Whilst in many ways this year has felt at times unproductive and mundane, we have been so inspired by the continued efforts of creative people from in and around Leeds throughout the year. In these unfamilar and uncertain times, so many amazing artists, collectives, radio stations, and DJs have used their time to keep on creating to and support each other, and we want to acknowledge the resilience that the creative scene has shown throughout these trying months. As the year draws to a close, we reflect back on some of our favourite aspects of the year in this years BabyStep Awards. Here are the nominations!
DJ OF THE YEAR
Initially brought to our attention through her involvement with Leeds night Spin City, Tañ is a DJ who has really taken this year by the horns, and not wasted a single second. With her signature blend of styles not limited to UKG, Techno, Afrobeats, and electro, she has managed to produce an impressive volume of work this year, with appearances on Rinse FM, Electric Boogaloo, Balami, and, most impressively, Lobster Theremin's mix series. She also recently took part in Culture Deck's Girls On Deck filmed mix series, which is now available to watch!
Leeds producer and DJ Bakey has leapt from success to success this year. He first appeared on our radar at the start of the year when gritty UKG and breakbeat edits began to appear on his SoundCloud, gaining instant traction. A few months down the line, and Bakey has secured releases on 199 and ec2a, as well as appearances on Rinse FM, Balami, and Subtle Radio. Bakey’s debut EP was released on Shall Not Fade in September, and was so successful that it has landed him an orange repress. We absolutely love his dark, driving take on UKG, and are really looking forward to what he has planned in 2021.
Slowcook has been on quite the journey this year. Originally the co-founder of iconic Leeds night Equaliser, she now resides in Bejing where she continues to run the night. Now out in China, it was amazing to see her do a Boiler Room set this November after having done so much for the Leeds scene! Keep an eye out for next weeks Bandcamp Picks, in which we will be having a chat with her.
Dubrunner is fast creating a burgeoning reputation as a mainstay in the Leeds music scene. Responsible for the iconic Stretchy Dance Supply night, where the likes of Sherelle and Adison Groove have headlined, he has formed an integral part of Leeds nightlife in recent years. On the production front, Dubrunner has not slowed down, with recent releases Scuffed Records, SYN12, and Dansu Discs forming a body of work that draws on dancehall, steppas and soundsystem culture. Having supported Iration Steppas at freedom Mills ecently, and with his releases continuing to pop up, he is without doubt one of the busiest artists around, and we can’t wait for the Stretchy parties to continue!
We have very much enjoyed following Leeds mainstay NikNak's achievements over the last year, which has been, at times, a dizzying experience, due to the sheer volume and rate at which she is able to produce her content! Whether it be hosting webinars for Music:Leeds, releasing her debut album 'Bashi', making appearances on a whole variety of UK radio stations, or winning this year's Oram award, this skilled producer and turntablist has not let the 2020 pandemic even slightly stifle her creative output. However, her talents are not limited to that behind the decks, as her forte as a presenter can be witnessed throughout 'The Narrative Podcast', in which, each month, NikNak and a selected guest discuss issues surrounding black female creativity in art, music, and culture.
Alfie, aka Alfredo Romero, has been a pleasure to follow this year. From his continued involvement in Leeds collective Ready Meal Sound, to his own solo productions that have seen him release with Dansu Discs, Equal People records, Gimme A Break, and ec2a, Alfie has been on a roll to say the least. He used his time in lockdown to set up his label Tapas Wax, and is now running his own London based record store Next Door Records!
LABEL OF THE YEAR
Gimme A Break
Gimme A Break is a label that has been providing a steady stream of quality mixes and single digital download releases since early August. Set up with the aim of showcasing up and coming talent in the realm of breakbeat, UKG, and electro, it was in November, however, that they really exploded onto the scene with their debut compilation album ‘We Are Viable’. For a relatively new platform, we were extremely impressed at the level of promotion that they were able to give to this release, and how well it did- it’s currently sitting in Bandcamp’s ‘Best Selling of All Time’ list!
Tight Lines are an Independent Record Label and community interest company representing some of Leeds' finest including Têtes de Pois, Skwid Ink, Jasmine, Ferg's Imaginary Big Band, HEV and Hey Fish. They’ve continued to push the artists on their label, keeping everyone entertained in lockdown, whilst supporting local legends with weekly playlists. They’ve ended the year on a high, presenting us with the debut album from The Mabgate Organ Trio, 'From The Mabgate Basement'.
Initially formed in Leeds, Dansu Discs have absolutely smashed it this year against all odds. With tracks from the likes of Subjoi, Interplanetary Criminal, Chrissy and Lavonz under their belt, in 2020 alone they released 9 amazing records. Their Dansu for Mental Health compilation in particular was a great success, raising money for the Samaritans and The Mental Health Foundation.
