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Brighton graffiti artist/producer Req in some respects embodies the clichés of British underground club music: no formal musical training whatsoever; a youth spent tagging, DJing, and breakdancing in the wake of the first wave of hip-hop culture to hit the U.K.; a knack for pushing received artistic sensibilities to their breaking point and coming up with exciting new directions in the offing. Req's music, however, is hardly clichéd, combining a warped, abstract approach to sampled breaks with a knack for extracting a haunting moodiness out of even the most minimal of electronic and sampledelic soundscapes. One of the U.K.'s most respected graffiti artists, Req began writing in 1984, after the Beat Street tour hyped his senses to the basic tenets of hip-hop. Although he only began making music by the time he was into his late twenties, Req's years spent bedroom DJing refined his instinct for effective composition, a skill which tends to compensate for his music's somewhat limited sonic palette. Req's debut for esoteric beat-head imprint Skint (home also to Fatboy Slim and Bentley Rhythm Ace) was his Garden EP, four tracks of breathy down-tempo hip-hop similar to the breakbeat abstractions of DJ Krush and DJ Cam. With stated influences spanning from early Detroit techno and old-school hip-hop, to the Black Dog, Req's tracks are more stylistically rooted in the Mo'Wax/Cup of Tea camp, stripping hip-hop of its extraneous elements and focusing on the bass, the beats, and the atmosphere around them. Req:One, his debut Skint full-length (with wraparound cover displaying a mural of his artwork), was released in 1997, and was praised highly by everyone from Coldcut to The Wire. ~ Sean Cooper