Mr Scruff’s record box: Keep it Unreal classics and exclusive revelations from Mr Scruff and Zernell

Back when Keep it Unreal began in June 1999, the world was waking up to the sound of Buena Vista Social Club, pirate radio stations were giving UK garage a nationwide status and a little-known band called Coldplay were playing in Glastonbury’s ‘New Bands Tent’. Zernell and Mr Scruff were both well-established DJs then and are now two of the most respected partymakers either side of the Atlantic!

Each has connections to their city’s Music Box: Zernell having grown up on Ron Hardy sets at the Chicago club and Mr Scruff having taken residence at its Manchester namesake for almost a decade. As we prepare to celebrate 19 years of Mr Scruff’s inclusive, genre-defying club night, both artists share some seminal tunes from their personal collections.

Mr Scruff picks some numbers that have become Keep it Unreal classics throughout the years, while Zernell selects some jams that hit the mark at several stages of the party. There’s lo-fi disco, up-tempo acid and timeless afro-funk for Mr Scruff, plus an exclusive revelation of the artist behind the Mr. Snippy moniker from Zernell – not to mention some cracking techno, jazz-funk and house. Check out their picks below and secure your Keep it Unreal tickets here.

Fela Kuti – Gentleman (EMI LP, 1973)

Mr Scruff: ‘I have always played a lot of Fela Kuti, and one of the Music Box regulars requested this one, which I had not played before. I dropped it the next month, mixed straight in after some really hard, bass-heavy stuff like Ug or Danny Breaks, and after the music came in after that long sax intro, the whole club went absolutely crazy. One for that slow, end of night positive bounce session.’

Zernell & Mr. Snippy (aka. Derrick Carter)  ‎– Grimy Edits Vol. 9 (Grimy Edits 12”, 2017)

Zernell: ‘I sat on this release two years before it got pressed. It was such a dope cut, but I had issues with what to put on the b-side. I finally just said F*** it, I need to get this out!’

Mr. Scruff – Get A Move On (Ninja Tune 12”/LP, 1999)

Mr Scruff: ‘An obvious choice, but then the first Keep it Unreal night back in June 1999 was the launch party for the album of the same name. I first played this tune off dubplate while warming up for DJ Krush at Dry Bar in 1998. Anyway, this tune always goes down well. Eternal respect to Moondog & T Bone Walker!’

Floorplan aka. Robert Hood – Never grow old (M-Plant LP, 2013)

Zernell: ‘A monster jam from the Midwest homie. The whole LP is dope, but this one is my jam. Absolute floor killer.’

USG – Ncameu (Clairaudience 12”, 1997)

Mr Scruff: ‘Peak time, eyes closed, heads down business, and another favourite. Life affirming deep-house from Ron Trent & Anthony Nicholson, and D’Bora Rivers’ vocals have the perfect bite to cut through the tough & lush production. Everyone in the club had their own regular place or corner, and the deep house crew held down the dancefloor to the front right of the DJ booth.’

Kimiko Kasai – I thought it was you (CBS/Sony LP, 1979)

Zernell: ‘Funk, Jazz, Scat at its finest. It took me a long time to hunt a copy of the record down. Finally came up on it Digging at a swap meet.’

Jesse Gould – Out Of Work (P&P Records, 1977)

Mr Scruff: ‘Tough, dirty, down & out funky disco. Lo-fi, but kicks hard on a big system, with enough welly to rival any house tune. Simple yet tricky, the drums, bass, guitar, strings, vocals & BVs knit & weave into a relentless, hypnotising jam. The more I attempt to describe this tune, the less sense I make, so ignore everything I have just said & listen to the tune. Hard!’

BSTC – Venus & Mars (All Natural Inc. 12”, 2014)

Zernell: ‘I was given this 12” by my guy Andy C. He produced the track back in 2014. He’s a Chicago native, but we meet out Digging in LA.’

B.B. King – To Know You Is To Love You (ABC records LP, 1973)

Mr Scruff:Supreme cover of the Stevie classic. I love the foot stomping breakdown near the end, but what a tease when it fades out soon afterwards. It builds & builds and builds, but at 8 1/2 minutes long it is still too short. There must be an unissued master tape somewhere with the end bit on!’

Dee Jay Alicia feat. Black Widow – I want it rough (T’s box digital release, 2013)

Zernell: ‘About this track… where do I start. I’ve been playing this song around the globe for the last two years, non-stop. Every time I say I’m not gonna play this song no more, i drop it and BAM the dance floor goes crazy.’

Hizatron – Von Glooperstein (Berkane Sol 12”, 2009)

Mr Scruff: ‘Tick Tock, Tick Tock.. imagine if that big snake tentacle thing from the trash compactor in Star Wars appeared as a contestant on countdown. It would sound like this.’