Generational looping: Craze celebrates the new wave of American drum & bass  

How D&B has become a family affair for the champion turntablist

Something special is stirring in North America drum & bass circles.

It’s been stirring for years.

In fact it never stopped bubbling in certain loyalist corners and niches, making the US home to THE longest running drum & bass nights on the planet as a result. Elements in Boston, Respect in LA, D&B Tuesdays in Seattle and Torque in Orlando all weigh in well over 20 years. America has always had its junglist soldiers.

But right now it’s really, really stirring. A whole new generation of fans and producers have emerged and have embraced the movement with open arms and the amount of high grade drum & bass being exported from both the US and Canada right now is unparalleled.

Airglo to Winslow to Hallow to Dr Apollo and so many more that don’t end in ‘oh’. Skellytn to Shinobi to Saltee. WAVHART to ESKR to NVRSOFT. Justin Hawkes, Boxplot, Des McMahon, Echo Brown, Reaper, Aaron Payne, Bensley and Azpect.

That’s just an infinitesimal fraction of the newer generation who’ve broken through in (relatively) recent years. Go back to any point in dance music history and north America has represented. We’ve interviewed some of them such as Reid Speed, Mizeyesis, NC-17 and Quentin Hiatus. Many more deserve a big old salute: Rene LaVice, Quadrant & Iris, Evol Intent, 12th Planet, Random Movement, Liondub, Submorphics, Burner Brothers, Diesel Boy, AK1200, Sub Killaz, Jordana, Bad Syntax, Flaco and probably others that do end in ‘oh’.

The list goes on and on and on and on. We could spend hours listing US drum & bass heroes, but that’s not what this article is about…

This piece is about one particular individual who’s repped drum & bass in a unique way from the very start. He took some time away from the scene in recent years but ever since he became the first DJ to play drum & bass in the DMC championships in 1998, and repping the US at legendary UK rave spots like The Sanctuary as far back as 2002, he’s played a unique and prominent role in the development drum & bass.

That man is multiple turntablist world title champ DJ Craze.

Following his time in the worlds of more mainstream EDM sounds, moombahton, hip-hop, touring with the likes of Kanye and projects such as his 2 Cents collab with Four Color Zack, covid turbulence flipped a switch he’d not felt in a long, long time… He got back into drum & bass and remembered just how much he loved it.

From humble lockdown D&B streams things have spiraled in a hugely inspiring way. Firstly, he now co-runs a drum & bass night in his hometown Miami called Beatcamp, an event founded in the 90s by Marco Fabien, one half of the pioneering liquid D&B act Influx Datum.

A poignant party that goes way beyond ‘DJ hosts event’ status, not only is it where Craze cut his teeth as a junglist youth, it’s also now where his daughter Orchid is resident at.

If that’s not enough of a family affair, Craze’s label Slowroast has recently released an exceptional VA called U.S D&B Compilation. Featuring a wide range of artists across the north American D&B spectrum Winslow, Random Movement, Shanks, CLB, Replicant, Sub Killaz, Des McMahon, capshun, Floret Loret, CRIMES!, Kadilak, Shinobi and Craze all represent and show us just how special things are in North American D&B circles right now.

Not only did we catch up with Craze last month to see how the VA came into existence (and if we can expect more in the future), we also caught words and thoughts from some of the artists on the album to see what their take is on drum & bass and jungle culture’s currently thriving state of health Stateside. Read on and get inspired…

US drum & bass! You’ve been repping since early times!

I didn’t for a long time but I’m back now! For a minute I wasn’t into the scene any more. After the pandemic I got back into it.

Oh a pandemic thing!? I didn’t realise you’d taken such a break from it?

Yeah in 2008 I toured with Kanye, then in 2009 I started getting into moombahton and the American EDM vibe and it was that for a long time. Then the pandemic hit and we didn’t know what the fuck was going on. I thought, ‘Right cool, what am I going to do when things get back to normal?’ I was doing the streaming thing and the drum& bass sets were really kicking off and I remembered how much I love this shit so I thought, ‘Okay when shit gets back to normal I know what I’m going to do.’ I told my agent and he agreed it was a good idea because people always request D&B. That’s crazy because I got pigeonholed when I used to play it. I wasn’t able to play any other sound because people wanted the D&B so much. It’s like when I got out of hip-hop, people wanted me to just play that. So anyway I decided I would focus on shit that makes me happy.

