Current Location :: London, UK
Real Name :: Kevin Ford
Music Genres ::Drum & Bass
Artist's DJ List & DJ Mag Rankings
DJ MagRanks :: (2010) N/A (2011) N/A (2012) N/A DJ List Ranks :: (Global) 323 (Drum & Bass) 16
It’s almost four o’clock
and I’m due to meet DJ Hype at a photographic studio
somewhere in Clapham. I open the door and am greeted by a
madman and his dog showing Barbara Woodhouse how it should
be done. As an over-excited Snoop (the dog) gathers speed
across the slippery wooden floor, I begin to fear that it’s
game over for his master. But the master, Hype, clears Snoop
in one smooth hurdle and the game begins once more. Oh my
God, what was I letting myself in for I was about to experience
an hour in the crazy world of DJ Hype.
Hype’s life as a DJ began back in the early eighties,
long before the rave scene as we know it was even established.
As part of Shut Up And Dance and a sound system called Heatwave,
he spun a mixture of reggae, soul, hip hop, house and garage.
He went on to become a competition hip hop DJ and is often
labelled as such. “In the sound system, I played everything.
I don’t class myself as an ex hip hop DJ…. I wasn’t
one of these Volkswagen badges and big trainers rude boys”.
Hype is well known for being one of the best, if not THE
best, scratcher in the scene, a talent which must surely have
taken a long time to perfect. “I learned to scratch
before I could even mix. I didn’t have a mixer, I didn’t
have vari-speed on the turntable, so I learned to scratch
and I learned it quick – nobody showed me, I just picked
Early DJ influences include hip hop DJs Cheese, Jazzy Jeff,
Aladdin, Pogo and Max & Dave from Kiss FM’s hip
hop show. Hype really admired their mixing style, but felt
that their ability was not standard across the wealth of radio
DJs. “I was a competition DJ getting nowhere, working
in a warehouse listening to pirate stations during the day
and there was all these DJs that were earning a fortune and
they couldn’t even mix 2 beats! That’s what got
me into this scene – I thought most of the DJs were
Like many of today’s top DJs, Hype got his first break
into the rave scene through pirate radio. Friend Ricky Razors
set up Fantasy FM opposite where Hype was living in Hackney
and gave him a regular play. This taste was enough for Hype
and his onslaught into the scene ensued.
He began producing tracks in 1989 whilst working for Kickin’
Records as an in-house producer and A & R manager. “The
first productions I done are probably my most famous –
the Scientist and Kicksquad stuff. Tracks called Exorcist,
The Bee and Soundclash Champion Sound…. they all went
top 60 or top 75 in the national charts. We won Kiss MRIB
and had the biggest, sort of, dance tune in ‘91”.
Hype was content to play the role of producer rather than
artist and so kept a fairly low profile. Although he didn’t
get put down, he felt that he didn’t get any credit
for his efforts and so in 1991, he left. “I’d
rather stay on the dole and be skint than not get the credit
I deserve. To me, you work hard, you reap the rewards”.
Hype then hooked up with Suburban Base in December 1992.
He was putting in a great deal of effort producing around
four tunes for a single release and so decided to set up his
own Ganja Records. “Ganja wasn’t even supposed
to be a label, it was just a sideline, but it went apeshit!!
I didn’t want anyone to know it was me initially, but
everyone did straight away. It was supposed to be my secret
label that in two or three years time, I was supposed to reveal
‘it’s me! Ganja’s me!’ and everyone’d
be shocked. But the first release, everyone fucking knew!”
In 1996, Ganja and Frontline Records got together and put
out an album called Still Smokin’, the first album of
its kind in the underground scene. It was a huge success and
went straight in at number two in the national dance chart.
Produced on a very small budget (around a quarter of the average
for an album promotion), its success naturally gave Hype a
great confidence boost and made other smaller labels realise
that they could do it too. However, Hype began to experience
problems when marketing his music abroad, as some authorities
objected to the ganja leaf used as a logo. Tru-Playaz was
set up with DJs Zinc and Pascal to combat this problem and
carry on where Ganja left off.
Along the way, Still Smokin’ sparked off a great deal
of interest across the music world and three or four major
labels began sniffing around.
Meetings were held with all the labels, who were played off
against each other while the Ganja boys chose the best option
for them. They struck a deal with RCA as Ganja Kru, so as
not to forget their roots and lose their identity. “I
didn’t really want to do a deal. It wasn’t like,
‘I want to be signed to a major’, it was just
that Ganja Records had come as far as I felt I could take
it, so I needed a new angle”. The Kru did the deal to
open new doors and to boost Tru-Playaz as you get a lot more
press if you’re signed to a major. Although a bit cynical
about the move, Hype felt that it was necessary. I’m
happy that most people who’ve done their deals have
done it with their eyes open. I wasn’t just a case of
grab a large lump of cash and market themselves the way the
label tells them. Most people have kept it pretty underground.
