I know. The early noughties doesn’t feel that long ago, does it? Yet, as the 1990s have been gradually released from pop culture’s nostalgia grip, many have been heralding the early '00s and its defining style and cultural impact (the best, worst and once forgotten). For Black British millennial women, the 2000s offer a time capsule to when young, Black, British female celebrities — from T4's June Sarpong to songstress Jamelia — became much more visible, guiding us into early adulthood.
I was in my pre-teen bedroom with a portable stereo and a Nokia 3310, when the UK had been taken over by a wave of very Black and very British sounds that emerged in the late 90s and defined the noughties: UK garage, 2-step and grime. Powered by pirate radio stations, the music was addictive and created international stars out of Black British youngsters who grew up in areas we knew and could (finally) relate to; So Solid Crew, Dizze Rascal, Skepta and much more. The list goes on.
I was obsessed with the Black female artists that dominated the genre, Ms Dynamite (Boo! — if you know, you know), So Solid Crew’s Lisa Maffia, soul singers like Kele Le Roc and Shola Ama, and, before Alesha Dixon became an uber-polished reality TV show judge, we knew her as a singer and garage MC with the girl band Mis-Teeq. They wore their hair in slick-backed hair buns (using tubs of JAM! hard gel), with a long, GHD straightened side fringe. They predominantly wore streetwear or velour tracksuits, low-rise jeans and mini skirts, bandanas, bandeau crop tops, gold earrings and sovereign rings and helped define a whole generation of youth style. What. A. Time.
I longed to experience the legendary underground rave nights — and the fashion — that made the 2000s a defining moment in Black British youth culture. Looking back, there’s just something about this time that felt rebellious, undeniably cool and freeing, that now, as a thirty-something, are feelings I am clinging onto. It feels strange to view the 2000s as ‘history’ — but it is Black British history. From UK garage parties to carnival, here are some incredible rave photos that capture both the style and joy of the era.