You could feel it building up before the lockdown but it’s like people went back to ground and honed their skills even more and when things opened up again there was a really powerful surge of interest in drum & bass.

Totally! It sounds cheesy to say but I feel like people went back to the roots and looked at what makes them happy.

Yeah! And the new generation too. The album has a great spread of artists from the ages

Yeah I was looking for people from across the whole thing man. Who are the people doing the jump up? Who are the people on the dark stuff? Who’s killing it in liquid, you know? I was supposed to have more tracks on there but scheduling a big compilation is hard with so many conflicting releases.

I really wanted something from Justin Hawkes and Airglo. Airglo is the dude right now. He’s killing it here. He’s got some amazing releases coming up so he’ll be on a future collection but the main thing was repping stateside D&B and how exciting it all is. At one point i was like ‘okay fuck it, we can’t push this release back any further, let’s get this out now and start on the next volume for 2024. I’ll try and do this shit yearly.

Good to hear. What I’m really intrigued by is something Audioscribe observed to me in an interview… Here in the UK kid grow up to D&B. It’s on the radio, on TV etc. But he pointed out that people getting into D&B production stateside are drawing from a whole other world of influences so it’s a chance to really reinvigorate what the American sound could be!

I agree! And the production levels are high. Everyone’s got their own take on it, too. That’s what’s really inspiring me. Like Jon Casey for example. I know he’s not American but he’s over here now and repping hard. When I heard his album on Vision I was like, ‘Holy shit this is fire!’ He didn’t grow up listening to D&B. These new kids are animals on the production front.

Seriously! I asked a lot of the artists on the album about the progress of D&B in America and one issue that came up was about the older heads not giving the new talent props. Do you see that?

I don’t know man. The old heads are getting bookings through being DJs and being here for a long time. I actually see it growing in a positive direction and we just need more and more kids to put their own stamp on things and make their own noise and embrace other sounds of D&B. Right now people are focusing on heavier, techier and neuro vibes. I want to see more people making sounds like Random Movement and Winslow make you know? That real soulful shit!

Yes! Got so much time for both those guys.  

I love how Hospital have embraced him and pushed him into shows over your way. He’s killing it right now and I hope others follow suit. I want north American D&B to be as diverse as possible and I don’t see anyone holding things back – make more noise, get on the tunes and get them out there and get involved in things.

Like here in Miami there was no drum & bass night so I started a night again and now it’s popping, and others are starting their own nights. Anyone feeling they’re not getting breaks need to make things happen themselves. Put your own nights on, build a little community. Cultivate it like that.

Yes! One of my favourite things in North America D&B is the longest running nights – Elements, Respect, D&B Tuesday.

Oh for sure! The night I have in Miami is Beatcamp. That’s a night run by Marco was part of Influx Datum he was running that night when I was a kid getting into D&B. He would book all the legends from the UK. Goldie, Roni, all those guys. So when I came back to D&B I asked if I could bring his night back because of what it meant to me and luckily he agreed.

How cool is that? You’re running a night that inspired you as a youth!

Yeah man! And what’s crazy is that my daughter is resident at the night. She’s started making tunes and said, ‘Okay you’re making tunes now you’ve got to spin.’ So she opens up, Shinobi plays next and then I close it out.

LUSH. Family affair! That must be so cool to DJ with your daughter. She’s called Orchid, right?

Yeah bro and she got her name from Goldie.

Wow no way!

Yeah he was out here and we hung out, we all had dinner and what not and we spoke about her artist name. I said, ‘everything is in place, she’s on the tunes, she’s DJing, all she needs is an artist name.’ Goldie said, ‘You’re beautiful like an orchid’ and we were all like, ‘okay that’s the one!’

Love that. Wholesome.

