South London in 10 tracks, according to Charlie Dark

today26/05/2023 7

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The Run Dem Crew boss chalks up the most iconic tracks heard south of the River Thames

  • Charlie Dark
  • 26 May 2023

Charlie will be appearing at GALA festival on Peckham Rye this weekend, for more info and tickets head to

South London had a number of seminal clubs, events and pirate radio stations back in the day. As a raver growing up in South London, there were so many options for your weekly musical fix.

Here is my top ten through the eyes of clubs I attended, stations I listened to and concerts I went too. In no particular order:

Read this next: New exhibition exploring rave and pirate radio opens in Walthamstow

Public Enemy ‘Rebel Without A Pause’

London was never the same after the Def Jam Tour hit the city. The Brixton Academy show will go down in my mind as the moment that the youth of London woke up to the realities of the times. LL Cool Jay, Eric B and Rakim, Public Enemy with London’s Derek B on support. The crowd was a melting pot of crews from across London but when the call came for South London to make some noise the sound was deafening. One of the first concerts I ever attended and a highlight of my life.

Benga & Coki – ‘Night’

There are so many tunes to come out from the South London dubstep community that have resonated with me over the years and this alongside Loefah‘s ‘Mud’ both had a big impact on me when I first heard them rattling through the speakers. DMZ in the Brixton days will forever hold strong musical memories in my mind. Cemented many lifelong friendships on that dance floor.

Loose Ends ‘Gonna Make You Mine’

Soul music and South London go hand in hand, and across from Peckham Rye Park is a block of flats that was formally one of the epicentres of the South London Soul Scene. Kings on the Rye was a pub that welcomed the black community at a time when many establishments had an unwritten rule that the wind rush generation were unwelcome. I have strong memories of doubled parked BMW’s, gold chains and the sweetest soul music seeping out of its doors. Mistri was one of the top Dj’s and this was a tune that always got a strong reaction from the floor and is what I call an impact tune, perfect for lifting the vibe of the floor or changing up the tempo. The Loose Ends catalogue is deep and deadly. Go investigate.

London Posse ‘Money Mad ‘

Dance Wicked and Live to London were two clubs that found their home in Vauxhall in a railway arch known as 66 Goding Street. Both played hip hop in a big way and this tune from London Posse was an anthem on the floor. The music was always great, the atmosphere was gnarly and probably the closest thing to the Tunnel that we ever had in the UK.

Leviticus ‘Burial’

Lazerdome on Rye Lane was big with the South London ravers and early Jungle Crew and the sound system was ridiculous for the times. The windows used to rattle when you waited outside and the crowd was a cross section of South London’s finest. Not for the feint hearted but a banger of a rave and definitely missed.

Jah Screechy ‘Walk and Skank’

80’s Reggae anthem sampled by the next generation and guaranteed to get a rewind even to this day. Thunderous hypnotic baseline with legendary sprinkle of vocal dexterity from Jah Screechy. First dropped by the mighty Lloyd Coxsone Sound System another South London don of reggae music and soundsystem culture. Sundays in South London will forever be synonymous with listening to the dreads in my street wash their cars whilst listening to heavy reggae on their stereos.

Lonnie Liston Smith ‘Expansions’

One of the benefits of growing up in South London was the proximity to the Crystal Place radio tower and the number of pirate radio stations located in South London which meant a clear signal into the homes and boom boxes of people thirsty for musical knowledge. There were crews called Soul Patrols that followed the jazz Funk Scene and the South London Soul Patrol were one of the biggest. The first time I turned on JFM at the age of 13 this was the first song I heard, my brain was never the same afterwards. Mind blown and so the musical quest began.

No Smoke ‘Koro Koro’

Centre Force was another pirate station with a strong following and there was a period of time when Clapham Common became the place to go on a weekend to rave in the park. A message would go out on the station and then everyone would head to the park where a van with a sound system would be waiting to serenade the ravers. Beautiful times that didn’t last long but this was a tune that was definitely dropped and head the House Heads and the Hip Hop Heads bopping in unison.

King Sunny Ade ‘Syncro System’

Crystal Palace park was a hotbed of concerts during the 80’s and the Sunsplash concerts were no exception. Go to Youtube and search for King Sunny Ade at the Reggae Sunsplash in 1984. Hypnotic, groovy, cosmic and unifying. Check the crowd for the diversity of dance floors and pubic gatherings of the times.

Run DMC ‘Sucker MC’s’

First heard booming out of the speakers of a blue Ford Fiesta XR2 racing through East Dulwich past my school. I didn’t know what it was but I definitely knew it was a sound I wanted to hear more of. Til this day it’s one of my favourite hip hop tunes ever. South London embraced all elements of hip hop culture when it first landed and we definitely had some of the best representatives of the culture in the UK.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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