London’s legendary De Underground record store has received a heritage plaque for contributions to ‘UK hardcore, jungle and drum & bass music’. The signs, in this case issued by London Borough of Newham Heritage Project, are used to identify sites of cultural importance across Britain. 

The shop operated from 1991 to 1996 in the east of the UK capital, at 18 Sebert Road, Forest Gate. Owned by Mike De Underground, Cool Hand Flex, Uncle 22 and Randall, it quickly became a hotspot for 160BPM+ beats. A-Sides, MC Fats, Wacko and Marly Marl were also considered part of the wider ‘family’, with a long list of visiting dignitaries from the scene regularly stopping by. The address was home to a recording studio, laying claim to landmark releases such as ‘We Are IE’, ‘Melody Madness’ and ‘Six Million Ways To Die’. 

In addition to the new plaque, as part of May’s Newham Heritage Month, Rendezvous Projects — also responsible for Sweet Harmony, which charts pirate radio stations in nearby Waltham Forest — produced ‘Crate Digging: The Influence of De Underground Records’. An hour-long podcast, it features interviews with 18 people who were involved at the time, alongside snippets of iconic tunes. You can listen to this below. 

“Massive respect and thanks to all involved with De Underground, it’s been a privilege and delighted to see @newhamlondon and @newhamheritagemonth recognising your contribution to British culture, our lives are richer for it,” read an Instagram post by Rendezvous Projects, showing the blue plaque being presented. 

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Audio excerpts have also been placed around Sebert Road, playable via QR codes on placards attached to streetlights. The intention is to help share and preserve the shop’s legacy, which has never been formally documented before, and spotlight the contribution of this Black, working class crew to a UK dance music phenomenon. 

Read a feature on how the modern drum & bass scene scene is finally addressing its lack of diversity, then read a feature by Black Junglist Alliance founder Chris Inperspective on the need for Black people to own Black art
Image: (C) Peter Marshall