Created in 2012 by Scott lewis and Ste Langton, Clue has released music from artists including of YOWL, Crushed Beaks, Team Picture, and many more, and have gone on to draw attention from NME, DIY, The Independent, Q Magazine,BBC Radio 1, and BBC 6Music. Their recent signing of Bored At My Grandma's House, and their participation in the Independent Label Advent Calender to raise money for Crisis UK prove that this pandemic isn't going to slow them down. Head to their Bandcamp for some gorgeous pressings of both Bored at My Grandma's House and Team Picture's recent albums!
SYN!2 is a label that has really come into its own this year. Created initially with the intention of putting on parties, SYN12 has adapted and become a platform that provides both club-ready tracks, and, more recently, music that can be enjoyed from the home environment. Having started out as a club night hosting the likes of Volruptus at Wharf Chambers, the team decided to venture into the label world. This two digital/tape VA releases under their belts, we really love the sound that they are pushing.
Monomyth Records is a not for profit record label and artist collective based in Leeds. Born in 2017 and steered by Bob Brazill along with a fantastic team of creatives, their mission is to gather and develop new music from an eclectic mix of emerging artists and to serve as a launch pad for their work. They are producing and playing more music than ever, working with some incredible artists and bands such as Luka, Artio and The Venus Grrrls. The label refused to let a pandemic impact their tangible passion to nurture creative relationships throughout the growing local music scene, Monomyth we salute you!
COLLECTIVE OF THE YEAR
Prescribe the Vibe
Staying true to providing "all the vibes all the time", Prescribe the Vibe have been consistent and impressive in their stream of radio, tunes, freestyles and mixes this year. We've particularly loved the variety in their SoundCloud releases, spanning across techno, UKG, deep house and jungle.
Leeds-based collective Readymeal Sound have worked non-stop this year, enjoying success after success in the process. Moving from their intimate jazz nights at East Village Bar at the start of the year, the group have had a smooth transition to doing things a little differently given the circumstances. Part of their team sees Leeds and London-based artists Izzi De Rosa, Laika, Pixie Cola, Yusuf Yellow and Jxnior regularly releasing music and content on their platform - with singles IRS and Half Moon reminding their supporters just how talented Readymeal are. Our love for the house band never wavers either, with Ben Nimmo, Alfie Auckett, Tom Royston, John Flemming and Fin Woolfson adding their magic to every performance they do and every track they make.
Titchat is a collective focused on the growing awareness and education of feminism, focusing specifically on its impact within art, media and culture. Comprised of Leeds-based duo Harriet and Sydney, we've been touched by how much life and colour the girls have put into their work this year. Despite the circumstances, their posts, artwork, articles and interviews have exude waves of positivity and zeal that makes them one of our favourite collectives of this year.
The Beatriarchy are a collective dedicated to sharing and celebrating electronic music, focusing specifically on the inclusion of underrepresented groups in the music industry, such as womxn, BAME and LGBTQ+ groups. The Beatriarchy only started this year, yet the tremendous work of the pair behind the collective, Kitsta and Gracie T, has pushed it to the forefront of ones to watch. Whether it be mixes, interviews, tune sharing or events, we are so excited to see what's in store for them in the months to come.
199 have had a year of astronomical success, squeezing in the release of two huge compilations, a mix series and two sell-out events. The Lock In, their first VA, featured 10 artists from Leeds and beyond, raising money for those left vulnerable from the Coronavirus pandemic. In September they returned for Round 2, releasing the 21-piece mega-compilation 199 In Arms. This release in particular really stood out to us, as the quality and style of tracks set the bar extremely high for VAs to come. Congrats to the boys at 199 for a great year!
To the Local
To the Local are a Leeds-based collective that absolutely smashed it this year, particularly during Lockdown. Run by Abi Whistance, their support and engagement with local artists and labels really stood out to us. During Lockdown they also held a hugely successful online festival, which raised money for the NHS and independent venues. Their focus on collaboration and interaction was achieved brilliantly, and we can't wait to see what the next 12 months has in store.
BAND OF THE YEAR
Mamilah are a seriously talented bunch of people, boasting a discography of limitless promise that champions genres such as soul, jazz, Latin music and R&B. They’ve shared the stage with legends such as KOKOROKO, Kool and the Gang and Yazmin Lacey, Their wonderful releases, coupled with standout live performances have seen them take their sound far beyond Leeds, performing at the likes of Boomtown, El Dorado and Virgo Festival. Nothing with make you miss live music more than these guys, give it up for Mamilah!
