Dabbla has been doing bits in the British music scene since grabbing the mic in a ’96 jungle rave. A pioneer of UK hip hop and “hybrid rap shit”, his charismatic cadence has touched the tracks of everyone from Rag’n’Bone Man to Ocean Wisdom. We found the rapper surrounded by Dead Players vinyls and homemade nunchucks, with Estrella up the wazoo.
“You can’t write this shit.”
We learnt about drug addicted teachers, the secrets of Potent Funk Records, and why Dabbla is setting up a kung fu school in Asia…
How come you’re jetting off to Bali soon?
“Weather’s better. Food’s better. People are generally better.”
Do you dabble in quite a lot..?
“Nah [laughs], you’re a dick. No I don’t dabble in much anymore, I’m old, I’m an old man. It’s just a name that I’ve built and I can’t change it now. If I did, I’d change it to something much cooler I reckon… Donny Fuego or The Last of the Souped-Up T-Rexes, I dunno. I’d change it if I could, but I can’t.”
You got expelled from school, but I hear the teacher responsible is now in trouble himself?
“Yeah apparently he’s a methamphetamine-addicted-ecstasy-lover. This mother fucker got me expelled. He caught some kids in the year below smoking pot and they were blackmailed into giving a name. I think more than one of them said my name and a couple of other dudes’ names. Then this dickhead wanted to make an example of us so expelled us. But now, turns out he’s got like twenty years or something in Singapore for possession of ecstasy and meth. You can’t write this shit, it’s just karma innit? Maybe I’ve still got my karma to come, but yeah, true story. I don’t wish it on him, but the fifteen year old me that got expelled is probably hoping that he gets… banged, in some respect.”
You’re in Dead Players, Problem Child and LDZ… are there any more plans with your group projects?
“No, no no. One man army all the way forward now.”
Does that mean you’ve got a solo project on the way?
“Yeah! I mean, I’m gunna keep working with people that I rate and people that I’ve met, you know, none of this fucking cold collaboration calling bullshit. I’m not gunna drop a couple of thou’ for a rapper that might be able to boost sales – none of that shit. Me and Illaman have got a project we’re cooking up – I shouldn’t have told you that – but hey, shh. I’ve got a couple of solo projects, but at the minute we’re just tryna [burps] make sure the label’s ready for the onslaught of shit to come. All my time and effort has been into building Potent Funk up as an entity to release the future through.”
What’s in the works at Potent Funk then?
“Fuckin’ hell what isn’t going on at Potent Funk! We’ve just taken on Dream Mclean. We’ve got works from Benofficial & Prozac, I believe they’ve got a couple of albums, a couple of EPs, just working on the videos. As you know, the videos and visuals are always the final element which obviously accompany the music because everyone ‘looks’ at music on YouTube now. That’s pretty much how everyone gets booked innit; a promotor goes on YouTube, types your name in, sees how many hits you’ve got, then ‘Yay!’ or ‘Nay!’ like the Hunger Games. But yeah, Cobes has got a load of work, I’ve got a load of work, everyone on the label is busy as fuck. Dream’s got an album as well, Jed [Sumgii] has produced the whole thing. Jed’s also produced a whole entire album for me. Baileys has got a load of work. Everyone’s got shit coming so we’re just tryna clear the runway so it all comes through.”
So 2020 is gunna be a big year?
“Yeah I think so. I feel it, I dunno but it feels like it’s all been leading up to this year really. So yeah man, it’s gunna be a funky year.”
There’s a funk album coming..?
“[Laughs] It’s not ‘funk’ as in funk, it’s all just funky. Funk as a… what’s the word? I can’t think of it now, but there’s a word that describes what I’m trying to say. There’s a word to describe everything anyone has tried to say! Sometimes you can’t think of it at the time… you know what I’m saying. It’s going to be funky.”
Do you have any desire to chart or are you happier in the underground?
“I’m cool with where I am. I’ve got that kind of ‘Hey..?!’ – I get noticed but I don’t get mobbed. Nah man, I’m happy with how things are. I’m eating and that’s all I could ever wish for.”
Who have you got to shout out?
“The fam, obviously. The madre. Who else? I’d like to thank myself for just fucking dealing with the shit that I deal with. Getting up each day and just swinging at it, side-thrust-karate-kicking my way through this bullshit, all the bullshit that you don’t see. Plus, a special shout out to our social media administrator Natalie for being an absolute queen and helping us handle business!”
What’s next for Dabbla?
“I’m gunna go to Bali and I’m hosting the Super Series out there. Basically, introducing fighters from all over Indonesia, like Papua and Singapore. It’s boxing which I don’t know much about, definitely not in that part of the world, but fuck it. I’m gunna introduce fighters and do a couple of shows, and set up a little kung fu school and teach entry-level tai chi. Yeah man, take a little break from rapping – that’s the plan. It’s while projects drop and I reassess. I guess I still love it, but I’ve just been hammering it for the last two years so I’m going out there to do some other shit, diversify.”
YouTube: Potent Funk
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe