Welcome to 909rewind, a series from 909originals that explores the early musical careers of some of clubland’s biggest names, uncovering hidden gems and familiar classics from the archives.
Today, 29 October, marks the 50th birthday of a benchmark setter in drum and bass, whose fusion of hip hop, soul, funk and house over epic junglist rhythms earned him the coveted Mercury Music Prize in 1997… Roni Size.
Size, otherwise known as Ryan Owen Granville Williams (we see why he decided to shorten it!) started his career in the musical melting pot of the Bristol scene of the early 90s, alongside longtime collaborator Krust, with the melding of jazz and reggae records with rude boy beats.
This curiosity led to the development of the musical collective Reprazent, alongside Krust, Onallee, rapper Bahamadia, and Dynamite MC, with Size’s meticulous production layered with live drums and double bass.
The group were thrust headlong into the spotlight with the 1997 Mercury win with New Forms – which saw them beat Radiohead (with OK Computer, no less), Primal Scream, The Prodigy, Suede, Beth Orton and others to take the gong – with Size paying tribute to his band members in his acceptance speech at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.
“A lot of people have supported us and I thank them,” he told the audience. “People said we were crazy, but we believed what we were doing. We all have been working hard for this, this is not just about me.”
Reprazent would go on to record two more albums before disbanding around ten years ago, but Size continues to perform and record – his most recent album, Take Control, came out in 2014, while more recently he worked alongside Krust on 2016’s Past & Present EP.
As he told the Los Angeles Times in 2009, while he has tasted plenty of success over a 25-year career or thereabouts, drum and bass has remained relatively underground, a situation that suits the Bristol native.
“As soon as anything gets put into any kind of commercial vehicle, it’s in danger of disappearing into nowhere,” he said. “We’re glad we’re still here and it didn’t end up in this world where it didn’t really belong. It’s got a lovely home.”
For the latest 909rewind playlist, we bring you a selection of Size’s early works, including both his own productions and choice remixes, as well as a smattering of tracks from the genre-defining New Forms. Happy birthday Roni! 🙂