In Depth: Dabbla

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Dabbla’s undying dedication for spitting has propelled his status to new heights in the UK scene over recent years, although his respected profile stems from countless roots of a rap career which begun close to two decades ago. LDZ veteran, Problem Child member and one third of the Dead Players collective, it’s crazy to think that his 2016 High Focus release Year Of The Monkey was officially his ‘debut’ solo album.

It was no surprise that despite the dire weather, nearly 800 people descended upon the Mint Warehouse in Leeds last month for a night of bass-heavy beats, headlined UK Hip Hop’s most notorious rap quartet, The Four Owls. Performing past midnight to warm a buzzing crowd before the Owls took stage, Dabbla entertained with a manic 45 minute set backed by DJ Frosty. Young fans recited almost every word, others roared in support at each lyrical pause. Yet admittedly most struggled to keep up with Dabbla’s quick-fire flows, as he performed a variety of high-octane anthems lifted across his extensive collaborative and solo discography. Truth be told, there are few people who can get a party popping like Dabbla. He rarely disappoints live and this night was no different. 

Fresh off stage, we grabbed some unscheduled time with the man to see what’s on the cards for 2018…

Dabbla, we’re out here in Leeds. You just performed live, how was the experience for you at Bassface tonight?

Fucking sick. My second time in Leeds, at a big old fucking venue like this – mental. Loved it, every second of it. I’m still moist!

You’ve come up from London today, did you travel with the Four Owls that are headlining?

Nah, we came up separately but met each other at the hotel motel and had a cheeky Nandos. Then we came down to the club. I’ve got my DJ Frosty with me. He’s got a mixtape coming out, called Crush. That’s coming out on our label, Potentfunk.

On your way up here, what music were you listening to?

Actually my shit’s fucked in the car, got no tape deck or cd deck. Absolute radio mate!. listening to whatever the fuck the country was giving us at the time. That and Frosty snoring.

Is this your first live gig of 2018?

It actually is! It’s good to be here, Wordplay in the motherfucking house! It’s all fucking love.

Let’s talk about your set. Obviously you’ve got your solo material, you got Dead Players, Problem Child. Did you bring any exclusives to the table today?

Yeah well, we did but we had to deal with a few technical difficulties at the start which cut the set short. We planned to run a song called Colourblind, which is actually a Dubbledge solo joint off the Problem Child album Confessions of a Normal Human Being . We usually do a little 8-bar back to back scratch attack routine but there wasn’t enough time. We didn’t even get to play Stupid but hey, you know how it goes.

I heard that beat go – it was crazy… 

The teaser!

Sticking with exclusives – are you here promoting material?

Yeah man, we played There It Is for the first time tonight – which dropped the other day. That’s off my new album Death Movescoming out later this year on our own label, Potentfunk.

How far into the creation process are you?

It is 90-95% complete. Artwork is all done and we’re flying to L.A with Spincity Visuals in March to shoot videos for the last two tracks off the LP.

I remember your debut album, you brought something different that we had never heard before. That took about 15 years into your career to drop that album didn’t it?

Kind of. It was more like a collection of songs that meant the most to me, that stood the test of time and that I wanted people to hear because they were important moments innit! Making music sometimes comes with a time lag. If I make a song today, you may not hear it for another five years and a lot would have changed in that time, including yourself as an artist so it is a tricky one. As long as it takes I say. I’m very blessed that a serious label like High Focus handled it though for sure!

It’s mad because the music you put out sounds ahead of its time. When it drops… I mean, have you heard that Lee Scott, Black Josh thing recently for example (sounding ahead of its time)?

Love Blah man, big up Lee and the whole Blah family! There’s too much good music coming out the UK right now, it’s a very exciting time. Lots of new sounds, lots of boundary-breaking and genre smashing a gwarn! And if you know me, you know that’s what I’m all about! I think I speak on behalf of both us of (Frosty and I), we’re on that hybrid rap shit and try to cover all angles being fans of all sorts of music. We come from Drum & Bass and Grime. We come from Garage, Broken Beat and Hip Hop. We just want to smash it all together, no borders no boundaries. Just good music!

Back to this project you got coming, have you got any collaborations on there you can mention?

I have actually. I’ve got one with Rag N Bone Man, one with Jam Baxter and Illaman is making an appearance too. All family. All good peoples. All contributed with love!

Now we know it’s not all about the bars – there’s work behind the scenes with beats and production. Is Sumgii handling production?

Sumgii has 70% of production this album which I’m really excited about! I’m working with a Swiss producer called AJ Swizzy – he made that Flying beat. Got a Dag Nabit beat on there and a Hashfinger banger too. Who else have we got on there… We got a couple of others, but I’m a little bit lean up right now… (Laughs) and you’ve put me on the spot! It’s a world of flavours. You know me – I come with the goods! So it’s going to be good, I promise!

What else has Dabbla got in store for 2018?

My plans are to use my British Passport and do as much travelling as I can while the borders are open. Like I said, we going LA in March to shoot some videos and I’ll be linking my good friend Son Of Kick and some other huge producers which I can’t mention just yet. Get back in April then I’ll be fucking off back to Asia for another month of musical adventures! Then we start the third Dabbla solo album and the third Dead Players LP.

You’re dropping this new album on Potentfunk. I mean, aren’t you signed to High Focus?

I’m still signed with High Focus yes and I’ll be doing my third album on High Focus for sure but right now I need to give my own label some love. Myself and Sumgii have got so much new music, plus a couple of new signings to the imprint as well, which I can’t talk about right now but I can say that it’s a very exciting time!

Are you on a tour right now?

No no no, this is just a solo show but we will be touring Death Moves when its ahhhht!

I know you’re based down south but are there any artists up north that you’re watching right now?

Fuck yeah, the whole Blah camp obvz. Levelz are killing it. Shogun is one of my favourites right now too – we are in the midst of a collaboration as well.

Are there any artists right now that you’d like to work with, that you haven’t worked with yet? 

MC Pikachu, he made that Red Bull track KondZilla – look it up!

Have you got any final shout outs you want to make?

Big up Wordplay, my London Zoo family, my Dead Players family, my Problem Child family, Dubbledge, Illaman, all the mandem, Johnny K, Tango, Pringali the badman, Steph! Hold tight the mums!

Frosty –  I’ve been here the whole time, I think you covered everything mate. That’s it, watch out for the new mixtape coming soon, featuring Jazz T, Sammy B-Side called Crush! Coming out on Potentfunk Records, loads of features on there; too many names to mention.

Interview by Evo

Photos by Rob Searle

Mike PattemoreComment