A busy boy is the Toddla T, 24-year-old Sheffield producer, who has veritably shaped the urban street sounds of his childhood home and carved a fine niche for himself in the dancehall, ragga, bassline and dub music scene – from his seminal Ghettoblaster mixtape release to a FabricLive mix, Toddla’s not resting on his laurels.
Toddla spends his time between his Sheffield home, London and the world in a manic sort of way: gigging, producing on the fly, preparing his Radio 1 show and montly residencies such as Fabric.
More recently, he’s been on a recording mission in Jamaica, where he was recording with local musicians and vocal artists to capture the authentic dancehall, one-drop reggae tunes and Caribbean flavor of the island, which he plans to use on some new tunes – “just my usual sound, some dancehall stuff, some funky stuff, I did a reggae up tune with some old boys over there. The Caribbean flavour with my thing on it really.”
“What I saw in Jamaica was pretty incredible,” Toddla says. “The working process and the fact that everyone does music out there and they’re so fast and passionate. That was an eye-opener. If you’re not good enough and you’re messing up, you just get chucked out of the booth. So the standards are higher essentially and in terms of performance. But then again, I work with dancehall people over here who come from that background, but it’s a bit more concentrated and intense over there.
It’s a lot more money managing. People need paying straight away. That’s just a fact that everyone’s so poor, they rely on it. Whereas here, they’re less reliant on it to make a living, over there, they get a week’s food from it.”
It’s on the eve of Toddla’s Jamaica trip that his current project, a FabricLive mix 47, is due to be released (17 August 2009).
The 70-minute mix features choice tracks from artists such as Roots Manuva, Untold, Skream, Drums of Death, Backyard Dog, Sticky, Bart B More, Diplo, Alleti, Martelo, Oris Jay, Oneman & Mr Versatile – and even Toddla himself, with self-defining tunes such as “Rice and Peas” and “Manabadman.”
“It starts in dancehall, ends in dubstep,” Toddla explains. The mix starts with a homage to Toddla’s hometown, albeit with a twist, with Philly’s “Love Action”:
“It’s a cover of an old Human League record. Human League were a Sheffield group so I wanted to start with something that was symbolic of where I come from. When I say it’s a cover version, it’s a dancehall version so it’s very very different from the original but it’s the same vocals and vocal melodies.”
“It has house, bassline, drum n bass, breaky sort of stuff. I play some exclusives for the CD, party jump up music, but I play lots of fresh stuff so should be quite exciting as well. It’s quite a journey – hopefully people keep it in the player for a bit.”
The music scene has seen a complete rapture for all things bass heavy in the past few years, with the resurgence of dubstep and the return of bassline, garage and dancehall as influential tastemakers in current dance music – Toddla said he feels like he’s in for the long haul with these genres, not just a scenester.
“Yeah bassline is Sheffield music, man. I hear it all day – from cars and that,” he says. “Even if some Shoreditch pricks jump on it and thinks it’s cool for two weeks, I don’t give a fuck because it’s been strong for the past five to 10 years (in Sheffield).
And you can’t create that proper people’s homegrown music in some sceney little place where they jump from one thing to the next. So to me, people will jump on things, but they’ll never create it. To create it, it takes a lot more longevity and a lot more than just jumping on it and saying this is cool and playing it. sorry, that’s a bit of rant there, but that’s my opinion.”
Toddla doesn’t seem to be paying lip service. Djing since he was 12, he was immediately switched on to hip hop – “I was into hip hop aged 10-15 – if it didn’t have a rap, I wouldn’t listen to it. I was like that for years” – then got turned on to dancehall, ragga, grime and techno and whatever was filling the streets of Sheffield. His jumbled approach to music has definitely informed his own productions and DJ sets.
“I grew up in an area that was mixed; I went to a mixed school and was really encouraged to get stuck into all kinds of cultures and people. It’s the only way I’ve known. I was encouraged to get stuck into everything and it paid off now with the music. Seeing music as being one thing rather than little pockets of things, it’s all just one thing to me really.”
With a FabricLive mix under his belt, Toddla says he just wants to carry on producing and trying to keep pace with the non-stop gigs, residencies at Fabric and Birmingham’s Bigger Than Barry. Armed with an Albeton and Logic addled laptop, he produces on the road: “Like I said, with a laptop, I don’t feel like I’m stuck in a studio. The essential part of making the music is making the music. I get more done on the train than when I’m at home – it’s mental.”
He’s hit most of the major festivals this season, with late summer appearances lined up at Creamfield, V Festival, Bestival – anywhere else he’s left off?
