Fri. March 5, 2021
The legendary Gilles Peterson just dropped his retrospective on UK Street Soul from ’82 to ’92 on Worldwide FM this week & its been on full rotation around these parts. A few years ago (through my friend DJ D.DEE), I was introduced to a then largely undiscovered genre of music known as UK Street Soul (itself a retrospective term which loosely categorises black, UK soul music with a DIY, bass-driven aesthetic from the late ‘80s to mid ‘90s). The track that specifically got my full attention which also features on Gilles’ retrospective was “Garden of Life” by Special Touch. From the ethereal name of the track, the stylish name of the group that recorded it, to the soulful vocals laid over a housey breakbeat, it’s about as close to perfect as a record can possibly be.
Although a digital version of the track has been floating around since 2007 from Gerd Janson’s Computer Incarnations For World Peace compilation, the original LP it was on has been a rarity (currently fetching around $400 on discogs). Luckily, after significant interest in the track & renewed interest in the buried history of UK Street Soul, it was finally re-released last year via reissue imprint Heels and Souls.
Bandcamp did up a stellar interview with Special Touch’s producer Robert Charles Roper around the time the reissue came out last October that can be read here.
Additionally, Bandcamp also published an article that takes a deeper look into UK Street Soul, and paints the picture on why this incredibly unique strain of UK based black music somehow never got its due praises until many years later:
“Defined by its raw, minimal, hip-hop inspired drum-machine rhythms, reggae-influenced bass, and ‘80s synth riffs topped with sweet, soaring vocals, UK street soul was born from the clubs, blues parties, and pirate radio. Well away from the media spotlight, the homegrown scene gestated on a number of small regional labels, amassing a devoted underground following.
And even while street-soul-inspired acts like Soul II Soul and Omar made waves in the mainstream, pioneering UK street soul artists never quite caught the same above-ground success. “Soul music mixed with hip-hop that ranged between 80 bpm two-step and 105 bpm bounce—it didn’t fit in with a predominantly white crowd on ecstasy,” says Rae. “This is why these stories are sometimes forgotten, or ignored. Street soul is a message of love from the often forgotten inner cities of Britain.”
Read the full article here.
Numero Group has also put together this stellar Spotify playlist of UK Street Soul tracks & associated R&B, Boogie & Proto-House that inspired the nascent genre.
Get ready to fall in love <3<3<3