Photo credit: Harvey Williams-Fairley
Friday 5th October was a special date for UK hip-hop rapper Dabbla, as it saw the launch party for his recently released sophomore solo project ‘Death Moves‘. Having achieved the completion of a stellar record that he is proud of and has impressed whichever ears it has menaced so far, Dabbla wanted to celebrate the occasion with a party that took place at The Old Blue Last in London.
After following Dabbla and being a fan of all he has touched in the past couple of years, I was extremely grateful to Potent Funk Records for giving BG the opportunity to review the venomous ‘Death Moves‘ and jumped at the chance to grab an interview with the man himself. Before the madness that ensued as the launch party got going, I met Dabbla to have a bit of a chat about the record and some other related topics:
Big Dabbla, ‘Death Moves’ – here we are! The whole entire teardown! How are you feeling about the project and the reception so far?
Dabbla: Yeah buzzing man! It’s been nice to see all this energy go to the right place, feeling glorious right now!
As of right! How did you approach ‘Death Moves’ differently to ‘Year of The Monkey’?
I wanted to kill shit. So that’s why it’s titled ‘Death Moves‘ – I just wanted to fuck shit up for everyone, myself included. I wanted to make something that could break personal bests and it’s all about pushing thresholds, so just tried to outdo myself really.
Of course yep – I think that definitely comes across, what made you want to release ‘Death Moves’ through your own label Potent Funk rather than through High Focus as you did last release?
Dabbla: Yep, well first off all love to High Focus that’s my family, that’s my brotherhood but we’ve had Potent Funk as a label for a while and it just needed some love and I just wanted to bring something home that was truly mine, that I could own you know.
Absolutely yep – what is one thing you hope people can take from the project?
Dabbla: Oooooh, I hope it inspires man. I hope it makes people wanna make fuckin’, something different than what’s already been done. You know what I mean? Just kind of shake the boxes up a bit, cross-pollinate!
Okay, cross-pollinate I like that! Kung-fu wise, what would you say is the ultimate ‘Death Move’?
Throat strike man! That or the five point palm exploding heart trick, but yeah I haven’t really got that one down yet – working on it though!
Both sound deadly! Do you practice kung-fu much yourself?
Dabbla: Yeah man, yeah ten years I’ve been doing Tai Chi – it’s soft style but there’s hard style in there you know you can’t have the hard without the soft! Have you ever seen the film by Keanu Reeves called ‘Man of Tai Chi‘? After he made ‘The Matrix‘, he went into kung-fu, wrote, starred and directed in ‘Man of Tai Chi‘ – watch that; that’s the reason why I love Tai Chi cause that film explains the essence of it.
That’s the origin right there! I will have to give it a watch. The ‘FUTD’ video, first of all it’s absolute madness, what inspired such a cinematic visual and can you tell us a bit about the concept of the song?
Dabbla: Yeah so I designed this robot which Pose Works who’s the graphic designer made for ‘Vines‘ which was supposed to be an interlude on ‘Death Moves‘ but didn’t make it to the vinyl or the cd so I put it on the tape but we designed the robot for that video and we just wanted to do something about trans-humanism; to animate a robot but make him really human – that’s why he busts a little tear and pulling the Earth and I don’t know if you’ve noticed in the video he watches man go from the early stages of agriculture and grow to a point where it just gets fucked with things like the nazi shit and overfeeding the population, so that’s where all the emotions come from. So that’s where ‘DBLA’ the little robot came from and when we went to California, being in the Death Valley we had this epic landscape and decided the little dude needs to come to Earth and that was the perfect setting.
Dabbla: So the track, I didn’t have that video in mind when I did ‘FUTD‘ at all, the track was just to fuck up a dance (laughs), it was a monster Sumgii beat and I just had to sign it – you know how like dogs urinate to mark their spot? Yeah I had to do that with this, just mark my territory, make it my own.
