Musical polymath Akinola Davies teams up with SUPRA to guide us through London’s finest underground artists, nights, radio stations and labelsSupra Always On The Run
When it comes to underground and leftfield dance music, London’s been leading the charge for decades. Deeply embedded into the contemporary sonic landscape is Akinola Davies, a multi-media curator, DJ, promoter, radio host and freelance video producer, who was part of the team that won a MOBO for Skepta’s “That’s Not Me” video and also worked on “I’m Tryna Tell Ya”, a feature length film about the footwork scene in Chicago. His heart however, is in his hometown.
As an ambassador for SUPRA #alwaysontherun SUPRA’s #alwaysontherun creative initiative – a campaign celebrating global creativity – Davies takes us through the inside track of the best the city has to offer, from clubs and radio stations and labels and artists. It’s a tight-knit community which is as into politics as it is partying. “It might seem quite a random thing with regards to music, but everyone has an opinion and a political voice, but there isn’t any outlet for it,” explains Davies. “A lot of what we do, with regards to record labels or club nights are political statements.” Earlier this year, Davies headed up an anti-Boko Haram protest under the name Nigerian Lives Matter, which was attended by grime icon Skepta, as well representatives from almost all of the places mentioned below. “We often don’t get represented by mass media, so we chose to do things for ourselves,” says Davies.
IT HAS SOME OF THE MOST EXCITING VENUES ON THE MUSIC SCENE
Underneath the grimy arches of Elephant and Castle sits one of the country’s finest alt venues. For the past decade Corsica Studios has been the go-to place to hear obscure sounds and get supremely sweaty. “It’s got one of the best soundsystems south of the river. It’s like a dark hole – I’ve had some of the best sonic experiences there,” explains Davies, who was last at the venue to check out New York rap trio Ratking. Another favourite is Vogue Fabrics in Dalston. “It’s very inclusive, which is what I enjoy about parties – having people from all walks of life,” says Davies, who’s also a fan of Birthdays, which is just down the street. “They’ve got really good programming at the moment – I saw Spooky Black in there a little while ago. That was pretty awesome.” A trip south on Kingland Road will take you to another of his recommendations, Miranda Bar, which is part of The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. “They’re really trying to champion a lot of DJs and nights that don’t get activated in other venues”.
ITS CLUB NIGHTS HAVE THEIR OWN CLIMATE
One of those nights currently making a home for itself at Miranda Bar is ‘Body Party’. “It’s a safe space for people of different sized bodies who don’t fit the dominant narrative of what it means to be attractive,” explains Davies of the queer club, which plays everything from R&B to funky house, bass and gospel. Another all-inclusive night is ‘PDA’, a club Davies is involved with running. “The policy is just to be as wild and adventurous as possible. We play hip hop and a lot of grime.” ‘Don’t Watch That Monthly’ is also one of Davies’s clubs, playing more grime as well as ‘Afrobeat’, while ‘License To Trill’ is a trap night at Birthdays. “If you’ve never been, it’s a real experience. It’s pretty much always full to the rafters. It’s got its own climate in there, it’s so hot…”.
IT’S A MELTING POT FOR SMALL INDEPENDENT LABELS
London is a hotbed of small independent labels. Nohatsnohoods is a “quintessential grime label” according to Davies. “They’ve been pushing grime since before it became cool again to like grime.” Boy Better Know are another near legendary London label and grime crew, founded 10 years ago by brothers JME and Skepta. “Everything that’s good about the UK is personified in Boy Better Know,” grins Davies. “Every time they doing anything you feel proud to be English and British.” Electronic label Night Slugs was founded in 2010. “They’re very much from an era where you go to clubs and dress in black and zone out to music in dark rooms,” explains Davies of the label’s aesthetic. Davies’s other picks include Goon Club Allstars, “they really champion a lot of south African gqom music” and Liminal Sounds, “they’ve been putting out a bunch of mixes for as far back as I can ever remember” explains Davies.
IT HAS BADASS ARTISTS TAKING OVER LONDON’S UNDERGROUND MUSIC SCENE
An ever-vibrant underground scene means there are always hundreds of new artists to fall in love with in the capital. Current favourites of Davies include punk trio Skinny Girl Diet. “They’re probably three of the sickest girls you’ll ever meet. They make a lot of noise and don’t give a fuck,” he says. Brockley bright hope Novelist is the teenage emcee currently impressing the nation. “He’s got personality for days but he’s also worked on loads of interesting projects,” explains Davies. “Novelist is basically the guy.” On more of a pop tip, Davies is into Etta Bond, who was the first signing to Labrinth’s own label, Odd Child. “She’s an amazing singer – she’s got a really brilliant heart. She’s also worked with a guy called Raf Riley, who’s probably going to be one of the biggest producers England’s ever had.” Finally, there’s Yung Klein. “She’s totally experimental and she’s got the biggest balls of anybody I know making music on the planet. She’s really brave about testing things out.”
THE SOUNDS COMING OFF ITS AIRWAVES ARE SOME OF THE FINEST IN THE WORLD
A member of the NTS family, Davies has only good things to say about the Dalston based public access station. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s freedom of speech. Commercial radio doesn’t represent anyone apart from the interests of record labels and the culture of celebrity,” he says of the willfully independent station, with its anything-goes playlist. Radar Radio is a younger station that started not too long ago. “They’re giving more opportunities to niche DJs and niche sounds,” says Davies, who also tips the London talk show Don’t Cry Don’t Beg, which is broadcast on US based internet station Know Wave.
SUPRA are giving away a pair of Noiz shoes every week for anyone who snaps a picture of how they push the boundaries of their creativity – whether it’s on or off the board – and tag#AlwaysOnTheRun and @suprafootwear. The best shot will win a trip to NYC in September