You might know him as the frontman of a platinum-selling, award-winning group named N-Dubz, but 24-year-old Dappy is about to re-introduce himself to the masses as a new solo artist. The Camden-raised singer/songwriter recently caught up with The Wrap Up's Editor, Joseph 'JP' Patterson, for an exclusive interview just before the release of his debut single, 'No Regrets', to talk about his past, his present and his exciting future. This is what happened...
The Wrap Up: Dappy! How are you, sir? Now, we all know that you're part of the platinum-selling group N-Dubz, but seeing as you're coming out on a solo tip, let's take it back to basics. So, how did you get into music and at what point did you realise that you wanted to make a living out of it?
Dappy: Put it this way, I’ve always been into music since my dad was alive. He was in that group, Mungo Jerry, *sings ‘In The Summertime’*. Remember that tune? He played the bass in that and then he finished with that group, went to Greece, met my mum, did what they had to do and then came back to London. She popped me out and, obviously, they were stuck in the hood: Camden, north-west and Holloway/Finsbury Park. We were back and forth between them areas, trying to find somewhere to live. We were broke, very broke, and me, my brother and my mum would move from flat to flat until we ended up in Camden – in the dirty bit, unfortunately – and that was where I grew up.
TWU: As you were growing up, who musically inspired you?
Dappy: When my pops used to take me places, he always used to leave on Magic 105.4. Now, Magic 105.4 has a lot of '80s music and without ‘80s music, music would never be the same. Since them days, music has stopped, I think. It will never be the same. That is where the true meaning of songwriting came from. Artists like George Michael, Freddie Mercury, Phil Collins, The Police, Prince, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi…I could go on for ages, there’s too many! So yeah, I used to listen to these people with the big melody directions, top lines, and the way the bridges were written, how the middle-eights and key changes were done. It’s all kind of slowed down now, because everything has become so electronic in our day. So yeah, my pops, 80s music and Magic 105.4 inspired me to do music.
TWU: How would you personally describe your sound? You've got this whole singing/MCing vibe going on...
Dappy: Put it this way, it’s epic! No one’s s**t is gonna sound like mine, I made sure of that. I ain’t gonna be rapping like everyone else, it’s just gonna be straight double metaphors, punchline after punchline. I call it, ‘M-singing.’ That’s what I’m bringing to the table this year and the ones who are doing that in America, to me, is Big Sean and Drake, but they’re not really singing, singing. I'm actually singing in an Adele way, ya get me? (Laughs) I’m going for the big hooks! Obviously my raps are just gonna be hard. N-Dubz is N-Dubz, we did R&B, sing-a-long, pop, catchy, melodic arena music, but now there’s not one girl in the middle and two boys on the side, it’s me. I'm from the road, I will give it to you how you need it. I'm famous, I'm big as it is and I’ve made it or whatever, but I'm still down to earth and I’ll still give something for everyone to like. Hoodlums and pop artists, to people like Adele and Bono, I’m trying to make everyone happy with my music.
TWU: Let's briefly touch on N-Dubz. When you linked up with Tulisa and Fazer all those years ago, did you ever think that you guys would've become the stars that you are today?
Dappy: Good question. With a group, the public always want to criticise one person in the group like, ‘He ain’t as good as he is’ or, ‘She ain’t as good as she is.’ But with N Dubz, I think we proved that everyone had something good in the group and that’s why we stayed around for so long. Fazer’s the producer – without Fazer, there wouldn’t be any music – he’s the brain behind the music. Me, I’m the brains behind the writing and making sure that myself, Tulisa and Fazer all sound good together, as a dynamic, making sure each part is as equal good and as strong as each others. Then Tulisa obviously brought the powerful female voice and the sexual side of the group. Everyone just doubted us at the beginning, but no one can tell me s**t right now – we’ve sold two million records and we left it at the O2 Arena. For all of the haters, I don’t give a f**k about them. They can suck out!
TWU: And just to set the record straight, the group hasn't broken up, has it?
Dappy: Yeah, it’s over for the next 18 months, but we’re family and we love each other dearly. Like, I live with Fazer and Tulisa right now until I get my house.
TWU: Does it feel good to have your own space to create the music that you want to personally make without anyone else's opinions intervening?
Dappy: No one can tell anyone what to do anymore, yeah, you’re right. I can breathe and so can Tulisa and Fazer. I mean, look at Tulisa on ‘The X Factor’ telling people how s**t they are and how good they are, I’m so glad about that, man, it’s amazing. Someone made it out of this home-grown, original group –who no one really cared about in the beginning – to go and sit on that panel. It’s a joke, innit? They didn’t believe in us before, but they believe in us now. We had to sell this many records for them to believe in us, yeah? W**kers!
TWU: Let's talk about your catchy new single, ‘No Regrets’. What's the story behind that song?
