BHM x DNB- In Conversation with Ray Keith & VXRGO

We hope you’ve enjoyed our BHM X DNB article series and you’ve uncovered fresh avenues to both revel in and enrich your understanding of Black culture through the vibrant prism of drum and bass, not just during Black History Month but throughout the entire year.

As we strive to highlight and represent the entirety of the bass music community, here at UKF we are dedicated to exploring the most meaningful ways to commemorate Black History Month. Our scene has always thrived on the pillars of diversity, innovation, and inclusivity, offering an ideal platform to pay tribute to the intricate threads of Black culture that have intricately woven their influence into our genre’s history.

As we draw a close on our BHM X DNB series for this year, we chat to the legendary Ray Keith and up and comer VXRGO. In line with our previous explorations, these dialogues remind us that it is not just a privilege but a duty to educate ourselves about the most authentic ways to honour and celebrate Black History Month through d&b.

WORDS: Ray Keith

I am one of the original pioneers of jungle/drum and bass and have helped shape the genre in the UK from its roots in Black Music.

Like anything that gets popular it can be watered down as it gets more accessible and it seems that the origins of Black soul music’s influence have be forgotten. Also with harder drugs in the rave scene being used like Ketamine, which usually ends up in “regretamine”, have also contributed to taking some of that soul away.

I feel like there is a lack of quality control and all the labels and promoters have a part to play in that, and a responsibility to keep the soul in the music. So book DJs that are good, not because of their gender or ethnic background.  

I would like to celebrate Fabio & Grooverider for championing a lot of artists and their  records to help make jungle and d&b what it is today, supporting artists like me and 100s of others, pushing the music and the sound into a now worldwide platform.

I would also like to hail Ed Rush & Optical, who are celebrating 25 years of Virus Recordings. Goldie for paving the way with Metalheadz hitting 30 years as well as Brain Gee and Jumpin Jack Frost with 30 years of V. Also big up Micky Finn, Darren Jay and Jimmy LaBello for their contribution to Black music.Big up all the original females- DJ Rap, Kemistry (RIP), & Storm, also Tasmin and Smokin’ Jo to name but a few .These labels I’ve mentioned have been the cornerstone, blueprint and foundation of the sound including Dread Recording- we are 30 years 2024!

Big up Kniteforce Records who have repressed and distributed a lot of unreleased dubs and re-runs to give the next generation a taste of that special and original time, the golden years.

I would like to celebrate all the ravers who come out to see us play and support over the last 40 years. There are a lot of people, whatever shades of White, Brown and Black that do everything they can for our scene. I think it’s amazing to have all ethnicities together loving Black music. They have all helped this genre to be what it is today .

I have dedicated my life’s work to this genre and will continue to help push the boundaries to a wider audience by always breaking new artists. 

Words: VXRGO

I think I’d like to see more workshops and events series, learning environments which can not only promote education, but celebrate diverse talents within the community that people might not have heard about otherwise. This shouldn’t just be from Black artists in the jungle and drum and bass scene though, but also by our white counterparts who are involved. It takes a village to spread the word and I don’t think it should solely be our responsibility to  educate and celebrate. 

I’m starting to see a change in lineups, with more promoters and events being  more proactive in booking more POC but more often than not, it feels tokenistic and it shouldn’t feel like that. We should be celebrated because of the talent we put forward, not just to tick a box- not to take away from anyone who is on these lineups because I find them all equally talented. The music is here for us to share and isn’t limited to one group of people. I’d definitely love to see more themed nights too, where promoters and events shine a spotlight on POC talent, take DJ Flight’s new Black Herstory series for example. It extends beyond Black History month but the sense of it being every weekend really hones in on the purpose which could encourage others to do nights like this.  

The drum and bass can community encourage diversity with visual representation. For a long time I, myself, didn’t know that jungle/drum and bass stemmed from Black cultures like reggae, jazz, dancehall as such because I very rarely saw people who looked like me. I think that the figureheads from the “first wave” could  speak out more about this so that people can see that we are very much involved and instrumental in the scene going forward. 

I think the raving community could also speak about their experiences in the 90s – I’ve found myself going through Youtube comments underneath old rave videos and seeing people say how diverse raves used to be. If the younger generation of ravers saw this, Gen Z specifically, it would definitely push things forward since we tend to be very vocal about things like this. Plus, word of mouth goes very far so this could help as well. 

Echoing the  purpose behind The Jaguar Foundation – which has rider templates available on their website to  encourage artists who might not know where to start – artists could include these to make billings more fair. It can feel scary to point these things out but it doesn’t have to be, and change never happens from people being scared- action gets us further than we might think. I’d love for the education to go beyond Black History month, education should be all year round. Collectives like EQ50 and Drum & Babes are also very good examples of pushing for change within the scene. We have to set the standards for others to follow. 

I reckon what makes jungle/drum and bass so unique are the influences from many different  genres of the past that many people can relate to. Whether it be rock, disco, soul and beyond  these. They’ve all got soul and all humans were born with one…  

As well as understanding that all of our lives are as complex as each other. It’s what makes the  community. There’s a corner of jungle/drum & bass that is bound to resonate with someone and when all of these different types of people come together to hear this sound, it creates a different  type of energy on the dance floor; a sense of togetherness, love and respect that’s hard to find on a normal day-to-day. 

A note from us.

During his time as UKF editor, Dave Jenkins penned an extraordinary series that paid homage to the very foundations of jungle and drum and bass. Through insightful conversations with the originators of the scene, this series celebrated the genre’s illustrious history. If you’re eager to delve deeper into the genre’s historical roots and its profound connection with Black music, we invite you to explore the ‘Origins’ series using the links provided below.

Origins: DJ Bailey


Origins: Loxy

Origins: Krust

Origins: Fabio & Grooverider