There’s been no tidal wave of cheesy and poppy jungle
tunes. There’s no compromise”. RCA are happy for
Ganja Kru to continue making tunes as they are now and there
is no pressure for them to make a commercial hit. There’s
an album in the pipeline which includes the massive Super
Sharp Shooter and is due for release in late ’97.
Zinc’s Super Sharp Shooter sent waves around the rave
scene and indeed the music industry as a whole when it was
put out at the end of ’95. Fugees Or Not (Ready Or Not
remix) gained a similar response last summer, but rumours
began spreading that the person responsible for the tune was
being sued. Although slightly reluctant to reveal all, my
powers of persuasion won through and Hype gave me the lowdown.
It goes like this… 500 promos were put out, but a disagreement
with someone in the scene led to the track being deleted.
By this point, the tune was already massive and everybody
wanted a copy. Sony cottoned on to the remix and threatened
to sue Hype, who argued that Zinc only intended the tune to
go out on dub plate and not on general release. Content with
this, Sony decided to put the track out themselves, but only
if it had The Fugees’ seal of approval first. Whilst
awaiting The Fugees’ reply, someone bootlegged the tune
and it was soon on general release in places like HMV and
Our Price. The shady dealer put another mix on the flip and
attributed it to Hype. It was apparently terrible and you’d
expect, Hype was none too impressed. Sony dropped the whole
matter. “The official story is that The Fugees heard
it, liked the track, felt that there wasn’t enough of
the vocal on it and subsequently they didn’t go with
it. But it’s opened their eyes to jungle, they love
it and Goldie's going to be doing the next mix. That’s
what the guy at Sony told me anyway”.
Hype’s talent as a producer is obvious, but this hasn’t
meant that his DJing has fallen by the wayside in the slightest.
Since 1993, Hype has been a regular at places like World Dance,
Desire and Helter Skelter. “I like the big mixed events.
You get four thousand people – a cross section of happy
hardcore and junglists and I love it. I was at a rave last
week and this woman must’ve been nearly 40. I swear
she was there with her daughter or son and she knew who I
was!! I think the more the merrier. I hate splits, I don’t
like any divide. I didn’t like it last year –
the scene was very split whereas this year, although it’s
like that to a certain extent, I think it’s all coming
back together again. The best thing about the scene is that
you've got all races, colours, creeds, ages – there
is no policy”.
This cross section of people is shadowed by the vast selection
of music around today. “The audience has got to the
stage where you’ve got the freedom as a DJ where you
can go where you want to go. That’s why you’ve
got such a cross section of music”. Hype likes everything
from ragga to hip hop to techno – he’s very open-minded.
“I don’t prefer nothing. DJ Hype, Ganja Kru, Tru-Playaz,
we’re not into one style or another. That’s why
we describe ourselves as freestyle. I’ve been into this
scene since August ’89 and every year, the music’s
influenced a bit differently”.
As the music changes, the people change and Hype has perfected
the art of predicting just what the crowd wants to hear. “My
sets vary depending on where I’m playing. At places
like World Dance, Dreamscape and United Dance, you’re
going to leave the educating to people like Grooverider. I
think I play an entertaining set. I’m not one of these
DJ’s who’s out to educate the audience. I do a
little bit, but I’d class myself as an entertaining
DJ rather than an innovator pushing the music forward. I’m
not like people like Bukem who’ll just play a set whether
he clears the floor or not. He’s playing that set ‘cause
he wants to push that style of music”.
Innovator or not, Hype is certainly a popular DJ, as his
overflowing diary demonstrates. Having played around 5 or
6 dos every weekend for the past few years, he’s pretty
much seen it all. “Events are just as good as they used
to be and I do enjoy them, but to me now, a rave’s a
rave. It’s nothing to do with the production or anything
– that’s as good as ever – but the novelty’s
worn off for me”. Time to venture further a field…
Hype first started playing abroad in ‘91/’92.
He went to clubs in places like Germany, Switzerland and Japan,
before there was even a scene for his type of music. He played
at pure techno events where he was the only breakbeat DJ on
the line-up, which he didn’t find all that enjoyable.
In front of a 3,000 strong crowd, only around 150 were into
breakbeat, so you can imagine the response he sometimes received.
However, jungle clubs were slowly set up and in the last two
years, events in Europe have become as big as in the UK. “Abroad’s
been brilliant for me. Since 1994, I’ve been going abroad
regular and I’ve seen it grow, which is good”.
Hype’s travels have also taken him outside of Europe
to more far flung corners of the globe. “I’ve
been to Toronto in Canada and it’s wicked. But immigration
are a bit funny, so I’ve stopped going over for a while.
