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The Streets

Mike Skinner's recordings as the Streets marked the first attempt at adding a degree of social commentary to Britain's party-hearty garage/2-step movement. Skinner, a Birmingham native who only later ventured to the capital, was an outsider in the garage scene; though his initial recordings appeared on Locked On, the premiere source for speed garage and, later, 2-step from 1998 to the end of the millennium. He spent time growing up in north London as well as Birmingham, and listened first to hip-hop, then house and jungle. Skinner made his first tracks at the age of 15, and during the late '90s, tried to start a label and sent off his own tracks while he worked dead-end jobs in fast food. At the end of 2000, he earned his first release when the Locked On label -- already famous for a succession of burning club tracks from Tuff Jam, the Artful Dodger featuring Craig David, Dem 2, and Doolally -- signed him for the homemade "Has It Come to This?" By the following year, the single hit Britain's Top 20 and the inevitable full-length followed in early 2002. That album, Original Pirate Material, unlike most garage compilations and even the bare few production LPs, found a home with widely varying audiences, and correspondingly earned Skinner a bit of enmity from the wider garage community. By the end of the year, it had been released in the States as well, through Vice. John Bush

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