Southampton born and raised, Joe Nice is a well-respected figure in dubstep. The GourmetBeats founder never fails to impress the masses with his skill, plates, and passionate personality. Through his successes, Joe Nice became a role model for Black people in dubstep all over the world. Although Black History Month ended, it’s imperative that Black voices get amplified year-round.
Joe Nice gave Electric Hawk the wonderful opportunity of picking the brain of a Black dubstep Don.
“People were coming to see me play because they knew they were going to get to hear tunes that nobody else had. Plus, I knew how to play them. I knew how to mix. So you put those two things together, you’re going to have a certain level of popularity and notoriety.”-Joe Nice
Steff, Electric Hawk: Can you tell me about GourmetBeats, and what it was like being one of the first projects featuring dubstep seen in the States?
Joe Nice: What I wanted to do with GourmetBeats was focus on artists that a lot of other big labels weren’t pushing or playing. There were other projects going on in the States, but I had a specific intentionality with what I wanted to do. It was thrilling and exhilarating. I was on Sub FM and Breaks FM back in the day. I did that every month for the better part of 14 or 15 years. So, people knew about the name GourmetBeats, but it never actually became a label. Knowing what I know, now, I would have never started the label back in 2015. I would have done it considerably earlier like in 2010, or maybe even before that. There would have been a lot of releases that some other labels might have that I would have gotten my hands on. But you know, regret. It’s poison.
S: So, Rinse FM. You were the first Black American to be featured on the radio, correct?
JN: I sure was. Yep. I remember it. I want to say it was September 9th, 2005. It was myself, Mala, and Kode9. It was crazy seeing how pirate radio actually gets done. It’s one thing to listen to a pirate radio broadcast and it’s another thing to see how it actually happens. So, when I saw how it actually happened, that was incredibly useful for me. It was a really, really enriching experience. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
S: Which projects or opportunities do you think offset your career music?
JN: I think there are a couple of opportunities that I’ve had. The first one was being part of the BBC dubstep documentary, which was filmed back in 2006. That happened because I got lucky. I played the DMZ All-Nighter, which was one of the massive dubstep parties that took place in South London. I remember Mala and I were driving over there. He was like, “Hey, the BBC wants to do an interview about dubstep, you want to be in it?” and I was like, “Yeah, sure, no problem!” Then, I was involved with the Dubfiles documentary. Those two projects made people pay attention to dubstep in the United States. People were like, “Wait a minute. Who is this American guy that’s over here? Why does he have all the tools from everybody overseas?!”
S: How are the experiences of being Black in dubstep different in the UK than in the States?
JN: In the UK, there’s certainly more of an understanding of not only dubstep culture, but dub culture, reggae culture, and sound system culture. That came from Jamaica, which ultimately came from Black people. When you talk about dubstep in the UK, it primarily came from a couple of different postal codes in South London. There, it was a mix of Black and white people making the music back then. For every Skream, there was a Benga. For every Loefah, you had Mala and Coki. So, I don’t want to say that being Black wasn’t recognized in the UK. I just think that people in the UK didn’t necessarily make as much of a point about being a Black person in dubstep in the UK, like America.
S: There’s a huge detach from the culture here in the states. That’s why there’s so much discourse around representation, and who is and who isn’t a token.
JN: Yea, tokenism is not a thing in the UK. I just don’t see it there. I think there is a certain level of tokenism here in the US. But, I think part of that tokenism is based on the whitewashing of a culture. I also think part of that tokenism also comes from the racism that is embedded in America.
S: You know, people like to say keep politics out of music, when music is very much political. How do you think the state of music reflects the political climate?
JN: Music is always meant to be political and subversive. It’s always meant to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, or who are uncomfortable with the spoken word. So if you have something political, that you want to share with someone, that you don’t necessarily want to speak it, or have a speech, the best way to convey your message is through song. Put on a Marvin Gaye album. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, there’s your answer. That’s the answer to the question. Just put that on.
S: There is a bit of a culture shock and bias with a lot of Black Americans when it comes to dubstep in particular. Their first thoughts are Skrillex, frats, and substance abuse. I personally think the Black community would really enjoy the true dubstep scene, but what do you think it would take for our people to get more involved in the scene?
white people putting together festival lineups. It also goes back to frat parties, substance abuse, etc. So much of those activities are, unfortunately, associated with white people. These cultural blind spots that white and Black people collectively have led to this ‘siloing’ of what we’re seeing in the culture. There are many instances where these spaces are, at minimum, not welcoming, and at worst, unsafe. It’s one thing to say that you’re being inclusive. It’s another thing to say, “Hey, we thought about you when we were making our plans. We were intentional in our actions.” That is when I think you’re going to have some change. That is when you’re going to have more Black Americans involved in this culture.
“Dubstep came from Black people. There’s a reason why one of the first dubstep albums ever is a Benga album called Diary Of An Afro Warrior He’s on the album cover, black skinned with an afro. He didn’t have a high top fade like Big Daddy Kane. He didn’t have a Gumby cut like Bobby Brown in 1989. He had a straight up Angela Davis Afro on the cover. When you look at that album cover it says, hey, look, Black people made this music!”-Joe Nice
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