MC Skibadee, Jungle Music & Me… 🕊️

My first encounter with Skibadee was an aggressive one. The year was 1999: I was in the queue for jungle ravers’ hotspot Planet V at Bagleys, and I was being directed by security to step out of the paying queue and stand in the guestlist queue. As I turned, this scrawny but tall guy barged into the back of me; rushing to get by, he offered a half-apology without looking back and his entourage all pushed past me too. He was wearing an army green T-shirt and a leather waistcoat, then my boy Stephen said to me: “Oh shit! That’s Skibadee.” He wasn’t MCing that night, he was only passing through, but the royal entrance he was afforded and the amount of people greeting him told me he was every bit the big deal I’d heard so much about.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that without Skibadee, you might not have grime. Ask any grime or garage MC which UK MC they grew up listening to, and they’ll all say one name: MC Skibadee. The current generation of MCs will be too young to remember Stevie Hyper D, so Skiba will be the first superstar MC they’ll have grown up on and emulated. Bushkin, Wiley, Dizzee, Ghetts, D Double and the late Stormin are just a few of the artists who have been influenced and inspired by Skiba, and they themselves have gone on to inspire generations.

MCs in Britain weren’t really looked at with respect or credibility back in the early ‘90s—it was rappers from the States that were getting all the attention and acclaim. Rhyming in a British accent wasn’t really cutting through, and the lived experiences being rapped about here wasn’t coming across as authentic. But Skiba was an MC that was 100% British, 100% London, and proud to be a rave-ready mic controller. Shabba D and Stevie Hyper D were the only two MCs we’d heard doing the double-time style Skiba became synonymous with. But let’s be clear: Skiba very quickly became the King of the dance. At school, there were only a few names in the jungle scene that were known beyond the scene—i.e. LTJ Bukem, Goldie, Brockie, Mickey Finn, Jumpin Jack Frost, Fabio & Grooverider—but chief among them was, you guessed it: MC Skibadee.

When Skiba passed away recently, my dad—aka DJ Bryan Gee—phoned me to tell me the news, and I could tell down the phone that he was deeply affected. My dad toured the States, Canada and Europe with Skibadee for 25 years and they mashed up many a dance—I saw it with my own two eyes. My dad always loved working with Skiba. “As a DJ, you walk into most dances and you know you’re the man,” he tells me. “All eyes are on you! Without being arrogant, you know everyone’s there for you. But Skiba was the only MC who would get just as much, if not more attention than me. I never liked that,” he says with a laugh, but I can tell he’s holding back the tears. It might be a lie, but Skiba told me on several occasions that my dad was his favourite DJ. I choose to believe it.

My cousin was an even closer friend of Skiba and was his driver for a number of years. I would often jump in the back and off we’d head to Bristol, Bournemouth or Newcastle. So I got to know him as a funny, smart and emotionally intelligent guy. He loved music, all types of music, as well as being passionate about lyrics and poetry.

My club night Movement, at Bar Rumba, was the place to be every Thursday night in London, and I was lucky enough to book Skiba at least 10 times whilst running the night. I remember one particular encounter. It wasn’t a particularly busy night—Skiba did his set, killed it as usual, and made his way up the steps to the entrance where I was by the exit and till. I said, “Skibz, it’s a quiet one tonight, but send me your bank details and I’ll send the money first thing.” He looked at me, almost disgusted, and said: “J, don’t be dumb. Hold that! It’s a minor, man. I come for B (Bryan Gee). It’s Movement, man. I love it here! Just get me back soon.” That summed him up. Movement wasn’t a money thing for artists, and Skiba got that.

Skibadee was the MC guys wanted to be and the MC girls wanted to be with. He was one of the first superstar MCs in the UK. Everyone on the underground knew who he was, and he was one of the first jungle acts to get signed to a major label too. His nearly 30-year career will never be forgotten. In fact, myself and the rest of the Movement team were planning our 10th birthday recently when Knowledge Magazine approached us about doing a feature on us and having their cover CD as the live set from my dad playing at one of the nights—which, of course, featured Skibadee.

Skiba was to UK music what Thierry Henry was to football. He’s the reason a generation of boys picked up a mic and sprayed. Every time I hear someone say “Toyota”, I’ll always think of Skiba. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Posted on March 11, 2022