With over a decade worth of experience, London's DJ Firestarr has notched up an impressive career. As a touring DJ, Firestarr has worked with Giggs, Skrapz and Ghetts on their respective tours, and he's become a regular on the festival circuit across Europe. Last year, he signed up to join the BBC Asian Network's residency show, and since his run started, he's featured dancehall legends Sean Paul and Kranium alongside UK talents like Lady Leshurr, Berna, Tiny Boost, R.A, K Koke, C Biz, Suspect and Ard Adz, as well as a particularly memorable interview with hip-hop titan Swizz Beatz this summer.
A passionate historian of UK rap, we hit Firestarr up to give Complex Sessions a rundown of what he considers the essentials. From Giggs, K Koke and Joe Black right through to relative newcomers like Abra Cadabra, M Huncho and Dutchavelli, press play on DJ Firestarr's exclusive mix below.
Tell us a bit about your selections in this mix.
I went with records that I personally felt in my chest; a large amount of Giggs and SN1 influence, as it was so essential to UK rap/road rap. Blade Brown, Dubz and Fem Felon are also sprinkled throughout the mix because the impact of mixtapes and albums like Hollow Meets Blade, 'Ard Bodied and Walk In Da Park were so strong.
What was the one track you absolutely had to include?
So many anthems, it's a tough one. I've got to say Giggs and Dubz's "Pain Is The Essence", but also K Koke's energy on "Listen Likkle Man" is some real greazy energy! One of my other favourites is the Skepta and Giggs link-up on "Look Out"; not sure how many times they've connected to perform that anywhere, but I was fortunate enough to catch them live many years ago.
Any tracks that narrowly missed the cut?
Way too many! We'd be here all night if I named them all. Skrapz's "One More Chance", our UK national anthem—Giggs' "Talkin Da Hardest"—plus some of Tiny Boost's more recent material from his Strictly For The Streets and Street Dreams projects. So many from Ambush, Suspect, Ard Adz, C-Biz, Tunde, Mowgs, Meekz Manny, M1llionz—they all have heat that is current.
What's the first single or album you ever bought?
I think it may have been Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "Crossroads" as a CD single, which was then followed with nearly every Bone Thugs album for a long time. K7's "Come Baby Come", I know the bars to that word for word! Growing up, I was a massive Krayzie Bone fan, then into the Roc-A-Fella/Ruff Ryders and Dipset eras, so nearly every album from those artists would have been heard or bought.
What's the last physical record you bought?
The record collection is so deep, I'm not even sure. I think it may have been some Death Row Records re-presses. One thing I do know: I don't own any Drake on vinyl, for example, so buying records ended quite some years ago. As soon as I switched over to laptop and Serato, vinyl was no longer a thing, but I held on to the extensive collection and keep that in the studio. A large part of my physical record collection has come direct from a visit to New York nearly 20 years ago to Beat Street Records in Brooklyn. I think I spent nearly $1,500 in that store on original records—classics from Wu-Tang, Nas, Jay-Z and Busta to Jadakiss and everything in between.
What do you want to see happen musically over the next 12 months?
Club shows and tours returning for artists, and more platforms for up-and-coming UK rap and R&B artists to showcase their talent.
What trend or scene absolutely needs to die right now?
We've been on lockdown for a good few months now, so it's hard to even know what's currently "trending." But I'd probably say people being over-opinionated for absolutely no reason on social media. It's about understanding everyone is different, and we might not always agree on things.
1. Giggs - Let Em Have It f/ Tiny Boost
2. Joe Black - Shutdown f/ Giggs
3. Tiny Boost x Billy Da Kid x Young Spend - Freestyle
4. Blade Brown - I Want In f/ Skrapz
5. Giggs - Bus Commercial
6. Squeeks - Big Squeeko
7. Giggs & Dubz - Maniacs f/ Blade Brown
8. Giggs & Dubz - Hollowman 2
9. K Koke - Are You Alone
10. Giggs - End of Season 2
11. Blade, Giggs,Fem Felon - Sink A Boat
12. Giggs - Test Out The Nine Remix f/ Joe Grind, Kyze, Gunna, Tiny Boost
13. K Koke - Listen Likkle Man
14. Nines - Nu Crack
15. SAS - Dip Set All Day
16. PYG - Coming Up f/ Stigs, Young Gunna D, Tiny Snap, Shooting Size
17. Danny Weed / Giggs - Up In The Shoobz
18. Nines - CR
19. Skepta / Giggs - Look Out
20. Skrapz - Breakin It Down f/ Nines
21. Giggs - Punani f/ Kyze
22. Suspect - We Dem N*ggas f/ Blade Brown
23. Fekky - Bang
24. C Biz - Game Is Mine
25. Dutchavelli & M Huncho - Burning
26. Abra Cadabra - On Deck
27. Dubz - Daily Duppy Freestyle
28. Fekky - Ring Ring Trap Remix
29. Giggs / Dubz - Pain Is The Essence