Interview: Dubbledge

Our Lowend Lowlife Matthew Bayfield chats to Dubbledge.

Dubbledge On a recent excursion to Britain's ever greying capital Bearded caught up with London reared UK emcee Dubbledge recently for a rambling dissection of UK hip-hop, poor organisational skills and patching it up with "The Ex" ahead of the release of his new album 'Dubbledge Vs Boondocks'

Bearded: So has this past year largely been putting the album together? The first time I heard word about it was when you released the 'Phil Mitchell Crackhead Song' back in March.

Dubbledge: You know I've got a habit of being long. I've had it my whole life and I don't see any signs of improvement, but I'm trying, haha, I'm trying. But the album was just music, I make music and then the concept came along, I was just sitting there watching the cartoon (Boondocks) and that just pulled it all together. Some of the tracks I'd made a year ago, some a few years ago, some are new, and it just all spun into one little album.

So the Boondocks thing was never the starting plan?

Nah everything started off just as unique songs and then I'd hear the song, see the Boondocks and started to splice bits & pieces together and basically it all came together like that.

Over the past two or so years UK hip-hop has seen its profile rise considerably in mainstream music. I mean, I'm not the biggest fan personally of most the artists at the top end of the chart but how'd you feel about all that?

More power to them man. If that's what sells, that's what sells. I'm not good at that stuff. I could do it, but I like to do music with a bit of meaning. I think the most successful track I ever did was 'Lips 2 Da Floor’ with London Zoo (LDZ), and we didn't even think about that, we made it up on the spot. But that's how it goes man everybody's on a hype. If I rap about that or what's going on in Libya, what you gonna listen to. It's the club track isn't it? It's a sad truth.

Do you think that, well I call it "proper hip-hop", but I'm a snob. Do you think the more intellectual hip-hop will ever make it to the same profile as all the current stuff?

It will if you put a singing hook on it haha.

Do you think it's a case of people pandering too much to what's already selling?

It's being strong enough to hold to your ideals isn't it? End of the day you can have an opinion, but whether you are you actually going to live according to that opinion is a different matter. When you see the money coming in and the women screaming your name, knickers thrown at you and all the rest of it you might change your mind a little bit. I mean, what can you say man?

Do you find, particularly with UK hip-hop that the corporate record shops just seem completely reluctant to push the new albums in terms of marketing and awareness?

They don't need to though do they? They're running a business model. Are they gonna give me shelf space, or Madonna or Beyonce? Y'know what I mean? It's a no brainer really. If you run a business you run a business. It's about making that popular money, that's why it's pop music. Whereas my music, and UK hip-hop is more of a niche.

For you is it more a matter of getting out to the independents and generating online sales?

For me, I just do what I love really. I love making music and I do music on all sorts of beats and I can't tell if I'm gonna like them 'til I hear it so I'm not really pigeon holed. I think my problem has always been the exposure. I find that when people do listen to it they like it, it's just that marketing and, y'know, getting it out there and getting it heard. I think any of this music can become popular at that same level, but you've got to have the marketing behind it.

Do you find when you're going in for a live show that you tailor your set for a particular crowd? Obviously with something like dubstep being so popular at present a lot of acts are going straight in that direction, do you try and avoid doing that or are you happy to move in the show's direction?

I do whatever man, I don't give a shit y'know? Haha. I just like jumping around, I've got energy man. So with my shows it all just depends. I've done all sorts of shows, I do a lot with Foreign Beggars, who do a lot with the dubstep sound and a lot of remixes. I've done a lot with LDZ, our Leeds show at the weekend got postponed. I was upset man, I was looking forward to that. We actually sorted out a planned set. Sometimes I'll make a set up in the car on the way up there, sometimes I'll just make it up on stage and sometimes I'll actually prepare a set. This time Dagz and I, we actually sat down and prepared a whole set that was hype man, Leeds was gonna get it and they've had to postpone it. But my approach to shows is whatever I'm feeling near the time. If I find I've been doing the same track over a few shows in past couple of weeks I'll probably send that one to the back and do something new. I get bored on stage sometimes so I just start freestyling, or I forget the words so I switch up the whole piece. It just depends on how I'm feeling, the crowd or what drink I've got in my hand.

On the new album you've got a track produced by Chase & Status who have worked with people such as Rihanna recently, how did that come about?

That was, er, Dabz from London Zoo. Those men know each other from way back so he just ended up taking me round their house and we were just going through some beats and chatting and whatever, then he played the beat I've got on here which is called 'Plan B' because they originally made it with Plan B in mind, don't know what happened there, but I versed it and by the time I gave it back to them they'd already sold the beat.

