In Session: Scotti Dee
Scotti Dee showcases the sound of houSupa and speaks to NKC about his influential role in London's long-standing Afro house scene
Drawing together elements from soulful house, UK funky, amapiano, and London’s soundsystem continuum of Black dance music genres, houSupa has become an energetic centre in underground club music since its launch late in 2019, at a time when other labels might have lost momentum. Some of its most menacing and boundary pushing releases have come from Scotti Dee – a producer and DJ born and raised in East London, and a key member of the houSupa collective.
Scotti’s basslines are minimal, often focused on just a few cleverly manipulated notes, tensely warped round a driving funky beat. Because of this, his tracks are deadly effective on the dancefloor and instantly recognisable to dedicated crowds, including those at houSupa’s monthly showcase night This is houSupa, and Scotti’s own South London club night Awoken, which he runs with long-time collaborator Mr Taffa.
Due to the scarce music media coverage of London’s Black house music scenes through the late 2000s and 2010s, it wouldn’t be too hard to mistake Scotti Dee (variously spelled Scotty D, Scottie Dee and Scotti D) for a new name in the game. But in fact, Scotti has long been involved in London’s Afro house scene, producing stripped back UK funky hits in that sound’s heyday, and putting on club nights across London and Essex in the 2010s.
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Scotti is a prolific producer with a background in audio engineering, mixing and mastering. He’s worked on music for grime shows on broadcast television, and even did a stint working in music coordination for everyone’s favourite East London soap. If you ever caught ‘Pow’ bumping out of a car stereo on Albert Square – Scotti did that. He’s also one of the hardest working DJs in London’s Afro house scene, often playing more sets than there are days in the weekend.
This love of music runs in the family: his Dad ran a soundsystem and studio, which gave Scotti the chance to select records for grime legends at youth clubs before he’d reached secondary school. It also inspired him to form his own grime crew, becoming an established name in London’s underground pirate radio circuit before he moved into slower, more groove-focused sounds.
Recently, Scotti has collaborated with other producers and DJs experimenting with the bounce of amapiano and UK funky, dropping ‘Banx Skanx’ on Hyperdub with Scratchclart (aka Scratcha DVA) and DJ Polo, which was later rapped over by Mez as ‘Bless The Earth’ for Scratcha’s ‘Afrotek’ EP. He’s also got several tracks ready to drop on houSupa’s forthcoming label compilation, and a series of vocal collaborations in the works. Although he’s built a firm grounding in London’s long-standing Afro house scene through Awoken, he's simultaneously looking outwards, enjoying the diversity of crowds and DJs that are dancing to and playing his music.
Ahead of another busy bank holiday weekend for Scotti Dee, we spoke to him about his musical background, his approach to production and DJing, and how he sees the future for London’s Afro house sound. Check it out alongside his In Session mix below.
How did you start off in music?
My Dad had a soundsystem and a studio, and he had a record label and used to release old skool garage tunes. I’ve just grown up in the studio, seeing it all. The first tune I released is on that same record label, Dam Records. Scotty D & The Mad Dogg Crew – a track called ‘Ruff’ . It was a remix of Pulse X, early grime, end of garage. I was about 10 then, just going into Year Six.
I’ve got an older brother who is five years older than me, so growing up I was listening to Skibadee, Shabba D. I caught the end of jungle and then straight into garage, so EZ, Heartless Crew, that kind of thing. But I’ve always been DJing, throughout all of this. We had a little crew and we were on [pirate radio station] Y2K, which was formerly known as Mission FM, before that Chicago FM. It’s a well-known North London radio station, it used to have Heartless Crew on there, Donae’O used to be on there.
What sort of genres were you DJing on that station?
Garage, early grime. After that I’m just starting secondary school, and then I started a crew called Scare Dem Crew, which was a grime crew. I used to MC these times, and used to perform at Young Man Standing, Royal Rumble, Palace Pavilion, Exposure. This is my teenage years all the way up to about Year 10. Then I stopped MCing and started DJing again.
So you’re DJing, MCing, then back into DJing again.
Yeah, so that’s the time when early funky house is coming out. That’s what got me into house music, really. You know like, when you can actually start going clubbing legally now, myself, that’s what got me into it. Then I found out about Supa D, DJ Static, them kind of people, which got me into funky house. I already had [the records they were playing], I already had all these songs, but [it was] their specific playlists for certain sets. I had 60% of this [music] anyway, so now, when I found out about these guys, it got me more in tune [with] that scene. I knew exactly – I wanted to make this, and this is the music I like.
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What was the UK funky scene like for you back then?