Oh wow okay, I have to say I’d noticed a few little intricacies in the video but not picked up on all that, that is a lot of context thanks! Now, ‘Long Gone’ – the banger with Jam Baxter, is definitely one of my favourite moments on the project and got me wondering if there’s any plan for a new Dead Players project at all?
Dabbla: Fuck yeah if I can help it! Yeah man all day long everyday I’m telling them both ‘come on man!’ It’s gonna happen, 100%!
Okay that’s sick, can’t wait for that! Speaking of collaborations, you are an artist who’s had quite a few collab projects; if you were to pick or assemble a dream team collaboration who would you pick?
Dabbla: Oooh man I’d just like.. I’d probably just clone myself three or four times and just call it, Dabble Attack! (laughs) Imagine that, six of me running around – a supercrew of Dabs! (laughs)
Oh my gosh haha that would be quite something, I dunno who could fuck with that! What do you think about the current state of UK hip-hop? Cause it seems to me like the scene is just going from strength to strength, getting bigger and finally getting the attention it deserves?
Dabbla: Yeah yeah, hundred percent man! I mean it’s energy you know, everything is. You keep pushing and persisting in a certain direction and eventually it gives, I’m just glad to be still involved at such an exciting time and yeah it’s about fucking time man! Cause grime’s got it’s shine and hip hop has always been there, underpinning all of this shit and some of the sickest spitters in the UK are hip hop MCs and yeah they deserve to be heard cause there’s so much garbage that’s just accepted, just because the artist is a grime artist it’s gonna get the support cause the infrastructure with grime is there and it’s already established, it’s very cliquey so unless you know people in the circle or you can buy your way in you ain’t getting in.
Dabbla: That’s why we make hybrid rap shit cause we’re tryna break all them borders down, try cross-pollinate and get some real shit heard! There’s some real substance out there that ain’t being heard because it doesn’t fall into the realms of ‘grime music’ which has been put on this big pedestal, and I love grime don’t me wrong but there’s more substance in hip-hop, yeah you can’t argue with that.
Oh absolutely, one thing that does annoy me about outsiders perception of the UK, like on social media for example there’s US hip hop fans I converse with and I’ll ask them what do they know about UK hip hop and they only know of or think the whole scene is guys like Skepta or Bugzy Malone and I’m like no that’s not even close!
Dabbla: Yeah exactly it was like when Dizzee went over there their reaction was like ‘ahh yo this is sick but it’s not hip-hop’ so yeah there’s a big grey area between the two and basically if you’re a sick spitter you can spit over any tempo, that’s the way it is, that’s my feelings anyway.
I agree with you completely, right excuse me if I fuck this up, but “Creme brulee-a the gentle spray of the deadly player, great purveyor my flavour’s straight from the himalaya!” – that’s one of my favourite snippets of some of your wizardry obviously from your verse on ‘Chateaux in Toulouse’ from Baxter’s last album, do you have a specific verse of your own that you really cherish? Or some bars that you always ‘think that was the shit’?
Dabbla: Actually that was the shit, that verse, I did like that. Ooooh fuck! I love the third verse of ‘Devil You Know‘ because it takes me back to the original days of spitting as an MC, the verse goes:
“CBD my EDC
DDT that SAD
PPL that GIG
DTF my BIT
Gotta keep my receipts for my VAT
Claim that back, I see, I see
OTT my CAE
Right about now, it’s all me me me” – so where I came from, two-step, bit of break-beat, a bit garage-y, do you remember Skibadee? Did the alphabet lyric and stuff like that so I like that verse cause it takes me back to the early days of MCing which is where I fell in love with this shit.
Of course man yeah quite nostalgic for you, if you had to pick one song from your catalogue which would say best sum you up as an artist, if you could what would it be?
Dabbla: ‘Crazy Ill‘ from the ‘Londonzoo‘ EP. Very old, very me – I wanted that on my actual album, that marks a very important time for me because it was when I realised that I was part of a group but also I became a leader around that time, so yeah that was the tune for me.