“Exit festival is amazing,” he muses. “I’d like to play Sonar – I’ve never done that. Apart from that, I’ve been lucky enough to do places I’ve wanted to do.”
Best places for parties? “Birmingham and Sheffield – there’s not a lot to do in the cities so when they get a chance, they do it proper. They’re mixed cities so you get a mixture of people.”
A reggae lover, you’d expect to find the hyperactive Toddla T manning the decks at reggae nights as much as trendy clubs in London – but is that the case?
“Yes, I play at reggae nights. I don’t play solid dancehall sets – if I played a solid dancehall set, I’d probably suck – I can do it but I like to play all over the place. I’ve always got an MC with me called Serocee who actually hosted the FabricLive mix and I also got a girl called Lady Chann. I want to get into a situation where i can take them both out together, but it’s not always that easy with regards to travel and accomodation. Hopefully I’ll get to that point tho.”
Floor fillers include tunes sampling old house riffs, DJ Zinc (“he’s doing some good stuff for the clubs, smashing it”), MJ Cole, Lady Shann and Sticky’s “Sticky Situation”, which is featured on the FabricLive mix (“it’s really good – it’s a bashy, two step kind of thing”).
Toddla is a bit more cagey with regards to personal, listening-to-at-home tastes. “Nothing in particular, nothing more, nothing less. You know. I’ve been getting into one drop reggae more, which is similar to the reggae and dancehall I’ve been listening to anyways – it’s like conscious, it’s rastafari vibes. Little Dragon album is cool – have you heard that?- Jack Penate’s stuff is cool – but mainly finding fucking club shit that I can play out on my show (laughs).”
You can check out Toddla T’s Radio 1 show every third Friday of the month. FabricLive 47 is out now. Catch it Stateside on 8th September 2009.
Check out (and download) Lady Chann and Sticky’s “Sticky Situation” (below) and Toddla T’s Radio 1 Essential Mix from May.
FabricLive 47 – Toddla T tracklisting:
01. Philly – Love Action – Philly
02. Duffy – Stepping Stone (Cavemen Remix) – Universal/Polydor
03. Monkey Steak – Tigris Riddim – Steak House
04. Backyard Dog – Baddest Ruffest (Pipes & Slippers Mix) – WMI
05. Toddla T ft Mr Versatile – Fill Up Mi Portion RMX ft Afrikan Boy & Batty
Rymer – 1965/Sony
06. Stone ft Roots Manuva – Amen – Stone Riddims
07. Toddla T ft Trigganom Vs Clipz – Boom DJ From The Bristol City – 1965/Sony
Toddla T – Boom DJ From The Steel City – 1965/Sony
Clipz – Offline VIP – Audio Zoo
08. Toddla T ft Serocee – Manbadman (Andy George Refix) – 1965/Sony
09. Toddla T ft Serocee – Shake It (Martelo Megashake) – 1965/Sony
Fish Go Deep – Cure And The Cause – Defected
Geeneus & Zinc – Emotions [Geeneus Mix] – Rinse/Ammunition
La Silva – Funky Flex – Lil Silva
10. Shake Aletti – The Way He Does (Toddla T RMX ft Serocee) – Shake Aletti
11. Bart B More & Diplo Vs Bashy – Millionaire Bingo – Bashy
Bashy – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – Bashy
Bingo Players – Get Up [Diplo Mix] – Secure
12. Drums Of Death – Lonely Days (DOD’s Glasgow to Sheffield Nightbus Version) – Greco/Roman
13. Alex Mills – Beyond Words (Wittyboy Remix) – Roll Deep
14. Skream – Toddla T Special – Tempa/Ammunition
15. Toddla T ft Tinchy Stryder & Mr Versatile Vs Untold – Anaconda Safe
Toddla T – Safe – 1965/Sony
Untold – Anaconda VIP – Hessle Audio
16. Busy Signal Vs Pulse X – Tic Toc (J Needles Driver Blend)
Busy Signal – TicToc – VP Music
Youngsta – Pulse X – DDJS Productions
17. Sticky Ft Lady Chann – Sticky Situation – Unity
18. Toddla T & Oneman Ft Mr Versatile – Right Leg Shuffle – Girls Music
19. Oris Jay – 4 Real – Oris Jay
20. Toddla T Ft. Benjiman Zephinia & Joe Godard – Rebel (Skream Remix) – 1965/Sony
21. Deadmau5 – I Remember (Caspa Remix) – Virgin