Yeah man. She came to the first Beatcamp and she was into D&B at the time but didn’t know so much about it. But she came to the first night and totalled faded. She was like, ‘Dad I love this vibe’. Joking, I said, ‘Okay you’re playing the next one, you’re going to start opening up every time. Next thing I knew she was practicing in her room and I’m like, ‘Holy shit! Alright, that’s sick selection, she’s got it.’ And so she actually did start opening up the night. Her sound is perfect for it, she loves her liquid and it works so well.

It’s a real artform, warming up, it’s not appreciated as much as it should be

Oh yeah man. She does it so well, too. It’s not just random liquid, she drops some classics and favourites in there too. She’s a big fan of Halogenix and that type of vibe.

Love that vibe. Love your productions too as it goes. No Warning is a banger! That’s not a warm up tune!

Haha, no. But thanks to pandemic again. I’ve never rated myself as a producer and I still don’t to be honest but I’m always trying to get better and during pandemic that was something I really focused on and I’ve learnt a lot.

I see it more as a video game now. It’s become a lot more fun and less frustrating. I’m finding out a new way to do things that makes my music sound better. Like, ‘Oh wow, if I do this, it sounds clearer and not so muddy.’ Or, ‘If I do this, it slaps harder.’ So yeah I’ve really enjoyed that. But it’s crazy I’m getting to this level after such a long time. I should have been doing this 10 years ago but it wasn’t fun back then, I didn’t want to make tunes, I wanted to be a DJ. Now I’m all over this shit!

Love this. Like Randall dropped his debut EP at the age of 50! Production isn’t age specific. It’s got to feel right or you’re forcing it. Big up Shinobi too as you’ve also a track with him on the album

Oh for sure. That one is more his vibe, I got on it and helped finish it. He’s making so much progress with every track and what I love with the new kids is that they have these different influences who didn’t grow up with jungle but are making it. For them it still feels futuristic. Like he played me a track the other day and I was like oh damn this sounds like classic Metalheadz and he was like yeah I love this shit. So we finished it off together and brought that together in a few days.  And actually Shinobi co-runs Beatcamp with me now.

Ah! I’m really inspired by the generations. Drum & bass has reached an age where three generations are now involved and everyone is working together.

Exactly! I played this party in London last year, Alchemy. Coco Bryce was playing and these other two girls Ila Brugal and Tailor Jae and then after that it was me and then Doc Scott and Bryan Gee. I was like slap bang in the middle. The younger DJs were playing nothing but jungle and it was new jungle I’d never heard before and everyone was going crazy. They didn’t grow up with jungle like we did they just love that. So that was so awesome to see and then I did my thing and then Bryan’s on playing some mad futuristic D&B. I loved that. There was definitely a real appreciation between the generations that was so excited to be part of.

And I’ve got to say, it’s happening in other genres too. With house music, a big tech house sound blew up over here after the pandemic and it was basically stripped down house music like old Chicago shit. It was so refreshing. Especially after the really loud and in your face EDM we’d had for so long.

And even in hip-hop cats my age have never really been into the newer rap like the mumble rap and those guys. But now the new generation coming through like EARTHGANG and Isaiah Rashad and all those cats, they sound like the new shit we grew up with. It’s the same – it’s these new kids recreating a lot of the sounds we grew up with but putting their own spin on it.

Yeah! How much do you think is the influence of the weird stuff we went through with the pandemic and how much is down to a natural cycle like generational looping

A lot of it is generational looping. People who didn’t grow up in that era but their parents did and they’re connected to that in that way and they want to experience that. I think it’s generational but with the pandemic it brought the older heads back to what we like and what makes us happy and that’s had a big influence.

For me personally, prior to the pandemic I was just cashing money. I’d play Vegas and do that and do this and it wasn’t making me happy. So I was like, ‘Fuck it, I need to go back to my roots and throw drum & bass parties where you attract all these amazing weirdos, especially here in the US and I was like fuck it, this makes me happy, I wanna do this and not play for a bunch of douche bags in Vegas.

Hahaha. You’re right. Fast and noisy music does attract the weirdos in the best possible way!

Oh yeah we love the weirdos. Peace out man!

U.S DNB Compilation is out now on Slow Roast 

Want more North American drum & bass? Check our latest podcast interview with Armanni Reign


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