Dead Naked Hippies
Dead Naked Hippies are self-described art-rock outsiders who have are revered for their iconic live performance. The trio’s front woman Lucy Jowett is an icon-in-waiting, with the ability to unleash blistering vocals to a backdrop of frenzied guitars and booming drums, immersing you into a beautifully shambolic wall-of-sound that you’ll blow you away. There was no way they weren’t making it onto this list…
Leeds based alt-rock duo Blue Kubricks are two brothers who write and record all their own music and have been rigorously gigging the Yorkshire circuit for upwards of three years. Pre-lockdown, the band were on the cusp of embarking on our UK-wide spring tour, but despite such setbacks they have been hard at work. Over lockdown, we were really inspired by an article they wrote for us that detailed their experiences of being ‘Black Boys in Rock’, and the pressures and prejudices that comes with it. Lovely people, making lovely music, what’s not to like?
Long Legged Creatures
Long Legged Creatures are inhabiting an inventive middle ground, toying with both the artificial and analogically pure. The band's potent blend of sounds and iconic take on electronica has shaped their live performances. Releases like Demonise and CMAD display just how much of a forward-thinking band they are, drawing influence from a conceptual reservoir of all thing’s electronic, whilst boasting stunning visuals. They’ve stayed more creative than ever during lockdown, staying connected with their audience with giveaways, a newly released track with Joshua Zero, they even did a giveaway for their own mystery effects pedal. Make sure to put these guys at the top of your list when live music returns.
Leeds-based pop-folk band Sunflower Thieves are a soulful sisterhood, who have developed a signature sound through a rigorous touring schedule and a discography of limitless promise. Recent releases like ‘Hide And Seek’ see the duo seamlessly deliver breathy vocal harmonies and admirably honest lyrics. There is a tangible sincerity to their music that makes them so easily accessible and relatable at the same time. The duo refuse to let their music take the backseat, upping their presence in the Leeds music scene more than ever this year, we can’t speak highly enough of them.
TC & The Groove Family
TC & The Groove Family are a 10-piece collective whose music celebrates the coming together of cultures, and the unity that music can provide for everyone. They explore grooves from both the UK and around the world, including afrobeat, breakbeats, jungle and highlife. 2020 was the year we first heard their wonderful music and we just can’t get enough.
THE SAVE OUR SCENE AWARD
Narr Radio Launch
There isn’t a beginner’s guide to launching a radio show during a pandemic, but if there was NARR would certainly be in contention to write it. The Leeds based Radio station has been a welcomed addition to the city, moving into the Corn Exchange alongside Released Records. Since their formation, they’ve championed local talent, hosted Webinarrs, and welcomed in applications for people of all experience, regardless of equipment. Radio can often feel so unnecessarily cliquey and elitist, and NARR are breaking down those barriers and amplifying those who have previously been marginalised.
Launchpad- Supporting Yorkshire's Musicians During A Pandemic
Since their launch, Launchpad Music have worked alongside 62 budding artists - including musicians, producers, bands and composers. This help has covered a range of areas, from financial support for recording sessions to 1-1 mentoring about working in the music industry. They have a fantastic ability to form an expansive selection of some of the most promising talent in the North.
Gimme A Break- We Are Viable Charity Compilation
Gimme A Break are a Leeds-based record label which hopes to align the city’s electronic music with the rest of the country. Whilst supporting the UKG and Breakbeat revival, they also work with visual artists to reflect Leeds' industrial backdrop. They debuted with a charity compilation titled ‘We Are Viable’, that saw 15 producers from Leeds and further afield to curate an album of UKG, breakbeat, techno and jungle edits. All of the proceeds from this compilation were donated to MAP Charity, a charity that fuels creativity in the city and was hit hard during a pandemic. We were so impressed by the amount of momentum and support they managed to amass from some quite significant labels and artists in such a small space of time! A massive well-done to this truly inspiring label.
When the pandemic hit, multi-purpose venue Sheaf Street had two options, to sit down and admit defeat, or to fight back. Thank God they chose the latter, they’ve been more creative then ever in 2020 and we love them for it. They’ve done everything to raise spirits and keep their venue and creativity afloat: Whether it’s announcing the new Leeds venue TestBed, spreading hope and joy with their #PostersForThePeople campaign, or launching a One in One Out clubnight.
They champion the belief that one day We Will Dance Again.
Love Muscle’s Lickdown Lovestream
Love Muscle came out of hibernation to bring everyone a fundraising live-stream for a cause very close to their hearts, raising funds so that one of their resident DJs can access life-saving surgery. Love Muscle's Lickdown Lovestream was a joyous celebration of music with a 12hr line-up of some of our favourite DJs, alongside the Love Muscle residents. They reached the goal of £10,500, guaranteeing their friend access to the life-changing surgery that they need. Sable Radio worked tirelessly to keep the stream running, whilst MAP Charity allowed them to use the space at Hope House to broadcast from. The amazing vision and tireless efforts to put on the stream proves that amongst confines of lockdown, it’s still possible to bring about real change.