When it comes to the influence of Ragga in the MCing styles of Grime, one of the undisputed pioneers is Riko Dan. Most famously associated with Roll Deep, one of the most important collectives in the history of Grime. Bouncing seamlessly between hyper aggressive Ragga stageshow performance and Cockney geezer, Riko has a long and illustrious history woven into the fabric of London’s underground music scenes.
Riko Dan was first noticed for his talents as a teenager in the Jungle scene of the mid 90s. He was one of the standout MC’s of the era on stations such as Pressure FM (where he first met Grime godfather DJ Slimzee) in a time when Ragga and Bashment influence was at the forefront of club culture. His success in the Jungle scene was an inspiration to younger artists around him like Wiley, Flowdan and Godsgift. However as the sound shifted over to underground Garage and the roots of Grime were sown by emerging crews like Pay As U Go, Riko Dan was otherwise occupied at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Riko would have been a vital member and personality in the PAUG line up but as a young man growing up around the infamous East London criminal underworld he was led astray. Missing out on the very first steps made in Grime by his close friends like Wiley and Target, Riko’s mythical mic presence and style was talked about as if a thing of legend by all in the East London pirate radio scene. Going to prison remains his biggest regret and he speaks often of encouraging kids to move away from that lifestyle.
When he returned to music in 2004, a changed man after serving 5 years for armed robbery, he immediately took his rightful place amongst Roll Deep at the forefront of the East London Grime scene. His larger than life personality and booming vocal performance meant that he was readily accepted by a Grime scene which was riding high on the excitement of the successes of artists like Dizzee Rascal and Kano. Riko immediately displayed the versatility that served him so well previously by standing out not only on Rinse FM and Sidewinder rave sets but also on tracks exploring wider themes like ‘Pick Urself Up’ on Wiley’s historic ‘Treddin On Thin Ice’ album and ‘Don’t Want You Back’ on DJ Target’s ‘Aim High 2’.
As Roll Deep prepared to release their debut ‘In At The Deep End’ album in 2005, Riko was once again vital in the creative process adding his own brand of East End humour and banter to several tracks on the project. It led to a time when you could still see Riko performing on Top Of The Pops whilst simultaneously engaging in lyrical wars on pirate radio with Lethal Bizzle’s Fire Camp crew. His vocal performance on Chase & Status’ ‘Top Shotta’ featuring the Roll Deep crew was a particular stand out of that year and paved the way for a slew of exciting collaborations for the London City Warlord.
Working with producers such as The Bug, Heatwave, Kahn & Neek, Friction, Mumdance and WEN as well as multiple Roll Deep tours saw Riko perform across the globe showcasing more of the versatile talents that can only be cultivated on the Pirate Radio circuit. Two full length solo projects including the self-released ‘The Truth’ double disc album, the ‘Rise Of The Farda’ project and ‘Sleeping Giant’ released on Slaughterhouse have been accompanied by a constant stream of features as Riko Dan verses stay ever in demand.
His most recent collaboration on Tectonic, the ‘Hard Food’ EP saw Riko working with production from Pinch, Joker, Mumdance, Ziro and Walton. Unashamedly hard, direct and impactful, the project is an accurate glimpse in to all of the aspects that make Riko Dan a great amongst UK MCs. Still active in raves, radio and studio, Riko Danwill continue to be the loudest voice in any room he enters for many years to come. And he will continue to use his prodigious gifts on the mic to create reactions from live crowds that few can come close to.