Sheffield DJ and producer Toddla T veers across dance music’s sub- genres like some frenzied and out-of-control F1 driver. Only his sound - an effervescent blend of bashment, house, bassline, hip-hop and two-step - isn’t a car crash but a lot of low-slung, booty-wiggling dance music perfect for sunny days.
Ahead of his appearance at Notting Hill Carnival at the end of August, here he is to tell us about the formative experiences that helped him get from A to B...
Hypnotized by the Notorious BIG
"I first got away from what was on the radio when I was ten and my cousin gave me Biggie’s Ready To Die. That was something I rinsed and is pretty much my favourite record. Gimme The Loot is a robbery tune and as a kid I was like: 'Oh my God, he’s swearing and he’s robbing someone'. That aside, I thought it was two people on the record but it’s just Biggie doing two voices and the beat is amazing. -That album made me fall in love with hip hop. I did try rapping, but it was never going to happen."
Into the dancehall
"At the same time as being into hip-hop, I’d kind of spin off from there into reggae and dancehall and R&B. In Sheffield, there used to be a thing called Music In The Sun, like a small carnival, and they used to get random acts like Cleopatra but then have a dancehall guy on. I remember Red Rat came one year and that was one of my first introductions to hearing and seeing dancehall properly. Oh No! was amazing."
Bass in your face, Sheffield
"Coming from Sheffield you couldn’t not be into bassline. You’d hear it in shops and out of cars more than you would American or Jamaican music. You wouldn’t hear the new Busta Rhymes tune, you’d hear a new Q or TS7 tune and it was really infectious. The biggest song that came out of it was DJ Q’s You Wot, but everyone was making tunes and whacking them out, doing mix-tapes and stuff. There used to be a shop called Studio Beats where you could buy the records but most people would go in and buy mix-tapes: taxi drivers, local kids, everyone."
Fight for your right...
"When I was about 16, the club scene was rubbish. The only place we could listen to what we were into was on the party scene - things like Kabal, which had been going for years but was new to me. These guys were Sheffield legends. The sound man was Robert Gordon, one of the guys responsible for Warp Records, and the DJs were DJ Pipes and Winston Hazel, who’d been making tunes in Forgemasters. I still DJ at Kabal - Jamaican stuff, rave, hip-hop, jungle, it’s all over the place but it has a bass sound running through it that I’ve only ever heard in Sheffield."
Raving we’re raving
"A lot of the rave tunes were made before my time but Ladycop’s To Be Real was something my older sister used to listen to. I remember hearing it in the house and it turned out it was made in Sheffield by DJ Parrot with a singer called Nesreen who was a policewoman at the time. It’s a cover of an old soul tune but covered in an acid house style and I could play that to a bunch of 18 year olds tomorrow and it would still work."
Here and now
"Ninety-nine per cent of the tunes I play are new. Something that was absolutely massive and which I’ll probably play for years to come is the Katy B On A Mission record. It’s a classic. In a few years time, even when no one knows that’s one of hers, it’ll still be around."
Toddla T’s new (second) album, Watch Me Dance, is out now.