Hardcore rave was born from the thriving UK rave scene of the early 90s, featuring DJs playing to thousands at large illegal parties that were often held outdoors.
Through the 1990s, this music genre gained steam. It fused upbeat piano riffs of happy house with breaks and dub, creating a new form of dance music.
Hardcore is an electronic dance music genre born out of the UK’s early-90s rave explosion. Initially a breakbeat sound, it quickly evolved into other styles such as jungle and D&B.
In the late 1990s, hardcore producers and DJs took music production to new heights. Their sound was heavily influenced by industrial, Belgian new beat and electronic dance music (EBM).
One of the most influential releases ever was ‘Mentasm / Mind To Mind’ by Second Phase (aka Joey Beltram and Mundo Muzique). It set a precedent with its signature ‘hoover sound’, inspiring house, techno and trance music for years to come as well as infiltrating hardcore, jungle and D&B scenes where producers wanted that raw feel but weren’t sure how to create it themselves.
It’s an awesome track, featuring a relentless wall of rhythm, car-alarm synths and Public Enemy samples. Additionally, it serves as an inspiring demonstration of how to utilize sampling creatively.
Acen’s Trip to the Moon was one of the seminal UK hardcore tracks of its era, showing off how techno and house could be combined seamlessly. Featuring samples from Rakim, John Barry and even The Doors alongside a powerful kick drum-driven breakbeat – something rare today.
But in an age of snobbery, sampling was seen as undeveloped, predicated on novelty. And it often encountered opposition – particularly from cavalier attitudes towards vocal samples.
Hardcore often had a younger brother mentality, with jokes, drug references and five-year old MCs becoming the norm. Yet it also gave birth to one of its finest moments: Bombscare.
Before the release of Acen’s latest hardcore track, he shares an insightful history of the UK rave scene and why his own productions still resonate so deeply. It’s an intriguing interview that sheds light on an underappreciated aspect of rave music’s past.
Hardcore rave was a revolution in rave culture – an explosion of speed-loving BPMs that spread throughout the UK and Europe. It marked a breakaway from its earlier aesthetic refinement, trading dayglo utopianism for nocturnal weed paranoia, as well as departing from its core philosophy.
Compnded is one of the most beloved and iconic hardcore rave anthems: an uplifting electronica masterpiece set over a breakbeat that sends warehouses into blissful chaos. Nino’s remix takes samples from Production House’s catalog and crafts them into an intricate multi-sectioned hardcore monster with soul.
Produced on the Production House label and funded by 80s soul star Phil Fearon, this album is something of a holy grail. A brilliant blend of film sampling and beautiful electronic noise – it’s almost hardcore in prog rock form!
It’s easy to imagine this track being a hit in an alternate reality. The nagging riff, breakbeats and sub-bass sound timeless even three decades later.
Hardcore is an intriguing genre that’s been getting a lot of attention in recent years. It stems from rave music but has evolved into jungle, drum ‘n’ bass, speed garage and beyond.
One of the most captivating elements of this lineage is its fluidity and hyperactive mutation – something which has given birth to genres like gabber and hardtechno, as well as inspiring a whole new wave of dance music.
Hardcore was a driving force in European rave culture during the early 1990s, though its lifespan was brief. From 1991-2, it evolved into multiple subgenres and rival sounds.
This period in Europe saw some of the most innovative productions, featuring breakbeats, bleep riffs, and chaotic vocal samples. It also served as a breeding ground for experimentalism as producers used Eventide H3000 to stretch and pitch shift samples. It’s still an influential sound in today’s rave scene.
Ce Ce Roger
Ce Ce Roger’s iconic Someday was officially remastered and reissued 31 years after it first made waves on the dance scene. With powerful basslines and melodic flutes, ‘Someday’ captures the uplifting spirit of early house music – symbolizing our eternal hope for harmony within society.
Liquid also reworked the track, turning its piano riff and vocal snatch into a Top 20 hit; and Some Justice added one of hardcore’s most stunning hands-in-the-air breakdowns to the original’s intro with dramatic synth stabs and warped vocal samples.
Mentasm was another hardcore producer who used sampling as a way of getting noticed – it was like cutting-and-pasting together some music without much thought. Yet sampling also played an essential role in shaping house music into the rave / jungle hybrid it became today.
4 Hero (formerly 4 Hero), formed by Dollis Hill (London) residents Marc Mac and Dego McFarlane, is widely regarded as an innovator of breakbeat hardcore, jungle/drum and bass, broken beat and nu jazz genres. They also used genre-crossing studio techniques like timestretching and pitch-shifting to further advance these sounds.
In the early 1990s, British producers such as Rob Playford, 4 Hero and Omni Trio transformed hardcore techno into what would eventually be known as jungle music. The style evolved into more complex rhythms featuring samples of funk or rap music alongside drum beats.
One of the iconic tracks from this period is Burning, a poignant hardcore ballad about a broken heart. It alternates between serene vocals and Loleatta Holloway samples, showing how rave can transform into full-on mind-bending experience when it reaches its darkest point. The track was an enormous hit during the 90s, even being sampled by hip hop artists and DJs alike.
DJs Take Control
In the late 80s and early 1990s, rave music emerged in the UK. DJs performed to thousands of people at illegal outdoor events with an eclectic blend of drum n bass, house music and techno beats.
As rave music evolved and DJs became more skilled at mixing, they began playing different types of music to the audience – known as hardcore or house music from a darker side.
In the 1990s, rave music began to shift away from breakbeat hardcore into jungle and drum & bass. Hixxy and Sharkey’s “Toytown” marked one of the earliest hardcore tunes with a kick drum.
This led to the birth of a new style of happy hardcore music that featured less breakbeats and more rave stabs. This was due mainly to drug ecstasy’s increasing popularity at rave events, leading people to crave strange, euphoric sounds with an up-tempo pace.
Genaside II were one of the original pioneers of drum’n’bass music in the 1990s. Their sound combined rave, jungle and breakbeat elements. Formed by Kris Ogden (aka Kao Bonez and Uzi Da Fluzi) and Paul Hamilton aka Chilly Phats in Brixton, South London suburb, Genaside II remains active today.
Their most iconic song is the ‘Narra Mine’ track from their ’99 Ad Finite CD’, which stunned dance floors with its intense dancehall MCing and epic break beat riff. It remains one of the most impressively recorded and produced pieces of hardcore music ever released.
This record has been re-released numerous times and is highly sought after among hardcore music connoisseurs. Not only is it the biggest UK rave / breakbeat anthem of all time, but also an outstanding example of its genre. The quality is exceptional and the label design superb; our only criticism would be the price point.
Hardcore rave was unique in that many producers weren’t trained musicians but rather very adept in music technology. They would feed their Akai sampler whatever they heard or felt, feeling free to experiment with genres such as electro or dance-pop as well as Jam & Lewis samples or strings from Bond movies. This chaotic mix-up became so popular due to its democratic power; samplers had absolute freedom to create some truly wild tracks!
One track in particular stands out: Narra Mine. With its quirky title and irreverent synth stabs, this track combines hardcore DJ breaks with raw dancehall MCing and an endearing female street soul vocal – perfect for a 4am rave delirium!