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Ruff Sqwad


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Grime is forever indebted to Ruff Sqwad, the collective that pushed the genre’s gritty sound to its melodic limits. Whether it was Dirty Danger with anthems ‘Anna’, ‘Together’ and ‘Move to Dis’, or Rapid with beats including ‘Pied Piper’, ‘Xtra’ and ‘Top 3 Selected’, the Sqwad’s super producers alongside Slix (‘No Bass’) and XTC (‘Functions on the Low’), released some of the 2000s most groundbreaking and inimitable music from Bow, East London.

One of the most respected names in UK music, Ruff Sqwad proved to be ahead of the times as they provided the soundtrack for Glastonbury 2019. Think headliner Stormzy’s ‘Shut Up’ (originally ‘Functions on the Low’) and Dave’s viral performance of ‘Thiago Silva’ (a remix of the infectious ‘Pied Piper’). Think of any iconic song or freestyle in underground music over the past 20 years and Ruff Sqwad were probably involved. Without their efforts alongside members Tinchy Stryder, Fuda Guy, Shifty Rydos, Mad Max, DJ Begg and the late DJ Scholar, some of the UK’s most celebrated music moments may never have came to be.

Regulars on radio stations Rinse, De Ja Vu and Heat FM, Ruff Sqwad were part of the fabric of grime during the early years and shared the mic with Dizzee Rascal, Skepta, JME and Kano among others, as they honed their lyrical skills.

Self-released instrumentals paved the way for mixtapes, with ‘Guns and Roses vol. 1’ and ‘Guns and Roses vol. 2’ showcasing the crew’s abilities on the mic, alongside Wiley and other heavyweights from the scene. Solo projects solidified the crew’s credibility with mixtapes from Slix (Down vol. 1 and Down vol. 2), Dirty Danger (I Ain’t Rich Yet’) and Tinchy Stryder (Back U Know, Lost and Found) delivering anthems for the scene’s most hardcore fans.

Appreciation for Ruff Sqwad’s contribution to grime grew over time. Limited presses of their EPs have taken on holy grail status among record collectors. And it wasn’t until 2012, that the boys from Bow gave the people what they want, with the release of ‘White Label Classics’ - 22 sought-after tracks brought together on one album to inspire a new generation of grime talent.

Early fans included a young Ed Sheeran, who guest appeared on Slix Down vol. 2 after the grammy winner MySpace messaged DJ Scholar, and Mike Skinner who enlisted Tinchy Stryder’s bars on a range of remixes for The Streets. Perhaps the E3 crew’s greatest impact on other artists came later, as acts including Dave, Chip and many more, jumped on their tracks and sampled their instrumentals to win over a new wave of fans. Little did audiences know that they were listening to Ruff Sqwad.

Ruff Sqwad
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