Exclusive: D Double E Goes Global

Exclusive: D Double E Goes Global

Amid his “SS19" tour, the MC talks evolving standards in rap, Skepta and more.

Amid his “SS19" tour, the MC talks evolving standards in rap, Skepta and more.

Photography: Alessandro Simonetti

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

With his two decades in U.K. rap (or, as it’s simply called overseas, “grime”) D Double E’s legacy as a founding father is both iron-clad and folkloric, i.e. relying on word-of-mouth and raw talent over record-label politics or brand endorsements. Born Darren Dixon in East London, the English-Jamaican MC came up in the same early-aughts, art-as-life paradigm that spawned such contemporaries as crossover mainstay Dizzee Rascal and Skepta, who has called D Double the “greatest of all time.” Until last year, he had yet to drop a full-length record, favoring mixtape cameos and live, freestyle performance.

D Double’s scrappy trajectory figures into his ruggedly individualistic persona—one U.S. listeners might associate with Kanye West or Drake, but for which they are at least partially indebted to D Double and his cohort. “When I am by myself, that’s when I am at my greatest,” D Double tells VMan in the midst promoting his of his first official solo drop, Jackuum!. “That’s when I am cracking up. That’s my energy, and my energy is [that] I love myself.”

And while he might have evolved independent of stateside influence, D Double shares West’s status as a one-man creative force, helming his own label Blukuwear, and dubbing his current tour “SS19” à la a globetrotting fashion house. We caught up with D Double following his first U.S. run, and ahead of showcases in Paris and at Berlin’s Berghain. Don’t call it a comeback.

VMAN How has it felt to finally have released your debut album, Jackuum!

D Double E I wanted to have a solo album and [my fans] wanted it too. It’s what the people wanted [and] it’s what I wanted. Loyalty is where everything starts [but] when I am by myself, that’s when I am at my greatest. That’s when I am cracking up. That’s my energy, and my energy is [that] I love myself.

VMAN What are the technical differences between Grime and U.S. rap, and what are some of the cultural or philosophical differences?

DDE What separates the two is that [they come from] two different cultures. It’s two different cultures that [both] keep it real and don't give a shit [about conformity] or similarities. Hip hop comes from not giving a shit and speaking what’s on your mind. Grime comes from not giving a shit and getting everything off of your chest, the way you want to.

VMAN What about technically? Do you think there is a technical difference between U.S. and U.K. rap or grime?

DDE Technically there's a big difference, if I put on U.K. garage [versus] a Jamaican bashment tune or a hip-hop tune. [But] in today’s world everyone is copying everyone [else's technique]. It’s just the internet and [that] the world is getting smaller and smaller.

VMAN You are a big inspiration to Skepta. How did you meet or first encounter him?

DDE I can’t remember how we first met but I remember the first studio session we had when I was making a track with [Skepta’s brother] Jme called “Thuggish Ruggish.” Skepta produced the beat, and then I went to the studio in North London and I met them both for the first time, properly chilling. 

VMAN Your style is obviously a big part of your identity. How do you see your personal style? 

DDE Yeah... I [feel like] I am fashion. Fashion moves with time but I move on my own time. That makes me fashion. I have to [wear] whatever I have never seen anyone else wear. And then if I see someone with it after, I got burnt. It’s never the other way around. Inspiration is [making your own] mad stuff.

In music, back in the day, if you had crafted [your image] or your tunes to be just like someone else, you wouldn't have been respected. On the flip-side, that can be a good thing—you can see it as [being able to] do whatever you want—to be anything you want to be. Back in the day, we didn't think that. [For example] we thought that singing was a joke. [But now I think], you have got to be you. For me, that is fashion

D Double E wears clothing U.P.W.W. (photo: Alessandro Simonetti)
D Double E wears clothing U.P.W.W. (photo: Alessandro Simonetti)
D Double E wears clothing U.P.W.W. (photo: Alessandro Simonetti)
D Double E wears clothing U.P.W.W. (photo: Alessandro Simonetti)

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