What is it about Croydon? Something in the water perhaps? Whatever it is, we’re certainly not complaining as South London’s biggest suburb delivers yet another stunning talent: Benga.

Growing up during the halcyon days of UKG, Benga’s dream was always to become a DJ. Heavily influenced by the escapades of his older brothers (both MCs) but too young to join them at key raves of the moment like Sun City and Confetti, he began avidly tuning into the sounds of pirate radio and buying records, despite not even owning a pair of decks. Soon enough Benga was hanging out at his local record shop, Big Apple, at every opportunity getting amongst the likes of pioneers Wookie, El-B and Menta. By the age of just 13 he had caught the attention of the shop’s owner, John, who was so impressed with the youthful Benga’s ear for a tune and skills on the decks that he sponsored him, starting at 3 records a week.

Soon enough though, Benga wanted dubplates of his own and like many of his contemporaries began to tap out his first riddims on his Playstation. The results were raw, but the ideas showed promise and once again, support from the Big Apple camp was forthcoming. With the £600 cash advance Benga could finally shell out on a decent PC set up and by the time he was 16, Mixmag had begun hyping him as the next big thing in two-step garage. Benga’s future looked very bright, that was, until tragedy struck: “The Great Benga Hard-Drive Crash of 2002” in which close to a thousand tunes were lost including the original of Mammoth and the seminal collaboration with Skream The Judgement appeared to set Benga back, big time.

Benga remains philosophical about the loss though, and on balance the loss of his set up meant that he had space to reassess his objectives, switch to a more professional set up and eventually come in with tracks of an even higher calibre. In the meantime, tracks like Zombie Jig, Electro Music and World War 7 would only hint at the reservoir of talent residing in Benga’s head. Unable to shake the feeling that he was being left behind somewhat led him to step up the sacrifices for his music. Out went girls, hanging around with his mates and even going out and in came some quality alone time with his computer. The extra effort seems to have paid off.

Enter the new-school Benga sound based around high octane riddims jam-packed with rolling beats & monstrous bass licks, of which Flames and Evolution are exemplary. Retaining the ever-present sense of mischief and menace which always ran through his productions, Benga has finally struck the chord that he was always trying to find within himself and his debut 12” on Tempa, Crunked Up is no exception to this. Featuring a ruff-as-you-like electro riff, riddled with glitchy rolled snares, this is some serious 21st century head-nod ish and anyone doubting dubstep’s dancefloor capabilities need look no further than these tracks. Its what you might expect from a guy who you are equally as likely to see jitterbugging behind the decks or amongst the crowd at either FWD>> or DMZ and with an album due for release later this year 2007 looks very much set to be year of the Benga.

Benga is playing the following dates in Australia