But Ming + FS now want nothing to do with jungle culture even as they prepare to co-lead this summers "Om Deep Concentration"tour with turntablists Apollo, Vinroc and Shortkut, who likewise explore the baggier side of hip-hop culture with their live beat collages. So what happened?
"Jungle went white, thats what happened" begins Ming, "It lost its soul. Now its coming from a mathematical, nonmusical perspective."
"I believe the correct terminology for it now is drum n techno," chimes in FS.
"In the beginning it was fun, rapping over the tracks; it was a party; it was urban culture. Now its the suburbs; its about wearing a baseball cap and bobbing your head, usually out of time," he adds, laughing.
"It used to be about unity, now its a high school lunchroom," continues Ming.
"Everybodys off in their little cliques. Its starting to fold over on itself."
While the duos opinions are likely to piss off legions of jungle kids, Ming + FS are among the few American DJ teams who can put their skills where their mouths are. The 25-year-old FS has been a hip-hop DJ-production prodigy since he was 14, remixing and producing everyone from Coolio to Brandy. Albano was a pedigreed musician playing guitar in speed metal and industrial bands. Besides jungle and hip hop, they have a beat-pop record under the name Beat Tree, which FS describes as "what Sugar Ray should have sounded like."
Now with the "Om Deep Concentration" tour, the pair hope to sidestep subgenres altogether and get back to what DJing was supposed to be about in the first place: party rocking.
"What were trying to do with our sets is really just compose music on turntables and get people dancing. Hopefully it wont be all trickery and shit with kids standing around watching the DJ," says FS, knowing full well the kind of backpack-toting trainspotter crowd turntablist performances can attract.
Hes pretty sure that wont be a problem. "Apollo is one of the most musical scratch DJs Ive ever heard. Hes a good party DJ he doesnt abuse the skills."
The most recent proof of Ming + FSs skills is their incendiary "Locus" track with DJ J-Rocc of the World Famous Beat Junkies on the Tektonics compilation, also on Om. The set pairs turntablists with breakbeat and jungle producers in the best and most forward-thinking example of the synergy between DJ and producer culture yet. Its also an indicator of how producers and turntablists have only begun to really reach a musical common ground where the DJ isnt just scratching "aahh, fresh" over the bridge. Tektonics may not quite be the blueprint for the next school of dance music, but its a step in the right direction. "Were at an interesting crossroads right now," says FS.
Their rock-the-party ethos may leave kids expecting all jungle or all hip hop scratching their tilted Nautica caps. But the pair see the Deep Con tour as one step closer to the day when soundmen at the rock clubs they often find themselves playing at can make turntables sound as good as guitars and drums. "The sound systems in most clubs just arent set up for DJ shows," Ming says, adding, "You wanna know why jungle never really seemed to hit in America? Its because the sound systems were shit."
But it isnt all the soundmans fault. Ming admits electronic music needs to evolve out of its subgenre status. "People dont say, Björk made a good electronic record, they say she made a record because she had good songs, not just beats."
While he concedes he and FS havent quite polished their hip hop-jungle moniker with Björk-level work just yet, they do hope to eventually form a live band. "Were at that point where therell be some kid in 15 years that will fuck everything up, in making everything thats going on right now make sense, like Rage Against the Machine did when they first came out," says Ming.
"Unfortunately we might have been born too early to be that kid, but hell be influenced by us." he laughs. Hobey Echlin is a freelance writer. Send comments to email@example.com. Echlin never arrives too late to influence the