D Double E Explores His Thoughts on the Music Game
24 Oct 2022
Editor in Chief and Creative Director: Hiba Hassan
Journalist: Thomas Atkinson
Photographer and Creative Director: Oliver Buckle
Production: Akeal Iqbal
D Double E is an icon in the Grime scene, who’s now been making music for over 20 years. Having also delved into D’n’B, Dubstep, and Garage, he’s no stranger to the U.K.’s music scene. He originally made his name as part of N.A.S.T.Y Crew before having success solo with tracks like ‘Bad 2 Tha Bone‘ and ‘Street Fighter Riddim.’
He’s considered one of the best by the likes of Skepta and Dizzee Rascal, and whether solo or with fellow Newham General Footsie, continues to be stone-cold on the mic. Now having released his ‘Bluku Bluku 2‘ project, we sat down with D Double as he came to us from outside a cafe, having been clothes shopping before our chat.
Once D Double E was settled, we reflected on his career, who he rates, and the representation of dance/electronic music in 2022.
Having been in the game for over 20 years, what is it that motivates you to keep producing high-quality music?
Just being alive makes it happen. I have to pick not to and it’s going to be hard not to (make music). If anyone stops doing what they’re doing, people miss it. Then they come out 10 years later and everyone’s there crying (because of) memories. It’s harder to stop it and not be involved. For me, it’s just natural. Naturally, it’s what I (have done) from 16, things have come to me easy. It’s on my mind every day. Even now just being in central (London) looking for stuff to wear because I have always got appearances to make. Even if I haven’t got them in the diary, I prepare for them. Once you’re in, you’re in. That’s why ex-footballers become managers because they’re still in it. Whether you stop the music to do acting or you go into another role, it never stops, unless you make it stop, which is harder.
As you said, whilst you’re here, you’ve got to keep on going, keep on grinding.
It’s natural man. If you’re not making progression then it is easier to stop. People are going to be getting calls, people are going to be thought of (by others). General Levy is still doing tunes, he has to say ‘rah I’m not doing it anymore;’ there’s going to be people coming to the door and it’s not open. So, let the door open, control the flow if you need to, but it’s always going to have someone there. It’s deep, opportunities are coming to me all the time. You just got to live it, man. I’ve done all the hard work.
The fact that you seem so on the ball and still motivated is good to see. I feel with some artists, they seem like they’re just going through the motions when they get to a certain point with their music. But clearly, with you, I can see you’re like ‘I know what I need to do, I want to make this’ and you’ve got a plan.
I plan every year ahead. I’ve got new music now, it can’t come out this year because it’s for next year. Next year is already in play and that’s what will happen the following year. I’ll have something next year, that might not come out next year. I’m trying to make a body of work and then it comes out the following year. The continuousness is natural, it’s slow progress, but it is all natural. Just having a phone that keeps ringing, I don’t have to go out and give out my number to get clientele. (I) just work with what’s good and learn how to divert all the b******t. That used to be part of the problem, mixing in the b******t with the good. Now, we just want good, that’s what helps with progression.
When you collaborate with an artist, what is it you look for?
I have to connect with them in terms of their music, not even them personally. Once I like the music, if I meet the person and the person’s cool or I’ve met them before we’ve even done music and I was like ‘that guy’s cool and he’s hard,’ that’s what makes it happen. A bit of chemistry, it’s not just picking out people I don’t really like just because they’ve got a name. I’d rather work with who I like. I don’t care about where people are, I just care about good music and shining a light on it.
If you could go back in time to one concert, who would you go to see?
I would like to go to Coachella. I have heard a lot about that over the years. And I would like to see Busta Rhymes, I’d like to see that s**t live. I want to see someone with mad powers, Travis Scott. You know the powerhouses that bring out the mad stage and setups. It’s going down with the kids, I want to see that. Not in this country.
Coachella’s a weird one for me because I’ve heard you’re only allowed to drink in certain areas and not near the stage, which I find a bit weird. I feel like that ruins the experience a bit maybe. As for the other two, Busta Rhymes would be great to see live, just to see those fast-paced flows and the energy.
Just for the quality of mic. I wanna (see) someone who can rock it like that. (And) one of the new guys.
I have seen Travis Scott live and it’s quite an experience and it is a good crowd vibe. Obviously, when it’s safe.
I’ve been in the same festival as him before, but I didn’t get to take it in properly at the time. At Wireless Festival, it was either him or Slim Thug.
I imagine on the day you’re focused on yourself.
That for me, would be (similar to) watching a Stormzy, Giggs, or Skepta concert, but being an American. To see that (Travis Scott concert) rampage, that wilding out and jumping up and down, 1, 2, 3, 4! I wanna be there, see who’s there, the girls, the guys, the fashion. You don’t just want to be spitting to pub guys. I want to be spitting to people that are in fashion.
Nia Archives recently called out the MOBO Awards for failing to represent dance/electronic music. Why do you think that genre is underrepresented at awards shows?
It’s a bit technical. We’re from the days of when we say U.K. music, it’s really spread (out). U.K. music is House, Funky House, Dubstep, Drum’N’Bass, Grime, Hip-Hop, and we’ve even got our Reggae side. We’ve got history in all these things. In today’s world, it’s like everyone is focusing on one thing and this seems to be the problem. The problem is the U.K. sound is not sounding as tropical as it used to be with all the different s**t. One guy would do Drum’N’Bass and that was getting mad coverage and mad shows. The Garage crew they were killing it over there, the Grime guys they were killing it, Dubstep killing it. Listening to the radio now, they’re not living the life of the different genres, everything’s getting mixed into one. You listen to a DJ who’s playing everything more, so then when someone would want to just hear Drum’N’Bass is getting harder these days with being in the limelight. All the DJs with the most limelight that push music, they play everything rather than just one thing.