In UK funky, I used to produce and I used to DJ. I had a tune with Slim Ting, called the ‘Sound’ EP, and on the other side called ‘Liberty’. That’s a very big tune, them tunes there is what put me on the map, I would say. It come out the end of 2007, the start of 2008. As soon as I made that tune, I went Ayia Napa for four months with Slim Ting, Double O, and I was DJing out there for the whole summer. At the same time I had my own event running in London, called Funky Nation, which was quite a big night as well. We used to host nights in O2, even some in Southend at Talk.
Then did you go into deep and tech-house as well after that?
When funky dwindled, I did dabble with deep house, like 2012, 2013. But after that, I took a little break from music, up until just before lockdown. Even though I say take a break – I do sound editing, sound engineering – so I took a break from making that particular music.
Why did you take a break when deep and tech-house came about?
When it first come out, I did like it, but then it got a bit repetitive. Why I liked deep house when it first come out was it had a lot of good bass riffs, but they stopped making them. I’m a bass-enthused person, so when the bass left, I left. I started making a few grime tunes, I’ve got a couple tunes with Maxwell D, some tunes with Mista Silva, some tunes with Pay As U Go.
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In the last few years, it seems like you suddenly started releasing a lot more music. Was there a particular reason or inspiration for that?
I’ve made music my whole life, I’ve made so much music. I think the ratio is about 96% [of my music] hasn’t been released, and so much music gets lost. So my new thing is, everything gets released, everything. Nothing goes to waste. I’ve had enough years of not releasing music, and now it’s easier to do so.
Did you get inspiration from South African genres like amapiano, is that what also sparked you off with putting out more music?
I’ve always been in tune – even amapiano, we’ve always played that sound anyway. My songs are not amapiano, I don’t class them as amapiano, I class them as Afro house. I’m always with the times, but I would say even if you listen to my funky house songs, they’re not too far off what I make now, [the new tracks] just might be a bit better mixed.
Your music sounds very experimental, like ‘Roller’, ‘Sea Moss’, ‘Lost in Abyss’ – they’ve all got an edge to them. They’re quite dark and tough, but also really danceable.
I think that comes from my love of bass. My love of bass, number one, and two, my genre influence growing up – so reggae dancehall, revival, jungle, grime, these are heavily bass[-focused] music [styles]. Them things are ingrained in me. Even when I make music, I make music for loud speakers. I make music for systems with bass. If you notice, my music, it does translate on small speakers, but [the tracks] are not for small speakers. If you play them on loud speakers, you know what’s going on.
‘Opal Fruits’ or ‘Hardbackers’, when you hear that out loud, yeah – different. ‘Hardbackers’ is another tune I had on my computer for ages – me and Apple gone studio, and he was like ‘yeah, this one’s a mad one’. We were listening to that tune for a whole 24 hours, just on loop [laughing].
The tagline for ‘This is houSupa’ nights is ‘come down and check out the sounds of the future’. Do you think about future sounds when you’re producing?
As a producer, I don’t really like to put too much on the board before I do anything. Even if I open my computer now, I’m not going to say, ‘I’m going to build an amapiano beat’, I’m just going to make a beat. I’m going to set the tempo, which is kind of going to give me a guide of what it’s going to be. But I don’t really like to do that. I’m very picky as it is, so nothing would ever get finished. I don’t like to have no holds barred when I make music.
Most of your recent releases have been on houSupa, and lots of artists only release there – has it been an important part of the label, keeping it a close circle?
The good thing about houSupa is, even though it’s a label, we’ve all been friends [for a long time]… I’ve known Supa [D] for like 20 years now, he went to school with my cousin. Taffa – I’ve known Taffa for about 15 years. Truce – I’ve known Truce for about 20 years. Obviously there’s a few new people in there, but we treat everyone the same, we know the outset, we know our goal – it’s just to release good music man, nothing more, nothing less.
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What are you working on next, do you have any plans to work with vocalists or collaborate with other artists?
Yeah, I’m currently working with a few vocalists right now. Like I said, I make loads of music, so I would say I’ve got my whole batch of tunes for this year already made. I’ll just put them out when I’m ready. The ‘This is houSupa’ compilation – I’ve got three tracks on there coming out, and then after that I’ve got another EP on the houSupa label, and then I’ve got some other bits coming – some of the vocals I’ve been talking about.
What’s your general approach to a DJ set, do you tend to plan it out or do you play to the crowd?
I don’t like to plan DJ sets, nah, that’s scary to me. I’m not an organised person anyway, so for me to plan my DJ sets – long. And, I might want to start with a song that a DJ has ended on – them little things. I’m a vibes person, I’m a very good crowd reader, so I don’t want to hand pick a playlist that’s not fit for the crowd. What I do, my motto is, I play at least 70% my own songs. I’ll mix my tunes in with bangers, well-known songs, and I do that for my whole set.
That’s a specific style, pushing your own productions. You’re hearing the freshest dubs if you’re hearing it straight from the producer.
