Updated: Nov 14, 2019
I went to my first nightclub when I was 13. I still had braces on my teeth. I got into the club - which was just off Leicester Square in central London - using a ‘photocopy’ of my passport that I had doctored on a computer at school. I left in time to catch the last Piccadilly Line train home. All in all, I was probably only in there for about an hour and a half, but I still remember being on the black-lit dancefloor, looking down at my glowing Adidas Shell Toes as I danced to whatever commercial hip hop they played in West End clubs in the early 2000s, and thinking: “This feels good.”
Growing up in London has shaped me in many ways, but perhaps no more so than in my love of a really good dance. Since that first, tentative clubbing experience, I’ve spent some of the best nights of my life on dancefloors (albeit listening to much better music, and wearing much better shoes). Many of the formative periods of my life are inextricably linked with the nights I was attending at the time: YoYo at the Notting Hill Arts Club, Trading Places at Sketch and Bloomsbury Ballroom, FWD at Plastic People.
My generation is not one that will go down in history for the richness of its nightlife culture, but I’ve spent my life in reverence to the raves that came before me. To spend an hour researching an iconic club night or scene is to gain a snapshot of the people, fashion, songs, and spirit that defined its era: The stories of New York’s Danceteria, Manchester’s Haçienda, or London’s Wag Club are the stories of those cities at very specific moments in their respective subcultural histories.
In this way, I’ve always understood ‘the club’ to be somewhere much more important than just a setting for people to get wasted, or maybe find someone equally wasted to take home. When the music is too loud to be heard, and the lights are too dark to be seen, we are free to explore it means to be in the human body beyond the glare of society's gaze. The ubiquity of smartphones has, of course, profoundly diminished our ability to experience this dizzying freedom - on the dancefloor or anywhere - but there are still certain nights (shout out to PDA and GHE20G0TH1K) that honour and upkeep the tradition of clubs as the original 'safe space'.
DJ, Radio 1 host, Deviation Co-Founder, and Louis Vuitton Music Director Benji B has spent much of his life in these spaces, learning the kind of life lessons that can never be taught; only felt, seen, known. For the second episode of Intellectual Property, I spoke to him about his education on the dancefloors of London's thriving club scene in the late 90s and early 2000s, and the ways those experiences continue to shape his life's work. You can listen here.
Benji B, Intellectual Property [Conversation] Listen
Benji B, Intellectual Property [Transcript] Read
Benji B, Intellectual Property [Materials] View