Born and raised in London UK, Stephens grew up around a wide variety of musical influences; everything from Studio One, dub and dancehall to rare groove, soul and funk.
When Stephens first heard Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa in 1981 it awakened something deep in his soul. From that moment on he was a dedicated disciple of the pioneering sounds of Hip Hop and Electro. Luckily the UK had a thriving pirate radio, underground club and mixtape culture so Stephens could regularly get his fix of this new music.
In 1986, inspired by the release of KRS1’s album Criminal Minded, and by the thriving ‘blues’ party scene in London, Stephens started collecting vinyl and DJing. In 1987 (the so-called ‘Summer of Love’) House music from New York and Chicago swept through the UK. This musical invasion opened the door to the harder, more minimalist electronic sounds of Detroit. Derrik May’s, The Dance, and the more militant sound of Underground Resistance resonated deeply with Stephens and formed a natural connection to the original electro sound.
In 1991, whilst studying in Brighton, UK, Stephens formed a partnership with fellow producer Simon Atkinson. Shortly afterwards the pair signed a 3 EP deal with cult Dutch Techno label DJAX-UP-BEATS based in Eindhoven, under the name China White. The duo released their first EP, Theme from the Underground in 1991 to critical acclaim.
In 1993, surviving by DJing and hustling, Stephens and Atkinson finally managed to release the Tuned In EP through Aura Surround Sounds Records under the name Dark Llama.
Motivated by his pioneering spirit and inspired by South Africa’s newly won freedom from Apartheid, Stephens decided to move to Cape Town in 1996. Inspired by the amazing wealth of musical talent in South Africa, Stephens eventually founded Pioneer Unit Records in 2007, which he currently runs with Anne-Sophie Leens.
Having produced music for a variety of hip hop artists including Wordsworth, Pro (Kid), Rattex, KONFAB and Driemanskap, Stephens is best known for his work with Pioneer Unit artist, Ben Sharpa, who was discovered by BBC Radio 1 DJ Mary-Anne Hobbs who described him as “one of the most inspired and agile lyricists in the world today”.
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