XLR8R Magazine
February 2006


Debaser: Ragga Jungle Lives
January 9 2006 • Text by Matt Earp / Photo by Thom Hamilton

As jungle grew darker and more streamlined, it left behind '93 and '94's cut-up amens, bubblin' basslines and shouts of "Bloodclaat!" from MCs like Top Cat. But a group of dedicated junglists held fast to the old-school formula; by 2003, a whole crop of new, non-UK-based producers had surfaced to update the ragga sound. That was the same year Debaser launched his label Press Up Records with "My Sound Rule" and "Get Red." Two-and-a-half years later, he's twelve releases deep and boasts two other crushing sub-labels (New Lick and Jungle Royale).

Debaser started DJing at the age of 16 in his hometown of Toronto, which (in addition to boasting a large Jamaican population) was the epicenter of the North American jungle scene in the late '90s. (It's no surprise that many of the new ragga jungle producers–Krinjah, Sixteenarmjack and Rhygin–all spent time there.) He's since moved on to making universally high quality tunes that mix well-known vocals from established and upcoming dancehall artists with clean basslines and crisp, almost icy drum programming.

Recently, much of Grant's energy has gone into Jungle Royale, a label dedicated to irie skankin' tunes, an anomaly in a genre that follows soundclash culture with rampant enthusiasm. Jungle Royale releases feature original vocals from Demolition Man, Future Troubles, Willi Williams and Jimmy Riley among others. One side is the Debaser mix while the flipside features remixes from new ragga producers like Tester, U-Ome and RCola. Jungle Royale 05, a massive remix by Division One of Johnny Osbourne's "Salute the Don," has found its way back across the Atlantic and into the crates of top-flight traditional d&b jocks including Hype, Zinc, Bailey and Pendulum.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Debaser also runs the foremost jungle online store and has produced tunes for the Mashit, Zion's Gate and Nuff Styles labels–all while financially supporting himself as a full-time mechanical designer/engineer. He'll also be releasing a mix CD of his back catalog and a full-length Jungle Royale album (featuring past releases and new material) later this year. Truly, this young dub analyzer is poised to kill sound the world round.


Knowledge Magazine
May 2006

Debaser: Base Burder
May 9 2006 • Text by Adam Anonymous / Photo by Alex Dordevic

As the popularity of fierce reggae inspired ragga-jungle continues to grow, Toronto's Debaser is at the head of the Canadian scene thats slowly becoming a global forace. And boasting two labels and a successful online record store, he's almost a one-man industry...

“I’ve never been a huge fan of newer drum & bass,” Debaser concedes. “I can appreciate it, but it’s not something I have much passion for. The older tunes’ manic Amens and basslines are what really drew me in.”

The Ontario resident may not be entirely alone in such sentiments, but it’s a wonder he has time to listen to anything other than his own output. Juggling a day job with recording and touring solo material, running and producing for two self-run labels, and operating’s online store, it would seem sleep is a luxury rarely enjoyed in the world of Debaser. But then, as the cliché drawls, you snooze, you lose.

Calendars had barely flapped into the new Millennium when Grant was approached by a fledgling Toronto ragga-jungle imprint offering to release a handful of creations as Debaser, the moniker he’d gone under since aged 17, cutting dubs and compiling mix-CDs. It eventually proved to be the greatest perverse motivation he’d ever receive: months of inactivity followed, and an impatient Grant took matters into his own hands. The result, Press Up Records, soon had a bounding baby sister, and one with a distinct remit. The laid back, heavily reggae-influenced vibes of Jungle Royale were aimed at a wider audience who might find Press Up’s “old school-styled tunes with heavy emphasis on mashed-up drum work” a touch too brain destroying.

“Hardcore mash-up isn’t for everyone,” reasons Grant, rationally. “I listened to everything when I was younger, from funk to punk. But it wasn’t until I really got into ragga-jungle that I started listening to reggae.”

Jungle Royale has since proved something of an anomaly in a field littered with hungry packs of pop culture looters and sample-stealing copyright flouters: Grant decided to use original vocals on all of the label’s releases, often from highly respected reggae figures. Resultantly, the likes of drum & bass top brass Hype and Zinc have even shown love. Debaser hopes all that will change the dogged course of a 12-inch-reliant movement that’s found favour with a specialist market, but struggles beyond cult followings.

“I record and pay for original vocals to avoid illegal sampling, so I can bring some mainstream validity to my music,” he expands. “Financially, at this point, paying for someone like Johnny Osbourne doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’m looking long term. Eventually I want these tunes distributed mainstream; a few Jungle Royale tracks have already made it onto a CD distributed worldwide, and I’d love to see more of this with ragga-jungle in general.”

In the meantime, Debaser has also fired out a volley of one-off vinyl mortar bombs for various other labels, culminating in his most recent link-up with Boston, Massachusetts’ fine Mashit, a self-explanatorily entitled operation run by fearlessly inventive producer DJ C. C’s brilliant Michael Jackson-pilfering ‘Billy Jungle’ single and subsequent vocal refix, it should be noted, got worldwide rinsing and inclusion in a session for late Radio 1 legend John Peel.

Prior talk of advancement won’t change ragga-jungle’s steadfastly rough-edged structural ethics. But that’s not to say Debaser always favours straight-out tunes over basic production values, a criticism levelled at certain distant contemporaries. “It’s all part and parcel of a solid tune,” he muses, “from arrangement, to mix-down, to pre-mastering, to cutting the masters. To have a completely solid tune, everything is important. You can make it sound as nice and crisp as you want, but if you don’t have a proper arrangement, who cares how good it sounds? Hell, I’d choose nicer label artwork over sound quality on a shitty tune any day.

