He’ll never get credit for it, but The Prodigy’s Keith Flint will forever be one of the most important musicians in history.
They should give him an international holiday. Time off from work, just to rage.
Because now the wild hair, pierced-up face of The Prodigy is gone. Keith Flint, at 49 years old, took his own life for reasons still yet unknown. It’s sad, but what a legacy he leaves behind. The UK big beat phenomenon is arguably one of the most influential acts to ever do it. And one of the only reasons the U.S. has any sliver of an EDM scene at all.
Yeah, America has its own history of electronica — New York electro’s direct influence on hip-hop, techno’s rule over Detroit, Chicago house blossoming in the black and gay clubs. It was all relegated to underground scenes throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, though. No way to reach the masses. Festivals weren’t a thing and car commercials wouldn’t ever think to feature music the poor people liked.
But then something bizarre happened in 1996, a year MTV was actually still showing music (albeit hidden deep within its late night hours). During a show called Amp — on at 1, maybe 2 in the morning — was a cacophony of sounds that were as inspiring as they were trippy. It was a block dedicated solely to a growing underground electronic scene, most of it coming from overseas. Stoner material. Only the weird kids who got picked on watched it.
You have to put this all in context for a second; in the mid-’90s, people were fuckin’ squares. The Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys and “Mmm Bop” all battled for who won the charts. A show about a goofy Protestant minister, his boring wife and their seven children was a #2 ranked show. Tattoos? No, never. American culture sucked.
So 2:00 a.m. was about the only time MTV would ever think to feature a band like The Prodigy, even though SPIN Magazine was praising it. “Sure I get it,” one article said. “But how do you know when their songs start and stop?”
That early morning premiere of The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” in ‘96 was a gift. The iconic black and white cut-scenes of raucous, fire alarm mayhem instantaneously seared itself into thousands of rebellious kids’ heads. It was unlike anything else, save for maybe Nine Inch Nails still in its infancy.
Elton John thought so too. “They are one of the most original groups to come out of England … ever,” he recently said while paying tribute during his Rocket Hour Show on Apple Music’s Beats 1.
Don’t forget the visuals for “Smack My Bitch Up” either, still considered to be one of the most controversial music videos ever created. Way before comment threads it was out there challenging equality doing its best to show women could be obnoxious assholes too.
But it was always too “violent” and “shocking” for mainstream success; in its wake others swam ahead. The Chemical Brothers released “Block Rockin’ Beats” in 1997, Fatboy Slim followed with “The Rockafeller Skank” in 1998. Everyone knows what happened then. These are two singles where the story of watered-down EDM and commodified fist-pumps begins.
All doors are opened eventually. Some pushed gently and as soft as a breath, others with a boot to the grain, a dirty middle finger waving in the air.
RIP to one of the greatest.