It would be an insult to launch a new editorial platform that celebrates and champions bass music culture without paying tribute to Alfonso Skibadee Bondzie who sadly left us on Sunday February 27, aged just 47.
The impact of his departure is still being computed and will be forever. No other jungle artist has had such an indelible influence across the entire musical spectrum that’s followed since the early 90s. Anyone who picks up a mic carries his legacy. The energy, the crowd control, the lyrical dexterity and rhythmic creativity. Above all, the personality behind it.
I spoke to 10 different friends and peers of Skibadee to celebrate his legacy and document his most endearing traits. Not just how he influenced the world creatively and musically, but how he had such a positive effect on people he worked with.
Huge respect and thanks to Axe, Shabba D, Emma Wildchild, Eksman, DJ Phantasy, Harry Shotta, Mampi Swift, Nick White, Charlotte Devaney and Konetix for taking the time to share their personal stories. Sending love to Skibadee’s friends, family and everyone who still holds a heavy heart.
I was many things to Skiba over the years – I looked out for him, I was his counsel, I helped with business affairs, I was his eyes and ears in the club – but above all I was his friend and had been since we were 11.
My work with him evolved from me following him to his raves and supporting him at the very beginning. Like friends do. Over time I realised he needed things to be in optimum shape. Water was a key thing, for instance. That evolved into us assessing the club. He’d be backstage and I’d go in and check the place. How it is, what the vibe is. I’d go to the front, into the pit, and check the vibe. I’d make sure his sound was perfect. Rather than him shouting for the engineer, it would be someone like me to ask for volume or put some tops on it.
Skiba was a worrier. If he doesn’t like the vibe of a situation, someone like me could take on that worry and allow him to still perform at his best. Naturally as friends we’d bounce off each other and he’d run things by me. Different ideas or thoughts. Seeing things through the same lens, but from different perspectives; there was always something to analyse and talk about. He loved talking and sharing ideas.
I know a lot of people say this, but I don’t think people realise how humble he was. He’d become this superstar drum & bass character but he could still be in the trenches and he loved that. He could walk down Peckham and be recognised but still go into the pound shop and buy his toiletries. He loved that aspect about himself.
He didn’t like anonymity, he was happy to be recognised and it upset him sometimes if he wasn’t because it was like all of his efforts were in vain. But at the same time, he didn’t care for the superstar lifestyle. He cared for the people, though; it always astonished me how much time he had for his fans. It was my job to move him on. He could never refuse a photo or a quick chat. It wasn’t for adulation either, he just was on the level. He never forgot he was a raver at heart and he could relate to people.
The worst thing is when someone gets an entourage, they develop a following of ‘yes’ people. Skiba never had that. He was confident enough to have someone saying no or telling him something he didn’t want to hear. I’d have to approach him with things in a way that wouldn’t scare him off from taking action, but also not hurt his feelings. When you’re told every day you’re amazing – which he was – then some diplomacy is needed and he welcomed and respected that. He could have easily been like, ‘If you’re not with me, you’re against me’. He was against that idea and believed everyone could work together.
I had to remind him of reality. Artists can have their heads in the cloud. He came through when he was 18, headlining big raves, so his reality is very different to other people’s, but I still think he’d have had that boyish glint in his eye and that energy even if he’d gone down other paths like become a carpenter. I think that’s what appealed to a lot of fans. That glint. Like a kid jumping up and down on the bed. He’d been in his own musical world ever since he was 18 and that was the real magic of him. He’ll never be forgotten.
I heard him before I met him. He popped up on the scene a little after me. I think it was 93 or 94. I first heard him at Monday Club and it blew me away. You know when you hear something new and different? Then I heard him again at Thunder & Joy and it wasn’t long before we linked.
First we had the original SaSaS – myself, Skibadee and Shockin. That was where we really bonded and got to know each other. Then Shockin moved more into the DJ thing and me and Skiba carried the SaS thing for a long, long time.
It was never a competition. We kept each other on our toes but we gelled together. It was like telepathy. I swear we could read each other’s minds. We vibed off each other and pushed each other. On stage and in business; we were the first proper promoter MCs, doing SaS events and the MC Convention parties. Those changed the game. For a while it was dark time for MCs but we helped change that, we put MCs right back upfront and did some of the most legendary parties I’ve ever done in Ayia Napa and Stratford Rex. They changed the game.