I’ve been four times and once you’ve been out
there a few times, they start thinking you’re a drug
smuggler or something as opposed to just a DJ coming to play
Few people regard Hype as “just a DJ” and with
trips planned to Munich, Berlin, Milan, Paris, Rotterdam,
Amsterdam, Washington and Vienna before May, 1997 is kicking
off on a real global tip for the UK’s drum & bass
ambassador. However, he doesn’t rate himself half as
highly as others do. “I ain’t a superstar in the
sense of your Take That’s or whatever. It’s a
very stressful, very hard job. Because I’m not this
big guy surrounded by all these people sorting everything
out, it’s a hard working job man. I still feel like
I’m really low down the ladder”. Many DJs, especially
the up and comings, dream of being in Hype’s shoes one
day. “I still feel like I’ve got a hell of a lot
to learn and that’s probably what keeps me going. I’m
not ready to quit because I don’t think I’ve achieved
my potential yet, not by a long run”. If we haven’t
seen the best from Hype, then just think what’s to come.
He’s confident that he can still prove something. “I’ve
always believed in myself. Some people might take that as
‘oh, he’s bigheaded, thinks he’s it’,
but I don’t. I know what I’m good at and I know
what I’m not good at. I believe that I can do well if
I’m given the chance. There’s a lot of DJs out
there who are good, but you don’t see them at the big
dos like Dreamscape and World Dance and it’s not ‘cause
they’re not good enough, it’s just that….
It’s a long slow process. I came into the scene in ’89
and it wasn’t ‘til mid ’93 that I think
my career really started”.
However, Hype feels that his prolonged journey to what I
consider the top has benefited him in the long run. “I’m
a bit older and wiser now. You get a lot of DJ’s, they’re
big names, but because they’re 22 or whatever, by the
time they’re 24, they’ve lost the plot! I think
the younger you are, the more you get wrapped up in all the,
y’know, go out and buy all the latest clothes and spend
all your money on a big flash car and I’m the man and
I’m jumping on every girl I can shag in town’.
For me, I’m nearly 29, I’ve been with my girlfriend
for seven years, I’ve had a slow climb, so I’m
a bit wiser and think a bit harder before I move. I want to
maintain what I’m doing”.
If his success in 1996 is anything to go by, Hype doesn’t
have anything to worry about. Awards piled up last year and
make for a pretty impressive collection to adorn any studio
wall. He won an EHM award, the Dream Magazine Hardcore Awards
for best drum & bass DJ and label and the Muzik Magazine
award for best radio DJ for his show on Kiss FM. It must be
a great feeling to come out top in every avenue of work you
do, but it is the radio show award of which Hype seems most
proud. “I never look forward to the show, but I love
it when I’m there. If that was all I was doing, I know
I’d love it. Now, because of all the other things I
do, the radio isn’t as important and it’s probably
what I put least effort into”.
Playing on Kiss gives Hype the chance to play to audiences
he doesn’t otherwise reach. A lot of people who listen
to the show have never been to a rave before, but they really
love the music. It is appreciated by those residing in Her
Majesty’s Prison and some people even travel from places
like Birmingham and Bristol just to take the show. In addition
to his obvious mixing ability, it is Hype’s personality
that really stands out. “It’s nice that people
say that, ‘cause at raves, people think I’m a
right miserable git!”
The constant larking about proves that a miserable git Hype
certainly is not! The only thing that really pisses him off
about the scene is the association people make between jungle
events and trouble. “What gets on my nerves is that
people associate trouble with the music which is wrong. There’s
no music at a football match, but you still get trouble. Wherever
you get large groups of people, especially young people, there’s
going to be an element of trouble. 100,000 people are seriously
injured crossing the road each year and nobody says, ‘oh,
y’know, I ain’t crossing the road no more, 100,000
were injured last year, I think I’m going to stay in
now’!! You just cross the road and you don’t worry
about it. I come from a bad area, where people do rob, they
do steal, they do mug people. That’s why I came into
this scene, ‘cause there’s fuck all trouble in
comparison. Yeah, there’s a bit, but unless you give
people lovey dovey potions, what can you do The youth of
today, when to do resort to violence, it’s worse than
it was ten years ago. That’s society, it’s not
the rave. If Jungle stopped tomorrow, the world wouldn’t
be a better place. ‘Oh, jungle music’s stopped,
there’s no fighting now’! Fights happen, old ladies
get robbed, houses get burgled. The world’s just a fucked
up place to live in!!”
Fucked up it may be, but we look to be in store for a wicked
year if Hype’s predictions are anything to go by. He
foresees top producers like Roni Size and Krust continuing
to turn out tune after tune, whilst from the Ganja stable
we can expect a follow up to the Super Sharp Shooter EP, numerous
releases and acts on Tru-Playaz, a range of new merchandise
and Hype travelling the country and the globe proving to all
and sundry that the world is his oyster. And I’m not
talking no small fry love remedy here. I’m talking the
great big smooth operation with a sparkling pearl at the core
that is the one and only DJ Hype.