Search The Line of Best Fit
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So Solid Crew 1
Nine Songs
So Solid Crew

Taking in rare groove and ‘80s pop classics, Megaman talks Kitty Richardson through the songs he grew up with and the vital influence his family had on his musical tastes

12 June 2020, 13:00 | Words by Kitty Richardson

At their most numerous, UK garage conglomerate So Cold Crew amassed 30 members, including star players Lisa Mafia, Romeo, and Oxide and Neutrino. It's perhaps no wonder that instigator and band leader Megaman came from massive family.

“The family's big - huge - on both my mum and my dad's sides. And it's a cool thing - the support from my family is unprecedented. They always turn up to every show, all my cousins, who are now in their teens and twenties. It lets us know that there's more to us than just our household, and what's going on behind our closed doors.”

So Solid have just celebrated their 21st anniversary with the release of the 21 Seconds EP, stacked with alternative mixes and live cuts of the eponymous hit. Megaman himself now splits his time between keeping the So Solid brand alive and running a label (S9 Records) and a clothing brand (Cheats & Thieves, who are distributed by ASOS). He gives props to his cousins for not asking for freebies when it comes to the latter.

As ever, the business side of things clicks hardest for Mega. He feels his biggest strength lies in pulling people together. “I think I'm always quite good at team building - seeing all different qualities people have, discussing people's missions and dreams and how to reach those together,” he explains. “I think it's great if you can do that without people's wires crossing. And coming from a household of many people was a big inspiration for me. My aunties, my uncles, and mother and cousins, my parents, we all grew up in one house. I've always felt like I wanted to do the same kinda thing... and to be honest, I think it's just me - I don't feel comfortable that I can do something great without having a great team of people behind me. I don't think it's possible.”

As a producer primarily, I ask Mega whether choosing to roll with so many people is a way of bolstering his confidence? “In some senses it is,” he admits. “And in some sense it's just selflessness. There was a time when I was offered things that were just for me. The So Solid record single deal with actually my single deal. I got signed as a producer, and Lisa and Romeo were on the track. But I just felt like, once I sat down with my cousins and realised we had a dream and we had a mindset to get something done... Just because the opportunity landed on my lap, I wasn't the only one who needed to take it.”

It's not like the ‘90s garage scene was all high fives and mates rates though. Mega and I talk about how many similar negotiations between other groups would have gone south, simply because artists were in stiff competition with each other. “I think some people were stuck in a financial, 'survival' frame of mind. Like, 'This is my opportunity, and if I share it, I might never get that opportunity again. I might not be able to make this back again'. And I don't really have that frame of mind. I think that's why I've been fortunate over the years to keep things going. Because the more people you have, there's more of a vibe and there's more energy out there.”

Turning to his song choices, Mega's family didn't only influence his decision to form a colossal creative team - they are almost solely responsible for his core music taste. His father was a Rasta electrician who spent part of his time running a company with other tradesmen, and the rest of his time hosting parties with group Memphis Sound. Through his dad, Mega became schooled in reggae and rare groove, but his other family members filled the house with vibrant 80s pop.

“A lot of artists talk about the music they grew up listening to when mummy wasn't looking, or when they were out partying with their friends,” he says. “But there are songs in your household that mould you as well.” He tells me he's known for tipping off others in the game to unlikely hits from golden eras (his Annie Lennox fandom is the biggest curveball) and feels that part of the reason So Solid did so well is that they never tried too hard to sound current.

“We decided to have a different mindset, even the way that we spoke and the slang that we used back then. It hasn't dated. And did we do that on purpose? Was it the way we was brought up? Now I have to show people that maybe this is the reason why - because we grew up on songs like this.”

“Life” by Bob Andy

“My dad used to play this a lot back in the day - if it was rare groove, it was my dad. And because of his culture, because he was a Rasta, he wasn't a person that was into possessions and being flashy and... trying be a star or the biggest, most well-known person.

“But he was really good with his kids. Growing up, I stayed with my dad two or three years, then I moved back with my grandparents, but he was a great dad. Whenever we needed him to be there, he'd be there, even right through to the So Solid days. Every Sunday my dad would go visit his kids. Every Sunday, without fail.

