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Rocking clubs and parties for over a decade now, The Freestylers are still one of the most exciting names in dance music. They've had Top 20 chart hits, headlined big festivals, sold half a million albums, toured the US supporting Lenny Kravitz, and were the first electronic act to play fully live on legendary BBC TV show Top Of The Pops. Aston Harvey and Matt Cantor were both making different styles of music when they first met in London in the mid-90s. Uber-engineer Aston had been half of pioneering breakbeat hardcore act Blapps Posse, getting busy with cuts like 'Buss' It' and 'Don't Hold Back' before going on to work with Definition Of Sound, Rebel MC and DJ Rap. Matt Cantor, meanwhile, was recording with Andy Gardner from the Plump DJs as Cut 'N' Paste and Strike for the fledgling Freskanova label. Discovering a mutual love of hip-hop and electro, Matt and Aston started making tracks together. The first record they sampled was old skool electro classic 'Don't Stop The Rock' by Freestyle Express, and the resulting track 'Drop The Boom' on Scratch City Records launched them as The Freestylers - the non-genre-specific name with hip-hop connotations fitted them like a glove. The guys began making tracks that mashed up hip-hop, ska, rave, breakbeat and, in the case of their third single 'Warning' - featuring MC Navigator from jungle pirate station Kool FM - indie-rock guitar. It was really their first two top 20 busting proper release's 'Ruffneck' (also fuelled by Navigator's rolling rhymes) and 'B-Boy Stance' (featuring dubwise junglist MC Tenor Fly, who - like Aston - also used to work with Rebel MC) that truly sent them supernova. Transcending the big beat sound, The Freestylers soon became an 11-piece live band, including assorted London reprobates and a breakdancing kru led by Scottish nutjob Coza. They began playing rock gigs, festivals and TV shows such as Top Of The Pops, and even had a spat with Noel Gallagher over a sample lifted from 1995 Oasis No.2 smash 'Wonderwall'. Gallagher refused to grant permission for the 'Wonderwall' melody line twisted up by Tenor in 'B-Boy Stance', forcing The Freestylers back into the studio to re-record it, and one of Tenor Fly's lines about "Mr Badman" is thought to refer to Gallagher. At the 1998 Muzik magazine awards, where The Freestylers were nominated in two categories and went on to win 'Best Band', they came face to face with Gallagher, which certainly made for an interesting encounter! The band also attended the 1998 MOBO awards where they were nominated for Best Newcomer. The debut album 'We Rock Hard' consolidated their position as breakthrough urban b-boys, breaking into the UK Top 40 album charts and selling 150,000 copies in the US as they began cracking music's most lucrative territory. At the time the band were apparently Ben Stillers favorite dance act and as such 'Ruffneck' featured in his 'Zoolander' film. In fact the Stylers music went on to be used in such blockbusters as 'Dude where's My Car' and 'Sweet Home Alabama'. Their tracks were also used in various adverts including a massive 'Pringles' campaign in the U.K and the band themselves featured in an extensive TV campaign across North America for 'Best Buy'. 'Don't Stop' entered the Billboard Top 40 dance charts, and the expensive-looking Mad Max-style video for 'Here We Go' became a favorite on MTV. After their initial success they got to remix heroes such as the Jungle Brothers and Afrika Bambaataa, and were invited by BBC Radio 1's Pete Tong to record an Essential Mix which inspired their critically acclaimed F.S.U.K mix album that went on to sell over 40,000 copies for Ministry. The band played some huge gigs, performing at MTV's Millennium party in New York's Times Square and to about 30,000 people at Glastonbury festival in 1999. By now they were big in Australia too, and their second album 'Pressure Point' smashed into the Australian album charts. Back in London Pete Tong made 'Now Is The Time' from 'Pressure Point' his Essential New Tune and the guys signed to acclaimed breakbeat label Against The Grain. They began recording tracks under the name Raw As F**k, with each release topping DJ magazine's Beats & Breaks chart. So named because of the music's street rawness and dance floor tuffness, the guys liked the term so much they named their third album 'Raw As F**k'. No mellowing into maturity for these dudes. Raw As F**k were, paradoxically, named Best Newcomer at the Breakspoll awards in 2003. The full band continued gigging, but the most common way to catch a Freestylers set in the early noughties was via a DJ set in a club. Aston and Matt, both expert club-rocking DJs, played a multitude of club gigs with an MC in tow, and nestled firmly into the premier league of the flourishing breakbeat scene. They were content to experiment with other styles though, and sassy disco-funker 'Push Up' proved to be another big Freestylers hit. Accompanied by a huge Plump DJs remix, the release smashed into the UK Top 25. In Australia, however, it reached No.2 and was placed at No.3 in Holland, while in Belgium the single peaked at the top of the charts. The Freestylers were pop stars all over again. Soulful breakbeat funker 'Get A Life' - featuring Onallee from Roni Size's Reprazent project - followed 'Push Up' into the Australian Top 20, yet their feet remained firmly on the ground, with one foot still planted in the underground. This was ably demonstrated by being asked to do a mix by hallowed London club Fabric, which they rammed with cuts by the Breakfastaz, Baobinga, NAPT and other underground breakbeat artists and went on to be one of the biggest sellers in the series. Their own material appeared as well, of course, including tear-out piledrivers under their S.C.A.M alias. These big jump-up tunes were to provide the inspiration when the Freestylers collaborated with Australian drum & bass fiends Pendulum. The resulting 'Fasten Your Seatbelts' - released on Breakbeat Kaos - was one of the biggest dance tracks of 2005, destroying dancefloors wherever it was dropped. Old skool electro cut 'Boom Blast', featuring Million Dan (released with a storming Deekline & Wizard remix), then cracked the UK Top 75, indicating how The Freestylers could effortlessly traverse genres and still win ultimate respect. An example of this is their Westwood championed UK hip-hop tune 'Dogs n Sledgez' also featuring Million which was Radio 1 playlisted. As the noughties continued they started work on their fourth album proper, 'Adventures In Freestyle'. MC SirReal had by now become a firm fixture in the Freestylers live set-up, and so consequently featured heavily on the album. One highlight saw the Freestylers team up with Pendulum once again for punky jungle behemoth 'Painkiller', with a particularly venomous lyric spat by SirReal. The album experimented with a variety of styles, and saw the Freestylers working with assorted underground vocalists. From the techno-punk stylings of 'Security' through the cinematic string soundscape of 'Infernos', this really was an album that showed off the Freestylers' mastery of many styles. The album provided an impetus for the band to get back on the road again with SirReal and Valerie M on vocal duties, and they rocked a number of festivals in the summer of 2009. Currently working on their fifth album which by all accounts is shaping up to be their strongest yet, The Freestylers juggernaut is going to continue to rock - hard - for some considerable time to come.


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