From 1995 to 2006, Substance brought a mix of international Hip Hop talent and live improvisation to the UK’s second city, Birmingham, and later London. From 1996 onward, Substance’s home was the Medicine Bar / Custard Factory, an art space and venue complex housed in the former Bird’s Custard Factory in Birmingham’s Digbeth neighbourhood.
Over its decade long history the Substance stage played host to the likes of Grand Master Flash, DJ Premier, KRS One, Masta Ace, Jeru the Damaja, Souls of Mischief, The Pharcyde, DJ Cash Money, De La Soul’s Maseo, TY, Roots Manuva, Blak Twang, People Under the Stairs, Ugly Duckling, Soweto Kinch, Waajeed among many others, attracting crowds of up to 1700 to the venue.
The night’s resident DJs Chris Read and Roc-1, MC/host Mad Flow (Big Dada), percussionist Magoo (Different Drummer) and resident band Oversize all contributed to the night’s sound. At its peak the night was one of the biggest regular Hip Hop events in the UK, forming part of an established tour circuit for US artists which included nights such as Scratch in London and No Fakin’ in Liverpool.
Associated projects with which the night was involved included live broadcasts on BBC Radio 1 & Radio 1Xtra, Chu‘s ‘Graffiti Bastards‘ exhibitions (among the first in the country to showcase artists including Banksy, Req and others), the UK DMC Championships, a launch party for the movie 8 Mile, the UK launch for Doug Pray’s Scratch the Movie and an album project for independent label, Different Drummer.
After the night’s 10th anniversary (an event which featured DJ Premier, a screening of Pritt Kalsi’s DJ Supreme biopic and an artwork installation in collaboration with Carhartt), calling time on the night instinctively seemed like the right thing to do. Since that time, this site (originally set up to provide info on Substance events) has served as a home for current / ongoing musical projects.
“near legendary, a raucous night of experimentation that has had the music and style press fighting for superlatives”
“never fully aware of its own proportions, committed artists and enthusiastic crowds make one thing certain, it will always be explosive”
“fashionably eclectic … embraces those latched onto a more underground vibe”
“an excellent session”
“disparate elements of hip hop, funk and jazz fused together for your delight”
“hard hitting hip hop and future funk that brings the house down”
“the finest underground hip hop beats”
“like so many of Chris Read’s notorious Substance events, the temperature soared to boiling point”