Exclusives 7 September 2020
Author: Seth P

GRM Exclusive: How Scorcher’s ‘Simply The Best Vol 1’ Stood the Test of Time

7 September 2020

Written By: Robert Kazandjian // @RKazandjian

Deep the significance of 2006 for grime: Crazy Titch, one the scene’s architects, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in jail; Wiley officially signed to Boy Better Know and dropped Da 2nd Phaze plus four of his six iconic Tunnel Vision tapes; The Movement showcased their collective skills with the release of Tempo Specialists; DJ Target landed a long overdue slot on 1xtra, and as autumnal leaves lined the roadside, Logan Sama had us all locked in to Kiss in anticipation of his weekly War Report.

Logan’s War Report chronicled one of the scene’s most epic clashes, ostensibly between Boy Better Know and The Movement (but more time it was Wiley against everyone). If we compare the landscape of grime to that of professional wrestling, then BBK’s roster was like the established stars of the WWE with their commanding flows and reload-ready bars, while The Movement was the scene’s NWO: confident, unconventional and super-lyrical. North London’s Scorcher was arguably The Movement’s most active member during the clash, responding to Wiley’s initial “Nothing Less” send, and then aiming shots at a whole heap of man on a separate diss-track.

Scorcher first caught our attention in 2004, repping Cold Blooded with a standout feature on Skepta’s classic posse cut, “Private Caller”, with his distinctive non-rhyming bars, razor-sharp delivery and screwface, super-villain energy. Bodying Axe FM sets, helping pioneer Fuck Radio and having very real beef with fellow emcee Cookie, helped build an underground buzz around his name. But when his debut mixtape Simply The Best vol.1 was released in June of 2006, Scorch was sat in his cell on the wing.

Released under Logan Sama’s Adamantium Music imprint, Simply The Best vol.1 was a bold statement of intent, revealing Scorcher’s impressive versatility across 20+ tracks; he was just as comfortable rapping over Freeway and Rick Ross instrumentals as he was shelling at 140 BPM. Take his “Hustlin” freestyle, expertly transporting us from Ross’s Dade County to Edmonton’s blocks with an ice-cold road rap flow. Or the rowdy, reload-worthy bars of “Let A Day”. Over Wiley’s steely production, Scorch’s authoritative flow is as good as anyone’s in grime and was a clear influence on Skepta’s early work on the mic.

Artistic versatility has been key to some of the UK scene’s biggest successes in recent years, from J Hus and Stormzy to Headie One and Unknown T. But in 2006, when the boundaries of genre were pretty rigid and overlaps were rare, it was groundbreaking, reminding us of how forward-thinking Scorcher was.

Perhaps the most well-known track from the project is “My Diary”. Over the strings of DJ Target’s RnB-leaning production, Scorch ditches the boasts and crud talk to open up about a once good relationship that’s starting to crumble. “My Diary” is more than the standard ‘Sweet Boy’ track that emcees often shoehorn into their projects in order to tick boxes; the songwriting is full of relatable emotion, honesty and regret. Scorch revisited these themes to great effect on 2015’s criminally sept-on “No One Else”. 

As Chip said on his “One Take” freestyle in 2016, ‘It’s not a tempo, it’s a feeling’. 10 years earlier, despite the variety of sounds, Simply The Best vol.1 still felt unmistakably grimy. The in-your-face, uncompromising “Do me a Favour” is a classic cut. Riding textbook grime production, Scorch cuts loose with the kind of ‘Shank’ bars he built his reputation on, and even draws for those instantly recognisable non-rhymers which lit up “Private Caller”, ‘Duck down when you see me reach for the hip / Full clip blast put a hole in your mouth.’ It’s the kind of war-ready banger which might have saved North London from defeat when East London wrapped us on No Signal’s 10v10 clash. 

The Wiley-produced “Chance Us” is another underrated grime staple. This time Scorch sets his sights on the music industry’s mismanagement of the scene, linking it to the bigger societal picture, ‘Then they wonder why we got guns and knives / and wear hoods and hats that’s so low.’ Knowing who produced the track makes the hook doubly funny, ‘Big labels don’t wanna chance us, they look right past us / and think we’re all like Wiley and act like bastards.’ The competitive rivalry between the two was evident from the get-go.

There are moments of introspection on the tape too. Following on from the Tina Turner-sampling intro, Scorch jumps into a straight-talking freestyle about the risks he’s taken on the roads, over Just Blaze’s legendary “What We Do” beat. After breaking down what he’s been on for us, he reflects on where that life might be heading, ‘Listen, I can feel a shell getting closer or a cell getting closer / I wish I had armour, I got bad karma / cos’ all the wrong things I’ve done are coming back after.’ 

Scorch then addresses the complicated transition from road to music in a track of the same name. If you’ve followed his career, you know this transition hasn’t been straightforward. A few run-ins with the law have interrupted his journey, but the intention to get out of that life and make a living from being an artist was there from the outset of his career. You sense his determination when he says, ‘And I ain’t even looking back, I’m just breezing / Time I told the road goodbye and rolled like a good guy.’ 

It was the positive response to his debut mixtape from the grime scene and beyond that persuaded Scorch to take music seriously when he touched road in 2006. After his most recent period of incarceration he’s fully back on job, combining the sonics of grime, rap and even UK drill to give us nothing but flames with a growing body of work.

The blueprint to that multifaceted ‘confident with the flows’ approach to his art was written way back when, with the release of Simply The Best vol.1. Fourteen years on, the project stands the test of time and is an important piece of Black British music history.