Skiba was an inspiration and I know I inspired him. We always had our own things; he had Platinum Performers, I had Highly Blessed. We’d do our own thing then come together and the vibe was there. When we rested SaS, he went on to smash it with Uncz but we’d always connect and it would pop off.
Then came SaSaSaS. I was working with Stormin a lot and I remember us doing Eksman’s 15 year anniversary and we came together; Stormin, Shotta, Shabba, Skiba. I remember Stormin buzzing about the two new generation MCs and the two pioneers. We did it and it popped off! Then we did again at Skiba’s Bangers & Mash and that had serious impact and set the scene until today.
What I love about all our history is that’s been proper organic development. We had a special dynamic. We never had an argument, he was so easy to work with, just a lovely guy, very humble. I remember us going to Thailand together. We got stuck out there and ended up living together for two weeks. We had the time of our lives and caught up on so much over the years having conversations like this, talking about the past. Where we’ve come from. How far we’ve got. Where we want to take things…
Losing him has had a big impact on me. It was like being hit by a bus. I miss him deeply. But I’m on my path and I’ll carry that torch for him and fly the flag forever. With the group we let his name live on through us. I’ll never see him again or perform with him again, but I’m in a good place in life, so I’ll channel that energy to drive me forward because that’s what keeps me going. I’ll forever chant his name and do his lyrics. I can’t explain the feeling I have very well. It’s like nothing makes sense any more, but the one thing that does make sense is to keep carrying that torch for him. Doing things like this is a pleasure because it reminds me how great he was and what good times we had together. Nothing can take that away.
It was 1995 and I’d just started on Kool. They said to me, ‘Either bring an MC or you can speak yourself on the mic.’ I did a few shows where I was speaking but it was so much better to have an MC. I just didn’t know any.
Then I was invited to play Spirit Of The jungle by Ash Attack. It was my first ever DJ set in a club. I was really nervous but the MC was really good so I said, ‘Hey, do you want to play on my Kool FM show?’ He said, ‘Yep’. And that’s how it started. We’d never even met before that night in the club.
So he joined me on Kool. It was the 3 – 5am Friday night / Sat morning slot. People called it the graveyard shift but we didn’t care. It was the peak of pirate radio and Kool was one of the best stations out there. You’d play any hour on Kool! Beforehand he’d come to my flat in St John’s Wood around midnight, we’d talk about the music, the set, the ambitions we had. Then we’d drive to East London to whichever random block of flats it was being broadcast in at the time.
3am was a great time to do the show because people were either driving back from raves or tuning in after going out. We’d get loads of callers every time. We’d always record each show, too, so we could analyse each show recording and try and do it better each week. That was how important it was to us. We took it so seriously and loved every second.
He just had this raw talent. It’s not easy to come on the mic at 3am on the radio and get everyone going. It’s all live. No fancy FX to make your voice sound good. Just raw and rugged and very real. This was pirate radio and he came up the ranks and earned everything he was due through hard work. He never stopped working, really. He was constantly writing and coming up with new ideas and just so inspired by the music.
I can’t remember how it ended, sadly. Things just change, don’t they? I got a better set time and by then he was flying and everyone wanted him to MC on their show. It was amazing to see him shine like that. We’d broken through together and that was something special we had. And we knew it was special, just didn’t quite appreciate how much. I’m sure if we had phones like we do now then there’d be a lot of videos of it and pictures to record it but there are no photos of us from the studio and just a few of us in my flat practicing.
I had always hoped we would reunite and do something together again. It’s heart-breaking to think that will never actually happen, but I’m so proud of what we achieved. He was a really genuine, humble guy. I never saw him argue or talk badly about anyone. He was truly in it for the love and he’ll never be forgotten.
I found out he’d passed when I was halfway through doing my mixtape and there were a couple of tunes I hadn’t voiced yet. Straight away I loaded up a tune and started writing and getting out my emotions. When I wrote it, I cried. When I recorded it, I cried. When I did the video, I cried. When I watched it back I cried too.
