“My dad was a record and radio producer, and when I was a kid, there were so many records in the house, so I was born into music. I remember watching a group called Whistle on Top Of The Pops, and I was hooked from that moment.”
“I started a hip-hop magazine when I was 19, and we sold them in a few record stores. I started meeting a lot of hip-hop artists back in the day: Jay Z, Snoop Dogg, Biggie Smalls, Tupac and the like.”
My friend, DJ Fake Blood, asked me to drive him to his gig at Fabric, and it was a whole new experience
Through journalism, Jaguar Skills immersed himself within the culture, documenting hot new hip-hop tracks of the era and laying the groundwork for what would become his Time Bomb series over twenty years later.
“When the magazine closed down, I didn’t know what to do with myself. My friend, DJ Fake Blood, asked me to drive him to his gig at Fabric, and it was a whole new experience. I’d only been to underground hip-hop venues before, where DJing was very serious and high pressure, but watching him DJ in Fabric made it look fun and enjoyable.”
While he lacked formal DJ training, it was his natural talent for music production that led to his first official release. Producing an album of beats using two mini-disk players, he released the record to rave reviews.
“I’d put a bunch of records on my minidisc player and accidentally looped a section of one track, and it created an awesome sound effect. I didn’t fully understand what I was making, but I continued to record and ended up releasing a whole album of beats that way. To my surprise, it received 5-star reviews and earned me my first DJing gig.”
To my surprise, it received 5-star reviews and earned me my first DJing gig
“The Hip-Hop DJs you’d see at underground parties would only play small sections of each song, and that’s what I replicated but with my records. I’d mix parts of a House song with Jungle and then transition to Jazz. That’s how the Jaguar Skills cut-n-paste style was created.”
In 2006, having fallen on hard times, he did what all Hip-Hop artists do in moments of struggle: channelled his misery into art and created his now famous ‘1979-2006: A Hip-Hop Odyssey’ mixtape. The mix featured over 800 classic hip-hop tracks released between 1979 and 2006. Released under the name ‘Jaguar Skills’, in an attempt to distance it from his previous journalism work, the record received over one million downloads, shattering all expectations and became an overnight hit in the Hip-Hop scene.
“I was DJing, and it wasn’t going well, I couldn’t make much money out of it. It was around Christmas, so I decided to do a digital present and email it out. I’d made a list of all the best hip-hop songs ever to be released, and I challenged myself to mix them all on one record in chronological order.”
“One of my friends that received the file called me and said: “I’ve put it on the blogs, and it took off!” It had 100k downloads, and I remember clicking the link and just watching the numbers climb.”
One of my friends that received the file called me and said: “I’ve put it on the blogs, and it took off!” I clicked the link and just watched the numbers climb
The next years would see Jaguar Skill collaborating with many different artists and adopting his anthology series for new genres with the release of ‘History of DnB’ and ‘History of Ayia Napa’.
“I had so many great experiences touring and doing Radio 1 Extra, but I found I was hardly playing hip-hop. I was doing a lot of drum n bass, but I wasn’t feeling it.”
“In the 90s, I thought it would be great to take a hip-hop track and mix it into the song that it initially sampled. I left that idea for 20 years but felt inspired to do it now.”
Enter, Time Bomb 1990, featuring the best hip-hop tunes to be released that year remixed in with the original tracks they sampled. Each Time Bomb is more than just a listening experience; it’s an education in music history.
It’s all word of mouth; I didn’t expect it to pop off like this at all. When you make something that you love, it resonates with people
Researching the origins of the samples and reconstructing a year’s worth of music into a listenable one hour mix is no small feat. However, Jaguar Skill’s love for the genre and fascination with music history was motivation enough for him to see it through. A labour of love, Jaguar Skills set out to create a mix that listeners would enjoy hearing as much as he enjoyed creating it.
“It’s all word of mouth; I didn’t expect it to pop off like this at all. When you make something that you love, it resonates with people, and I think people can hear the time that’s gone into it.”
“I love all types of music, but Hip-Hop is what I know; conversely, I know about the other kinds of music because of hip-hop. I feel like Time Bomb is academic, it’s such a significant body of work. If you like Hip-Hop, you can check it out, and appreciate how Hip-Hop artists transformed other songs for their needs.”
Of course, when one sets themselves the task of cataloguing an entire genre of music, especially a genre as generationally divisive as hip-hop, age-old disputes about which era rules supreme are bound to arise.
I feel like Time Bomb is academic, it’s such a significant body of work
“Historically, every generation has something that the previous listeners “don’t get”. My generation’s Hip-Hop music is different from what Hip-Hop is today. I don’t understand the new wave, but why should I? Old school Hip-Hop fans wanted Grandmaster Flash, and they didn’t understand Rakim, but as a young Hip-Hop lover in the 90s, that’s the era of hip-hop that spoke to me.”
“Creating Time Bomb has made me realise how much Hip-Hop has changed on an artistic level when compared to the modern commercialised stuff. That said, the underground scene is thriving, those artists are looking back and learning their history, and I think there will be a move towards the more authentic artists soon.”
The global pandemic has had an immeasurable negative impact on the music industry, but as with his previous setbacks, Jaguar Skills has turned tragedy into opportunity. While Time Bomb started as a passion project, it’s grown into a vital presentation of the excellent Hip-Hop talent of years gone by and the many tunes they sampled.
From mixtapes constructed on his minidisc players to the top of the iTunes charts, Time Bomb is a living testament to how far both genre and producer have come and the limitless musical landscape still to be explored.