INTERVIEW: D Double E – “Grime Isn’t Something You Can Learn From Universities”

In the last few years there has been a huge spotlight placed on the UK’s once underground culture known as grime. Evolving from UK garage, drum and bass, dancehall and jungle, grime managed to find a perfect blend that now represents London street culture wholly. One man who has been in it since its beginnings is the legendary East London native D Double E. Originally just MCing on pirate radio shows, he began to develop a reputation and soon joined influential artists including Jammer, Kano and Ghetts in their N.A.S.T.Y. Crew. D Double left the crew in 2004 and formed his own, Newham Generals, along with fellow East London native Footsie. The pair have since gone onto release hugely influential tracks such as Frontline, Like It Or Notand even Skepta‘s favourite rave tune Head Get Mangled. Now labeled as ‘The Greatest MC of All Time’ and the ‘MC’s MC’, we spoke to the man himself ahead of his debut Australia and New Zealand tour to talk about the history of grime, where he thinks its going, how it affects him and everything in between.

So, how’re you doing man?

I’ve been alright man, I’ve been alright, just been working bruv man, putting in that work. Travelling and doing performances, different places and at the same time releasing music and making sure that everything falls in like back home and keeping everything running at the same time.

I wanted to start of by talking about your two new tracks I Like That and Grim Reaper, which I thought were mad, man. On top of that you’ve been on a handful of other tunes lately, not to mention Skepta’s single Ladies Hit Squad. How’s the last six months been for you personally?

It’s been basically going to plan, it’s been hectic but I’ve just been doing it. It’s been a bit of a mad one though.

You’re seen as a seasoned veteran and pioneer of the game, MCing since the beginnings of jungle and garage before grime ever developed. I was wondering what you think about grime in 2016 and where it’s going?

I think it’s going well man. It’s like it’s starting again, it’s not getting boring. People are finding out about it now and having that same excitement that everyone else did when they first found the genre.

It’s just like hip-hop, how there’s so many artists that you like, and you can imagine someone who is not aware of hip-hop and then being aware of it. It’d be like, wow! There’s so much to see and so many different people you could like, so I feel like that’s happening again now. It just feels like everyone knows what we’re doing, and we’ve always got those new people listening. The music’s a bit stronger these days with the production and the way people are thinking, I think we’re just evolving man.

Yeah, when I got into grime a few years back it was definitely this amazing thing I just wanted to share.

You’d more be upset that people didn’t know about it. Those people that did know about it, it could become this big conversation, like, oh do you know about this guy or do you know about this. It’s exciting innit?

For sure. I feel like grime seems to be quite hard to define though, it’s a culture and genre that I’ve been into for a while but describing it has always been difficult. What do you think actually makes it grime, and do you think it belongs to the UK or could it expand worldwide?

I think grime is a UK thing because it’s more of an attitude, it’s more the way people are, it’s got its own direction and if any different country tried it it’d be different from what we would be doing or saying. You know what I mean. It’s just what they say, how they talk, it’s always been about this. It has to be from London, so that it comes naturally. Grime is not something you can learn from universities, it’s more just living in London. It’s just the mentality, it’s just different.

How does it feel to have to have guys like Dizzee and Skepta, who have gone on to really impact the game, call you their idol and label you the greatest MC of all time?

I feel grateful man, I feel grateful. And these guys have been in it for a long time as well, people like Kano, they used to listen to me before they was doing their thing as well. I’ve seen them grow, I’ve seen them grow into things and for them to recognise the work I’ve put in and keep it real, because a lot of people, when they get to this stage, it’s not real. And they start saying that other stuff that’s just fake. In my scene, there’s a lot of real artists and it’s more of an honour coming from these guys than a new up and coming grime artist who’s 16 or 17. It’s a separate love, it’s a different love.

It’s that normal life situation, when somebody gets in that better position and then they don’t talk to you no more. Some people just get the money, but this is a situation that’s not to do with money, it’s just to do with getting somewhere and the support. It’s more real.

Touching on what you said earlier, how impactful was N.A.S.T.Y Crew working closely with the likes of Jammer, Kano and Ghetts?

Yeah that was exciting, I mean it just reminds me of being in with the group, having a lot of fun. At the time it might have seemed stressful, but it gave us stuff to do, we had appointments. We never used to be professional with anything. But after going on radio and doing that sort of thing, we were starting to be professional. We’d be professional with that but we’d be late turning up for work.

Everyone in grime seems so close and supportive you all are, it feels like a family more than just a genre. Do you think that impacts the actual style and attitude of everyone in the game?

It’s always been a family thing, but it’s more obvious now. Within the crew, I would say there was more input. We were more self powered, but now it’s looking a bit more unified. There’s more real love. We’re all a bit more pure now, now we just need to go forward.

Anyone new you’re rating?

Yeah there’s a few artists I like, man; I like Stormzy, Novelist, a guy called Jammz. The younger guys are so respectful. People with talent is one thing, but how they are as people, I take that on too.

So this is your debut Australia tour, have you been out here before?

Never, man.

Do you have anything planned in between your shows then?

Not too much planned, I just know it’s the end of the world, it’s hot, you’ve got kangaroos. I watch a few Australian police programs though. I watch that airport one [Border Security]; some people come through with some mad animals.

These trips that have been coming up are different, I’m realising how things really are. I’m just going to get there are take it as it comes.

Finally, what’s on the cards for 2016? You’ve got two new singles out, is there an album on it’s way?

I’m just going to say there’s a lot of surprises. It’s been a good start and I’ve definitely got a lot more to come.


Make sure you catch D Double E touring Australia and New Zealand next week:

Friday, 15 April: Neck of the Woods, Auckland
Saturday, 16 April: Winnies Bagoes, Christchurch
Thursday, 21 April: Plan B Small Club, Sydney
Friday, 22 April: TBC Club, Brisbane
Saturday, 23 April: The Sub Club, Melbourne (SOLD OUT)
Sunday, 24 April: Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth

Tickets and tour info here

Image: Astral People