When UK garage rose to prominence in the late 90s, Dreem Teem were at the forefront of the movement. The trio - comprising DJ Spoony, Timmi Magic and Mikee B - had all solidified their own individual reputations in the nation’s underground music communities through their work as soundsystem owners, DJs or party organisers. Regulars on London’s vibrant pirate radio station circuit, the artists came together to form the Dreem Teem on the renowned London Underground FM.
The station was one of the first platforms to actively champion the fledgling garage movement which quickly gained an avid following as the freshest UK sound since drum 'n' bass. Dreem Teem were regulars on the station, helping to populise the new genre with their knowledge, prowess and collective aura.
Read this next: UK garage: the 40 best tracks of 1995 to 2005
It wasn’t long before the trio left the pirate world, first taking on a three year stint on Kiss 100 in 1997 before reaching the heights of BBC Radio 1. They stayed with the broadcast network for another three years, where they helped mould the early careers of artists such as Craig David and Artful Dodger, and interviewed everyone from the Beckhams to Alicia Keys. Their Sunday morning show also earned them a coveted Sony Radio Academy Award.
As well as helping to bring through and showcase the heaps of talent that took up the garage sound, the trio also spent considerable amounts of time in the studio themselves. Together they released a number of tracks that became recognised club anthems, such as the bubbling sounds of ‘The Theme’.
Read this next: UK Garage is the best genre ever
Not only were they the finest purveyors of garage music, but by living in London, they soaked up the abundance of dance music sound and culture that became the beating heart of the capital in the backend of the twentieth century. Ahead of their set at 51st State Festival, we asked the group to pick out some of their biggest musical inspirations, with everything from reggae to jungle making their list...
"Taken from the movie Babylon. A brilliant film and soundtrack. The film depicted what it was like to be Black and growing up in the 80s. A deeper connection was formed as the main character was in a soundsystem. An honourable mention to Dennis Bovell for his work on the album."
"Soca and calypso music was predominantly played and made on the smaller Caribbean islands but that did not stop it from influencing music around the world. When you listen to Brasstooth’s ‘Pleasure’ or M Dubs’ ‘For Real’ there is a drum programming inspired by soca and calypso."
"Not sure if it’s fair to call Leviticus an unsung hero as it’s a moniker for the legend that is Jumping Jack Frost. An iconic jungle record that proved that dance music from the UK could be soulful and have a powerful bassline. 40 BPM difference between jungle and garage but the influence and vibe is there. Big up Frost."
"East Londoner Lennie will forever go down in underground folklore for this breakbeat brilliance. A track that could be played in sets ranging from drum 'n' bass to UKG to dubstep. It really is the sound of the streets and went on to influence productions from DJ Zinc, Groove Chronicles and Steve Gurley."
Read this next: The 12 best late-90s UK garage records
"We are so lucky in UKG to have Steve produce music for our scene. Cannot pay him high enough praise. He made jungle before UK garage and this may have been a part of his USP. His drums were different class, his ‘b lines’ touched you when they dropped. Two tracks are mentioned here but you could and should listen to all of his work."
"UKG is a relative (1st cousin) of soulful US house. Our scene started largely with music that came from the other side of the pond. We played it a little faster and often played the dubs…more bump for the floor. KC’s music was prime for us. The groove and overall energy made his vinyl a must have for any record box."
"Another of those bangers that came in from the East Coast of America, more specifically New Jersey. This was the home of Smack Productions’ Eddie Perez and Michael Cameron. They produced many smashes, working with vocalists such as Michael Watford and this one feat Lonnie Gordon. Eddie was a regular visitor to London and has worked with R.I.P in the past."
Read this next: 16 of the best uplifting vocal garage tracks
"Two more of UKG’s more underrated producers team up for an absolute Dreem Teem power play here. Jeremy Sylvester and Paul Benjamin are great producers in their own right but this track is proof that 1+1 sometimes = 3. Check out Club Asylum and Dubs 4 Clubs for more magic."
"Another champion from the UKG camp but definitely not given the accolades and respect he deserves. A real unsung hero for us. You can tell his musical influences range from reggae to soul and everything in between. This track samples a club classic from the 80s band The Funkmasters and was another Dreem Teem powerplay…one of us would ALWAYS play it."
"Gavin ‘DJ Face’ Mills and Brian Tharme were prolific as a combination around the turn of the century. We worked with them on ‘The Theme’ and they were behind Tuff Jam’s hit ‘Just Gets Better’. Always classy and sassy in their output, Gavin’s a wizard of programming and Brian matches him on the keys. Anything Catch is a must."
Read this next: 14 of the best UK garage mixes ever
"We have to mention Lover’s Rock when speaking about Black British influences. Lover's was a cross between soul and reggae and another genre that hailed from these shores. The all night ‘raves’ or ‘blues’ was where you would typically go out to hear Lovers. Fast forward nearly 20 years from ‘I’m So Sorry’ and Carol Thompson teams up with DJ Daryl B and Mark Yardley for a track that one member of the Dreem Teem played so much, the other two hid it. (True story!)"
"Another guy heavily associated with UKG that should get more props. He does get some but he is up there with the best. So good he can turn his hand to almost any sound or genre. He has worked with and provided remixes for some huge artists under various guises but this time we’d like you to listen to something he did for our label DFL (DJs For Life)."
Paddy Edrich is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter