"Where I'm From Is An Integral Part Of Who I Am" Clash Meets DC
Bursting on to the scene as a self-assured newcomer, surrounded by friends in his Greenwich locale for the first of the ‘#Gleamin’ freestyles that put him on the map only five years ago, DC has gone from strength to strength, and welcomed all listeners aboard his journey into a bonafide superstar.
As the jumpy likes of drill and afro-swing commercially flourished, DC (named in homage to ‘Dock City’, his hometown of Greenwich, as well as a nod to the influence of Meek Mill and his ‘Dream Chasers’) stayed true to his mellow style. From supporting J Hus on his 2017 ‘Common Sense’ tour to releasing debut album ‘Under The Influence’ in 2019, DC’s latest EP is the product of cumulative improvement and dedication to honing a craft.
His latest project explores the garage-tinged, ‘dark-soul’ rap with some help from one of the most relevant producers on the scene at the moment, TSB. Taking listeners on a literal journey - from touching in his (insufficient) oyster card at the beginning of opener 'Receipts' and bumping train to weaving in skits that mimic real-life public transport run-ins and announcements - the Londoner weaves intimately relatable stories of growing up in London and navigating life as a young Black man with help from knucks on lead single ‘Bobby & Rowdy’.
We spoke to him over Zoom about life in South-East London, how paranoia has a bad-rep and the art of the skit...
- - -
- - -
Congratulations on your EP! How is the rollout coming along?
Thank you! It feels great, I feel like a lot more people are taking it in, or appreciating the music a lot more, so I’m in great spirits, really grateful. There’s a difference with this release, where I feel that my style has evolved - even in comparison to [2019 Album] ‘Under The Influence’ , the growth is so evident and I think it’s definitely impacted how well it has been received.
How do you think you’ve evolved?
I think it’s a natural improvement, filling in some of the gaps in the last two years. I’m way more thoughtful when it comes to my lyrics, but also technically, as I decided to use less words in my music in comparison to before. I’m most comfortable on 140BPM, which are normally grime tempos, and because I used to rap so fast - even though songs like 'Paranoia', 'Neighbourhood' and 'Tears Sweat Blood' are all 140 - I felt the need to say so much, so fast, but have now made a conscious decision not to. The visuals are also definitely more refined, making it all easier to digest. So I would definitely say I’ve tried to improve all-round as an artist.
In terms of the UK scene, you’ve carved a lane for yourself in terms of style - what are some of your influences?
As well as my mum playing the old school Marvin Gaye joints on Sundays I’ve always loved rap, especially when rappers have something to say - Giggs, Kano, J Cole, Nipsey, Kendrick for example. The mellow, smooth style of Jay Z, Nipsey and J Cole definitely influenced how I make music because I’m not naturally a raucous person, or artist, so I always looked up to the chilled guys.
In terms of production - you have a real chemistry with TSB, who produced all but two of the seven tracks.
It’s weird, because it was all so natural. The first track we ever made was 'Neighbourhood', the second was 'Tears Sweat Blood'. He’s a genius in his own right that understands music in all its intricacies, he just gets it! When we first spoke about the type of sound I had in mind, all I asked for was something fresh and different to what was already around, and he just delivered, like he read my mind! It’s difficult to find a producer that just gets you and your music, but once you do, it’s all so much smoother.
From filming your first #Gleamin’ freestyle in Greenwich to naming yourself after ‘Dock City’ in homage, you rep your ends quite proudly. In the same vein, you also speak about being ‘trapped in the ends’ in your music. How can the same ends that moulded you also trap you?
I think where I’m from is an integral part of who I am - all my mannerisms and habits, even my sense of humour, are shaped by the ends, the people I’m around and where I grew up. That’s why I’ll always shout it out in my music, my environment has undoubtedly shaped my artistry, from my style of music to the content. When I said ‘the ends ain’t letting me free’ in Receipts it was more of a comment on the mental hold that the ends can have on you, finding it hard to get rid of certain habits when you’re trying to elevate. You’re so used to how things work in your little bubble of ends, that you’re not sure how to conduct yourself in different environments. That mentality is hard to shake off no matter where you go, it’s things like always being paranoid when you see another young black boy, there’s some sort of tension.
