Dubbledge – AKA Jerry Ilé – has been around. Since the release of The Richest Man in Babylon on Low Life Records back in 2007, the Watford Wordsmith has been upending expectations and trouncing tradition.
From his work with UK hip hop stalwarts like Micall Parknsun, Foreign Beggars and Jehst to his time in supergroup Problem Child, Dubbledge has made a point of doing things his way. And through that commitment to originality, he’s been able to carve out his own corner in the scene.
Now, he’s back with his best album to date. But there’s a twist to this timely instant classic; Ten Toes Down was originally written and recorded over a decade ago.
So why is he releasing it now? And what does an album of ten-year-old material have to say about contemporary Britain, hip hop and the man himself? To find out, we sat down with Dubbledge.
Q. You held off on releasing this album for 10 years. Why have you chosen to release it now?
I blame Dabbla and Illa mostly, with a little dash of Sumgii for flavour. We were recording all the Problem Child tracks and they knew about the album from a few years back.
From the moment they heard it they have been breaking my gonads to just stop sitting on it and put it out there. I finally caved to peer pressure.
Q. How did the initial idea for the album come about? Was it a deliberate attempt to move away from the concept album style of Dubbledge vs The Boondocks?
TTD was just very organic, it just happened. I had some Chemo beats and every time I wrote to one, I heard another one that just inspired the next song, and the next song and the next.
He’s got some crazy variety and the sound is unique, it has its own vibe to it. It’s so long ago it’s quite hard to remember but it may have started with the ‘Ur mum’ rhythm. Just had some random fun on it and then I believe the other tracks got birthed from there.
Boondocks… is actually one of [my] favourite bits of work. Looking for soundbites, I ended up absolutely rinsing those episodes, there are some real classic lines in there.
Q. The Boondocks album was a cool concept. Is there any other TV show or film you’d be interested in doing a similar concept for?
Nah, Boondocks just done it for me. I fell in love with the first and second seasons. I haven’t seen anything since that has really grabbed me on that level with enough content for a whole EP.
Having said that – and it’s not a program – but a friend planted a seed that is growing somewhere in the back of my little head. As I’m a hypnotherapist now, (www.youspiritually.com), I’m generally finding that so many people’s issues always end up as some form of anxiety or its older brother depression; worries about the unknown future or the horrors of the past.
If I do jump back on the music, my next concept EP could well be some therapy tracks. I mean we all subconsciously memorise lyrics and end up with songs we can’t get out of our head after all, so the lyrics and flows – if done correctly – could work like a mantra. I’m pretty sure I could put two or three tracks together that could shift someone’s mindset just by putting a few tracks on repeat and chilling.
I’d even add a meditation/hypno session at the end to ice the subconscious cake. Not sure what the tempos would be, but the seed has been planted and answering this question just watered it.
Q. You touch on topics in Ten Toes Down that are really pertinent for 2022, even though the material was written ten years ago. What do you think that says about where we are in the UK right now?
It says my psychic powers ain’t nuthin to f** wid! (Wu-Tang voice).
X-man potential aside, I guess it means I was either ahead of my time, or just doing me and ignoring any influences in terms of what was popular at the time. TBF I’ve never really cared enough to follow trends; it just so happens that the subjects and social programming I was concerned about at the time are sadly currently being fully actioned.
Q. You say you were “ignoring any influences”, but is it possible you were inspired by topical news when you wrote the lyrics for TTD? These tracks were written right around the time of the murder of Mark Duggan and the UK-wide riots that followed.
It was also around the time Wikileaks revealed a litany of criminal acts in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US and UK governments. While government-sanctioned fuckry has existed since the dawn of civilisation, tracks like ‘Chess’ feel like a direct response to these events. Is there anything in that?
That’s a clever connection, and I wish I could say that it was based on that level of intelligent enquiry, but honestly, I wrote ‘Chess’ before the Mark Duggan issue and subsequent riots. However, I did use footage from those incidents in a montage vid I done for the track, which was originally on a Chase & Status beat that Tinie Tempah smashed.
Truth is, as you wisely said, ‘government-sanctioned fuckry has existed since the dawn of time,’ so you could likely play this tune in another 10, 20 or 30 years and it will still relate to the events of the day unless we wake up and contemplate political agendas e.g. How are things being handled? Is it conducive to growth or destruction? Do we live in a positive climate or are we slaves to a negative one? Are we gaining more freedom or less? Are we happier or more stressed? Simple questions, when we look around is their leadership improving our lives or is it getting worse?
