Monday, January 16, 2006

Brand Newham

As we enta 2006, there’s no grime album more of an exciting prospect than the Newham Generals’ ‘Generally Speaking,’ forthcoming on Dizzee’s Dirtee Stank.

D Double E is as abstract an MC as they come on road, bending words until they dissolve between sounds and syllables. Footsie’s all rough and gruff. You don’t want war wid him. And Monkstar, the relative unknown in the camp, is the anti-D Double, lyrically abrupt and stiff, rigid and inflexible. As a trio they complement each other gloriously.

Another mouth watering prospect is the Newham production sound. Unlike some MCs, they don’t rely on outsiders to build their riddims. And although they all produce, it’s Footsie that’s turned most heads of late.

In the light of how the electronica community – where an increase in degrees of complexity is perceived as an increase in value or innovation – have reacted to grime, there is a wonderful restraint to Footsie’s riddims. What they do, they do very well.

Furthermore, unlike a great deal of grime, Footsie and Monk are “bass dans,” fans of dub-influenced subbass, as their recent Forward>> set attested. There’s a weight, a physicality to their sound, as well as feeling.

Finally they’re signed to Dirtee Stank, Dizzee’s independent label. While most grime MCs spent 2005 unsuccessfully chasing six figure major label contracts, and those that did get deals didn’t get the success they desired, the challenge for grime in ’06 is to collaborate to build a self-sufficient infrastructure. Stank has got to be a model for that infrastructure.

With this in mind, I met Newham Generals in the Raskitt’s Lair, where they were recording their mixtape…

Blackdown: So how did the link with Dirtee Stank come about?

D Double E: “The link come from way back in the day, still. I knew Dizzee from back in the day when mans was on Flava FM. I used to see him about and that. We’re talking 1999? Dem times. I used to be in a crew called 187 and NASTY Crew was up there and I used to talk to a couple of members of NASTY. Then over the years I joined NASTY and got to know Dizzee better, getme. I joined NASTY in 2001, so the link with Dizzee was way before that.”

DDE: “Dizzee called me in 2004 and asked me to do a feature on one of his tunes, ‘Give U More.’ Since then we stayed in contact. Newham Generals came about in the end of 2003, beginning of 2004. So this makes it our anniversary, two years.

B: So how did Newham Generals come about?

Footsie: “It just happened. We were all in NASTY at one point and then we left and formed Generals. But we all new each other differently. I knew Double from school days, and we were on jungle stations back in the day. And Double and Monk new each other from school too, but I went to a different school but lived around the corner from Double. And that was in Newham, of course man. Otherwise it would be false advertising if we didn’t live in Newham … haha. We’re all in Newham one road you can get to everyone’s yard.”

B: That must make organising everything easy…

F: “No we’re always late for everything ahha.”

B: So why name yourselves after Newham?

F: “Well double had a bar, he called himself ‘a Newham General from day.’ Everyone knew the bar, a big sing-a-long. As we came together it was an obvious name for us, being that we run the ends.”

B: I’ve seen busses in Hackney that go to ‘Newham General’ – that’s free advertising for you!

F: “Freebies. Yeah the hospital helps. We done some shooting for a little hood video at the hospital itself. That was for ‘The Anthem’ produced by Monk. It’s quite big, everyone knows that track still. We just bowled up with a camera quickly, though we weren’t in the hospital, lounging about with injured people haha, we were just outside the hospital where it says ‘Welcome to Newham General.’”

F: “Right now we’re working on our mixtape ‘Welcome to Newham Vol 1.’ It’s to warm people up before the album, let people know the link with Dirtee Stank is real. Because a lot of people think it not even real. Cos we aint got anything officially out with the logo on it, people were chatting shit. But we just done a big Dirtee Stank tour with our names plastered all over it, so they know really what’s goin on.”

B: Your mixtape is in conjunction with Lord of the Decks. What’s it like?

F: “It’s just raw and un-album-like. Rather than just a set of 1-14 tunes, it’s gonna be 1-to-whatever of us telling you about the album, label and us. We’re gonna add some radio sets and raves – places where we’ve murked. Little demonstrations of skill.”