Speaking of paranoia, in the 'Neighbourhood' video you wore a shirt reading Only The Paranoid Survive and you’ve spoken before about how paranoia isn’t necessarily a negative feeling. How does that work?
I think paranoia has always had a negative rep. I was speaking to a friend last year, and he was telling me about the positive effects of paranoia. It was then that I realised he was right - paranoia has saved me from so many situations in my own life - it leaves you extra-cautious, aware and always on your feet. There’s a quickness from it that allows you to deal with whatever comes around the corner with a little more swiftness.
- - -
- - -
One of the main concepts of the EP is the idea of journeys, so much so that the artwork by Reuben Dangoor is of you in a South-Eastern carriage. How did you come up with it?
Reuben is a sick artist, I’ve always been a fan of his work - so when he DMed me to let me know he was a fan of my work, it all came together by chance!
At the time, I had another idea for the cover art, but funnily enough another artist used it on a tape that I had featured on [Kwollem’s ‘c2c’]. So once we couldn’t do that, I took a chance, and thought why not ask? - Every single minute detail is so significant, and all credit goes to Reuben for capturing it all so well - even the design on the train seats has DC instead of the usual squares. There’s the car from the ‘Neighbourhood’ video, the umbrella in the ‘Tears Sweat Blood’ video, there’s a drawing of my mum and my friends as the passengers, the council estate drawn is the one I used to live in. He did amazing, it came out so sick.
The South-Eastern train line is also symbolic because it passes through all the important places in my life! I used to bump this train every day to go to all these different stops, school, then to uni, to work, on the way home. My whole life and all the important chapters, like where I went to uni, where I grew up, where I used to live, could be dotted out on one route.
What does the title ‘In The Loop’ mean?
It’s in reference to the phrase ‘in the loop’ right, which means when information is only known to a privileged few. I feel like my music is very much ‘if you know, you know’, in terms of content as well as reach. As long as you’re listening to my music, you’re in the loop.
I loved your use of skits, it took me back to albums in the ‘10s where the skits played such an integral role to the album’s narrative. Why use them?
For me, skits are like glue that sort of tie the songs together, and they’re more than just fillers. One of my inspirations was Kendrick Lamar’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ album, where the skits paint a picture and really take the listener on an immersive journey. I tried to do that here, from the skit with the busker in ‘Underground’ skit to the train announcement in the ‘Red Signal’ skit. It all helps listeners who haven’t been to my ends or lived in London, really understand all the niche things - like that collective groan in the carriage when the train is delayed for even a minute.
There’s only one feature on the EP - Knucks on the lead single ‘Bobby & Rowdy’ - how did that come about?
I’m not naturally the type to reach out to people via DMs and be like ‘hey bro, let’s collab’, I believe in timing, that your path aligns with another person’s at the right time.
Knucks and I have been working together for the past three years or so, we’ve bounced off each other and actually made several tracks that never really progressed for one reason or another. He’s a crazy talent, and it all came together so perfectly for 'Bobby & Rowdy'. Shoutout to Shakka as well for his vocals, that was a random one. He was just in the same studios as us, and knew TSB and we asked him to come in and do a random freestyle and he left.
What do you hope listeners take away from the music?
I feel like I’m very honest, unflinchingly raw. There’s no pretense, ego or attempt to make myself look like ‘The Man’. I talk about my surroundings, expectations and paranoia as discussed, but it all comes down to me speaking my truth, personally but whilst also making a wider social commentary and making my opinion heard in the most impactful way.
- - -
- - -
'In The Loop' is out now.
Words: Rahel Aklilu
Photo Credit: Will Beach
Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.