A Fairfield Grammar drop-out, many expected the young DJ Style, then known only as Andrew Hartley, to become yet another uneducated statistic. Little did they know that by the tender age of 18 he would find himself in a hotel suite at the five-star Savoy in London, reflecting on the prestigious Best of British Youth award that had just been handed to him by Princess Diana.
Now a dominant presence in Bristol’s R&B and hip hop scene, DJ Style has always intertwined his musical projects with important community and youth work. Starting his professional life as a co-founder of the award-winning group Real Deal Artists, Style dedicated himself to inspiring and encouraging young people across Bristol to get involved with the positive elements of hip hop, from graffiti art to breakdancing and MCing.
“The whole culture was about people from deprived backgrounds and areas coming together and creating through music and expression,” says Style. “We got funding from the council and permission to put up graffiti murals in certain areas. I’d like to think some of the things we were doing in the early days had some impact on things I’m seeing now – I see a lot of legal street art going up, which was unheard of before us.”
Despite giving up his free time to countless youth training schemes and community engagement projects since then, the unassuming DJ still sees his contribution to Bristol’s cultural makeup as a personal gain.
“I was just born into the whole urban music movement and I love music with a passion, so the opportunity to deliver training and run workshops with young people around DJing and mixing is a blessing for me. I never saw myself as a teacher or tutor – just someone sharing his passion.”
Regularly running his own successful club night Code of the Streets alongside presenting on Ujima 98fm, Style is as central to the city’s urban music culture as he ever was. Now turning his focus to helping promote and develop local artists, he bases his whole ethos on a balance between uplifting young people whilst maintaining a respect for previous generations.
“The most important thing I try to teach kids is to respect those that have come before us. Everything we achieve and everything we’re able to do is because of those older members of the community who paved the way for us. Nothing we do is new – it’s all an artistic legacy.”