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Artist Profiles :: Goldie

GoldieIt’s 1987. A young British man, Walsall-born, bred in the West Midlands, is being interviewed for one of the seminal documentary films of the graffiti era - Dick Fontaine’s Bombin’. The film charts the story of two different personalities - Brim Fuentes, New York graffiti legend, been there, painted it, seen it all, and the man we now know as Goldie, a young British pretender to the graffiti throne, mixing it in New York for the first time with the true originals. Looking back, it’s worth remembering the young man’s last words to camera: ‘I just gotta get out here and do this thing man,’ he asserts, ‘‘Cos nobody else is ever gonna listen to what I say.’

Fast forward to the late 90s. That same graffer is now notorious worldwide. In fact, since his album Timeless took the music world by storm in ‘95, Goldie has never been far from the headlines, the veritable it-man of dance music. Firstly, there was Timeless itself. While drum and bass had already produced a clutch of essential albums - 4 Hero’s Parallel Universe, Omni Trio’s The Deepest Cut and A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology (on which Goldie himself guested) - Timeless was something completely new, shockingly radical in length, scope and intent, ranging across a whole new musical landscape. Then, there was Goldie’s engagement to Björk and the break-up from Björk, the bust-up with Tricky, the lucrative sponsorship deal with Stüssy, the war of words with Keith from The Prodigy, the tabloid rumours of supermodel affairs. There were a string of collaborations with star guests - KRS-ONE, Oasis’s Noel Gallagher, David Bowie on record and on film. And then there was the sidestep into the movie world for a role as a Bond villain henchman in The World Is Not Enough.

Rewind! Rewind! Rewind! Let’s take it back, back to the very beginning, back way before Goldie was dashing down the railtracks bombin’ on Bombin’. Let’s take it back to a young child in care, looking for a way out of a difficult and confused existence. Let’s take it back to this kid making the England B-Team for roller hockey (!), discovering hip hop, breaking in a crew called (but of course) the B-Boys, and developing his spraycan art on Wolverhampton’s Heathtown estate. Let’s rewind through the years trying to make a new life for himself in Miami, growing a mane of blonde dreadlocks, building his now famous set of gold teeth and beringed fingers, trying to make a living by selling engraved gold teeth on a market stall. It’s all pretty confused, this rewinding business - it makes the narrative pretty hard to decipher. But there’s a sense to it. A logic. An appeal.

The dream of a new life in the States didn’t work out and Goldie reluctantly rewound his own life back to the other side of the pond, prompted by the news that his stepfather had contracted cancer. At the time he viewed the UK as a culturally dead scene, a sad province miles distant from the gravitational centre of hip hop.

The only thing alive and kicking in the UK music scene was the rave movement, especially the homegrown strand of breakbeat house, or hardcore: in essence, the UK’s own version of what hip hop was as a cultural force in the US. It wasn’t long before Goldie was part of it, putting his skills as an artist to good use, designing for both Soul II Soul and the Reinforced label. In fact, the ‘R’ of the Reinforced logo to this day is his design. Through the scene he met DJ Kemistry, who introduced him to seminal club night Rage, where DJs Fabio and Grooverider held court. In fact, Goldie was first featured in a magazine on DJs and their partners, as Kemistry’s boyfriend.

Being on the dancefloor of Rage was something akin to a conversion experience for Goldie. He became obsessed by that new breakbeat sound, and what he saw as its militancy against the four-to-the-floor direction in which European house music was heading. Soon he was pestering Fabio and Grooverider for the names of the freshest tunes, dancing like a madman, and hatching plans to forge his very own vision of this radical new music.

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