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Mr. Scruff

Mr. Scruff produces and spins a playful, groove-heavy mixture of house, disco, jazz, and breaks, accompanied by his distinctive cartoon artwork, which he describes as "potato-style." First appearing with a series of dubby downtempo EPs and a self-titled 1997 full-length, he became a darling of the downtempo and nu-jazz scenes with subsequent efforts like Keep It Unreal (1999) and Trouser Jazz (2002). Later works such as the electro-funk-leaning Friendly Bacteria (2014) featured fewer samples and more guest vocals. Scruff has additionally released an adventurous series of mixed CDs, heavy on reggae, soul, and underground hip-hop tracks, including Keep It Solid Steel, Vol. 1 (2004) and DJ-Kicks (2020). The authorial nickname of Manchester native Andy Carthy (his neatly trimmed beard being the source), Mr. Scruff attracted the buzz of DJs and critics alike with the 1995 Rob's Records release "Sea Mammal." A semi-veiled tribute to Boogie Down Productions' seminal "My Philosophy," it combined the dime-store aesthetic of a Luke Vibert or Howie B with more tempered, straight-ahead rhythms and subtle funk, soul, and electro references. The appearance soon after of The Frolic EP on Rob's subsidiary Pleasure Music -- which took the breezier, tea room quotidian feel of his debut a few Sunday afternoon steps further -- turned buzz to blare for Carthy, and remix offers from the likes of DJ Food and Lamb flowed in. The year 1997 brought an EP, Large Pies, for noted Bristol label Cup of Tea, as well as Scruff's eponymous debut full-length, which contained many of the highlights of his early singles. Keep It Unreal, his first Ninja Tune release, followed in 1999 and featured Roots Manuva on the track "JusJust," as well as "Get a Move On!," a jaunty, Moondog-sampling single which subsequently became Scruff's most well-known track, due to its frequent placement in advertisements and compilations. Around that time, Scruff also became known for all-night DJ sets that included everything from '60s and '70s soul-jazz and funk to scratchy old reggae and dub 45s, classic hip-hop, schmaltzy vocal pop, and new-school electronica. He compiled the dub-centric compilation Heavyweight Rib Ticklers in 2002, and his first official mix CD, Keep It Solid Steel, Vol. 1, arrived in 2004. His third full-length, 2002's Trouser Jazz, was his most successful, reaching the Top 30 of the U.K. albums chart and selling over 100,000 copies throughout Europe. His debut album was re-released (with bonus material) by Ninja Tune as Mrs. Cruff in 2005. Ninja Tuna, appearing on Scruff's sublabel of the same name in 2008, featured guest vocalists such as Alice Russell and Andreya Triana. EP releases scattered across the tail-end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s led to 2014's Friendly Bacteria, on which he was joined by Matthew Halsall, Robert Owens, and Vanessa Freeman. The almost electro album featured a more minimal set of sounds with less samples and heavier bass. "Joy of Brass," a left-field house single with Phil France, appeared on Gondwana Records in 2017. Scruff's contribution to !K7's long-running DJ-Kicks series arrived in 2020; typical of his eclectic sets, the mix touched on dancehall reggae, Afrobeat, samba, and many other genres.
© Sean Cooper & Paul Simpson /TiVo


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