26-year-old DJ Oneman (née Steve Bishop) hails from South London. He’s known for seamlessly blending different styles of UK dance music from across decades, mainly garage, grime, dubstep, and UK funky—sounds synonymous with the London borough that raised him. His old school meets new school style is right at home at Rinse FM, the London radio station that has shaped underground electronic music for nearly 20 years.
Oneman has a weekly radio show on Rinse every Tuesday from 9-11 p.m. GMT, and the DJ Set of the Week below is one of his most recent live sets, representative of both Rinse’s style and his own.
Rinse began broadcasting as a pirate radio station to Central, East, and South London in 1994 as an alternative to the commercial radio, which did not represent the music interests of urban communities and was not invested in promoting grassroots talent. Without a broadcasting license, founder DJ Geeneus resorted to broadcasting from rooftops and friends’ kitchens in East London, frequently relocating to dodge police and keep the illegal station afloat.
In its early years, Rinse primarily played jungle with a heavy focus on MCs. It moved on to garage in 1998, switched to dubstep and grime a few years later, and then evolved to include house in the late 2000s. Its strategy is “destroy and rebuild”: when a genre becomes popular, Rinse scraps it and moves on to continually redefine itself in its search for fresh music. It’s driven by Geenius’s simple philosophy:
“It’s not about where [music] is, it’s about where it’s going.”
Rinse played a pivotal role in the emergence of these genres in the UK; without it, grime and dubstep in particular may never have reached such prominence today. Now-famous artists Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, and Katy B all got their start on the station, and it was vital in the careers of Skream, Kode9, and Oneman himself. Rinse reached a new level of worldwide influence when they began broadcasting online in 2006, and it is now a globally respected authority on underground dance music.
The days of secret rooftop broadcasts are now over—Rinse went legit in 2010 when it earned its community FM broadcast license. Although it’s no longer a pirate radio station and has expanded its reach worldwide, Rinse’s community-based ethos remains the same. Oneman says,
“When people listen to Rinse they really get that snapshot of London, and what the London scene is all about at the moment. Because there’s no better representation than Rinse.”
Rinse was central in Oneman’s own musical development. As a teenager in South London, he fed his appetite for dance music with local pirate stations’ grime and garage shows. Garage was integral to the South London culture before it reached massive popularity a few years later. He told Spin:
“I would have been 13 in 1999, and that’s when garage started getting a lot darker and a lot funner. That’s when we started listening to pirate radio a lot more … It was growing up in London and being around garage that definitely got me into it first. Just hearing it all the time, everywhere you went—if you were walking down the High Street, cars would be blaring it, shops would be playing it. You’d hear it out of people’s headphones, sitting on the bus. There were tapes everywhere. You couldn’t get away from it.
It was our culture. It was something that belonged to us. And I think, at that age, when you’re looking for something new in music, it’s always going to be the darkest thing … And yeah, garage is definitely a part of that darkness for us, in South London.”
This sound has stuck with Oneman, and it defines his style today. Combining the best of classic and up-and-coming garage, grime, and dubstep, he demonstrates the gritty sound of UK pirate radio. He came full circle when he joined Rinse in 2007 and has been an important figure in the station’s continued growth.
This Wednesday, be prepared for a South London takeover of the Middle East: Oneman opens for UK dubstep pioneer and fellow Rinse veteran Skream. With two DJs who helped define bass music in the UK and worldwide stopping in Boston together, this is a rare occasion.
SKREAM AND ONEMAN
W/ MOBSKY AND STEVEN FORD
MIDDLE EAST DOWNSTAIRS
472 MASS. AVE.