Dappy: There was no inspiration for that song. I just had to make sure that what I done was going to be bigger than everyone else’s song that would be out on the same week. That’s the only reason why I made it that huge (laughs). I was just thinking, ‘F**k that! I want to go to number one!’ The only way I could do that is by doing a massive key change and, thinking about my lyrics, there’s a punchline in every lyric and every rapper will see those in the lyrics and appreciate them, if they’re clever enough. Then I was hoping that people like Adele will like my big key changes, and Bono and Westlife will like the way that I'm singing the hook. I'm trying to draw in everybody. So there was no inspiration, it was just like, ‘Bun that! I need to show people what time it is (laughs). You’ve got Example, who’s smashing it. Tinchy is smashing it. Tinie Tempah is smashing and Wretch 32 is smashing it. So I thought, ‘Ite, you man are going in like that, yeah?’ I knew that I needed to quickly catch up, otherwise I might as well call it a day and go home and sleep. I put pressure on myself, bruv. If I don’t go to number one, I’ll feel crap. If I go to number two, I’ll feel wack about myself. It has to be number one, otherwise I won’t feel good. Pressure! That’s the way that you become the best. You’ve got to punish yourself and set goals and then quicker than you know it, you’re on top. So yeah, fingers crossed.
TWU: In just over two weeks of its release on YouTube, the video for ‘No Regrets’ got over 2 million hits, and the views have been growing rapidly ever since. I mean, it’s well on its way…
Dappy: It’s definitely on its way, but it’s just gotta carry on going on its way. You can tell the tension, man. I’m frustrated, bossman. You know that, man (laughs). I hope it goes to number one. If not, then what can I say? I’ve just gotta try and make another one, bro.
TWU: Can fans expect an album from you soon? If so, what kind of album will it be?
Dappy: Oh, I've got a serious album on the way. It’s proper, I'm telling you. The motto is, ‘Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.’ It’s gonna bring people who are all low and depressed to the highest that they’ve ever been. It’s gonna be completely different to what N-Dubz have done.
TWU: You've got Benny Banks supporting you on your upcoming solo tour, which is a great look for him and the UK rap scene in general. Do you think it's important to keep in touch with the underground music scene as well as the mainstream? Your recent ‘Tarzan’ freestyle for SB.TV was epic, by the way…
Dappy: Do you know what? I'm not bringing Benny Banks to try and look good in the underground. 1) Where I live in my hood, I’m certified, don. That’s all I know. 2) The hood thing, that’s the reason why I did the ‘Tarzan’ freestyle. Man got 700,000 hits and battered everyone’s freestyle that there is to beat! So there you go, there’s my underground credibility back up there. The reason why I chose Benny Banks is because he’s doing well and he’s really good with his words and I like that. I think he deserves a shot at the big time and that’s why I’m bringing him on my tour.
TWU: Out of interest, who else do you rate from the UK rap scene?
Dappy: K Koke, Margz, Mashtown, a couple man from north London, Benny Banks, Giggs, erm, who else from the rapping thing? Yeah, that’s all I’m gonna say right now.
TWU: On an international level, who would you like to work with in the future?
Dappy: I’d say Nicki Minaj, because she’s very spontaneous and crazy like me and if that batty was in my presence, I wouldn’t let it leave! I don’t care if she’s got a boyfriend or not, I’m on a nuts vibe. If she comes in my studio, something’s happening (laughs). Rihanna might be doing something with me on my album, possibly. It’s something that the label are trying to get for me. Listen, this year, I'm trying to be the best! If by next year I'm not on top, then you’ll see me stop. That’s it. I won’t carry on...
Dappy: Yeah, blud. I wanna be the best. I wanna try and shut it down! Man already helped Tinchy and brought him back out in a big way with ‘Spaceship’. When I wrote ‘Spaceship’ I thought, ‘Yes, Tinch! You haven’t been about for quite a while. F**k that! Let me bring you back out.’ So I brought him back out and now I need to make myself happy and make my mum and my kids proud. My competition is Wretch, Tinie, Chipmunk and Tinchy. I’m gonna go for it. I’m definitely gonna give it an attempt. But big up them lot – Wretch, Tinie, Chipmunk and Tinchy – because they gave me the inspiration to think, ‘Wow! I can actually be good by myself, too.’
TWU: And lastly, what are your plans for the future? You've had an amazing career so far, but what else would you like to achieve, say, in the next twelve months?
Dappy: Three number one singles, a number one album and a BRIT Award. If not, f**k it! I'm going bed. I told ya!
Dappy’s new single, 'No Regrets', is out on September 19.
Stay up to date with Dappy on Twitter – www.twitter.com/TheDappy
Words and editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)
This also appeared over at MTV: H E R E