Holy 20-year-old dubplates, Batman!

Can we talk? Thanks. Over the last couple of months , I’ve been on one. Frustrated—my family thinks I hate them, I know I am annoying the people I talk to on the regular. I’ve been realizing what it is: I’ve been so busy working that I forget to LISTEN TO MUSIC. I’m also dealing with an issue with one of my externals, but enough about all of that.

“How does any of this relate to Breakwater Crew’s “Chroma”?

Y’all never let me just write for a bit, LOL. Anyways, on Saturday afternoon, I was doing my usual dive into drum & bass bliss when I happened upon this Bandcamp link from Straight Up Breakbeat. Keeping it a buck, they had me at “free dubplate,” but that doesn’t always mean the same thing. So, I pressed play and was blown away. I actually kept wheelin’ the tune back around four minutes in, when it hits that breakdown.


Because I can. I kid. No, I kept rewinding the tune because it brought me back to the neurofunk I’d fallen in love with while listening to Princeton University’s WPRB. It was the main college radio station I got, and their Vibes & Vapors underground rap show is where I first heard artists like Company Flow. I actually first happened upon WPRB because of Bassquake, a Friday night show I caught randomly—I was probably waiting for DJ Ran to kick things off on Power 99 for his usual Friday night underground show. I mention all of this to say that Bassquake’s Jade and Dinesh were the first two DJs who introduced me to the dirty space funk that was coming from imprints like Renegade Hardware. This Breakwater Crew tune “Chroma” sparked the nostalgia immediately…

But who the hell is Breakwater Crew?

Excellent question…and one I didn’t know until today. If you’re up on Straight Up Breakbeat, you may have peeped this NORTHSIDE mixtape Dubplate Selection, which is said to feature “unreleased classics and bootlegs from 1997 onwards,” from the likes of “Resound, Muffler, Breakwater Crew, Esc, Kaleb, Samuel & Nasley, Roshi and many more.” This cut was featured on it, and eventually was made a “pay what you want” release on their Bandcamp back in September.

According to their site, Breakwater Crew was a trio: Dharma, Dice & Bluez. Their site says they had releases on Moving Shadow and Hospital, but all I could find on Discogs was their Formation release, which was the “Helsinki” release from Formation’s City Series way back in 2000. [For those keeping score, the trio, as well as the Straight Up Breakbeat imprint, represent Finland.] That was credited to Dice, who dubstep fans might remember more for his work as Tes La Rok, one of the more impressive dubstep producers before the scene blew up and turned into the redheaded EDM stepchild. I vaguely remember Dice tunes from the early 2000s, but had no idea of his dubstep days.

So…now what?

Well, word is that Straight Up Breakbeat got hold of the sole dubplate for Breakwater Crew’s “Chroma,” hollered at Fanu for his mixing and mastering wizardry, and now we have this excellent techy number from 20+ years ago, reminding me to a) take a break from quarantine work schedules and b) relive my glory days in the scene. It also helped me discover that DJ Trace shared his Bassquake session from 1997(!) over two years ago. You’re welcome, honestly. #HRD