Tag Archives: dancehall

Review: Toddla T – Watch Me Dance

Toddla TWatch Me Dance (2011) [Ninja Tune] // Grade: B-

While he and his contemporaries make up the flourishing UK dance scene, Toddla T’s latest album reminds me of another of his countrymen: Mark Ronson. Ronson’s 2003 debut Here Comes the Fuzz was a genre-hopping showcase of his production skills, with a star-studded guest list of rappers and R&B singers, that failed to coalesce despite a few standout tracks. Replace Ronson’s taste in hip-hop with Toddla’s dancehall prowess, and Watch Me Dance feels like the spiritual successor to Here Comes the Fuzz, especially since its liner notes read like a Who’s Who of UK vocal talent.

Watch Me Dance owes less to Jamaica than Toddla’s 2009 album Skanky Skanky, but Caribbean riddims still make up about half of the disc. Wobbly bashment anthems like “Badman Flu” and “Cruise Control” benefit from plenty of hyped-up breaks and divebombing bass. And when Toddla pulls his foot off the gas, you get the political dancehall of “Streets So Warm” and reggae both summery (“Lovely Girl”) and soulful (“Fly”). On these songs, he’s right in his wheelhouse.

However, when he moves outside of his comfort zone, the results aren’t as even. The title track is warmed-over disco-funk, and “Body Good” sounds like a Kingston-kissed Neptunes production. Sometimes, colliding influences distract from the song. “Cherry Picking” is essentially 90s dance-pop (which isn’t a bad thing) but it’s littered with bleeps and sirens that feel out of place. Elsewhere, such genre mash-ups feel more organic: “Do It Your Way,” featuring Terri Walker, saunters like classic soul before a woofer-ratting bass break.

“Take It Back,” Toddla’s tribute to pirate radio and ol’ school ‘ardcore, is the album’s highest point by a kilometer or two. With ravey piano loops, an infectious hook by Shola Ama and a grimey verse from J2K, it’s very nostalgic but also very in vogue. At just over three minutes, it’s a bit short, and listeners will find themselves taking it back to the beginning ad nauseam.

Here Comes the Fuzz was a commercial flop and suffered from mediocre reviews – neither of which prevented Ronson from dominating the aughts with his brand of 60s soul throwbacks. Toddla T is already further along than his predecessor, what with his gigs at BBC Radio 1 and Fabric, so this uneven album shouldn’t hinder his career. As Ronson did before him, Toddla T uses Watch Me Dance to prove himself as a versatile producer who makes the most of a collaboration, no matter the genre.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Serious Saturdays: Taking It Back With Toddla T

Toddla T is on top of the world. In the last couple of years, he’s obtained both a slot on BBC Radio 1’s In DJs We Trust and a residency at Fabric. So what’s behind Toddla T’s meteoric rise?

Let’s start at the beginning. Toddla T is Tom Bell, a 26-year old from Sheffield, a city in England that has contributed to everything from industrial (Cabaret Voltaire) to new wave (The Human League) to post-punk revival (Artic Monkeys). The Steel City has also been important to electronic music, as the home of the groundbreaking Warp Records and the birthplace of bassline. With that rich musical background in mind, Toddla T’s globe-trotting sound makes a lot more sense.

His stage name is a tribute to his early start: DJing in Sheffield clubs since 14, Toddla focused on music full-time at 16. Originally into hip-hop, he didn’t even like electronic music until going to parties run by Sheffield DJs Winston Hazel and Pipes. Techno, house, and especially dancehall would become the calling cards of Toddla’s sound.

Since 2008s much-hyped mixtape Ghettoblaster #1, Toddla’s mix of dancehall riddims, jump-up rave accents, and wiggly bass has filled playlists across the world. His unique style is on full display on his 2009 debut record, Skanky Skanky, especially on single “Shake It,” where MC Serocee commands the listener to “shake it, shake it / get naked, naked.”

Toddla T kept things moving in 2010, with the hands-in-the-air “Sky Surfing,” featuring vocalist Wayne Marshall. The video for the song shows Toddla’s fun-loving irreverence – a key to what separates him from his more dour counterparts in the bass world.

Toddla has remixed songs by artists as diverse as Hot Chip, Roots Manuva, and Ladyhawke. His finest moment, however, was giving the high-energy treatment to Gyptian‘s reggae anthem “Hold You,” with a little help from Double D on the mic.

His latest album, Watch Me Dance, is Toddla T at his most eclectic. There are plenty of the riddim-and-bass bangers that he’s known for, along with new experiments like the disco-funk title track and the Timbaland-influenced R&B of “Body Good.” The track that you’ll be playing on repeat, though, is the rave-throwback “Take It Back.” Like all of his songs, “Take It Back” is a feel-good jam designed for the dance floor.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.