Traversing the textured landscapes of U.K. urban music, one cannot overlook the profound contributions of Newham's favorite son, Footsie.

A beacon within the grime community, Footsie's artistic and cultural legacies are deeply interwoven with the very fabric of the genre—from its gritty realism to foundational dub roots. On Friday, April 12th, Footsie joins another scene veteran, Bristol's Dubkasm, at the 11th Black Rhino Residency at Control Club.

London Musical Royalty

Born to a lineage steeped in the rich traditions of sound system culture, Footsie was seemingly predestined to leave an ineradicable mark on U.K. music. His father, Farda Waz, a stalwart of the legendary sound system, King Original, imbued in him a profound understanding of music's power to convene, communicate, and celebrate the vibrant culture of London's vast diasporic communities. This early immersion in sound system culture imbued Footsie with a reverence for Reggae, which later expanded to encompass Ragga, Jungle, Bashment, Dancehall, and Garage. With their rich sonic textures and rhythms, these genres laid the groundwork for what would evolve into Footsie's defining obsession: Grime.

In the early 2000s, Footsie emerged as a formidable force as Grime began to coalesce in the crucibles of East London's pirate radio stations and underground clubs. His foray into the genre reflected a generational shift in urban music, marking the transition from the eclectic beats of Garage to Grime's gritty, raw energy. Footsie was at the vanguard of this transformation as a member of the N.A.S.T.Y. crew, alongside luminaries such as Kano and D Double E. Alongside D Double E, he would also go on to found the Newham Generals. Their music, characterized by its relentless energy, sharp lyrical prowess, and boundary-pushing beats represented in 2009’s Generally Speaking, became the soundtrack to a generation poised on the brink of socio-political and cultural upheaval.

Production Synergy

Footsie's production work, marked by its intricate rhythms, heavy bass, and adept use of samples, testifies to his innate understanding of music's dual role as a storytelling vehicle and a medium of constant sonic experimentation. His tracks, often imbued with the echoic reverberations characteristic of dub, carry within them the echoes of Grime's predecessors while propelling the genre into uncharted territories. 

From the foundational beats of War Dub to the collaborative genius behind Spookfest, each track in Footsie's vast discography is a tile in the grand mosaic of U.K. grime. Albums such as his debut, No Favours, which featured additional production from the likes of Skream, Chase & Status, and Kwes Darko, offer a comprehensive look into Footsie's adeptness in blending Grime's aggressive tempo with the rhythmic pulses of dub. His further E.P.s and singles, including the much-lauded instrumental series King Original Vol 1-7, dually showcase his prowess as a producer and pay homage to sound system culture, embedding within them the echoes of dubplate traditions and the communal spirit of sound clashes. Perhaps the best example of this synergistic ethos is the latest E.P., Soundman Ting, alongside Dubkasm. Released in March on Dubquake, Soundman Ting features Footsie's rapid-fire bars laid over the tough Dubkasm beat. Aside from his personal output, this production talent has also seen him write award-winning tracks for other genre luminaries, including Skepta, Giggs, Dizzee Rascal, and Novelist.

The Return of King Original

The 2023 revitalization of the King Original Sound System under Footsie's guidance is emblematic of his commitment to these roots and his vision for the future of urban music. This endeavor was not merely an act of filial piety but a calculated effort to meld the foundational elements of dub and Reggae with the nascent sounds of Grime. Under Footsie's stewardship, the King Original Sound System became a crucible for this alchemical fusion, propelling the sound system tradition into the 21st century with an unyielding reverence for its roots and a voracious appetite for innovation. With the help of Sir Spyro, Jah Model & his family members, the King Original Sound System has treated audiences to electrifying shows in Bristol, Geneva, London, Barcelona, and beyond.

Community: Past & Present

In the annals of Grime's history, Footsie's role is symbolic of a bridge between eras, genres, and communities. His music, inherently political in its refusal to conform to mainstream sensibilities, speaks to urban youth's struggles, aspirations, and resilience in the U.K. Through his art, Footsie articulates a narrative of resistance against socio-economic marginalization, weaving a tapestry of sounds that resonates with the lived experiences of his audience.

Moreover, Footsie's work with the King Original Sound System illustrates his commitment to preserving the communal aspects of music. By reviving and reimagining the sound system culture, he fosters a space for communal gathering, dialogue, and collective experience, ensuring that the legacy of sound system culture continues to thrive within the urban milieu.

Despite his indelible impact on the genre, Footsie's demeanor remains one of humility. His reluctance to seek fame or validation underscores an understanding of music's true value—as a medium for expression, connection, and cultural continuity. In Footsie's ethos, the accolades and awards are secondary to the connections forged through sound and the stories told through rhythm.

Footsie's journey from the echoes of his father's sound system to the hallowed halls of Plastic People's FWD>> to the forefront of the Grime scene is a narrative of continuity and change. It charts the evolution of urban music in the U.K., from the hard times to the glory days. As the custodian of a rich musical legacy and one of Grime's premier auteurs, Footsie's contributions are to be celebrated and revered, for they encapsulate the essence of urban music's transformative potential.