Interview I did last week for Bonafide with Bassboy Toddla T.
With his mixture of gruff Yorkshire burr mixed with rude boy patois, on first hearing Sheffield boy wonder Toddla T, it’s easy to dismiss him as a Northern Westwood wannabee. But this 23 year old club kid from Sheffield has enjoyed a meteoric rise from underage backroom rave gopher to toast of the scene, strictly on the back of his unique take on a contemporary British genre-hopping dance pop sound.
With Toddla about to drop the latest mix on the reliably consistent Fabric live series, home to such unshakable legends such as Grooverider, Tayo and Bukem, its seems he has finally been handed the official seal of approval.
Speaking to him down the phone from Fabrics’ London offices, where he was unashamedly “checking out the leather sofas and the inside of the fridge, “ I spoke to the boy himself about his first high profile mix CD and the background that has made him threw name to drop this summer for leftfield dancefloor aficionados.
“I’m loving where I am man, I came to playing beats through listening to a lot of US rap music and reggae as a kid. We used to go to these little parties, nothing flash just a few speakers and a shit load of bass. That where I learnt what I’m doing now. It wasn’t till later that my man hooked me up with house and techno, but to me it’s all the same, all about moving the crowd innit?”
The Fabric mix is a testament to this streetwise attitude showcasing the breadth of his own productions mixed with the cream of the underground. The 21 track mix is also scattered with a magnificent selection of collaborations, including a liberal selection with ‘red hot right now’ grime poster boy Skream. “Yeah I’ve know Skream for a few years now, his sound is killing it, I’m well glad that boys got the props he deserves and I definitely going to be doing more with him in the future.”
Toddla’s trademark sound is a bass driven mash with a bit of grime and DnB thrown in for good measure, but it’s the West Indian influence that really holds the whole thing together. From Ragga chatting to the sonic textures of his own productions, his sound puts a focus on that key ingredient, the deep dirty bassline. “Its funny really because I think reggae gets overlooked when people talk about electronic music. There are some bat cuts out there that were way ahead of their times, loads of Jamaican producers were using synths and computers way before anyone else, so it aint anything special to me. If I’m spinning and I drop a ragga tune next to a grime or techno cut, as long as it works I aint bothered where it comes from .“
It’s this attitude and passion for his roots that makes Toddla stand out from the legions of his esoteric peers. There is certainly a different texture and flow to both is DJing and productions that marks him out from those schooled in the world of straight up 4/;4 music. Listen for example to Manabadman, his debut single featuring the voice of Serocee. Whilst it packs a heavy punch for the floor, the production style is reminiscent of a cyber version of rave pioneers Shut up and Dance, another crew who came to house music from sounds systems and eschewed traditional club music to plant the seeds for what became drum and bass.
Toddla’s style is definitely something else, and refreshingly future focussed, albeit with a healthy regard for the past. So what’s next for him, planned world domination perhaps? “I dunno man I’m just out there doing what I do, I’m lucky in that I’ve got the best job in the world playing my tunes and Im happy people pick up on it. I’ve just started my Radio 1 show, and with this mix dropping I’m pretty happy about where I am at the moment to be honest. “
Speaking to Toddla T is a refreshing insight into the possibilities today’s pick and grab culture could provide. Maybe through the democratisation of music, kids like Toddla may be able to fulfil the promise that acid house and punk failed to deliver. The idea of real genre crossing, picked from all the recorded music ever made is an exciting and very real possibility. For now he’s busy just starting the party. But if they carry on dreaming, its kids like this that might hold the key to the next big thing, and that’s something certainly worth watching out for.