“We’re gonna keep it our productions. There’s three producers in Newham Generals, we don’t need no dancehall instrumentals or no American hip hop. I know they do help people but we want to school people on Newham.”

B: So you’ve been producing Double?

DDE: “Bwoy, just been producing now for about nine months to a year, still. I’ve just been getting on it. There’s tunes that people definitely know from radio. I’ve got a vocal tune produced by me on my solo album, soon coming and a couple on Welcome to Newham. Monk and Footsie have been on it longer than me but I’ve definitely got the levels.”

B: What was the tour like?

F: “It was us, Dizzee and Klass A. It was a shop window, an exhibition of the talent of what’s going on with Dirtee Stank. People came out to see Dizzee but we had a few people come out to see us still. Fans new us, though essentially people are there to see Dizzee so you do have to school them on what you’re about. We had loads of people say they’d not heard of us before but now they’re into us. That’s what you want really, winning over new fans. It was good entertainment, Klass A, Dizzee and Newham Generals we’re all different.”

B: Did you enjoy your Forward>> set too?

F: “Yeah we fucked up Forward>>. They love Tubby down there because he’s been into that sound from day. I like going down there to hear what’s going on.”

B: Do you have a name for the LP?

F: “Yeah ‘Generally Speaking’. So far it’s just me and Monk on the beats. We’ve got a couple of singles planned, like ‘Humpty Dumpty.’ And ‘Mic Centre.’ We wanna use ‘Anthem’ too but we’re undecided.”

B: The three of you have very different yet identifiable flows, how did that come about?

F: “It’s just nature. Double’s flow is just … fucked. Monkey is just … fucked, in a different way. We’re like different grades of weeds: all good.”

B: It means your voice is like your calling card though, your identity…

F: “It does help, rather than having three people that are rhyming in a similar way. But with us, with anyone who touches the mic, they know who it is. Some crews all rhyme like their dad. In some crews there’s a dad and they all rhyme like him.”

B: So explain to me if every grime MC is waiting around for £100,000 deals when there aren’t even those on offer deals for the top MCs let alone every single MC in the scene, why did you go with Dirtee Stank and not a major?

F: “Dirtee Stank is being run by people who have done it. Dizzee and Cage have success under their belt. For us you’re looking at a realistic shot at something, rather than an advance and the chance to say ‘I’m with these people [ie a major label]’ except you don’t really know what they’re going to do for you and they don’t really know what they’re gonna do you for you. At least we’re not in that situation, we know we’re gonna get a shot. What’s unique about Dirtee Stank is that it’s not run by people who are out of touch, don’t know what’s going on or what we’re experiencing. It’s being run by people who are still even doing it. Dizzee’s still doing it, is in touch with the scene and we’ve been brought in. So that’s what unique about it.”

B: And together I trust Dirtee Stank to put out a grime artist album that actually reflects the grime scene…

F: “What’s unique is we’re getting the chance to be ourselves. That’s all we wanna do. We don’t wanna sing or sell our souls for a high chart spot. We’re getting a chance to do our shit – which is loved, but we’re gonna make people love it differently. “

B: I think you guys have the chance to take the real grime sound to people outside of the scene, to break grime out of it’s core yet unprofitable audience.

F: “I don’t know if grime’s been represented properly yet, of what’s come out and gone on already. Maybe that’s why people might look at the scene and not take it serious. People look at the scene and say ‘you’ve only got one guy, Dizzee. Who else has done it?’ It’s not like you can run off a list of well successful brers. They ask: ‘what else is going on? Will there ever be another Dizzee?’ We’re gonna change that all.

B: It feels like Dirtee Stank could potentially bridge the ever increasing gap between grime and the pop world…

F: “Yeah man because there is every now and then a song in the charts you actually do like. Y’getme? So what’s wrong with being that guy who gets in there with that song you do like. It’s not easy – but it is if you know what you’re about.”

B: I could definitely hear ‘Mic Centre’ on daytime radio.

F: “Standardly. We’ve got a tune called ‘Your Life’ as well by Monk. On the tour that was one of the best tunes of the set. “

B: In what way?

Monkey: “It’s just the way it touches you, it’s a deep deep tune. It’s just different. We saw people’s reactions: standing up, listening looking to what’s going on.”