But I’m so glad I’ve done it and was able to express our relationship in an honest, truthful way and 100% from the heart. I want people to listen to it, remember him and understand our relationship. It was one of mutual respect. When I came into the game, he shouted me to the studio to do a tune. He didn’t need to do that. But he wanted to boost me. You don’t forget that type of gesture. He had my respect anyway but even more so from then.
It’s mad. When you’re younger, music is like a sport. It’s competitive. You want to be at the top. But the older you get, the more you realise there’s more to this thing to appreciate. And I think we both went through those lessons in life around similar times. Me and him were at the top for so many years. I don’t think any other MCs won as many awards as either of us. So we did have a rivalry, but it was always a friendly and respectful one. He loved the music and always put that first. As we both got older that became the most important thing. No bullshit. Just be happy to be involved and help other people.
I got so many memories but one that stands out is the last show we did together. We were in Germany last year. I’d done seven or eight shows and my voice had gone. It was knackered. I’m on stage and my voice was breaking so badly I was thinking, ‘How am I going to do this?’ Then he jumped on with me and we started vibing. He didn’t need to do that. He’d done his set. His work was done for this night but he came on with me and that pulled me through. We had a wicked time afterwards too, having a good laugh going back to the hotel. It was special.
It’s funny when you look at relationships with people. We were colleagues, you know? We’d see each other every weekend, sometimes twice or three times. More than I see certain members of my family. We all come into the game and do our thing, put our own little twists on it and our own style. But he was the original. He was the blueprint. Everyone knew about him. He had everything on lock – people from every genre knew about him and knew how much of a legend he was.
He’d touched so many people and been on this for the best part of 30 years. There was a big time when he was doing something Fearless. There was a big time when he was doing something with Det. There was Uncz. Then SaSaSaS. He’d done so many things! But he’d always reinvent himself to remain on top of his game for all that time. To come with new styles, new patterns, new flows, new vocabulary. He’d always keep it so fresh. He was a super professional. He had the voice and skillset and energy that could lift a crowd. Just to hear him barking would lift the crowd. No other MC had that level of control or influence. No other MC even came close.
Alfie was a very sensitive guy. He hated confrontation. Couldn’t stand any form of it. But if he felt strongly about something, he’d say it. I remember one time I was moaning to him about something and he said, ‘Bro get that out of your head. Stop that right now. You don’t need to be moaning about that, it’s pointless.’ He’d always put things into perspective for me and just kill any negativity. That’s one of the many things I’ll always cherish about him. He just had a beautiful way of interacting with everyone. He treated everyone on the same level, no matter who you were, and I loved how he was always thinking of the new artists coming through in our scene. It didn’t matter if you were well-established or if you’re just coming into the game, he didn’t treat or see anyone as competition; if he felt you, he’d hype you. Especially during lockdown with his live shows when he focussed on exciting new artists.
Just look at how he touched so many people’s lives. Generations of drum & bass and jungle lovers or even beyond. People have heard of Skibadee across all music genres. I remember when we were doing the Redbull Culture Clash, Lethal Bizzle came to our green room and made video with Skiba. He said he said he wouldn’t be doing what he was doing if it wasn’t for Skiba and Shabba. Alfie was buzzing about this. All these people knew him and loved him, but he never let his ego get the better of him. That’s how humble he was. I’ll never forget being on the tour bus and we were listening to Stormzy’s album and there’s a lyric in it that says ‘Deal with the matter like Skibadee’. When we all first heard that the bus went mental! All of us were jumping about shouting, ‘WHAT!?!?!?’
That blew his mind. He couldn’t believe it. For me it was vindication, like, ‘Bruv this is what I’ve been saying all along. You’ve touched people more than you’ll ever realise.’ And he did. He always will. It truly breaks my heart, we’re even having this conversation. Love you Alfie. I’ll never forget you. We will keep your name in lights, keep your dream alive of pushing D&B further and we will never let anyone forget you.
I knew Skiba even before I was MCing to drum & bass. He was someone who I rated very highly. The A&R man said to me once, ‘Is there anyone you want to work with?’ Straight away I said Skibadee. At that time I was making hip-hop, but I was raving to D&B on the weekend. The guy got us in contact and in 2001 we set up a meeting to make music together. We just clicked instantly. We made a tune that day and we never stopped. Some people you might one track with, or two. But right up until the end we were making music. We never stopped. Whether it was with Uncontrolablez, just us two together or with SaSaSaS, we worked so well together and played the most amazing shows around the world. Skiba was with me on my journey from early and supported me. We were inseparable.
