When Beni ‘Benga’ Adejumo was 12, he started hanging out at Croydon’s Big Apple record shop and making beats with the Music 2000 software on his PlayStation. At 13, his console-created tunes – raw, stripped-down versions of the dark UK garage made by producers such as Benny Ill and El-B – were being picked up by Hatcha, a DJ and producer who worked at Big Apple. By 15, the south Londoner was writing tunes for his debut album, Newstep, and appearing on a Radio 1 documentary about the nascent dubstep scene.
Now 21, Adejumo, who also records as Magnetic Man with Skream and Arthur ‘Artwork’ Smith, is hot property. The super-hooky beep anthem and album track ‘Night’, which he created with fellow producer Coki, has been Radio 1 playlisted (a rare feat for an instrumental dance track), and he’s just returned from DJ tours of America, Japan and Australia. In a satisfyingly circular twist, PlayStation has expressed interest in licensing ‘Night’ for one of its games.
As well as being further indication of the talent contained within dubstep, Diary of an Afro Warrior suggests that Britain’s dark (though no longer smoky) nightclubs are on the verge of another renaissance. Jazzy opener ‘Zero M2’ references Roni Size’s drum’n’bass classic ‘Brown Paper Bag’ – until a warped, evil-mouthed bassline rears up like some swampy sub-hertz monster. In fact, most of Diary… is both musical and mental, fusing accessible hooks with mad electrification.
Around half of the album – the hyper-noise of ’26 Basslines’ or the re-fixed house of ‘Emotions’ – will be familiar to fans of Adejumo’s DJ sets, where his already battered bag of 10-inch dubplates get a further battering, frequently being rewound by fellow DJs or even liberty-taking members of the crowd. ‘B4 the Dual’ sounds chilly and difficult to play at home – a rare ‘skip that’ moment on a record that sounds like Shut Up and Dance sparring with Carl Craig and Underground Resistance, and is smart, sharp and supernaturally switched on.