With HTiD coming up this week, let’s go back in time to DJ Slipmatt’s SMD #1, the first happy hardcore track!
Hardcore music has been around since the late 1980s and early 90s. However, it wasn’t until about 1993 that we began hearing more uptempo, happy styles. In 1992, the hardcore scene began to split. On one end, the harder bass and breakbeat-infused “dark” hardcore reigned supreme and the other was happier and lighter with 160 beats layered over breakbeats and bass. These happier versions of hardcore played at the time were pioneered by artists such as DJ Slipmatt, which went on to be the origins of happy hardcore.
At the time of the hardcore split, DJs such as Slipmatt, Ellis Dee, and Ramos & Supreme were at the forefront of the happy movement. These artists paved the way for modern happy hardcore which in 1994 truly began turning into what we hear today.
It’s often argued about which track is truly the first happy hardcore record released.
However, many agree that the very first happy hardcore track is Slipmatt’s “SMD #1”. This 1993 release samples Congress’s “40 miles” (who in turn sampled Jimi Polo’s “Better Days”). It sounds like it’s straight out of Streets of Rage 2 and is long considered to have been one to completely change the rave scene in the UK. “SMD #1” went on to sell over 10,000 units on its first press but more importantly cemented modern day happy and UK hardcore.
At first listen, it may be hard to hear the connection between this track and what you hear today. “SMD #1” relies heavily on breakbeats and the piano loop from Congress’s “40 miles”, but layers the same way modern happy hardcore has done. Once the track hits the 2-minute mark, it’s clear to see how this is the foundation of tracks from the likes of Scott Brown, Hixxy and Darren Styles.
In fact, Slipmatt went on to create Universal, a hardcore label that released tracks from modern heavy-hitting happy and UK hardcore artists such as Force and the Evolution and Force and Styles. Both of which included Darren Styles, Hixxy and eventually remixes from Gammer, Dougal, and many others.
There’s a reason why Slipmatt is considered to be the “Godfather of the Rave,” especially where happy hardcore is concerned. With HTiD this weekend, it only seems appropriate to celebrate the track that started it all by an artist who paved the way for modern-day happy and UK hardcore!