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A look under the surface: Riddim aliases & masked artists

From Sanzu to Spass, hidden identities and side projects have deep roots in the bass music world as we know it.



Your favorite artist might have an alias.


And while they are a hot topic right now, what makes them special is the fact that we're getting new music from them constantly.


Even recently, we're getting full-on sets: Vyle at Summoning... TOOG & GOOT at Rampage... Spass b2b Dum Dum b2b Pyke (debut) at Mission Ballroom.


But what's the point in creating an entirely new identity? How do artists choose whether or not to remain secret? And how does all of this fit into riddim culture as we know it?


We took a closer look.

 

Aliases, burner accounts and masked artists


Anyone know of TOOG & GOOT?


Yeah, those are some of my favorite aliases. Word got out and people realized TOOG & GOOT were actually the aliases of MVRDA and Samplifire. They used them to publish clips outside of their primary projects.


TOOG & GOOT at Rampage Belgium


"At that time, I associated all my tearout and robotic-styled dubstep as MVRDA, so in my young brain, releasing anything less heavy than that would have been a bad idea to channel it through MVRDA. I wanted to experiment with a more simpler style, kinda the OG square4 sound, but my own thing," MVRDA said.

TOOG was born, and other well-known producers saw an opportunity to join in and drop their early works too.


"I was happily open to that, because I felt like I started a new and fresh way push out music and to build a small community of OOG projects," MVRDA said.  

Soundcloud was (and still is) the home for these early works, oftentimes in the form of clips that generate a buzz. Artists drop clips on main, not just on aliases or burner accounts.


This has gone on for years and is thriving again today, but especially among aliases and masked artists.


We have heard the buzz surrounding PYKE and his anonymous dubstep crew called the 'RED EYE MOB,' consisting of artists like tuuhru, aerin, MASK, plek, heretic and squid.



There are also the artists like Chango, Mongrel, Sanzu, VKTM and 7, all who wear masks and have been chopping it up around North America. They drop regular clips for the world to consume.



Sanzu pictured above (photo by OOF MEDIA)


Some people think that just because artists wear masks, it automatically means they have created a secret side project. However, that's not the case with Sanzu.


"Yes, I keep my identity hidden," Sanzu said. "It is because I feel my identity isn't necessary to what I'm about and what my music is intended to do. The mask allows me to suppress the anxiety and stage fright that I naturally have... Anxiety has always been a major aspect of my life and this is one of my few ways of coping with it."

Sanzu went on to say that his project is influenced by his love for a good story — in this case, it's his love for a Demon Slayer character named Sakonji Urokodaki who wears a Tengu mask.


Another masked artist is Spass (who we are still uncovering details about). Spass recently performed in Denver while wearing a mask alongside Pyke and Dum Dum (Neonix).


Pyke (left) and Spass (right)


But is there a common thread among these aliases? We've been told that some of them just started because they saw others doing it.


"I started it because I wanted to fit in," MOOG said.

MOOG (AKA Marauda) posted 11 clips (all under two minutes long) in the lifetime of his project, all which have amassed hundreds of thousands of plays on SoundCloud. There's no Instagram profile, no Spotify profile... his only trail is on that Soundcloud page.


Would any of this music even be available for the fans if other aliases before him hadn't paved the way?


We asked Samplifire how he and MVRDA came up with TOOG & GOOT when he was a guest on our Filthy Beat Inspectors Podcast in 2021.


"He [MVRDA] started that as a joke... it was another account on Soundcloud to put out WIPS," Samplifire said. "One day, we were on Skype, he was showing me a project of his and I finished it in a few hours. That was a track called Swoog. I didn't want to put Samplifire and TOOG. So I reversed TOOG into GOOT, and it sounded quite cool."


Whether this shows a desire to assimilate or simply a desire to create something silly, we're grateful it happened.


It's also worth mentioning Da Force, who we've been told was "Spass before Spass." Our sources have told us that alias was comprised of nearly 10 people who would make tunes together, while two of them would play the sets wearing Star Wars masks.


So many of the songs we love today perhaps would have never been released if it weren't for these talented artists and their aliases who laid the foundation for the scene as we know it.

 

How clip culture ties into the mix


Back in the day, there weren't more than a few labels releasing riddim. One way of gaining traction was to play your songs out and tease them in the form of clips.


"They'd have a random picture that has nothing to do with the song itself," SweetTooth said. "They'd have watermarks, 'don't rip this tune.'"

He went on to tell us that back in the day, there were crews with watermarks... Savages, Monsters ... the list goes on, but the clips stayed strong.


"We were just clipping it to see what the fans would say," YAKZ said.


Clips were the kings and SoundCloud reposts were their gold.


"The world stopped when Phiso dropped a clip in 2016-17," Samplifire said.


The hype grew and grew through clip culture. It's still a way to generate buzz and get feedback. It's an incentive for fans to get music, and artists to get engagement.


Some artists choose to create burner accounts for their clips. These accounts feature clips of tunes that artists say will never come out, or maybe they don't want them to come out. They can be seen as a safe space where artists don't have to feel obligations.


One example of this is VERSA's v2 pop up. It's another one of the tasty secondary accounts that serves as a place for him to drop all those delicious projects that might not otherwise see the light of day.




"I just got bored one day and made a bunch of riddim," Versa said on v2.


But for the masked and secret aliases, clips are a way to grow their SoundCloud and socials, even when they're not playing shows. Some of the aliases use clips as a way to say, "hold my beer."


For us, it's hard not to see how the roots of the genre are coming full circle.

 

The fun side of riddim is showing


SweetTooth reminded us that riddim is meant to be fun at its core. He recently tweeted about parallels between today's masked artists and the TOOG, GOOT, MOOG and ZOOGs of years past.

"This current mask era of riddim reminds me of the oog era of riddim and honestly it’s bringing back a lot of the lighthearted piss taking from the OG SoundCloud days that the genre was missing as of late," SweetTooth said. "Is a lot of it stupid? Yes but that’s literally riddim."

Read that again: It's literally riddim.


I suppose what SweetTooth is saying is that the fun side of riddim is showing.


It's quite remarkable, really.




For artists thinking about starting a side project, consider these questions:

  1. Do you have enough music that you're not spreading yourself thin between two accounts?

  2. Is there enough of a difference between your main and side aliases?

  3. Are you going to be OK if your side alias gets bigger than your main alias?


Know that just because you start an alias doesn't mean it will blow up overnight. But remember that it could be a great way to channel your roots and share music in the form of clips without being obligated to labels, management or industry constraints.


And for the fans, if you know who is who, don't spoil the secret.


Whether you're an artist with an alias or a fan wondering whose behind the mask, take this point in time as an opportunity to support the underground and fall in love with the culture again.

 

Dubstep FBI CEO & Co-Founder ccmichelle can be found on socials.


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