“So the morals my dad set, and the music that he was playing for me at that time, those stuck with me, along with this tune. Even in my worst times, this tune made me feel very uplifted and confident.”

“Let’s Dance” by David Bowie

“Let's Dance” stuck out for me, because this sample's been used so many times in hip hop culture, in dance culture, which is why it's stayed with me more than the rest. Diddy remixed, y'know? I don't remember the first time I heard it, but it would have been through my auntie.

“My auntie was a … big-boned lady. And she never really went out much, she never had any children. She passed away few years ago, but she was like a mother to us. And there were so many pop artists that she loved. Out of the whole household, my uncle Eric, my uncle Mark and my auntie Pat listened to all the white cultural big pop songs at that time. Whereas my dad's side was reggae revival, and at my grandma's house it was more gospel stuff.

“My auntie was always home. She didn't have much of a personal life - I guess we were her personal life. And out of all the songs she would play - George Michael, Duran Duran, Boy George - I would have to give this one. This represents her joy... her carefree-ness of not wanting to grow up or wanting to be a mother herself. It's touching still because I could have chosen another song that was more loving and emotional. But she never had a relationship until late into her life, so I didn't know even if she experienced that until much later.

“Like I said, we were her kids. And when we walked into that living room, there was a selective number of songs she would play - and because we were young, we were dancers, she picked this one.”

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) by Eurythmics

“It's just a big tune - it's never stopped. There's some tunes that you know are UK-based, and you know they were part of the fabric of your experience growing up... this is one of them.

“Annie Lennox herself is a big artist - salute. And I was finding it hard to find a lot of female artists from that era when I was selecting these songs... I struggled to be honest. But she's one of the legends I would like to meet. Other people just wanna take pictures of whoever's popular now or whatever. But there's legends in this business that I've always wanted to get an opportunity with.

“A lot of them are passing, and not here anymore, rest their souls. But the ones that are, I still have that same feelings and vibe from them as I did back in the early days of So Solid. If I meet her, I'm still gonna be a little fan. I'm sure she's doing well and looking after herself!”

"Get A Life” by Soul II Soul

“When I was younger, everybody used to just wanna go out and party and drink and not really think about things, maybe not look at the environment around them. I always felt like... 'What did it take to put this on? How did this work?' You couldn't put me in a room, a city, a car, on a bike or anything without me thinking 'How did somebody put this together?'.

“I think this was [Soul II Soul founder] Jazzie B's mindset too. Because when you looked at pop bands back then, you didn't know who was the person behind it all - who was writing the songs and producing. You just looked at the person with the mic. But we all knew who Jazzie B was. When he stepped up and started speaking on this tune - I won't say singing, just speaking and educating people – that was something... that was the mindset I took into everything. When I was walking into a label or a video shoot or anything.

“The first video shoot I ever walked on was “Bound 4 Da Reload” (by Oxide & Neutrino) and the first thing I said to G Man was like, 'Yo... how does this work? Who's that? What does this brother do?' And this was before I was signed. I was just asking those questions. I would say Jazzie B in Soul II Soul is how I am in So Solid. I might not have produced everything behind that brand, but most of the hits I was involved in writing and producing.

“It's cool to learn everything, but it's not cool to be everything. I didn't wanna be on the stage forever, or the producer forever or the businessman forever. One of these sectors I'd have to fall back and focus on. I always thought far ahead, and I knew that I couldn't be on that stage and sell myself forever. Like, I'll have more longevity in this business if I help to create artists rather than try and sell myself. Y'know? So … that's another thing Jazzie B helped me understand.”

“Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth

“This tune is a very big tune, especially to people in the Caribbean, because they know the original, and they've heard it so many times. But seeing a whole bunch of youth at that time on our screens, in front of Big Ben, dressed like we dress – not flashy, just normal youth – it was wicked.

“At that time, I didn't know who they were. I was like 'Bruv, these are English.. but they're speaking patois like they're from the West indies. Yo, I know this tune. This tune's big. What does dutchie mean again?'