She’s (Nia Archives) making songs and (will) get an award for making songs. She’s not going to get an award because there’s a genre for it and she’s going to see all her peers in there. She’s going to be up there for a track and be up against Jorja Smith. It’s not about the genre, it’s about having that song that can mix with everything. She needs to be in there, not the genre. She needs to keep working, winning until they recognise her and she’ll be the only one from the genre getting an award. That is what it’s like today.
I think when you look at a lot of awards shows, it’s a lot of Rap or Drill or maybe R’n’B or a bit of Afrobeats and Dancehall. As somebody who goes to raves, I know there are so many artists in House, Drum’N’Bass, Bassline, Garage, who are making great music and deserve to get represented and be celebrated.
What needs to happen, (is) someone who thinks like you needs to set it up and when you have your awards you’re going to see someone from every field there, that’s properly spread and gives each genre love. That’s what they’re going to respect and you will have more diversity.
Someone needs to do that. I have seen Bru-C who’s mainly Drum’N’Bass at the moment has got nominated for a GRM award.
There you go, this is what I am saying. We need some Drum’N’Bass, but they’re recognising the work within the genre. They’re not bringing in that genre. They’ve got Hip-Hop, all these. But, when you really check it, it’s not what it is. They’ve been calling Giggs, Grime. They’ll think Giggs is Hip-Hop, but some people think Grime is the whole culture of everyone. There’s a bit of a mix-up going on. Even the Hip-Hop genre, it’s not all Hip-Hop. In Afrobeats, it might not all be Afrobeats, some is sounding (like) slow Hip-Hop or even could have been Dancehall. Nothing is really what it is. It’s a better position to be in when your work just brings you the award, you can’t think about the genre.
When there’s something that is the popular thing, they go ‘well that artist belongs to that scene because that’s the popular thing.’ And it’s like ‘well no, they don’t, you’re just saying that because it’s the easy thing to say when you haven’t done the research.’
I will tell her not to worry. It’s a bigger compliment to just keep working and have your name in there and your genre of people respecting you even making it there.
Fingers crossed, people will start listening and there will be a bit more versatility about the music.
I think she’s helping. Still not going to change, but they might start giving more electronic people trophies. Goldie, SHY FX they all need their Rated awards.
They were all pioneers and changed the game. I think Goldie got his awards during that time, but SHY FX didn’t. He may have got nominated in the 90s, but he’s still made loads of great music since.
Someone like him needs an award now, just for being alive. Give him his flowers. (They’re) not trying to cover every corner of greatness.
We just have to cross our fingers that things change and people get their respect.
She’s doing so well man. I met her the other day, (and I’m) going to do something with her.
Who for you is your favourite MC of all time and why do you rate them so highly?
I haven’t got a favourite. I’ve got favourites, there are too many. I don’t just listen to one guy. This is what I didn’t understand back in the day. Someone would pick one man and there’s one man who’s your best, but there are still other ones.
I have so many different people when it comes to music. I’m a wide listener. I even had love for R. Kelly, but got to remove that love you get me.
Yeah, can’t be listening to him anymore.
The best rappers in America are Styles P, Busta Rhymes, Snoop (Dogg), Eminem has to be one of the hardest. 50 (Cent), I like his music.
Those are some good choices, they’re all very talented MCs, and all have great bodies of work. They’ve all changed the game in a different way or brought their own thing.
There’s even more than that. Biggie Smalls, 2Pac.
There’s always going to be more than five people that are good, otherwise, people wouldn’t listen to Rap.
DMX (is another one). I listen to too much hard music. (That) doesn’t mean everything else is s**t. (There’s the artist that gives) the one to the gut, that’s the one that is a headbutt, and that one is the fly kick. They’re going to kill someone. How can they say this (one person) is only my guy? You’ve got to be a bit closer to him. Someone you would have flown to another country to see, seeing him live 20 times, he reached out to you. These are the moments that make this your best guy. When you’re growing up just watching what’s happening, you can’t talk to them. It’s only if you start speaking to them you say ‘you know he’s good yeah, but he’s a c**t.’ But, who’s the best guy or who is hanging around with the best person? You can rate the others, but you give ratings to the best person. There are certain things that would make me not respect a rapper.
Eminem was a bit controversial, he was cussing his wife and bringing up his daughter’s name in a tune and he was a bit of a nutter. (laughs) But, I like him and he’s calmed down now with that s***. I love too much music to love one person. I’ve got favourite albums, but it would only be my favourite because it got signed by Snoop. This one (is) ‘you know why, because I actually got it signed.’ Busta Rhymes has an album I love, Twista has an album I love. He used to spit fast.
I saw you recently spoke in an interview about how you regretted not making an album during that early Grime period, that peak period for you. How do you recon that album would have sounded and what would have been its legacy?
It would have sounded like Snoop Dogg’s first album. It would have been a real insight into the London living at the time. I would have loved to have been listening back to it now. The energy would have been Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, going in. Back then, I was an animal on the mic.
The album would have been 10,000% classic. I would have been up and down the country performing all my bars as I did but it would have been songs from my album instead of just loose bars over instrumentals. My album would have been smashing down the clubs! This album would have taken us back in time just like my bars do. Now the full back-dated story’s lost. If you know you know sort of thing. Listening back to radio sets ain’t the same as listening to an album all packaged together as a journey.
When you got called up about the IKEA advert, did you approach it differently compared to a normal song?
When I got called up for the IKEA ad I didn’t really approach it much differently. I like when people bring me concepts and topics like colours or cars or drinks, like my track ‘Street Fighter Riddim.’ I like going into detail and I have a lot of different flows, so I knew one of them would work, plus the beat was right up my alley.