After reunion, Heartless Crew’s MC Bushkin to perform solo in Dubai
Much-loved legends of the early-2000s UK garage scene, party-starting sound system Heartless Crew broke fans hearts with a bitter split at the end of the decade. Formed by three school friends – MCs Bushkin, Mighty Moe and DJ Fonti – the trio first made a mark on London’s pirate-radio scene, applying the Jamaican sound system model of MCs toasting over feel-good beats.
Peppering hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass and dance-hall grooves into the emerging garage scene, Heartless Crew were officially declared overground in 2002 with a weekly radio show on BBC Xtra. In the same year, the group branched out with the dance floor-ready, toast-scattered compilation Crisp Biscuit Vol 1, and a hit single, The Heartless Theme.
Following the 2010 split, Fonti and Bushkin carried on tearing up raves as F.A.B., before Bushkin’s sudden announcement, in early 2014, that he was quitting MCing to focus on original music.
His pledge did not last – on Saturday, July 9 the trio reunited to headline London’s Garage Nation festival.
While that reunion heralds the long-awaited rebirth of Heartless Crew, it will not put the brakes on Bushkin’s own career, as the MC made clear ahead of a solo gig at The Music Room on Thursday, July 14.
The Heartless Crew reunion has you back on the mic. Why did you quit MCing?
I’d been MCing for so long, been all over the world doing it, and there wasn’t that much more MC-wise I could do. MCs are not actually recognised around the world – people just don’t get it, so its not respected as much. I thought that to give myself some more longevity, it’s best that I cross over into an artist. I didn’t fancy seeing myself getting a bit older and still running around MCing.
Why did you guys split up?
We all had different ideas of how Heartless Crew should continue. I wanted to take things to a new level, and then Moe had other ideas – he was going down a solo road. Also, he had re-registered the Heartless Crew name in his own name, and that was a definite sticking point. People made it a bit more dramatic than it actually was. We’re actually more than friends, we see each other as brothers – so we fell out, but it was always going to come back into sync at some time. We never just stopped talking.
Now that you are back, do you feel pigeonholed as a nostalgia act?
Yes, I do find that. A lot of people pigeonhole us as just old-school garage – but there’s actually a lot more to us; we’re just as current as anybody else. But you’ve got to keep on performing and educating the masses – that’s the way I look at it. I don’t take offence.
Were you always working on your own music on the side?
Yes and no. Back in the Heartless days I could not produce, but I had a good ear for the music – Fonti was the main producer. After we split, that’s when I started to take making music seriously. The funny thing about me is that I didn’t actually like the studio at all – I’m a live artist and being in the studio I used to feel so isolated. You have to do things very precisely and I’m a rough-round-the-edges guy. That’s why I took the time out to practice doing it. It’s taken me quite a little while to hone my skills.
In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?
I don’t think I’d do anything differently because it has been a happy ending – and all the twists and the turns actually make the story a lot more juicy. I’m a lot calmer now – then I was a boisterous bull in a china shop – but I wouldn’t want to change it because who I was then made me who I am now.
• MC Bushkin headlines UK Takeover at The Music Room, Bur Dubai, on Thursday, July 14, doors open 9.30pm, Dh50 (ladies free before midnight)