“It's just a good vibe. And one of the members of Music Youth is a cousin of my cousin, so we used to bump into him at family dos. I love it.”

“Another Brick In The Wall” by Pink Floyd

“After primary school, going into secondary school... there wasn't much urban music on the radio at these times. If there was any popular song when you were growing up, or you were watching Top Of The Pops, you'd hear those songs played over and over again. And it was only when we got to secondary school when we started to realise just how much of a rebel we could actually be. That song sat with us the most.

“I was a rebel in school. I didn't finish my GCSEs. I always bunked off, I had numerous fights. I got kicked out two weeks into my fourth year. So leaving school at 15... then 16, 17, and at 18 starting So Solid. I was signed two weeks after that.

“That song definitely helped me, man. For the time when it came out, it was the most rebellious song. Like, I'm not even sure if it got banned, or if there was any talk about banning it in schools, but it was similar to the Sex Pistols I guess. Rebel music man, rebel music.”

“Rat In Mi Kitchen” by UB40

“I loved this band so much, and there were so many songs that stuck out to me... You got “Sweet Cherrie”, you got “Kingston Town”. I didn't know that their songs were covers - my dad started to play this one because Pat and Eric would play it so much. And when it came on Top of the Pops, he would explain like, “Yeah man, that's an old school tune that's been done by this artist and that artist” so...

“The dreadlocks guy in UB40 was always quiet - I didn't really know what his role was, apart from playing an instrument. I didn't know whether all of them were singers or what. So when I heard him step up and do “Rat In Mi Kitchen”, I was like … this is my song!

“And it was relatable, really relatable, because I always used to get told off – snitched on by my cousins and what not, to my parents and my auntie. “It was Dwayne that told us to stay out late, it was Dwayne that said we could do this”, y'know? The innocent side of the song was what captured me at a young age. And I used to sing it in my cousins' ears all the time. Obviously I never done it!”

“Crazy” by Seal

“When this tune came out, I didn't even like the artist that much. But the song … there wasn't much to his videos, but the words really sat with me.

“People used to say 'you're mad' to me a lot. Like 'Bro, you're crazy, why would you wanna go do this? Why would you wanna go do that? You're taking on too much'. I was always looked on different. And this is the difference in me – to this day I would wanna help people before I help myself.

“And the mindset of how Seal spoke, about being forward, about being wired differently. Even if people call you crazy, you might be the sane one. You might be intelligent. It was one of those songs, just like Bob Andy, that made me think outside the box. Most of my friends didn't wanna set up a limited company at 18, you know what I mean? And those were the things I was into. I didn't wanna be in the system, I didn't wanna work, I didn't wanna think about a J.O.B.

“In school, they put us in a special class. And it was all the kids who were either heavily influential in the school - in the wrong way - or all the snappy, bipolar kids. They put everyone who was seen as bad in the same class. And I guess 'crazy' is how those classes made me feel. And yet, a lot of those kids grew up to be artists and football players and stuff like that. A lot of those people were wired differently, and later they really made something of themselves.”

“Lifted” by Lighthouse Family

“The Lighthouse Family always lifted my spirit, always. Brightest music of my time, especially around 96... 97. I still follow these guys today, man, they're still touring.

“See, me and the rest of So Solid didn't actually listen to garage in our spare time. Garage music was club music – so we'd listen to rap, hip hop, R&B, gospel pop, all that sort of stuff.

“And Lighthouse Family were big. “High”, you remember that one? … and “Lifted” were my most favourite tunes. I felt at that time when I heard this tune, that my life was going to change. I used to sing it all the time. It was the song that made me look at my son's mother and say, 'Yeah I'm gonna do this shit'. I was sleeping in the radio stations, I was putting up the rigs every night, I was riding my bike from Acre Lane to Clapham Junction and back.

“I was being a flyer boy; I was trying to be everything. But there was a point in 98, when I knew like 'Rah, I'm actually getting signed.' And these songs were just playing over and over again while I was cruising in my MR2, down the motorway with hardly any traffic – and no speed cameras back then. We used to put our foot down. It helped us drift into that year with the sense that things were gonna be so good now.”

The 21 Seconds EP is out now via Craft Recordings
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