Firin' Squad are one of the UK’s leading urban DJ outfits, blazing a trail through London’s underground scene for over a decade.
From racking up over one million sales thanks to their legendary r&b compilations to hosting critically acclaimed shows on Capital Xtra, Kiss and Choice FM, Mista Grill, Sean Slimm and Chris Vee have earned their stripes as one of the most acclaimed urban acts around.
No strangers to big events, the crew have played at Notting Hill Carnival and The Prince’s Trust Urban Music Festival, alongside supporting the likes of Busta Rhymes and Ludacris.
They also bagged the highly prestigious gold award at the Sony Radio Academy Awards for their services to radio, for which they’ve interviewed the likes of 50 Cent, Usher, Sean Paul and Alicia Keys.
Ahead of their set for Backto95’s 18th birthday on 26 May, we caught up with Firin’ Squad to chat music, identity and what’s going on in the urban scene right now.
We last caught up with you back at the end of 2016 – how’s life been treating you? Any standout projects or events in the last couple of years?
We’re all alive and well, so life is good and we’re grateful for everyone’s support. Last summer was one for the books, the heatwave was spectacular and that made playing the festivals even more incredible.
Last year marked the 70th anniversary since Windrush, an event which started a new era of Afro-Caribbean immigration to the UK and which in turn played a huge role in the growth and development of black British music from calypso to rnb. How important do you think it is to recognise the impact of the Windrush Generation on both British music and British culture, particularly in the wake of events such as the Windrush scandal?
It is fully important to recognise that. The influence of those West Indian immigrants is woven into the fabric of this country and is what makes our society so diverse and rich in culture. It may be the legacy of an empire and everything good, bad and ugly that went with that but it is the very thing that makes Britain great today.
Reggae and Rastafarianism were a voice for political resistance, inspiring generations and leading to genres such as punk. Do you think that the music of today has lost its political voice or is it just as strong?
Social commentary is still expressed through music but now it’s in grime, trap and drill. The lyrics are a reflection of life for this generation of young people and the politicians want to shut it down, like they have done in the past on the basis that the music is a bad influence and glamorises violence and drugs.
Music and identity are intrinsically linked, with music often acting as a tool for self-expression and even national expression. Can you relate to this in terms of your own music?
Most definitely because we play quite an eclectic mix of music and that’s directly influenced by the melting pot that London is. It’s what makes this city such a unique and creative place and why it has given birth to so many new ideas from jungle to garage to grime and so on.
What do you think about the current urban music scene? Any artists in particular we should be looking out for?
Things have come so far for British urban artists, whether it’s hip hop, grime, afrobeat or bashment there is a massive audience for their music today. The likes of Stormzy, Giggs and Stefflon Don have gone clear and you’ve got so many more coming through like Stylo G, J Hus, Fredo, the list is endless.
One event that celebrates the music of the Caribbean and the influence its had on the UK is 51st State festival that you’re playing in August. What do you enjoy most about the festival?
There is no other festival like 51st State, it has a diverse mix of music stages and people and it’s a good size. It’s massive but not so vast that you just end up feeling lost in it all. All that makes for a festival with one of the best vibes.
You’re also performing for us at Backto95 on 26 May. Can you pick 3 of your favourite moment whiles paying at this event and 3 tracks that take you back to 1995?
You’re asking the impossible! There are so many tracks that define that era and we’ve been fortunate enough to play at Backto95 on so many occasions. From when you get the call and the date goes in the diary, to when you rock up on the night and the queue is going around the block, to when that last track goes on at 5am and nobody is ready to leave yet, it’s those moments you’ve got to appreciate.
What else can we look forward to from you guys in 2019?
Well this summer is all about festivals and carnival and we’ll also be heading back out to Ayia Napa, just like the good old days! Keep an eye on our social media @firinsquad