From Pirate to Professional: Why RinseFM Is The Best Radio Station on Earth

Hundreds of rappers and MCs owe their career to it, and without it the British urban music scene would be a totally different place...
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Hundreds of rappers and MCs owe their career to it, and without it the British urban music scene would be a totally different place...

In my youth, living in Kent but having family in Birmingham, one of my favourite pastimes during the long journeys between them was trawling through the multitude of pirate radio stations as we hit the London end of the M25. The vast expanses of road gave us full access to the beauty of the airwaves and between my Dad and I we discovered some of the best underground reggae, garage and house tunes that were entirely unavailable on commercial radio. One of these frequencies we were particularly fond of was Rinse FM. So upon moving to London a few years ago I kept in contact; the selections always remained as vital and as brilliant as ever. So hearing that they gained 'legit' radio status as an FM channel in 2010 was excellent news, and them being able to plumb some of the finest in modern music was literal music to my ears. Ever since, I've started a commitment to their brand of unabashed love for music, that is so often being lost through other radio stations.

Founded by Geeneus and Slimzee on 28th August 1994, over the past 18 years they have been dedicated to their grassroots ideology of broadcasting, starting from their pirate roots in east London flat kitchens and rooftops. Even now, after gaining legal FM status, they’re still ploughing forward with the most inventive of DJ’s and music selections. If you’re a fan of electronic music, chances are you’ll rifle through Youtube looking for the latest radio rips... there’s a high chance that they’ll come straight from Rinse.

It’s been argued before, and I’ll happily back it up; but without the support of stations like Rinse, underground British music culture would be an entirely different scene. They were crucial in the genesis and growth of genres like Grime and more recently Dubstep, always giving platforms for some of the scene's up-and-coming and biggest producers and DJ’s. MCs were crucial in the scene too, and they’d always be presenting some of the best toasters on-air, with classic clashes from some of the heaviest hitters all being present and correct back in the day.

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They’ve evolved too. Moving not just from pirate to legal radio, but they’ve taken the leap into events, hosting festival stages and a record label. Just this year they’ve released three brilliant albums in the form of Rinse Presents: Roska 2, Brackles and Royal-T, and that’s not counting any of their brilliant Rinse mix series that also recently threw out T. Williams’ ace mix. Their events have been second to none; shortly after my younger brother turned 18 I took him to his first Fabric outing for a Rinse vs FWD>>  night. It was mindblowing, featuring some of the heaviest in grime talent, with Boy Better Know, P Money and Newham Generals alongside Zinc, Marcus Nasty, Elijah & Skilliam and Dismantle. Like letting two kids loose in a sweet shop, it was three rooms stacked with the beefiest of bass talent and we got quite the sugar rush (no narcotic references implied).

The radio has always had a fond place in my heart too; from those halcyon student days where, if I was up early enough, I’d lock into Scratcha’s Breakfast show and pray that on a Wednesday he’d play one of my soundcloud links I’d sent him. The day when he was particularly disappointed with the output he was given (not mine, thankfully) he ended the show on a loop of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, after threatening he’d do it if no-one upped their game! A truly hilarious moment, and one that shows the balls out nature of these renegade broadcasters.

It also introduced me to the brilliant Butterz label, through Elijah & Skilliam’s numerous shows... having listened to them (and meeting them in Cable last year), it’s so exciting to see them expand their ranks and continue to push forward their brand of Grime. They’ve opened my eyes (and ears) to a whole host of new talent, as has many other of the Rinse family... It’s a musical journey, and what’s better, is that Rinse feels like a true family. We’re all just invited along to the party.


Black Atlantic are putting on ‘Tiger Beer Presents The Hidden Depths of Rinse 106.8FM’ at Concrete, on Thursday 22nd November, featuring MC Tippa, Trim, Faze Miyakes, funky don Brackles and Zinc
Click HERE for an exclusive mix from Brackles.

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