F: “When you hear this tune in the club it’s got a deep bottom end on it. We saw people just stand up, firm up for this tune.”

B: Listening to you three record bars for your mixtape, it’s noticeable you have lots of sub bass in your sound, which is different for grime. How come?

F: “We’re bass dans, all day. Me and Monk build very differently but the bottom end, is there for both of us. I know Jah Shakka, he’s my dad’s mate. Sound people. I knew him from a yute, still. I’ve been to his yard. So my love of bass is from right there. My dad’s a roots man, all day. He’s got a soundsystem. I grew up with 18” scoops around me – speakers bigger than me. I never heard music at low volume, ever. And that’s the most distinctive thing in reagge music, the bass. That’s all I got fed, so when I started building [beats] that’s all I knew. I’m on weight.”

B: So tell me about Klass A…

F: “People just need to hear them. At the minute they’re a little bit unheard. They’re deep man, Klass A. Big spitters, all of them, big producers. They’re similar to us, just different accents. They showed me that the accent works. We go up and down the country and spitters are there, you hear them… but I’d never come across a group of brehrs on this ting and they’re doing it well. You might hear some crews but when you hear their tunes they’re a bit loose. Klass A can build tunes and their choruses are deep. On the label we are vying for the same pie still but then it’s different angles. And when you’re different working together becomes special. That’s why colabs even on the label, will be so different. You’ve got the London/Midlands accent barrier. Us, Dizzee and Klass A … we’re different. The combos is endless really.”

B: People heard ‘Wasteman’ by Dizzee on the tour. Footsie are you going to be producing for Dizzee’s future LP?

F: “Yeah ‘Wasteman’ is one and there’s a couple of others that he likes that he’s gonna vocal, still.”

B: So what do you remember about the NASTY Crew era?

F: “They were the biggest crew on the scene, at the time standardly. Double was overly merking. Monkey was overly merking. Them two was in it before me. I was the last to join. I was only in there for about a year – 2002/3 - and it did a lot for my name.”

B: Jammer, Ghetto, Kano, Mac10, Terror Danjah, Hyper, Monkey, D Double E, yourself Foots … if you look at the sum of the talent that’s come through NASTY, if it had ever been in one place at one time it wouldn’t it have been so much more of a force to reckon with though?

F: “There was a lot of talent about. But whatever will be will be, progression, things move on…”

B: Do you feel lucky with your current situation with Dirtee Stank?

F: “I don’t feel lucky. I feel if you don’t buy a ticket you’ll never win the lottery. Mans have grinded, mans have been out here for a very long time blud. Been on a lot of radio sets, a lot of shit raves. Been bumped by a lot of promoters. So it’s not an accident that we’re here blud.”

B: You seem to have that work ethic that’s so lacking with many grime MCs, even the ones who want major label deals...

F: “No matter what grind you’ve done, to some people you’ll always be new. They’ll never have heard of you. You’ve got to win people over. So we’re kinda in that situation.”

B: ‘Original,’ the tune you made with Mizz Beats is amazing and it makes a feature of how people ask about your lyrical trademarks. How did they come about?

DDE: “Every now an again I just hear MCs who are cracked out on my flow. One day I just wrote that tune. I was writing a lot of imitator bars in that time, people trying to take my flow. It’s the reals man.”

B: And how did you come to your trademark ‘moiee moiee’?

DDE: “It was 2001. Just randomly … just progressed with it. I was saying it normally before and then I affected it. I just played with it one day and got it deeper from there. People kept telling me there were feeling it. Now there’s bare MCs with pure different noises – but this isn’t about noises. I just did that for a hosting thing, it’s not involved with the bar. But certain man have taken it too far.”

B: It gives you such an unmistakable lyrical identity.

DDE: “Now everyone needs a tag, everyone’s got a tag since they’ve seen me go to the rave and say that and everyone goes mad. That’s how it is now, it’s all a tag ting.

B: So what have been your end of year highlights?

DDE: “My highlights were linking up with the Dirtee Stank and the tour. Progressing this far, production, bars. That’s one thing you’ve got to always check: as every year passes certain people get shit, certain people get better, some people fade away. We’ve been in the game for longer than most of the game and we’re still there now.”

