Even when the well runs dry of quality club music and your average Saturday night is saturated with formulaic, cookie-cutter cuts, few labels are able to swim against the tide and release groundbreaking music for soundsystems everywhere. Tempa, one of London’s first and longest running dubstep and garage labels, has always been brave enough to step up to the plate.
We can’t start the Tempa story without OG dubstep innovators, Horsepower Productions. In an era when garage began to drift into a cheesy, “velvet-rope” direction, the original members of Horsepower Productions (Benny Ill, Lev Jnr, and Nasis) forged their own brand of crisp, dub-influenced garage with their single “When You Hold Me,” the first Tempa release in 2000. Their tasteful, creative single set the standard for what would later be categorized as the genre we now know as dubstep. By combining elements of drum and bass, 2step and dub in a way no one else had done prior, “When You Hold Me” still stands as a critical track that would inspire an entire generation of bass music producers. Later Tempa releases such as “Fist of Fury,” “The Swindle” and Benny Ill and Hatcha‘s “Highland Spring” demonstrated that this developing dubstep sound was no fluke or flash in the pan: this would become the new sound of London.
Enter: Skream. In 2005, Skream released what would become one of the most famous dubstep singles, “Midnight Request Line.” Its half time, grime-influenced drums, dub sub bass and rolling, eerie synths still sound fresh today as it did the day it was first rinsed as a dubplate. Skream, as well as the Tempa label, quickly became a household name with this seminal release. In true Tempa form, however, the hype and quality of releases didn’t stop there. The following year in 2006, Tempa released a slew of essential record collecting works, including Skreamizm Vol. 1, D1‘s “Degrees,” Coki‘s “Shattered” and Tempa Allstars Vol. 3.
Enter: Benga. In 2007, Tempa released Benga and Coki’s “Night,” one of biggest dubstep crossover hits to date. The year it came out, “Night” could be heard at techno nights, house nights, drum and bass nights and of course every dubstep around the world. In 2008, following the momentous hype of “Night” was Benga’s pivotal dubstep full length, “Diary of An Afro Warrior.” Songs such as “Crunked Up,” “26 Basslines,” “Loose Synths” and “Pleasure” not only were unlike any club anthems then, but Benga’s unique style has yet to be emulated today.
Tempa still remains one of the most influential, fundamental and integral labels of dubstep and continues to release quality records. This year alone featured Dubstep Allstars: Vol. 08 mixed by Distance, the room-shaking low end of J:Kenzo‘s “The Roteks,” and Skream’s smooth, melodic festival banger “Where You Should Be.” For anyone interested in serious low end, dubstep and its roots, get familiar with the entire Tempa catalog.- Rx