Yeah because it's the same beat on the Tinie Tempah collab. 'Hits' isn't it?

Yeah it's just a raw version. But they'd already sold it, can't really knock 'em for that, you know if the money is on the table do your thing. But they agreed to let it go on the record anyway, I just had to wait for 'Hits' to come out first. But it's cool because I still got to use it man.

You've also got some beats by Ben Grymm on there too?

Yeah got some Grymm, DJ IQ, whose currently out doing his thing with Professor Green on tour at the moment. I've got some nice production on there. I shouldn't say it but, hahaha, no disrespect you know, I love all the production but I think my favourite at the minute is by Metabeats, he's a guy from Cardiff currently on Associated Minds. His beats are just nice man, he did 'Willie Lynch', there's one called 'Oi', I think he did three beats on there. They're all different and quirky but there's just a quality to them you can't fuck around with.

The video to 'Willie Lynch' is assembled entirely from Boondocks footage, what was the idea behind that?

I was just trying to sprinkle some sugar on it you know what I mean? They highlight ignorance on the show and make it funny, they make you laugh at ignorance. It was just me trying to do a bit of that, because the track itself carries a lot of weight.

Your music has always seemed, right from the Smile EP back in 2005, very positive and upbeat. Do you think there is any specific reason behind that?

It's 'coz I don't buy into the whole fear thing. I mean there's people out there who are afraid to go to the shops, and it isn't because something happened to them in that particular area, it's because they heard it in some record, or saw something on TV or read it in a paper. There's plenty of people live in those areas who wake up, go to work, go to sleep and nothing happens. So I don't agree with putting that same fear into my music.

Do you find that with a lot of the hip-hop being released that does focus on crime and similar topics, like the grime and road rap selling at the moment, that people are saying this stuff on record, about violence and so on, and then feeling the need to go and actually live it in a bid to prove their credentials?

Oh without a doubt. It's like, when I was really young, I remember rapping about weed before I even smoked a spliff. Then I thought, oh I better actually started smoking so people don't think I'm just talking hahah. Happens to the best of us, it's just theirs is a much more dangerous subject.

Personally I find much of the current hip-hop that's in the charts a bit vacuous and empty, do you think it is just a case of it becoming more about how you say a particular line than what you say?

Yeah that's exactly what it is, isn't it? I mean you could run up to some girl in the street and come out with a load of pimp shit, and she might slap you. But say it with enough swagger and it might just make her laugh, you say it with enough style and you might just get away with it.

The track 'It Doesn't Have To Rhyme' off your new album is a good illustration of that, is that what you were highlighting with that one?

Yeah yeah, technically there isn't a single rhyme in there, but because there's a speech pattern it still sounds like a rhyme. Years ago I was on one of the UK hip- hop forums, can't remember which one, and there were some peoples saying imagine if there was a track that didn't rhyme at all, and I thought yeah, that isn't a bad idea. Then I got the beat from LG and just thought, let's do one without any rhymes hahaha.

I still used the speech patterns to fool people, so it was like you wouldn't notice 'til I told you. Then, when I realised that too many people didn't notice it wasn't rhyming I ended up calling it 'It Doesn't Have To Rhyme' haha... Kinda defeated the object I 'suppose.

There was a time around late 2007 - 2008, where all the artists I followed in UK hip-hop just seemed to disappear. Dirty Diggers had just done their second LP, you'd just done 'Richest Man In Babylon' Micall Parknsun had just done 'Working Class Dad' which you featured on and then it all just stopped almost. Was that just coincidence or a recession based thing or what?

Nah man I think it was most probably just coincidence but it was almost like everyone went through a bit of a "fuck this" phase. Don't know what it was, something in the water or the fluoride in the toothpaste maybe, but speaking for me personally my mind was just on other stuff y'know? I just lost a bit of the love for it.

It's almost like I've done it, I could go into an HMV and pick up my CD and done all the big festivals, Glastonbury etc, and I can tick that off the list you know. That's that on the bucket list done. But because I've got a love for it and I've always had a passion for it, it's one of those things you can't leave alone forever. I don't know, it's kind of like an ex-girlfriend you're still in love with, you still want to get back in bed with her hahah.

...So yeah I'm back with my ex now, I'm back with the missus...

You can find Dubbledge's album this very instant over on his Bandcamp page over here with a physical release following shortly. Neither of which will cost you an Arm & a Legga my friends!