UK garage, known as UKG, is an electronic dance music genre that debuted in England in the early to mid-1990s. Since then it has spread around the world. Garage house was the genre’s primary influence, although it also combines elements of R&B, jungle, and dance-pop. This genre is characterized by percussive, shuffling rhythms with syncopated hi-hats, cymbals, and snares. It might include 4/4 house kick patterns or more irregular “2-step” rhythms. It sits at a tempo of roughly 130 BPM. Additionally, garage tracks frequently include ‘chopped up’ and time-stretched or pitch-shifted vocal samples that complement the underlying rhythmic structure.

The origins of the UK garage trace back to the United States. Then, DJs at clubs such as New York’s Paradise Garage spun an eclectic mix of dance music from various genres such as pop-rock, disco, early hip-hop, and soul. Songs performed there were referred to as “garage music”. More disco-friendly, synth-driven tunes were referred to as “garage house” or “house music”. Todd Edwards, a DJ from New Jersey, developed the garage sound even further with remixes that heavily used “chopped” or distorted vocal samples. Edwards’ remixes found their way to North London. There DJs began playing them at a faster tempo, resulting in speed garage, an early type of UK garage.

Precursors of UK garage

DJs like Armand van Helden created speed garage successes. These include his remix of the Sneaker Pimps’ “Spin Spin Sugar”. Also, DJs like MJ Cole and Grant Nelson experimented with the style, pushing its boundaries in new directions. Changing the rhythm to a 2/4 signature resulted in the birth of 2-step, which produced a massive chart hit with the Kelly G remix of Tina Moore’s “Never Gonna Let You Go.”

Constant broadcast on pirate radio stations and in clubs propelled 2-step and speed garage recordings, now known as UK garage, into the mainstream, and up the music charts. In the late ’90s and early ’00s, producers like Armand van Helden and Artful Dodger, DJs like the Dream Team, and performers like Craig David, Wookie, and So Solid Crew made gold records within the UK garage style.

UK garage swiftly went out of popularity with dance music fans, when the heavier breakbeats and darker tones of grime and dubstep replaced it by 2002. However, in the 2010s, a resurrection of the 2-step garage happened. Early practitioners like Cole, Zed Bias, Craig David, and newcomers such as Disclosure and Jamie XX, breathed fresh life into the scene.

All types of UK garage share a few distinct characteristics. These include powerful, rolling basslines, particularly sub-bass lines. An organ will occasionally double them. Hard kicks and loud snare drums with open and closed hi-hats define the style’s percussion.