No one has really told the story of RWD Forum (R.I.P) and the online community of grime producers, emcees and fans it united, and the music it manifested, so let me take this opportunity to take you back to your youth for a hot second, for one tune in particular. Those familiar with the legendary Channel U, and the whole host of classics it created, will almost certainly remember the 2005 banger "On Da Block". But what some people might not know is that there's an interesting tale behind how the instrumental came to fruition.
The story begins in the North West London borough of Harrow, with a 15-year-old producer by the name of Turfa, who, like a lot of producers at the time, was inspired by the theme tunes from popular video games. In this case: Megaman X. "I loved Megaman X and the soundtrack, so when I started playing around with Fruity Loops at 13 or 14 years old, it was an obvious theme to work with," Turfa tells me over the phone, as he reflects on making the beat.
"Slyson lived on my road and was a member of The Lost Boys—a local crew of emcees—and we all used to go to the same youth club. When I started making beats, I was happy for anyone to use them and Slyson was one of the people that did." By the standards of the day, it was a local hit as soon as it dropped. Given that I attended the same school as Slyson and Turfa, the reaction from students was as if they had turned into overnight celebs and that we were in the presence of greatness. Which, of course, we were.
Now, this is where RWD Forum and the beauty of the internet comes into play.
"I'd started working on a remix of the beat I had given to Slyson, and then sent what I had to Fusion to work on as a collaboration. He took it from there and made it into what it is," says Turfa on connecting with Fusion, the person most synonymous with producing the tune. After Fusion finished his version of the track, it was available on RWD Forum (and would later be featured as "On Da Block" in RWD Magazine, the print publication to the site). "Then Punchline got in touch and said that he wanted to use the beat for an all-star riddim, which went on to become 'On Da Block'."
Where collaborating with artists from different parts of the world is common practice today, this period in grime history was the beginning of this form of culture. No longer was the scene bound by pirate radio airwaves; kids from North West were collaborating with kids from East, all without leaving the comfort of their homes. "All I remember is getting a call from Punchline, who had the beat, saying 'I've got this track I heard and it's sick' and him bringing the other emcees from my ends to jump on the track and making history with it," reflects DDark, a heavy-hitter in the RWD Forum for his mid-00s production and vocal offerings, and also a key MC that featured on "On Da Block".
In short, RWD Forum played a fundamental role in connecting Fusion, Turfa and a whole generation of teenagers. It was a cyber community for the young grime kids of the era, which culminated in this song, as well as many others that made their way onto MSN, Limewire, Bearshare, Bluetooth and the minds of thousands of teenagers. "RWD Forum was a great place to share music," says DDark. "Many people went on there to find new music and new artists, as well as pirate radio and MSN. RWD Forum, that's where my music got around the most."
"On Da Block" was a RWD classic, MSN classic, Channel U classic, one symbolic of a new age in youth culture at a special time for the UK. And one that we will never forget.