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It is the year of a Jungle Renaissance. Itís about good vibes, funk, vocals, monstrous anthems and lyrics to go. Just ask DJ Aphro aka Aphrodite. Whoever you ask, you'll get the same answer: 2002 is all about Shaking Yer Booty to jungle stylings, and Aphro's leading the pack. His last album sold 100,000 copies worldwide. Thatís over four times what Baby Spice scraped. People, donít call it a comeback: heís been here for years.

London-based DJ/producer Gavin King began his musical career during England's 1988 "Summer of Love," smack-dab in the middle of the country's Acid House clubbing explosion. King and a partner ran a club night called "Aphrodite." The "Goddess of Love" theme fit the Summer of Love, and so did the Aphrodite-tag when the pair started getting booked all over England as "the Aphrodite DJs." Eventually, the moniker fell to King, who became DJ Aphrodite.

As the mid-'90s approached, the U.K. dance sound shifted from acid house to a funkier hybrid of hip-hop and house called hardcore breakbeat, which inspired groups like the Prodigy and Chemical Brothers, as well as Aphrodite himself, who, along with partner Mickey Finn, crafted the classic "Some Justice" under the name Urban Shakedown.

Dance subgenres never stay put for long, and soon, spurred on by tunes like "Some Justice," breakbeat mutated into the chimeric convergence of reggae bass, doubtletime breakbeat rhythms and Jamaican soundsystem boom known as jungle.

By 1994, Aphrodite was a prime mover in the U.K. jungle explosion. But times for the burgeoning DJ were tight, and faced with a tight budget to buy new records, he decided he might as well just make his own. He put his resources into producing his own tracks and label, Aphrodite Records. Soon he was putting out genre-defining jungle singles under his own name, as Amazon II (with producer Tony B) and as Aladdin (a collaboration with Mark QED).

With his instincts honed in the DJ booth, Aphrodite's production became known for its ability to by-pass critics and trends and head straight to the dancefloor, as heard in songs like "Towers of Bass," and later, the seminal "King of the Beats."

With his instincts honed in the DJ booth, Aphrodite's production became known for its ability to by-pass critics and trends and head straight to the dancefloor, as heard in songs like "Towers of Bass," and later, the seminal "King of the Beats."

WSoon, Aphrodite was being heralded (and eventually hated-on by the ornery jungle community) for pioneering an unashamedly-catchy form of jungle called "jump-up," the sound which reigned over the U.K. jungle scene in the mid'90s.

By 1996, Aphrodite had formed Urban Takeover Records with his former Urban Shakedown partner Mickey Finn. The two were responsible for classics like "Badass," while the label released the first major drum 'n' bass record to come out of North America-"Man of Steal" by Toronto's Vinyl Syndicate.

While many jungle producers resented their underground genre's growing commercial popularity and turned to making harder, darker tracks to nip any commercialism in the bud, Aphrodite saw the opportunity to take jungle to an even wider audience.

As one of the first jungle DJs to build further bridges across the Atlantic, Aphrodite began piquing American interest when he started making his own private dubplates of hip-hop tracks like A Tribe Called Quest "1nce Again" and Blackstreet's "No Diggety." These underground hits led to wildly-popular remixes for the Jungle Brothers ("Jungle Brother") and the Luniz ("I Got 5 On It").

Soon, his catchy jump-up tracks ("King of the Beats," etc.) were making their way into underground mix-tapes by bass-loving Detroit ghetto-tech DJs. Aphrodite himself, ironically, was giving American audiences their first taste of the harder, darker U.K. drum 'n' bass sound, playing tunes like Bad Company's "The Nine" for the first time, continuing to spread the gospel of drum 'n' bass to new congregations.

His worldwide popularity and deep catalog of classics resulted in his self-titled U.S. debut for V2/Gee Street in 1999. Mixing new tunes with well-known favorites, Aphrodite brought classics like "King of the Beats" to a broader audience, while jungle heads went nuts for new tracks like "B.M. Funkster" and "Summer Breeze," an unlikely but stunning re-working of the '70s Seals and Croft classic.

The album's success took Aphrodite across America and around the world, from Hong Kong and Malaysia to Australia and the Phillipines. Asked to pick-out a best-night-ever gig, Aphrodite cites he and Mickey Finn's set at the 2001 Glastonbury festival in Scotland. "We were playing the dance tent, which had about 30,000 people in and around it," he begins. "Over on the mainstage, David Bowie was playing for about 80,000 people. And I put on one of my tracks, and the whole dance tent just roared, all 30,000 people. David Bowie heard it and just stopped his set and went, 'What the hell is going on over there?!'"

For the past two years, Aphrodite has been concentrating on taking his music straight to the people with a non-stop DJ schedule, pausing only to make new tracks that promptly get pressed to dubplate and road-tested on the dancefloor the following weekend.

The fruits of Aphrodite's peak-hour road-tests are assembled on Aftershock, his sophomore album for MTA/ V2. "This record is really about what I've been deejaying. But there's different flavors of drum 'n' bass in there--ragga, hip-hop, hard tracks, funkier tracks. But it all reflects what I've been playing out more than it does being a follow-up to my last album," he says.

"This album the result of what I've been testing on the crowds," he says, adding with a chuckle, "It's all the good records I've been making." Besides the instrumental tracks like "Fanfare" and the analog-shimmying "Wobble," Aftershock melds jungle and hip-hop with an aplomb that would make Outkast flip their wigs.

Hoochie," the album's first single, features legendary Philly rapper Schooly D, while rappers Rah Digga and Big Daddy Kane are also appear on tracks. Not just as snippets, but as full-on, rhyme-spitting MCs. "My last album relied heavily on some samples. This time I'm using vocalists, which I love-it's like using an instrument that speaks," Aphrodite explains. "I think working with vocalists is the future of drum 'n' bass. And," he adds with a grin, "the drum 'n' bass scene has come back around and DJs are playing tracks with vocals again."

But with his worldwide audience, and straight-to-the-people approach, Aphrodite needn't worry if the fickle drum 'n' bass underground is embracing him again or not. (Though it is nice that they are). His mission, as always, is serving as an ambassador, not just an elder statesmen, of jungle's infectious promise.

"The bottom line for me is that I have one foot inside the drum 'n' bass scene and one out of it. Some of the tunes I do aren't what the other DJs will play, but the average person hearing it will be introduced to drum 'n' bass by them."

With Aftershock, the introduction continues, and the world's shaking hands with jungle--by shaking its behind to Aphrodite tracks.




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