” vocals dropped in. Brutal!
DJ SS – The Intro
(Formation Records, 1994)
No jungle chart is complete without SS, one of the first producers to craft a label with a truly unique sound: Formation Records a label that still goes strong today and has released early music from many of today’s headliners such as Nero and The Prototypes. SS was equally sharp in the studio, especially during the jungle explosion. Lighter was his most renowned and rewound track of this era but The Intro came first. In some respects this was ultimately the foundation for how successful the piano intro movement became, many copied but only a handful succeeded.
DJ Taktix – The VIP (Final Chapter)
(Back 2 Basics, 1994)
It’s the way! Seminal jungle that came in a whole range of versions and remixes. For many this is the blueprint version thanks to the DJ friendly intro and the hefty reggae sample. In the words of Mad P: Ladies, this one you.
Jumping Jack Frost – Osmosis (DJ Ratty remix)
(Formation Records, 1994)
The original was wicked but Ratty’s remix was something else. While it was released in 1994, a good year since breakbeat hardcore was running the scene, it still managed to contain some great elements of both uplifting vibes and darkside terrors. In some respects, it went back in time, grabbed all the decent elements and updated them… Including the 4/4 kick drum in parts.
Asend & Ultravibe – What Kind of World
(Back 2 Basics, 1994)
Another favourite for DJs introducing their sets, this one also went well with 200 litres of dry ice and a few lasers. The synth pads really did provide a huge element of atmosphere, especially at the likes of World Dance where the aircraft hanger at Lydd Airport was populated frequently by thousands of die hard junglists (and DJ Dougal). Another Amen fest that, for it’s time, was somewhat faster than other tunes produced around 1994.
Dope Skillz – Yo Son
(Frontline Records, 1995)
AKA DJ Zinc. While everyone played the flip (6 Million Ways) Yo Son is arguably a much more groundbreaking jungle tune. It had so many layers and diverse elements it deserved much better rotation in DJs record boxes than it got at the time.
Splash – Babylon (Remixes)
(Dee Jay Recordings, 1995)
Andy C championed the original version Babylon for years, and recently revisited it during his stint at XOYO. however, it was the remixes by Trace and Ray Keith that for some made this tune even more special. It’s hard to choose between the two as they are both so different. Trace maintains elements of the original yet does a grand job of crafting his unique production sound into the track and in some respects, making it even rugged while Ray Keith does what Ray Keith does and mashes in a multitude of breakbeat and Amen loops which takes the listener on a unique journey. Obviously the original deserves a huge mention so big up Splash regardless.
Roni Size – All The Crew ‘Big Up’ (95 Lick)
(V Recordings, 1995)
Quite a few versions of this track exist, including a variety of title variants which wasn’t uncommon back in the mid 90s. The ‘reverse’ mix, which was never released past dubplate, was certainly quite a hit but in was the 95 Lick mix (released on the flip of It’s A Jazz Thing) which became the true dancefloor stormer. This crushed jungle ravers into submission after that sneaky piano intro.
Prizna Feat. Demolition Man – Fire (Rogue Unit Remix)
(Labello Blanco, 1995)
The remix by Urban Shakedown probably played a big part in pushing jungle further into the household however the Rogue Unit remix really smashed it down hard with tougher mashed up breakbeats that even now stand the test of time.
Rude & Deadly – Lightnin And Tunda
(Unity Records, 1995)
“Give me a dubplate and we can mash them down”. You can also give a Discogs seller £100 and get a copy of this on vinyl. Some proper ragga infused vocals on this one which drove home that proper homegrown jungle vibe. It’s worth noting that No Smoking Records released a different version in 1995 titled Give Me A Dub and Smokers Inc released a repress of the original in 1997. Both still go for a considerable amount of money.
London’s Most Wanted – Girls Dem Want It
(Philly Blunt, 1995)
Made famous at Pure-X, this absolute slammer by Ray Keith was a great follow up to Frost’s Burial on the Philly Blunt label. A winning combination of a DJ friendly intro, sweet female vocals and an infectious Shabba Ranks hook plus the addition of mashed up Amen breaks that Ray Keith always did so well. That’s probably why he’s famous for saying something along the lines of “stick an Amen into a track and it will make everything sound so much better!”.
DJ Dextrous & H Pee – Hot Flame
(Subversive Vinyl, 1995)
Classic jump up jungle murderation! The intro takes samples from Janet Jackson’s That’s The Way Love Goes blended with heavenly synth pads before throwing out 360 degrees of breakbeats, bass and ragga vocals… This still takes people by surprise to this day.
Tom And Jerry – Maxi (Mun) Style (Nasty Jungle Remix
(Tom And Jerry, 1995)
While the original tune is legendary in its own right, the Nasty Jungle remix is a sure fire hit to the temple with an unlimited amount of cleverly chopped up breakbeat ammunition. It’s almost done the impossible in some respects in terms of taking an incredible tune and taking it than one step further into the jungle hall of fame. If you liked this, check Nasty Jungle in his Deadly D alias on Flex Records with Listen Dis.
Capone – Massive
Cantankerous breakbeats from the master of production that is Dillinja. This immense tune is jungle at its finest; rolled out “massive” vocal samples and crashing beats and bass are combined into one hell of an early anthem. The walls of the Paradise Club and Roller Express were no doubt shaken to their core by this one on many occasions.