B: So how do you ensure you stay in the game?

F: “Continue seeking levels man. That keeps you on your game. If you think you’re ‘there’ then that’s when you’ll stop. You look at people how have been big in the game and you wonder what makes them go on. They must be seeking levels.”

DDE: “It’s a natural ting. Most MCs try too much and they over do themselves. It’s not stress for us. Certain people in the game are stressed out. I don’t know what it is. You’ve gotta just chill and keep doing what you’re doing. We don’t look at no one.”

F: “Do you know what we might do when we come out with an album? We might help people be more real.”

DDE: “People you see in raves chatting their lyrics but when you see them on telly it’s all pop…”

F: “You can’t be known for merking Sidewinders and then come out with songs that sound ridiculous. It’s not right. That’s a bump to your fans, bump to the game.”

DDE: “We’re the first raw sound.”

B: Well, Dizzee’s two albums were pretty raw…

F: “But he’s been out here for three years and no ones caught him. It’s almost like he’s the granddad in the game now. He’s gained vet status automatically because no one has challenged him. No one’s got his record and it is a challenge to do what he’s done. Us coming out is a whole new event. And a lot of people are fooled. They don’t know how to progress in this game. A lot of people think they can shoot for Dizzee and their single’s not a flash in the pan - the pan’s not even warm. Singles dead in a month. People have come out and gone and you didn’t even know. You’ve got to seek the levels, get me.”

DDE: “It’s not a rush man.”

F: “A lot of people are seeking that signature on a piece of paper, but the Dirtee Stank thing has happened on a natural one. We put the work in.”

B: So give us your guide to Newham…

F: “Bow’s only down the road. It’s quite mixed. There’s a lot of crime going on. Normalness. It’s bait there. Thing get tried out in the ends: Zero Tolerance and all that. When they pick areas to do it, Newham’s one of them. The ends is harsh. The MP got robbed at the train station. ‘Welcome to Newham… where’s your fucking Rolex?’ There used to more places to hang out in Newham, but the roads is so risky now your house is the safest place.”

F: “The nightlife in the ends is deep. There’s a lot going on at night. There’s clubs that don’t get started til 1am that go on until the following day. Clubs on roads that if you looked in the day time you wouldn’t even think there’s a club there. Night time there’s just pure cars. A lot of them tucked away joints, illegal gambling houses. It’s what’s going on. I saw the new Monopoly board and Forrest Gate is on it. Are you stupid? It’s on the cheap side still, I ain’t gonna front. Past the blue bits on the jail corner. I’m gonna buy Forrest Gate, build it up and make it worth something. That will be me. Build it like Bob.”

The Newham Generals mix LP “Welcome to Newham vol 1” is out late January. The artist LP “Generally Speaking” is due out in March. D Double E’s solo album will follow towards the end of the year.

The mixtape “Welcome to Newham Vol 1” is being made in conjunction with Lord of the Decks. It should feature coverage of Newham Generals at Luton Carnival and live in the Stank basement. It also features an exclusive freestyle by Footsie’s American Cousin, Dollar, who does dancehall.

A second DVD is Stank Vision volume 1 made in conjunction with Risky Roads. It’s a DVD introduction to everyone on the label and will feature footage of Dizzee in South America and full live show from the tour. It will come as a mix CD and DVDs. Klass A have done a guide to the Midlands, going around the proper hood, getting people spitting.


dan hancox said...

"I saw the new Monopoly board and Forrest Gate is on it. Are you stupid?"

LOL!! Waiting 4 Balham to join now too. It'll probably be one of the turquoise ones - not too expensive not too cheap.

Not sure if I agree about Gen's crossing over and having hits - I'd love it to happen but think they might just be too edgy; great for us, but dunno if it'll play so well on CD-UK. Even 'Anthem' and 'Humpty Dumpty' - aren't they too, um, 'grimey' to be big? Hope I'm wrong. And the other one - 'Mic Centre' - I can't place that one. Has that got crossover potential.

Anyway cheers, good interview dude.

dan hancox said...

Of course in a way they already are big, if my bus journeys around south london are anything to go by: you can't move for kids trying to outdo each other impersonating the d double sig-a-nal. Ooooaaarh! Ooooaaarh!

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