Un-Cut - Britain's answer to The Fugees?

Compiled by Jack Foley

DESCRIBED by some as the UK's answer to The Fugees, and generating a fair bit of airplay on Radio 1, 1Xtra and Kiss, Un-Cut could well be on the verge of big things.

Debut single, Midnight, is now available in shops, and posters are beginning to appear throughout the capital. So who are they?

A Mancunian trio, Un-Cut's story begins in the darkest recesses of jungle fever, circa 1993, with a young Manchester-born producer and DJ going by the name 2D (real name Iyiola Babalola, real origins - a Nigerian Prince).

At a time when Manchester's clubs had closed their doors to jungle, 2D opened a drum 'n' bass night at The Tenbar, called Knowledge, before eventually moving to a larger venue called The Music Box with a night called Future Sounds.

In the meantime, 2D had also been working on a few ideas in the studio with like-minded producer Waiwan. Together, as Mind 21, they created a cut called 'Mind' which blew up on the underground, eventually getting licensed all over the world. 2D would subsequently put out singles on a variety of labels including DJSS' "Jazz'n'Bass" collection.

Meanwhile, Londoner, Darren Lewis, arrived in Manchester to study for a degree in French and Spanish. Thanks to a stint working at Nico's legendary No U-Turn label in 1995, he was able to turn his focus to the Manchester scene, opening his own night, Freshly Cut, in the process. It was only a matter of time before 2D and Darren met.

"He said that if I did some flyering for his night then we could go in the studio together," laughs Darren at the memory of how they came to work together. "Later, I found out that was what he told everyone. But he didn't count on me turning up at the studio with a pile of records and waiting for three hours for him to turn up!"

In a moment of obtuse creativity, the promoters of Manchester's finest drum 'n' bass nights, Future Sounds and Freshly Cut, amalgamated their names to come up with the moniker they would soon become internationally known … Future Cut. The newly created duo debuted with, 'Fresh Step'; it got signed straight away.

However, the trio was only completed with the arrival of Jenna G, a self-confessed Prince fan and rainbow child, who had already been a face on the Manchester urban landscape for a few years following a stint singing live on infamous pirate station Love Energy.

Jenna was becoming more inspired by darker, underground sounds, so hooked up with a collective called Raggabeats Crew. Among their numbers was a hip hop group called Subliminal Darkness.

"Subliminal Darkness did this night in Castlefield and Darren saw us," she recalls. "He came up to me afterwards and said he was impressed by my singing and wanted to work with me. I gave him my number but he never got back in touch!"

Thanks to a mutual friend, however, she finally hooked up with Darren and 2D a couple of years later.

"We spent the best part of six months just taking the piss out of Jenna, so she would feel at home," 2D laughs - as if to underline the sharp and dry humour that continually flows through the trio.

What followed was a three-year process of experimenting with ideas. It was also a time in which Jenna explored an earlier love of acting, with a major role in Danny Boyle's acclaimed BBC2 drama, 'Strumpet'.

Future Cut continued to DJ the world over and release singles. Among them the classic 'Obsession' for Goldie's Metalheadz label - featuring Jenna's sultry vocals in freeform.

"Goldie phoned up buzzing about Obsession," exclaims Darren, of that tune. "That was a big moment for us."

However, the true instigation of Un-Cut as a three-piece came with 'Borderline', a CD-only track on a Future Cut EP for Renegade Hardware. It was a drum 'n' bass/punk mash up featuring Jenna in full flow. The response to it was incredible. The threesome joined forces and Un-Cut was born.

Un-Cut's debut collective effort was 'Midnight', a luscious, half-tempo drum 'n' bass tune which found Jenna delivering a classy vocal arrangement over a three-minute song. It sold out of its 10,000 copy run within weeks. But 'Midnight' only hinted at the shape of things to come.

"For three years, we'd been writing to pay the bills, which meant every tune had to go off on the dancefloor," explains Darren. "But as we began to develop and explore, we were like, let's do something slow, something deep. Everything we've wanted to do for the past five years but hadn't had the time. It was like a rebellion."

The tracks Un-Cut have subsequently created in the wake of that first offering are described as classic cuts that evoke the spirits of the Motown greats; tracks such as the Northern soul groove of 'Things You Say', with its downlow funk vibes, jubilant horns, Hammond refrains and burning muted trumpet solo, or the dub soaked, lowslung groove of 'No Way'.

On a deeper soul tip come the stunning duo of 'Loveless' and 'Senseless'. Two tunes held together by the fusion of classic sounds, future ambience, vocals that could scorch the soul of the most hardhearted cynic and lyrics that bite.

"I like to have a twist in the lyrics," maintains Jenna. "It might be like a really nice slow song, but the twist is that it's about me taking drugs and drinking myself to death. Or another might be a really nice love song, but it's really about a guy saying he loves me and me saying I don't really love him back. So there's a twist in there."

RELATED STORIES: Click here for an exclusive Indielondon interview with Un-Cut...

RELATED LINKS: Click here to order the single, Midnight...