And we go on so well. We never had a major fall-out or argument. We’d link up for meals, we’d go to each other’s houses. He was always so giving and thoughtful. When I started out I’d just come out of uni, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have much money but he’d come and pick me up from the station, he’d offer me food. He went beyond to look after me. If there was anything going on in my personal life and he got wind of it he’d call and talk to me and try and help me through it.
He always put other people first. Everywhere he went he was a gentleman. He’d been raised very well. But trust me, he’d be the most out of control when we were in the studio and the vibes were high. He’d gas me up so much! When I was in the booth and I see him going crazy in the room next door that would give me so much confidence. He’d make me feel like a king and I’ll always treasure that. I’m so blessed we got to do that so many times. Never any madness, just pure love and respect.
So many things come to mind when I think of Skibs. The fact me, him and IC3 were all the same generation and all Ghanian was a big thing for example. Skibadee called us the Black Star Alliance. That was a massive thing for us. To have three boys from Ghanian heritage blowing up in the same field. That was huge! It was a very proud thing and something that really bonded us – the fact we’re all from Ghana and had a different perspective on life. How our families work and the common jokes we’d share on things.
We shared so many moments though. I remember being at Kool FM, chilling in the backroom and chatting. It was around the time Roni Size blew up. I remember saying, ‘Wow I’ll never be able to make music as good as that.’ Skibs turned around and said, ‘You shouldn’t say that. That’s the wrong attitude to have. I’m going to go the top, I don’t know about you. You should look at yourself in a better light.’
No word of a lie that comment stood out because I made The One a year later. I’m thinking I could never make a track that hits like Roni’s, then a year later I’ve made one of the biggest tracks around at that time.
He just so positive about everything. He had a different energy. Like, ‘There’s something a bit different about this guy’. He had a presence about him. And when he touched the mic, there was nothing like him. He sounded so fresh, it was a completely new style. And the level he rose to in a short space of time! You don’t do that unless you’re great. You don’t come into the game like that. Within two years he was a major force.
And for how many years was he at that level? To be at that level continuously from that era right up until he passed… No one has been at the top like that for so long. And no one has influenced as many other MCs. All the shellers. All the bars guys. That generation of MCs and that subgenre. It’s all come from Skibadee. Anyone who’s on a stage and spits double-time bars is indebted to Skibadee.
He really was the king and there’s one particular video I keep coming back to. It’s him, Brockie and Det at Jungle Mania. Brockie posted it. I listen to him on that track and it makes me cry. He hits it so hard. Oh my god! The intensity. The ferocity. The energy. I guarantee you’ve never heard anyone do that to D&B. So powerful! So tight but so full of energy. Every time I watch that video it brings me to tears.
That was Skibadee. He took things to the limit and he left it all on the dancefloor. I know the toll and demand it requires to be at that level. I got to the top, but the pressure got the better of me. It requires something special to keep going and going like he did. It takes a toll on you mentally and physically. He gave his life to D&B. People should know that. Rest easy king.
Nick White (The Prototypes)
I was more into MCs than I was the DJs when I got into drum & bass and, for me, Skibadee and Fearless were at the forefront of everything. The first event I ever put on was in 2003. I had Chase & Status, J Majik and Skiba back to back with fearless.
That’s the first time I met him. I was 18. Years before we started The Prototypes. He had such a big persona. So different to anyone else I knew at the time. It was quite intimidating at first but then I realised how lovely he was. If he liked the vibe of the person doing it, and the style of the music, he’d grace the set. And we were really fortunate we had a great relationship from the start. The vibe was more important than the style in that sense. He always kept it positive, he always kept it moving.
I’d say 2014 was a real pivotal moment for our relationship. That’s when we first started working with him on another level. He asked to be put on a set with us at Innovation In The Sun because he knew it would be something different. It was a real pivotal moment for us. I think a lot of the ravers were probably like, ‘Ah Prototypes aren’t really our thing.’ But with Skiba it worked. That’s when we first started hanging out as mates and agreed to work together as much as we could.
