The 15 best pirate radio anthems, curated by Roni Size - Features - Mixmag

The 15 best pirate radio anthems, curated by Roni Size

Old skool anthems, chosen by Roni Size

  • Jamaal Johnson
  • 7 June 2024

Roni Size is widely considered to be one of the most influential names in drum 'n' bass and jungle, credited with changing the sound forever, and inspiring a wave of subsequent producers and styles.

His success came from humble beginnings, kicked out of school at the age of 16, and duly discovering the power of drum machines at the local youth centre. He grew up in a great time for Bristolian music, surrounded by trip hop influences such as Massive Attack and Portishead, as well as underground crews such as City Rockers and The Wild Bunch.

"How lucky I was to have been raised in the 1980s, become a full DJ/ producer in the 1990s, and tour the world in the 2000s." says Roni Size. "I'm always asked the same questions wherever I go: "What are your main influences?". I have three answers: No.1 is my family and friends; No.2 is St. Paul's carnival; And No.3 was always about Sound System & B-Boy Culture."

The producer shot to fame in 1997 alongside his Reprazent crew, with their debut album ‘New Forms’ an instant success, going five times platinum and winning the Mercury Prize. The album redefined the sound, incorporating a jazzy hip hop feel alongside meticulously chopped up futuristic breaks. The introduction of more intricate and heavy hip hop-inspired basslines signified the beginning of jump-up, and a shift in the sound of drum 'n' bass.

The Prize propelled Roni Size to international success, receiving numerous awards and collaborating with huge hip hop stars such as Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and Method Man. However he maintained his footing within the UK’s underground and drum 'n' bass scenes, and to this day he is found regularly touring and pushing his signature sound.

Despite the success of his debut album and the subsequent years, he never forgot his roots, donating his £20,000 Mercury Prize check to the Sefton Park youth centre. Described as a true Bristolian, the man has a love for the city and the pirate stations that birthed his sound, originally playing a range of genres on early Bristol based pirate radio stations such as Bad Radio and FTP (For The People).

"My brothers used to have shows on the pirate radio stations in Bristol: Bad Radio, FTP, Power FM, Spec Radio, Black FM, Emergency Radio, and BS1," he recalls. "I'm sure there's one or two that I've missed out on. But these stations weren't just pirate radio stations; they were the information centre for everything that happened or was about to happen in and around St Paul's and Easton in Bristol."

He also expressed a love for Kool FM, the legendary London DnB station that has been recently revived, saying, “Then you had the London stations; my favourite was obviously Kool FM. I have strong memories of driving out of London back to Bristol, and just as I was about to hit the M4, the signal would start to crack up. I would grab onto that last bassline until I was about to hit slough. Then, the dream was over, and we would continue searching for that perfect bassline by inserting a cassette tape of Bryan Gee and Jumping Jack Frost to fill the void on the drive back home to good old Bris City.”

Today (June 7) Roni Size is in London performing as Jazz Cafe alongside Metalheadz royalty DJ Storm, described as “The first lady of drum and bass”. The show is called A History of UK Pirate Radio: Jungle & DNB, and is a celebration of the underground platforms which saw the early sounds of jungle and drum and bass develop. To mark the upcoming show, Roni Size picked out his 15 favourite Pirate Radio anthems of all time, featuring music from the likes of LTJ Bukem, Goldie, Burial, and of course himself.

"In no specific order, I was asked to select my favourite Pirate Radio anthems and records included in my all-time ultimate playlist. I played these tunes until the intro on the vinyl copies wore out, and then the mere sound of a muffled intro was left to mix and blend (for all those vinyl lovers who know!!) But they would still get played in their entirety," says Roni Size. "This list represents the full spectrum of my music, which has influenced me through Pirate Radio and Sound System Culture."

Check them out below.

Studio 2 'Who Jah Bless?'

B.B.C.S &A 'Rock Shock '

Roni Size & DJ Die 'Music Box'

Armagedon 'Nina’s Rinse'

Sugar Bear 'Don’t Scandalize Mine'

Sarah Nelson & Kasha 'U'

Dixie Peach 'Pure Worries / Just Worries'

FABINE 'Prophecy' [1977]

Firefox and 4-Tree 'Warning'

Roy David Jnr ft Pevern Everett 'Gabriel (Live Garage Version)'

Demon Boyz 'vibes 1989'

Goldie & Rufige Kru 'Terminator'

Most Wanted 'Calm Down'

Burial 'Leviticus'

LTJ Bukem 'Music'

Honourable mentions: EPMD 'Strictly Business'; Smith & Mighty 'Anyone'; Cherrelle 'Saturday Love'; Run DMC 'Peter Piper'; Joyce Sims 'All In All'; Nitro Deluxe 'Let’s Get Brutal'; KRS-One 'Step into a world (Rapture)'; Tenor Saw 'Ring the Alarm'; DJ Krust 'Warhead'; Dillinja 'Acid Tune'; Roni Size 'It’s a Jazz Thing'; Maceo and The Macks 'Across The Tracks'.

Roni Size & Reprazent ‘Brown Paper Bag’ remixes by Crissy Cris, And What, Photek is coming soon

Jamaal Johnson is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Instagram

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