Son Raw’s been wanting to write this for years

Pre-recorded podcasts may have more polish and The Boiler Room might have the benefit of a live crowd, but tune for tune, there’s nowhere better to hear fresh urban electronic music than London institution Rinse.FM. Starting off as a Jungle pirate in the mid 90s, the house that Geeneus built has constantly reinvented itself, following Garage’s descent into MC led Grime before temporarily banning vocalists to usher in Dubstep, bringing back the party with Funky House and ultimately earning a legal license as London’s one stop shop for post-genre Bass music. But while the station’s web presence is more polished than ever and the language is a bit toned down from the days where emcees would roll up to the station and clash, navigating Rinse’s jam-packed schedule of A-list DJs is still a bit daunting. Never fear however, I’m here with a bluffer’s guide to help ease new listeners into the best source of free dance music online. Since it’s practically impossible to go through every single show on the station, I’ve divided this feature by genre, hopefully providing a quick look into the different areas Rinse covers to give neophytes an idea where to start when tuning in.

Note: this is by no means a complete list and Rinse is notorious for randomly rebooting their entire lineup – in fact I suspect they’ve added at least 3 new shows since I started writing. As such, this guide is as much a reflection of my own listening habits as it is Rinse’s direction.

Grime: It’s a London some‘ting

Rinse was far from the only pirate station pushing Grime in its golden era but it was certainly an essential one with an countless classic moments going down across various studios. Today, the station remains committed to pushing urban London’s most rambunctious offspring, particularly its instrumental incarnations. First up you’ve got Elijah & Skilliam’s flagship show on Sunday nights, delivering a mix of hyper-energetic melodies, Garage-inflected drums and (recently) some career-boosting guest mixes from a who’s-who of production talent. These guys always go the extra mile to make each show memorable, whether inviting unexpected emcees or going conceptual to keep things interesting. Recently, their Butterz empire has expanded its presence on the station, with artists and label co-owners Royal-T and Swindle each getting their own weekly time slots. Royal-T’s Wednesday-night affair pushes a slightly more aggy and techy side of the sound to the masses, providing a welcome alternative for Dubstep fans searching for the next big thing. Swindle’s daytime spot on Tuesdays is more eclectic, reflecting a love of jazz and funk music.

While the new blood gets most of the attention, that’s no reason to forget scene veterans there from the start. DJ Maximum’s Boy Better Know show invariably features live bars from some of the crew’s legendary mic men while Sir Spyro sticks to a classic minimal sound for the genre’s original fans. Throw in newcomer Sian Anderson and daytime mainstays JJ and Score Five and you’ve got an unimpeachable lineup. Oh, and watch out for Faze Miyake’s cover shows, they usually feature his Family Tree crew and are a clinic in live radio emceeing.

House, House and more House

As goes London, so goes Rinse and for the past few years, that’s meant an increasing amount of House music both in the capitol and on the station. What started out with the rise of UK Funky as a reaction to Dubstep and Grime’s machismo has since exploded into a virtual smorgasborg of different 4X4 styles, reflecting London’s increasing passion for pure dance music. In fact, the roster has been getting so packed and the scene has been expanding so rapidly that tensions have been rising regarding new dance styles and the presence of emcees in House music. Will it lead to a new genre split? Only time will tell, but if and when it does, expect station mainstays Fonti and Bushkin to have something to say about it, as their recent special on the scene did a remarkable jobs at illustrating the dynamics in London’s music scene. As for now, there’s more than enough programming to satisfy even the pickiest of fans.

For my money (and I’m no expert) Roska and Marcus Nasty are the best of the bunch, bringing distinctively gritty and syncopated sounds to the station and most reflecting London’s hardcore roots. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Dominique Danielle and Mark Radford have got Friday and Saturday night prime-time locked down with sleek, mainstream tech-house to amp listeners up before a night on the town. Ex-junglists Zinc and Redlight each deliver regular doses of squelching, distorted electro house once a month, offering an edgier and rowdier selection without conceding to commercial pressures. For more soulful sounds Kismet sticks to proper deep house while Hypercolour, T Williams, Funk Butcher and former Dubstep hero Loefah each update classic Garage to their own tastes, with Loefah’s Swamp81 show alongside MC Chunky standing out as a particularly fun and cowbell-heavy party in the studio.

Also, with Rinse expanding its reach beyond London and the North’s longstanding love-affair with steady beats and bass, it’s unsurprising that Scotland and Manchester are well represented here with labels/club nights Numbers, Hoya Hoya and Lucky Me each holding down a monthly show. Numbers’ hour features the increasingly tipped Jackmaster spinning a connaiseur’s selection of vintage and up to the minute grooves, Krystal Klear’s Hoya Hoya show is a pre-recorded party in the studio repping Machester and the newly minted Lucky Me show with Éclair Fifi dips into Juke and Hip-Hop territory.

Finally, if you ever wanted to hear the guy from Hot Chip spin Disco House, Joe Goddard’s side project 2 Bears has got a show too.

Drum and/or Bass

Rinse isn’t particularly known for its Drum & Bass selection, having mostly moved away from the genre in the late 90s and having never looked back since, but the sound has always kept a defiant foothold on the station and Rinse’s stature as king of pirates has ensured that what it lacks for in quantity, it makes up for in quality. Perhaps the most exciting addition to the lineup is the newly minted Hospital Records show, a new avenue for the genre’s current kingmakers to champion their unique blend of crisp, melodic futurism to the masses. Though only one edition in, the show already smacks of professionalism and good vibes thanks to guest DJs, flawless mixing and an adept selection. On the flip side, longtime station manager Uncle Dugs holds down “Run Come Follow Fridays” – the station’s oldschool show dedicated to breakbeat hardcore, classic Jungle and early Drum & Bass. It’s about as much fun as you can possibly have during a history lesson. On the more minimal side of things, Autonomic co-founder and Bad Company legend D-Bridge and D&B/Techno/Dubstep magpie Icicle both deliver icy, clinical beats (that often veer into techno territory as well) that will satisfy the eyes down massive. Finally, the soothing baritone in all of Rinse’s adverts also has his own show as Stamina MC.