“The scene has been taking leaps and bounds, but for the most part remains very underground compared to drum & bass,” Grant concludes. And while for now it’s a step too far to suggest that’s about to radically change, with ragga-jungle fairly overflowing with talented producers and constantly upping stakes in the gravity of guest vocalists, it’s finding ravenous new droves daily. And Debaser could just be David to d&b’s Goliath.


Pitchfork Media
July 9 2005


Column: The Month in Drum & Bass
Column by Jess Harvell and Kid Kameleon

Hey folks, I'm taking a month off from this fine column, but don't worry, because I've got Kid Kameleon to hip you to all the good stuff going on in the neo-ragga-jungle scene at the moment. In case you didn't know, the Kid is a DJ out of Oakland who mashes up far more than just jungle. His all-gates-open mixes like Absolutely Shocking/Even More Shocking and Mashers Without Borders are models of eclecticism without being smug or silly. When not DJing around Oakland and San Francisco (or sometimes at a club near you) or crafting mixes for the masses, he's part of Riddim Method, a group blog covering the whole modern riddim spectrum. And now, without further ado, over to Kid K...

Non-mainstream D & B? A few years ago such a notion would have been difficult to grasp, but with 10 years of history behind it, jungle is now big enough for its offspring to be nipping at the heels of its elders. Jess has covered the modern edits/choppage scene focused around the Inperspective and Offshore labels, but ironically one of the strongest groups of producers and enthusiasts in this underground vein are retro-leaning ragga-junglists.

These producers stick to jungle's original script, the one that produced 1994 and '95s big anthems-- Shy FX & UK Apache's "Original Nuttah", TK's "Bad Boy Sound", Urban Shakedown's "Arsonist", and TK's "Fire". It's lots of chopped up "Amen" and other classic breaks, slinky half-time basslines, and the fusion of hectic beats with gruff Jamaican delivery. A few stalwart producers in America and England never lost their taste for this stuff even after it replaced on the d&b charts by the sounds of Reprazent or Ed Rush & Optical. But within the last several years a cottage industry has sprung up around the sound.

We're still talking records in very small runs by dedicated practitioners, but the thing that's different today is that the carboot is virtual. Tunes are still getting pressed on personal, out-of-pocket money in runs of 500 or 750, but while some tracks will end up in record stores like Breakbeat Science in New York or Play De Record in Toronto, the best place to find them is the internet. Specifically the Ragga Jungle board for unreleased tracks and general discussion, the Ragga Jungle store for direct mail-order, and JungleX distribution for large orders for record stores worldwide. Some of the best releases to look out for come from Debaser on his labels Press-Up and Jungle Royale.

Debaser has issued four releases from each of his labels, with Press-Up concentrating more on mash-ups of existing ragga tunes and Jungle Royal being "a reggae-jungle hybrid with all original music and original voicings." Debaser lays down the originals with vocalists like Demolition Man, Future Troubles, or Jimmy Riley on one side. On the other side, he farms out the remix to some of the most accomplished producers in the scene-- people such as RCola (whose jolly skank take on "A1 Sound" has always been a particular favorite), Tester, and U-Ome.

All the Jungle Royale releases are decidedly happy, and while Debaser might cringe to know I've played them at weddings they are welcome standouts in otherwise dark terrain. Jungle Royale 5, although held up due to pressing troubles (1-4 had the added bonus of being on 7-inch but the next few will be 12s), should be out very soon and features a Marcus Visionary take on "Salute the Don" with vocals by Johnny Osbourne. Jungle Royale 6 and 7, as well as several more Press-Up records, all wait in the wings. And suddenly, just when I can just start feeling smug about my undergroundness, Debaser lays it on me that-- only this week-- ragga-jungle has found major label distribution.

There's still an incredulous note in his voice when he says that a few Jungle Royale tunes, along with some from Chopstick Dubplate and others, have been mixed together by Human of NYC's Survival Crew and hosted by MC Bass Nacho. The result, InTune Ragga Sessions is out "in Wal-Mart and Tower Records-- the first ragga-jungle mix of new material to have major label distribution in 10 years," says Debaser. "I even saw it in stores in the Czech Republic and Switzerland, so it's moving." Suddenly, ironically, the best thing you can do for an underground scene is buy a mix from Wal-Mart to increase Soundscan ratings.

While most of the producers in the Ragga-Jungle store are Canadian or American, with a smattering from the UK and Europe, don't think the British d&b machine has been oblivious to the dancehall boom. Shy FX, creator of arguably the biggest ragga tune of all time, "Original Nuttah", has been absent from the ragga scene for years but seems to be getting back into it with the imminent launch of the Digital Sound Boy label. Much of it was debuted on DJ Flight's radio show a couple weeks ago with a tracklist available here courtesy of DJ Lioness.

But, as is true with so much stuff out of the UK now, a lot of the music takes the easy way out with very smooth production and the crooning end of Jamaican vocals (in some ways the antithesis of the ragga-jungle sound). While it's always encouraging to hear attention paid to great vocalists and dubby basslines-- and it sounds like there will be some nice tunes forthcoming from Shy and co.-- the real hyped sounds and producers who are pushing the boundaries and making ragga fun are still at