We wanted him as our main MC but he was so busy, so we worked on developing a show concept. That’s when we came up with Odyssey. At the time certain people were a bit sceptical. They were like, ‘You’ve just had an album go top 40, why do you want to play a jungle set? That’s going backwards.’ For us it was about moving forward. It was us showing full respect to where this has come from and it had to be with Skiba. When I explained the concept to him he was on it straight away and he took it to another level. He made it work. We’ve worked with some the very best MCs. Guys like Shotta and Eksman but without Skiba doing those shows with us we’d never have done it. He pulled it all together.
And that was the thing about him. He made you feel 10 feet tall when you were on stage with him. You couldn’t not turn up. You’re up on stage with the world’s number one jungle MC. You’re going to fucking deliver. Our last show with him was in 2020, just before the pandemic hit. We had plans to work together more and record tracks together but covid put the brakes on that. It’s a major regret. After we did shows together I’d stay up till 4 or 5am and we’d be messaging about different ideas we had and doing mixes together. Gutted it didn’t happen. It was a dream come true to work with him like that and to be his friend. I’m forever grateful we got to do it.
I knew him for over 20 years, from when I first started as a dancer aged 17, Skibba and The Ragga Twins were the first to make me feel welcome in the scene, we always got on from day dot. It was never a romantic thing, just always close friends and he was always lovely. Never any stresses, never any ego, never any drama. Just chilled and calm.
I remember the day he came round to film the Hologram Session episode with me, he had a bag full of food with his sandwiches and crisps in and my dog nicked it, brought the bag into the garden and ate it all! Other people would be pissed off and make a fuss but he just dealt with it, like he always did, so polite and mellow. Just like he was when we first met, he never changed through all the years I’ve known him, he never let things go to his head.
And in all years we were mates, he was always so supportive. I’ve been a multi-genre DJ/artist for most of my career, making and playing all kinds of styles, but he was always supportive of me and would share what I was doing on his social media, he always had my back. He was also an inspiration to so many – him and Shabba together were like the holy grail of MCs, those two inspired so many people, not just in drum & bass but in grime and beyond. But personally he inspired me with his energy and his positivity, he was one of a kind and I wish there were more people with that type of outlook. The world would be a much nicer place, right? Rest In Peace Skibba – I’ll never forget you.
So my link with Skibadee started with what he always does best… Connecting everybody.
I was really into his Breakfast At Skibadee’s shows. At the time I was trying to find my way into the music scene and watching his show was such a good connection to see what was going on. I never missed a show. Then, one time, he said to send mixes in. A few friends said I should send one in. I thought, ‘Nah, he’s not going to like it.’ But eventually I recorded a few, I sent them in and he said, ‘This is sick’. I couldn’t believe it he liked it.
He said he wanted to do a mix with me, purely to get me exposure and to big me up. It was a real, ‘Oh my god, I’m doing a mix with Skiba!’ moment. He never had to do it, there was no gain for him, it was just to help me and for the love of the music.
I’ll never forget when he sent over the vocals. I was sitting there super gassed. I called my mum and got her to listen to it. She wasn’t a D&B head at the time, but she is now. We put the mix out and the support was incredible. The way he helped me get started was something I could never have asked anyone to do. It was so selfless. He introduced me to people who are dear friends now; guys like Phantasy and Harry Shotta. I often wonder if I’d never linked with Skiba where would I be now? I wouldn’t put myself down to say I’d be nowhere, but I know I wouldn’t be as far as I’ve got.
After lockdown he booked me for his show Come Dine With Ski. I was on the decks, it was towards the end of my set and I hear, ‘Mic check 1 2’. I thought, ‘Oh my god! He’s getting on set!’ It was so surreal. As soon as I was finished, he gave me time, made me laugh and we took pictures. He had 100 other things to be dealing with as a promoter, but he took the time to make me feel so welcome.
From then on we became good friends. I’d go to raves and some days I was tired or down, but he always brought me up. He checked up on me and always made sure I was happy, as well as made me believe in myself and my talent. Always, always, always. I wish I knew him for longer. The impact he’s had on my life has been crazy. Everything I’ve achieved is down to him and what he started. I can never pay enough respect to him and I will forever miss him.
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