02 Jun Old But Gold: 30 classic anthems from the Channel U Era
Channel U may have officially left our TV screens but the memories it provided will live forever. For many people growing up, it was the go-to place grime and UK rap. Launched in 2003 and officially ending its reign on television after 15 solid years, the impact of this legendary platform can’t be understated.
Channel U, later rebranded as Channel AKA, gave many of today’s legendary musicians their first play. The channel kept the flame flickering and gave many crucial exposure that simply didn’t exist elsewhere.
On rare occasions, a grime or rap video would make it onto MTV Base or maybe even Top of the Pops, but aside from that, mainstream support on television for the scene was few and far between. Nobody really wanted to play grime videos over the latest flashy American rap song or RnB smash, nobody apart from Channel U, who brought the sounds of pirate radio to television.
Lethal Bizzle summed up Channel U’s impact best in a tribute post to founder Darren Platt, who sadly passed in July 2016, by saying: ‘Thank u Darren for pushing UK music/culture when no else cared”.
In 2009, Channel U’s parent company went into liquidation. The company who then took over decided that Channel U needed a rebrand, which is how ‘Channel AKA’ was born. Its latest rebrand will now be called ‘Massive R&B’, as of 1 June 2018.
As the decade turned, internet platforms like GRM Daily, SBTV and Link Up TV became the go-to hub for urban music as the reliance on television stations lessened, but the pioneering impact of Channel U will never be forgotten.
Over the years, we were graced with many shoestring budget music videos that are now etched history. Plugsville looks back at 30 classics from the Channel U era.
P2J Project – Hands In Da Air
If you had to associate any one song with the Channel U era, this would be it. Lewisham’s finest coming together to create one of the biggest underground anthems of the 2000s.
Mitchell Brothers feat. Kano & The Streets – Routine Check
‘Routine Check’ is the definition of a rap singalong. From reciting Kano’s name and date of birth to reliving how The Streets ‘madly gambled his phone and got a smack from his bro’. Iconic.
Boya & Saskilla – Gash By Da Hour
This one was a summertime smash. A proper anthem, one which came in a time where Nu Brand Flexx, the collective which Boya and Saskilla were apart of, were among the biggest names in the scene.
Sway – Little Derek
‘Little Derek’ was the second single from Sway’s debut album, This Is My Demo, and got a lot of mainstream heat too, charting in the top 40 of the single’s charts. But it first gained traction on Channel U and is an early example of how it helped urban artists break into mainstream spaces.
DJ Ironik – Stay With Me
‘Stay With Me’ is one of those tracks you probably won’t ever forget, courtesy of those catchy high-pitched autotuned vocals and the sombre music video.
Aggro – Free Yard
Back in 2006, ‘Free Yard’ was the #1 track on Channel U for 17 weeks straight. Aggro Santos put out a few more releases and even appeared on ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ in 2010, but none of his contributions will be more remembered than this.
Lethal Bizzle – Pow (2004)
One of the biggest grime anthems ever. So big, Lethal released another version of it seven years later.
N Dubz – Better Not Waste My Time
Two top-ten albums, a top-five and a chart-topping single. N Dubz were a monstrous outfit at their peak, providing pop music that had an urban edge to it, and received plenty of airtime throughout the years on Channel U.
Choong Family – Fall Back
Choong Family pushed forward rap with a few bits back in the day like ‘Memory Lane’ AND ‘Adrenaline’. ‘Fall Back’ was an easy listen that you’d people would often vote to see played.
Dizzee Rascal – I Luv U
‘I Luv U’ is a track needs no further explanation. When it first dropped back in 2003, Channel U were huge supporters of Dizzee and gave him a key push early-on in his career.
Tinie Tempah – Wifey Riddim
Has there ever been a track that birthed more covers and remixes than ‘Wifey Riddim’? Who didn’t drop their own version of ‘Wifey Riddim’ back in the day?
Mr Wong – Not On A Longage
East London’s Mr Wong was known for his comedic bars above all else. The start of this track reads: ‘Shouts out to all the A&Rs, if you’re watching, bell me yeah, cos I’m ready to blow’, before he rhymes ‘wongage’ with ‘longage’. Someone get this man a record deal.
Crazy Titch – Sing Along
Crazy Titch brought energy like no other during his heyday and ‘Sing Along’ is a perfect example of that.
Roll Deep – When I’m Ere
There’s something about the beat on ‘When I’m Ere’ that warps you into another space in an instant. As soon as Scratchy ends his trademark screech, it’s a straight onslaught of barring.
Donae’o – Party Hard
This is a defining track not just in the Channel U era but for funky house more broadly. You heard this at every single party growing up.
Skepta – Duppy
‘Duppy’ birthed some of the most iconic grime bars about Skeppy doin’ it again. This was part of a project called Greatest Hits, but if there was a ‘Grime Greatest Hits’, this joint would definitely feature.
Bruza – Get Me
Grime has moved away from short, aggressive one or two-word choruses. They still exist, but not like they did when Bruza dropped ‘Get Me’.
Kano – P’s and Q’s
This song was released in 2005, but in 2018, you still hear ‘Ps and Q’s’ in clubs, at festivals and on television. It’s crazy to think that the platform that helped to push this legendary piece of work while in its infancy no longer exists.
Bashy – Black Boys
The first entry from Catch Me If You Can, ‘Black Boys’, to this day, is still a grime track like no other.
Jammer – Murkle Man
Jammer got a custom-made Murkle Man superhero suit made for the video. No more needs to be said.
Chipmunk – Who Are You
Chip has been around for more than a decade and one of his breakthrough moments was ‘Who Are You’ back in 2007, a definite grime anthem.
Roadside G’s – Come 2 Da Roadside
Roadside G’s are pioneers in the gangster rap scene and ‘Come 2 Da Roadside’ is one of many of their anthems from the archive.
Wiley – Wot U Call It?
Grime emerged from the shadow of garage but for a long time, it lacked its own identity. It wasn’t even labelled ‘grime’ at the very start, but ‘Wot U Call It?’, was a big moment in making sure people knew this was an individual sound in its own right, and not some sister-arm of garage.
Wretch 32 feat. Badness & Ghetto – Inna Di Ghetto
Wretchrospective was a strong first album from Wretch back in 2008 and ‘Inna Di Ghetto’ was one of its stand-out tracks, along with ‘Stop My Pen From Crying’.
Darren B – Stand By You
Don’t pretend you didn’t used to rinse ‘Stand By You’ back in the day. You did. We all did. A classic.
Mitchell Brothers – Harvey Nicks
The Mitchell Brothers, loosely tied to the infamous Mitchell brother pairing of Phil and Grant from Eastenders, used comedic barring to highlight wider social issues and ‘Harvey Nicks’ is another example of that.
Nu Brand Flexx – Anthem
This one does exactly what it says on the tin, leaning heavily on energetic ab-libs to bring it all together.
Ghetto – Top 3 Selected
Then called ‘Ghetto’, the man we now know as Ghetts brings a ferocious delivery and manages to cram in countless punchlines into his speedy flow, like he does here in ‘Top 3 Selected’.
Tinchy Stryder – Mainstream Money
Before Tinchy hit up the charts two number one singles and top-two album, he made a lot of noise by doing often featuring on Channel U, and ‘Mainstream Money’ is one of his earlier classic cuts.
Bashy feat. Scorcher & Wretch 32 – Ransom
‘Ransom’ is arguably one of the best story-telling rap songs to come out of the UK. It’s also one of the later hits to feature on Channel U during its heyday.