Ever got the feeling that an individual was born to rap? Perhaps you felt it the first time you heard Eminem spit one of his jaw-dropping ‘no he didn’t just say that’ punchlines? Or maybe it was when you experienced Nas weaving intricate inner-city poetry on his classic ‘Illmatic’ debut? For you old-school heads out there, it could’ve been after cracking the seal on any early album from LL Cool J, Rakim or Big Daddy Kane? Yet irrespective of who inspired such sentiments or when it happened, no doubt almost everyone reading this right now knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that undeniable mixture of personality, flow, content and swagger that turns a good emcee into a great emcee; the kind of lyricist whose verses still provoke a smile of satisfaction and frantic head-nodding years after they first burst through your headphones and collided with your brain cells. Dubbledge, ladies and gentlemen, is destined to become one of those emcees.
Raised in Watford and rhyming since the ’90s, the self-proclaimed “oldest newcomer in the game” has spent the last few years building a formidable reputation for himself as a skilled wordsmith. Consistently shining on collaborations with homegrown heavyweights such as Foreign Beggars, Braintax and Micall Parknsun, Edge’s potent verses have converted many listeners to his unpredictable brand of lyrical fireworks. With a mind that’s as sharp as his tongue, DE is anything but one-dimensional, having already given fans everything from daily struggle anthems (‘9-5’), side-splitting humour (‘Lips 2 Da Floor’) and serious political insight (on Braintax’s ‘Anti-Grey’).
Now finally releasing his long-awaited debut album ‘The Richest Man In Babylon’ on the well-respected Low Life imprint, Dubbledge is set to let the world know exactly what he’s all about. The question is, are you ready?
“…you’ve got so many people walking around today angry and frustrated and they don’t even know what they’re angry and frustrated about…”
You’ve been around for a minute but your debut album is only just dropping now – did you expect to have to wait so long to release ‘The Richest Man In Babylon’?
Nah, not at all. I thought I would’ve probably dropped a debut album about four years ago, but it just never manifested. I don’t know what you’d put it down to, man. Bad luck? Obstacles? It just never came about.
But it seemed like you were consistently working whether doing guest appearances or your own tracks, so from the outside looking in there appeared to be some sort of career plan at work…
I think the Most High must be my manager (laughs). It’s not like mans sat down and plotted and planned, things just happened. I’ve just been lucky that most of the verses I’ve done for other people have ended-up on a single or an album that’s got the proper promotion, so my name’s got about because of that.
If you had released an album a few years back do you think it would’ve been much different to the current project?
Yeah, definitely. I think I woulda been talking a lot more doo-doo if I’d have put an album out however many years ago. I’ve grown-up and I’ve got more to say now. I know myself more as a person and I know what I’m about, so I’m not afraid to experiment now and think outside the box a bit. Sometimes you hear younger artists and they’re trying to be something they’re not to appeal to others, but I’m not really caring about that. I’m just doing what feels good to me.
What’s the idea behind the album title?
I know people will see the title and think it’s on a get-rich-quick thing, and it is, but it ain’t. There’s a lot of ways you can be rich, I’m not just talking about money. There are so many different subjects on the album and I feel that when people listen to it there could be a tune on there that might help them find wifey or focus on working hard. There are a lot of different riches out there and I’m just highlighting a few of them on the album. It’s not just a get money thing, it’s also about people getting some wisdom, knowledge and understanding in the society we’re living in today.
“…I can boast better than a lot of people (laughs). But with concept tracks you really have to sit down and think about what you’re going to say…”
Even since your early material you’ve always seemed big on writing concept tracks and that continues on ‘The Richest Man In Babylon’. What is it about that aspect of lyricism that you enjoy so much?
I was one of those youts that used to like puzzles and stuff. I like to be challenged, so sitting down to write a concept track is like a test for me. I can write bars about how I’m this or I’m that pretty easily and I can boast better than a lot of people (laughs). But with concept tracks you really have to sit down and think about what you’re going to say. You have to stay on that one topic, it has to make sense, and it’s gotta be entertaining as well. It can be a hard thing to do, man. But I get more satisfaction out of writing those kinda tracks, even though they can sometimes take a long time. I might be flicking through my rhyme book, see something I’ve already started and finish it months later. But I’m patient when it comes to my writing, so I’ll revisit certain rhymes and just let them build up until I think they’re ready. I mean, I think everyone could do it if they wanted to, I think it’s just that a lot of emcees can’t be bothered to do it. It’s like cooking. Not everyone wants to take the time to season the chicken properly; they just go and get that frozen food or a takeaway. When it comes to my rhymes, I like to make sure they’re a real meal.
