Skip to main content

Meet the MC: D Double E

Launching our Meet the MC video series — which you can watch below — is UK rap royalty, D Double E. Having also made the beat for his own Meet The MC freestyle, he talks about how he found his indefinable and fluid style, and why, he says, “I’m not part of a scene. I’m me”

Ultimately, D Double E — real name Darren Dixon — is a child of soundsystem culture; rap, reggae, jungle, grime, bashment... the entire lineage of Black British music can be found weaving its way through D Double E’s idiosyncratic sound. To trace the Newham MC back to his source is to track the history of soundsystem culture, right back to his parents’ record collection.

“Mum was more into reggae like Garnett Silk, Peaches and John Holt and that sort of vibe,” he tells DJ Mag. Those smooth Lovers Rock grooves were balanced, he adds, against the tougher sounds the UK imported from the Caribbean islands. “My dad was a bit more into the ragga side of things, the mad ting.” That “mad ting” ragga sound, as we all know, would prove to be a defining influence on UK rave culture, spawning jungle, drum & bass and, eventually, grime.

Although often hailed as a “grime OG”, D Double sees things differently. He’s long since outgrown any old parameters once attached to his music. In fact, new album ‘D.O.N (Double Or Nothing)’ — as with the recent output of many of his contemporaries like Skepta, Ghetts and Jammer — draws on almost the entire UK musical spectrum, from rap to trap to drill, all blended into something indefinable and more fluid.

“Sometimes I get confused on what people think grime is,” he says. “Is it a beat or is it the artist? Because people call me grime, they call Skepta grime, they call Kano grime, but we’re just UK artists. Giggs is from grime, Skrapz is from grime, Nines is from grime. When you go back and look at videos of Nines when he was 12, you're going to see him doing grime bars. So what I'm saying is, everyone is grime. Grime is a way of life.”

He finds it equally frustrating when people talk about any perceived lull in the so-called ‘grime scene’. “If you're saying what is the state of grime, you're asking what's the state of the UK? The state of Abra Cadabra? Unknown T? I'm going to tell you: the state is fucking great, mate. The grime people are living great. But if you're talking about the guys from back in the day, I don't want to represent for them. I'm not part of a scene. I'm me.”

D Double E’s more refined definition of himself doesn’t just apply to his sound, it applies to his entire outlook on life and his career. Refusing to be hindered by lockdown, he used the extra spare time gifted by the lack of touring opportunities to release one of 2020’s finest albums — and the winner of DJ Mag’s Best of British Awards Best Rap Album — ‘D.O.N (Double Or Nothing)’. More importantly, it was a pivotal period in his career that saw him transition into a whole new chapter.

He now faces 2021 with a whole new approach and a new level of professionalism. ‘Double Or Nothing’ also featured D Double’s first production credits on an album. Although he started producing in 2006, it was only after returning to beatmaking in 2018 that he decided to spit on his own beats.

“I got back on it when I got my new laptop in 2018,” he explains. “I was always getting beats from this guy, or that guy... putting myself behind and looking for a beat from someone. So this time I thought I need to put myself forward. Now I’m just feeling more confident to keep doing it.”

Incredibly, the sixth beat he made after a seven-year break from production, the ‘Hit It For Six’ instrumental, is built with skittish percussion and a riotous bouncing 808 bassline around chopped vocal samples. “The bass is mad on it, and I love the drum pattern, the little sample,” he enthuses. “It’s a banger, mate!”

He’s been taking music seriously as a career since his late teens, just before the turn of the millennium, but in 2021 D Double E has taken complete control of his future. This new approach, he says, is a far cry from the rough and ready spontaneity of the early days. “You could just call us and we’d just be there because we were just doing it for the fun of it,” he says. Nowadays he realises, to be taken seriously, you need to be serious. “I’m being more professional in terms of how I do business. I’ve got my own label and I’m flying my own flag for my solo movement.”

Want more? Read our feature on how upcoming rap producers can get paid for their work

James Keith is a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @JamesMBKeith

Photo credit: Mike Portlock