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Baker's Dozen

Champion Versions: Steve Mason's Favourite Albums
Joe Clay , March 2nd, 2016 11:04

With his new solo album, Meet The Humans, just released, the prolific musician and former Beta Band man gives Joe Clay a tour of his record collection, meandering through electro, hip-hop, punk and more


Various – Street Sounds Electro 2
When hip-hop started for me it was the four elements – graffiti, breakdancing, DJ'ing and MC'ing. It was all about that. It wasn't that generic term that means rap music now. It was real hip-hop. A friend of mine from school in about 1982 or '83, his sister had moved to London and she sent up the first Electro album on Street Sounds. I'd never heard anything like it. Up to that point, I'd only really been listening to music that was over. Punk and 2 Tone, both of which had faded out by then. So to hear this stuff that sounded like it was from the future was amazing. I was immediately like, "What the fuck is that?" There was always very little information on the back of those albums. We used to borrow the record off my mate John and pore over it, but we didn't really know anything about it. But then we saw the Henry Chalfant documentary Style Wars on BBC Two one night and I recorded it on video and completely wore the tape out. We'd heard about b-boying and graffiti and all that, but we hadn't really put it all together. It's an amazing documentary. Once we'd seen that we realised that there was this fucking amazing culture going on in New York and it was so exciting. We got into it wholesale. Luckily for me, my dad was working at a linoleum factory so we always had brand new linoleum to breakdance on. Everyone had ghetto blasters and we used to nick batteries from the supermarket. We were totally sorted.

Electro 2 really sticks with me for two reasons. Firstly it's got one of the most important records on it that I've ever heard in my life – 'Beat Bop' by Rammelzee and K-Rob. For me, when I hear that, it just encapsulates everything that hip-hop is about; that early 1980s Bronx/New York thing. I dunno why it does, but there's just something about it. The avant-garde-ness of it all. It's produced by Jean-Michel Basquiat. It's such an exciting record. It's really fucking weird. There's loads of reverb on the vocal and then that violin comes in. The rap is superb. It's stunning. Plus 'White Lines' is on it. We'd heard of Grandmaster Flash cos we'd heard 'The Message', but 'White Lines' blew us away. It was a much bigger production than the other tracks on Electro 2 – which were all super-electro – but 'White Lines' was more like a pop song. Those first three Electro albums are engrained in my DNA.