Dabbla is an MC who has been on the rap radar for a long time now, thanks to his work with various musical dons and crews over the years. He has recently signed to High Focus and is due to release his debut solo album, Year of the Monkey, in September. I got to have a quick catch up with him recently and here’s what went down.
G: Thanks for chatting with me, man. For anyone not familiar with your background, tell us how you got started.
D: Picked up the mic in a jungle rave once in 1996 and became addicted to the power of music.
G: A lot of people will know you from the London Zoo connection. How did you lot all first start working together?
D: Sumgii had two MCs – Pringle and AD – he used to do his set with on Freeze FM a long time ago, alongside DJs Tango, Jonny K and Frosty. I wanted to be involved with the vibes so I drew the London Zoo (LDZ) symbol and came up with the name when I was doing the garage thing in Ayia Napa with Pierre Green in the summer of 2001. Then as the group grew we enlisted Cobes and Rocko around 2008. I met Pierre Green whilst I was failing university in Manchester and so we got involved with the North West music scene and started putting on nights at Sanky Soap’s, where we would bring our LDZ family in to warm up and host events and that’s how we got involved with it all really.
G: I’ve been hearing you on beats for best part of 10 years, but this is your first solo album; was that part of a game plan, or just how your career progressed naturally?
D: Good question! Some of the songs on this album are in fact 9-10 years old as they are personal and so I held them back, as I always imagined doing a solo album. At the same time a lot of songs which were intended for my solo LP came out on the London Zoo, Dead Players and Problem Child albums. So that kinda prolonged things as I had to basically replace those songs. So basically, no it wasn’t meant to take this long, but I’m glad about what happened, as I am much more excited and proud of this album than anything I have ever done. And the timing feels spot on!
G: You seem to have a natural talent for rapping in double time. Was it a natural talent you discovered when you started MCing, or did you have to put the work in?
D: I came from that fast shit first so probably found it a lot easier; I actually remember making the transition from writing bars over jungle and breakbeat, to hip hop and thinking FUCK!
G: Who were your biggest influences when you were coming up? I’m going to hazard a guess that Skibba was one, knowing your jungle background.
D: Ha ha I actually preferred Det to Skibba, though he was obviously the main man back then! To be honest i was more influenced by Wu-Tang, Redman and Busta Rhymes.
G: I know you spent some time travelling round India at the start of the year. I bet that had a huge impact on your creativity and general state of mind?
D: Abso – fucking – loot – ley! Much needed touch-base with Mother Earth, eating good and slowing the fuck down for a month without London and all its superficiality! Everyone should get as far away as they can from home sometimes and shed some bullshit and discover what’s important! Its good for ya!
G: You’ve got your fingers in a lot of musical pies; do you think it’s important to keep that variety alive and not get too bogged down in one sound?
D: Yes I get very bored very quickly and being involved in as many projects as I can tickles mans stimuli.
G: You’ve been doing your own brand of commentary for Wimbledon, in aid of The Tennis Foundation. How did that come about?
D: They wanted to get more young people involved in tennis, as its got a really dry and boring air about it so they approached me to be a twat. Obviously I obliged.
G: Congratulations on your recent signing to High Focus. How does it feel to be making music knowing you’ve got such a solid foundation to build on?
D: Its really, really, really fucking nice to simply just focus on making
music for a change without having to take on the mammoth task of funding, promoting and pushing the product. High Focus have been really good to me and I’m happy to be a part of something huge that will no doubt be a big chapter in the history books!
G: There seem to be more and more young rappers. What advice have you got for anyone trying to make their mark in a very saturated scene?
D: Use the saturation to your advantage: collab with everyone, speak to anyone, ask as many questions as you can think of, don’t be scared to look or sound silly, get involved and enjoy yourself!