It works out at the same time because my music's doing good now, so people want to hear these songs. The more I play, it’s even better, because it turns out to be exclusive. When you’re hearing these songs you’re thinking ‘I haven’t even heard that one before’.
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You run the club night Awoken with Taffa in South London – what was the idea behind it?
It’s been running for about a year now – a year in July. Our thought behind the brand is we needed an event for us. Basically, me and Taffa know a lot of people, so it just made sense.
It goes back to my story before – throughout all these years of doing all these music[s], I know so many DJs, I know so many MCs, I know so many promoters. And half of these people know my Dad, so I know them properly from when I was young. Even ravers, particularly, we know so many ravers and they’re always like ‘we need an event, you two are the best, you two need your own event’.
We was throwing a few bus parties – you rent one of them hired double decker buses, our mate had one – and you can cram like about 60, 70 people on there, and you just drive on the M25 and go mad. We threw a couple of them, and then we got a few dates at a few clubs, and then we thought of the brand Awoken. We knew what we wanted it to be – tribal-esque, that kind of sound – and we just went with it. Everything else kind of fell into place to be honest.
Do you find you get a lot of the same people coming back – it’s a loyal crowd?
Awoken is one of the best things to happen – it always sells out, it sells out quick, without too much promotion. It’s its own little loyalty club. The ravers come, as soon as the tickets come out, they buy the tickets, I love it.
DJs in houSupa and the Afro house scene play in London a lot – do you get to DJ in other cities, do you have any plans to play out internationally? Or are you consciously focused on London and the local scene there?
Nah, nah – next year we’ve got Awoken in Malta. We’ve got loads of things going on. Listen, I’ll play anywhere if the money’s right, yeah? [laughing]. It’s just mainly, most nights are in London for these genres. I do get bookings out of London, but 80% of my bookings are in London. What you’ve got to remember is the music, it's all still a little bit new for some people. They’re just clocking on now.
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How do you see the future for the Afro house scene? Do you think it’ll pick up steam as more people start to get familiar with it, or do you think it’s at the right point at the moment?
I think a bit of both – it’s the right time at the moment, but more people will get on to it. Like I said, this music’s always been there. Since 2005, since Black Coffee – it’s always been there, it’s not going to go anywhere. I just feel like it’s got a bit of attraction right now, which sometimes is a good and bad thing. I’m not really a commercial person, and that’s what happened with deep house – I didn’t like when it got too commercial. Even with funky house, that’s what stopped me making it. The original essence – once that goes, that makes me go.
Some people might associate what’s going on with houSupa and this sound with amapiano, but is it more of a continuation of an Afro house scene that’s been going on a lot longer?
Yeah, and I think people think that because they wasn’t aware, they wasn’t in the raves ten years ago, they wasn’t at Housewarming 10 years ago, they wasn’t in Hackney Central. Obviously, because it’s new times, people are probably 24, 25 – so no offense to them, they just wasn’t there, so they don’t know the real origins. This shit really has been going on forever.
Do you see your tracks getting played out in a lot of different types of raves in London?
Yeah, yeah, that’s the good thing – that’s the shocking thing. The people that come up to me and know my music, or play my music, or tag me in some videos playing my music. People from all walks of life, from everywhere, people from different countries.
What’s in the mix?
100% houSupa productions.
NKC is a writer, DJ, producer and founder of the Even The Strong label, follow him on Twitter
1. Jorja Smith - all of this (SUPA D x MR TAFFA Remix)
2. Step to the beat - (Scotti Dee x Mr Taffa x Apple)
3. Summer walker - Girls Need Love (Maestro Remix)
4. HARDBACKERS REMIX - (Scotti Dee)
5. Favourite Girl - ( Dtee in the party)
6.NEVER TOO MUCH - (Scotti Dee)
7. SHOW ME LOVE REMIX - (Maestro)
8. No name - (Scotti Dee edit)
9. DEEP Space 6 - (Maestro)
10. LOVES THE ONLY DRUG - (MR TAFFA Remix)
11.Altitude - (Scotti Dee)
12.KINGS & QUEENS _Supa x Mr Taffa _(Scotti Dee remix)
13.The Omega - (Maestro)
14. Wizzkid ft tems - Essences (SUPA D X MR TAFFA Remix)
15. Congo drop - ( Scotti Dee X Mr Taffa x Apple)
16. You Don't know - (SUPA D X MR TAFFA FT Lily mcKenzie)
17.Awoken - (Scotti Dee X Mr Taffa)
18. Glow - (Maestro ft Jade budda boo)
19. SAFARI - (MR TAFFA)
20. OPAL fruits - (Scott Dee)
21. Spirt Whistle - (Truce)
22. LOST IN ABYSS - (Scotti Dee)
23. POT OF GOLD - ( truce ft I_am_Universe
24. 25.1.22 - (Scotti Dee Dub)