Amid all the customary bickering about this year’s Mercury Prize nominees, bloggers had their knickers in a twist over Kasabian gatecrashing the so-called cool list but fewer bemoaned Toddla T’s exclusion. The 24-year-old Sheffield whizzkid’s debut album Skanky Skanky seemed to be a shoo-in on the token -urban’ ticket, an achingly cool mash-up of grime, digital dancehall beats and parochial rhymes. The Mercury doesn’t always hit the nail on the head though – see M People for details.
Toddla’s infectious party doesn’t really belong on an industry podium though. He’s from the Diplo school of cultural cross-pollination, throwing enough crazy shit into the mix to see what sticks. This latest set differs from other genre-bending Fabric collections from the likes of Jacques Lu Cont, Simian Mobile Disco and Spank Rock – it relies less on quirky forgotten gems and taps into the present.
The mix may be a showcase of just-forged beats, but there’s plenty of cheeky plundering. Philly’s take on the Human League’s -Love Action’ is a spacey ragga shaker that segues into Caveman’s bouncy remix of Duffy’s -Stepping Stone’ before Monkey Steak’s bollywood bhangra freakout.
Overall though, it’s a hip session of bassline namedropping, a line-up of usual suspects like Deadmau5, Caspa, Youngsta and Geeneus. It flits between remixes of Skanky Skanky tracks to dubstep exclusives from Skream, electro dancehall and frenetic drum’n’bass. It’s all tied together by Toddla’s main hypeman MC Serocee, whose random autotuned toasts add the illusion you’ve taped a late night pirate radio broadcast from some warehouse party. Roots Manuva – who hired Toddla for production on last year’s Slime and Reason album – returns the favour here with his playful cod-spirituality on Stone’s -Amen’. Manuva’s rhymes even manage to sound half-sensible compared with the Oompa Loompa references, manic patois and general MC craziness that peppers the disc. And full marks to -Fill Up Mi Portion’, surely the daftest tune about stuffing your face since MF Doom cooked up his tasty MM..Food? album.
Sure, there are a few duds along the way – -Baddest Ruffest’ from Backyard Dog is shouty ragga by numbers and Alex Mills’ -Beyond Words’, with its bland warbling vocal, has a fairly descriptive title. Still, Toddla’s hyperactive mixing means these are fleeting dips – with 31 tracks over 70-odd minutes there’s no hanging around.
Who knows how this latest mix will age – it’s hardly a chin-stroker a la Villalobos or Audion, but Toddla T isn’t going for cerebral sophistication, he’s dropped a snapshot of unabashed club music in 2009. And if you feel like turning your flat into a disco with a sticky dancefloor, heed MC Serocee’s sign-off: ‘The Fabric mix… make sure you get it in your life…’