“The music that I make is what you probably listen to in a stolen car,” Bradford emcee S Dog tells DJ Mag with a broad grin and an even broader West Yorkshire accent. Part of a new generation of MCs putting their spin on bassline, a scene that has often had to endure a certain level of snobbery, S Dog wears the title ‘charva’ (a term for unruly youths) with pride — it’s even in the title of one of his biggest tunes, ‘West Yorks Charva’ with Leeds rhymer P Solja — and revels in the genre’s brashest motifs, splashing them across his videos and joking about stolen cars or ‘dingers’ with his latest release ‘Dingaz Anthems’.
The standard bearers of this new wave are Bad Boy Chiller Crew — the freewheeling trio sporting a white-knuckle blend of bassline and Jackass-style escapades — but MCs like S Dog are snapping at their heels. He even featured on a couple of BBCC’s biggest tracks — ‘New Machine’ and ‘450’ — but he’s got a bright future of his own. S Dog grew up in Bradford and is fiercely proud of the West Yorkshire city. After an early adulthood spent in and out of prison, he’s determined to go as far as he can and take as many people as possible with him.
He completed his last sentence five years ago and made up his mind he was never going back. Through a local connection, he made contact with P110 founder Adam Williams, who invited him to record a freestyle as part of the channel’s Scene Smasher series. That went down a storm and Williams agreed to upload the video for S Dog’s debut single, ‘Estate Life’, another collab with P Solja. He was then invited to record the first in a new run of Hoods Hottest, a P110 series that had been defunct for a couple of years at that point. He went from complete newcomer to heavy hitter, in just a few short months, racking up hundreds of thousands of views with each new release. He’s stayed loyal to the channel, returning for a second Hoods Hottest, but he’s now an in-demand name who’s notched up sessions for BBC Asian Network, Fumez The Engineer, Link Up TV and the rest.
Since blowing up he’s come under the wing of Jaimie Hodgson, who signed him to his House Anxiety label towards the end of 2021. With Hodgson he’s found more than just a record deal; meeting him helped S Dog on just about every front, from grappling with bookings to career strategy — “I'd be knackered without him,” he laughs. “Seriously!”
Although bassline remains his first love, there’s more to S Dog than just that. Scattered throughout his back-catalogue are bags of rap and trap tunes. In fact, it was with rap that he first proved his talent while entertaining fellow inmates “on social” (the communal area of prison). “I used to be able to copy other MCs' bars, copy their flows,” he explains. “Like, if an MC brought a track out, I could perfectly copy his flow. So I learned flow before I started writing music. Then I started writing music in jail and all my mates were like, ‘You need to do something with this’.”
“I used to be able to copy other MCs' bars, copy their flows. If an MC brought a track out, I could perfectly copy his flow. So I learned flow before I started writing music. Then I started writing music in jail and all my mates were like, ‘You need to do something with this’.”
At this early point, he was writing rap, but there was often an echo of bassline in his tunes (heard best in the sugar-rush electronics and chant-along quotables of ‘Estate Life’) and he used it as his outlet to go a bit deeper. Rap, he insists, will always be a part of who he is as an artist, even if it does occasionally take a back seat to the bassline stuff. Ultimately, it’s a question of balance. Both, he feels, are intrinsically a part of him, but they reap their own quite different rewards for him, creatively speaking.
“My rap tracks, some of them streams are in the millions,” he says. “So no, I don't want to abandon it, but at the same time, I like to make music to have fun. I'm past taking it really serious like that. Don't get me wrong, it's my job. I take it really seriously, but when you're making bassline music, it's fun. You're getting booked at fun places. When you get booked for a rap show, it's really serious. Even the crowd's serious. They're all just stood there thinking they're gangsters, nodding their heads. But with bassline, everybody's having fun, they're singing your bars back to you. It's a different environment. It's like two different worlds.”
As proud as he is of everything he’s achieved (“I'm trying to keep myself looking prestige”), he’s just as quick to heap praise on those around him. He speaks regularly about Shaun Dean and Mikey B, the two main producers behind his imminent ‘Dingaz Anthems’ EP, and works with them whenever he can. He also goes out of his way to push another up-and-coming producer during our conversation — “He's 19, he does quite a lot of charity work,” he enthuses, “but he's very talented, so I'm trying to get him as active as I can so his name comes out.”
That’s not just S Dog trying to help out a mate, as anyone would, it’s part of a bigger mission he’s on to reverse the trend of deprivation and decay he sees all around him. Bradford, like much of the country outside of London and the home counties, is seemingly being left behind by a negligent and apathetic government. Funding for the arts in the UK has been hit hard, and that’s felt acutely in his neck of the woods. There’s a huge appetite for bassline, and music in general, in Yorkshire, but the infrastructure is lacking.
He doesn’t want to give too much away for now, but S Dog has big plans for the city and he hopes he can stop at least a few kids from falling into the same traps he did growing up. “When I pop in music, and I've made a certain amount of money, I want to teach younger kids who are talented the concept of making music and making money from it as a young kid.”
That it’s a nationwide problem isn’t lost on him, but his home turf is more important than anything, so starting there is a must. “I would help any kid that wants to actually change his life, but when I first actually do that, I'm going to do it somewhere in Yorkshire, for Yorkshire kids who are living a troubled life — not kids who just think they're bad boys, kids who are actually struggling. I just want to reach them before they fuck their life up and go to jail.”