Q. How did you end up working with Forest DLG, (FKA Chemo)?
Chemo’s a Don, it would have been rude not to!
Q. You’ve linked with so many great artists (including, on Ten Toes Down, Kyza, Micall Parknsun, T-Bear and Tha 4orce). Are there any other collabs you’d be interested in doing with some of the new generations of emcees or beatmakers?
I love them brothers! New music, well the therapy EP’s is in my head now which might require a completely unique type of beat, something very musical, so I’m leaning toward beatmakers that can produce outside of the box, rather than collabs.
Q. Some of the beats feel very much of a specific time (the electro-stylings of ‘Soopa Gangsta’, for instance). What was the process behind choosing the beats?
I literally just picked the beats that pulled some kind of emotion or energy out of me, whether it was jump up, women, artistic violence or deep thought. I like it when the beat does the work and leaves space for the artist to be just another instrument, and Mr Forest has just got it like that.
Q. You’ve always had a knack for adapting your flow to different beats, but did the sheer variety of different beats on TTD inspire you to experiment with some new flows?
Yes, I got to play around, like ‘Awkward’, was just… well awkward. It’s quite a psychedelic type of beat so the flows are all over the place. I think the flows may be different on every single tune, as they’re all completely different in terms of vibe and tempos.
Q. You wrote and recorded these tunes over ten years ago. Was there an element of nostalgia listening back to them?
Yes, fully. Mostly due to it standing the test of time, the electro sound of it was just different at the time and still is, so it has that element to it that is hard to date. I’m proud of it, so many different vibes. I mean we literally made ten tracks and there were no throwaways, all keepers, all with their own unique patterns, flows and elements.
Q. Have the last ten years changed your outlook on the topics you cover in Ten Toes Down (government overreach, systemic racism, technology damaging relationships), or reinforced them?
[It’s] completely reinforced them. When I listen to the album I feel like I have no excuse whatsoever to have not been better prepared for these ‘interesting’ times we’re now in.
I should have brought a farm, raised some chickens and gone off-grid lol. The world really looks like it’s lost the plot, it’s like watching all the stuff you hoped you were wrong about slowly coming true.
Q. Do you think that’s because we’re heading towards the end times, or just that we’re all more aware of how crazy humans are, with instant access to almost all the events in the world through our phones?
I’m not a believer in the end times, in an Armageddon biblical level nightmare. We’re all gonna face hellfire sense. I more so believe [in] the end of empires, the end of this particular time so a new time can enter, a new season.
And yes – with our instant access – we all have front row seats to this madness with algorithms that will happily only show us the one side of the story we are most focused on. So it’s all very polarising, which is why I’m optimistic but I’m not blind.
Right now, the climate feels like the powers that be are throwing everything they have at us, it’s almost like panic on their part. Like they know their time is up, so are just throwing all their players into the box, even Vaxx the keeper, just in case they can get a last-minute win.
I think their actions will polarise humanity, no more grey area, no more sitting in the middle on the fence, either comply or goodbye. And by goodbye I mean you go and find a way to become self-sufficient, independent to some level, although I imagine lots of communities starting to spring up with a focus on some form of off-grid living and trade, hence the “When that mark of the beast comes in, and they try and put the microchip under your skin, your gonna need to get some diamonds to bloody trade” lyric in ‘Chess’. So in short, new times rather than end times IMO.
Q. Will this be your last album? If so, what are your plans if you’re not doing full albums anymore?
Hard to say, music is a force of nature, it has its way of seducing you. Sometimes you just can’t help yourself, so maybe not full albums, but as the days go by, the flames slowly warming to the idea of writing a few more lines, and there’s still verses sitting on various producers’ hard drives that could still see the light of day.
Dubbledge has never been one to do things according to others’ wishes, and touring is no exception. When I ask, as a parting question, if he’ll be touring this album, he’s vague but doesn’t rule anything out.
“No dates or venues yet, but we are thinking about doing some Dabz and Dubbz dates in the near future so…”
In other words, you’ll know when he knows. And that could be tomorrow, or ten years ago.