A Love Letter to Philly Blunt

Theo Cooper kicks off our new Love Letter series with memories of the seminal jungle label.

07.11.09

Words by: Ruth Saxelby

My first taste of Philly Blunt was Firefox & 4-Tree Warning, bought from Record Basement in Reading. It didn’t look like much from the outside but inside it was like another world, an Aladdin’s cave of sub frequencies and next level sleeve art (although sadly this release came before Philly’s own iconic sleeve). DJ Lee was the genie behind the counter, and the best tunes were under that counter.

You had to go and spend the day there and put in work, looking hopeful when the whites got played to the big DJs on the massive Jamo speakers. I was 13, I could barely see over the counter but I remember back then people had Fusion bomber jackets, undercuts and stacks of white labels a mile high. I miss those days. Being 13 it was hard to be taken seriously but I tried and sometimes I got lucky. Warning was one of those times.

No one could ever convince me that Philly Blunt’s entire catalogue isn’t pure rudeboy genius. But why would they want to? Its nine releases (eleven if you count CD singles but you just don’t, do you?) were made by seven of the best jungle producers of all time hidden behind some classic aliases: Roni Size (Firefox), Suv (Survivor), Krust (Glamour Gold), Die (4-Tree), Dillinja (Trinity), Ray Keith (London’s Most Wanted) and Jumpin’ Jack Frost (Leviticus), who’s admittedly better known as a DJ but he ran it and made the biggest tune. So there.

That tune was The Burial, one of the best known jungle tunes ever, and possibly my favourite. Enough’s been said about that already though. Except I did find a great post listing the original samples. Have you ever wondered if they are saying ‘It’s a wonder you came from Malta?’ You are not alone.

I can’t cover all the rest, but here’s some highlights. A purists look at the label couldn’t be complete without lost number ten, the one that got away, The Only One by Glamour Gold. It never got a proper release but it’s the best Foxy Brown sampling track this side of the Tru Playaz mix of Ain’t No Playa. Enough said. Trinity Gangsta has a menacing horn intro, a ridiculously deep amen drop and ragga samples (check the orig!). It’s hard to believe it was written by the same guy who went on to make Twist Em Out aka the Ali G theme. Not a terrible tune but no Gangsta or Friday.

Motherf**ker, also by Dillinja, was first heard by me in the overwhelmingly massive surroundings of World Dance at Wembley Arena. Me and about 12,000 other people I think. I’ve still got the sleeve up on my wall at home. I don’t know if it’s the swearing, the chest-melting 808 bass or the way it switches from minimal jump up to amen-tear out and back but it’s the kind of tune made to scare old people, and probably started a few fights in its time.

Back to Warning though, where it started. Firefox wasn’t a web browser back then, it was Roni Size and crunchy breaks, a Sleng Teng bassline, DJ Die and a load of samples thrown together like lucky dice. Lawyers beware, it must have had at least ten samples, all cut up with blunt scissors – aka an Akai S1000 – so they’re clipped and jerky but that just makes the whole ride ruffer; that is jungle. This was one for the horns crew at the Sanctuary, Milton Keynes; an understated steppa with melancholy light and deep, dark shadow. I’ve lived my musical life in that half light and shadow, I wouldn’t have it any other way. A message to you Philly Blunt: I ♥ U.