As a member of the groundbreaking Bristolian triphop/breakbeat outfit Smith & Mighty, he was involved in laying a foundation for artists like Massive Attack (whose first single was actually produced by the group), Portishead, Tricky – not to mention dozens of drum & bass legends and more recently pretty much Bristol’s entire dubstep scene. This all happened in the late 80’s/early 90’s and yet, even today, the man is still going strong.
From the moment Rob Smith and Ray Mighty joined forces in 1988, something started stirring in Bristol. What originated as a fresh wind on the dancefloors (with a couple of Burt Bacharach covers) would set a serious standard for the next couple of decades in the city’s bass music. Over the years, Smith & Mighty produced a number of successful tunes for other artists – and their 1992 EP Steppers Delight showed hints of jungle before the genre was even born. Halfway through the 90’s, the guys set up the More Rockers label – a name Smith & Peter D Rose adapted for their jungle productions. They released a handful of singles and 3 albums under More Rockers, including the debut album for Smith & Mighty.
Smith & Mighty were signed to Berlin’s Studio !K7 in 1998, a move followed by a highly regarded mix album for the DJ-Kicks series in the same year. Their second studio album Big World Small World came out two years later and was their most successful to date, highlighting the different characters of the Bristolian sound. From dark cinematic triphop to cool lovers rock – everything was drenched in the city’s musical heritage. One more album followed as the duo continued to adjust (or evolve) their sound – they even experimented with garage.
Under the alias of Blue & Red, Smith collaborated with Bristol reggae duo Henry & Louis on an album in 2001, a release which features a broad variety of vocalists. If you listen carefully, you might be able to spot some early blueprints of what would later evolve into RSD’s dubstep sound. In 2003, Rob started to work under his own name and released the solo album Ups On The Downs on Grand Central, upon which he continued to develop his sound while staying close to his triphop and dub roots. He went on to do a couple more releases as Rob Smith, until he picked up the RSD moniker in 2007.
“That tune pretty much sums up a perfect dubstep track for me. I probably played it in 99% of my sets ever since I’ve been playing out, and the reaction it still gets is amazing. Perfect balance of the dubwise sounds and his trademark basslines.”
This new creative burst Smith was experiencing resulted in almost a dozen releases in less than 3 years on labels like Punch Drunk and Tectonic. Since then, RSD has lowered his pace by only doing a couple of releases a year – Naked Mariokart (2010) on Black Box, Dancehall Rock (2012) on Moonshine and Perfect Timing on ZamZam Sounds (2013). It seems there’s just no stopping the guy!
The value Rob Smith’s music has added to bass music – both in Bristol and around the world – is certainly undeniable. One thing that definitely should be mentioned is his relationship with the Far East.
“I have spent a couple of months in Japan earlier this year, and the respect that surrounds Rob’s music over there is epic” Madd recalls. “From Sapporo to Okinawa, when you mention dubstep people will start talking about RSD in a second. He has built up a very strong following in Asia and he is invited to play there every year. The local record shops will almost definitely have at least a couple of his plates, and there is also a special compilation exclusive to Japan – Go In A Good Way which was released in 2011 via Zettai-mu.”
Being the only artist in this genre with a career spanning 25 years (and counting), Rob Smith is truly unique.
Having read all this, you might think 30 minutes is a bit short for a guy with such a wealth of experience and music. You’re not wrong. But a couple of classics won’t hurt though, will they?
Click to DOWNLOAD (76MB)
- Smith & Mighty – Killa [Three Stripe, 1992]
- Smith & Mighty ft. Niji 40 – B Line Fi Blow [Studio !K7, 2002]
- RSD – Forward Youth [Tectonic, 2008]
- Dubkasm – More Jah Songs (RSD remix) [Sufferah’s Choice, 2010]
- Pinch ft. Yolanda – Get Up (RSD remix) [Tectonic, 2008]
- RSD – Pretty Bright Light [Punch Drunk, 2007]
- RSD – Naked Mario Kart (part 2) [Black Box, 2012]
- RSD – Over It [Tectonic, 2008]
- Radikal Guru ft. Cian Finn – Babylon Sky (RSD remix) [Moonshine, 2012]
- Alpha Steppa – Dub Empress (RSD remix) [Steppas, 2011]
- Horace Andy – Cuss Cuss (Rob Smith aka RSD version) [Echo Beach, 2013]
- RSD – Kingfisher [Earwax, 2007]
- RSD – Depend (Lovas) [Dub Related, 2008]
- RSD ft. Ricky Ranking – Dancehall Rock [Moonshine, 2012]
- RSD – Good Energy [Punch Drunk, 2009]
- Dubxanne ft. Benjamin Zephaniah – Spirits In A Material World (RSD short vocal dub mix) [Echo Beach, 2014]
Big love to Dubbacle for his continuing efforts
Many thanks to Rebus for the mix and amazing write up
Special shout to DJ Madd for taking the time to discuss his thoughts
30 minutes of Bass education #14 will follow next week – find the previous mixes here.