The album track ‘The Message’ talks about the lack of support UK artists receive from British radio deejays – why do you think that’s still such a problem?
I don’t see many people making successful careers out of hip-hop in the UK the same way the Americans do, where an artist can take care of their family and they’ve got a nice house etc. But we do have people with the talent over here who deserve to have that kind of that success. But I think one of the main reasons our artists aren’t reaching that level comes down to support from the media, which includes radio. It’s like the England football team, if the media backed them instead of slating them all the time they’d be going out on the pitch full of confidence and making more moves. It’s the same thing with UK artists, if the media was properly supporting the UK stuff then who knows where we’d get? So with ‘The Message’ I’m telling deejays that if they’re not playing my stuff then the record is about them.
But do you think it’s due to radio deejays having to play the big industry records in order to keep their jobs or do you think it’s because some deejays aren’t even aware of a lot of the underground UK artists who’re making noise?
I’d say that it’s partly both. It’s a hard one because there are people out there who are doing their job. But there also some people out there who’ve gotten lazy and complacent and maybe they’re not paying attention to everything out there because they don’t think they have to anymore. So with ‘The Message’ I’m trying to wake those complacent deejays up, not just to benefit me but also everybody else in the game. It’s not just radio though because the club deejays need to start supporting more as well. Unless you go to a specialist night, you’re not going to hear any UK tunes in a club, it’s all big US stuff even though there are plenty of UK tunes that have got that energetic vibe. We need a change across the board, man.
You gained a huge buzz with your ‘Lips 2 Da Floor’ track. How did that come about?
That tune was nuts, man. It started making some waves in the online chatrooms and on MySpace, but when the video hit, that was it. It all started when I was in Switzerland with London Zoo and we were in the car just vibing and chatting shit. We got to the rave to perform, mans decided to put that Roni Size beat on, and we just freestyled it and the people went mad. The hook was made up on the spot and we were just doing verses about random shit. Then when we got home we went to the studio to lay it down and just freestyled it again.
Most people viewed that tune as a parody of the apparent lack of lyrical skill in the UK grime scene – true or false?
It was. But it was really the grime scene from a couple of years ago because a lot of those guys had progressed by the time ‘Lips 2 Da Floor’ came out. But we were just catching some jokes, man. Ninety-nine percent of the people got the joke but there might’ve been a couple of internet thugs who didn’t. I didn’t ever really get any negativity off of it though. I doubt that there was anyone from the grime scene that really gave a shit about that tune to be honest with you.
“…I don’t see many people making successful careers out of hip-hop in the UK the same way the Americans do…”
From listening to tracks of yours such as ‘9-5’ and ‘Tel-a-lie-vision’ it seems like you have quite a jaded view of modern day life. Would you say that’s a fair comment to make?
I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. It just comes from actually being in that 9-5 struggle and sitting in front of the idiot box watching the nonsense. Then part of the frustration also comes from the fact that I’m not really getting up and doing anything about it. I’m so used to doing it over and over again that I just get up every morning and do it over and over again. We’re conditioned and I’m trying to break free of that conditioning but it ain’t easy.
Define what you mean by “conditioning”?
I’ll be real with you, man. In my opinion schools just teach poor people to work for the rich. There are two different education systems. There’s what the rich get taught and there’s what the poor get taught. We’re taught to comply, do what we’re told, go to college and study so that we can work for somebody else. We’re not taught how to make our money work for us or how to set up our own businesses; we’re taught how to make somebody else rich and to be happy that we’ve even been given that opportunity. That’s why you’ve got so many people walking around today angry and frustrated and they don’t even know what they’re angry and frustrated about. They’ve got a roof over their head, food in their belly, but they’re vexed and don’t even know why. The reason why is because they’re not living their life, they’re living the life that’s dictated to them and people don’t even realise that. I mean, none of us are going to be able to save the world, but I’m just trying to bring some awareness in my music so that people know they do have options. I’m just giving you an everyday man’s opinion.
So what’s next for Dubbledge?
I dunno, man. I’m just gonna ride it out and enjoy the moment and when the next project comes out it comes out. I write when I get the urge so I don’t exactly rush anything. But people have got short memories, so if you don’t stay on top of things on some level it’s easy to just fade away. So it’s about moving forward for me right now, both in music and life in general.
“…Ninety-nine percent of the people got the joke but there might’ve been a couple of internet thugs who didn’t…”