In Conversation With:
Missing his chance to become a pro footballer may have been the best thing that happened for the South-London rapper, DC. Entering the scene in 2014, he’s since proven his versatility and commitment to his craft with each new project over the years. His retrospective references allude to his sincere approach to music. Along with candid lyrics and precise wordplay, this gives a glimpse into the mistakes he made growing up, and how they evolved into vital life lessons. 

Tracks like “Paro(noia),” “Neighborhood,” and “Tears, Sweat, Blood” from his 2021 album, In the Loop, narrates some of his most vulnerable experiences. He weaves his story through contemplative rhymes, effortlessly merging jazz, R&B, and the essence of UK garage with traditional hip-hop. Boasting a unique and mesmerising sound, he owns his ability to create from a deeply personal place, aiming to give his listeners flows that they can relate to. 

Original Shift sat down with DC to discuss how he used Twitter’s features to get his music out, making his touring debut with J Hus and the life-changing experience that altered his state of mind...

Original Shift: When did your music journey start?  

DC: I was a huge music fan when I was younger. When I first started listening to music I would get the lyrics for every song I liked and write them down in a notebook and just start reciting, bar for bar. I think the first CD I ever bought was Nelly’s Sweat and Suit – he was the coolest guy at the time. But when my mum and my step dad bought me The Biggie Duets, I was like wow. But I was 15 or 16 when I felt like I could write as well as the people I was listening to, so I just tried writing my own bars. When I got to college, I’d go to my friend’s home studio and record tracks, but I never released them. I think I put one or two on SoundCloud and tweeted the link, people responded, and they liked it.
Were you putting out tracks under the name DC at the time?

I was Rich DC, I took the “rich” off later down the line. One of my favourite UK rappers is Chip and I remember when he dropped a track with Stormzy [hums the beat] – it was a banger. The beat was amazing and I just started writing to it, I recorded it in my university room by myself. I put the freestyle on Twitter and it got like 700 retweets. But the reason why I put it on Twitter is because it had just introduced a function to upload videos straight from your phone’s camera roll. I remember thinking, I haven’t seen anyone in the UK use this function to upload music, and when I did, it got the best reaction. It’s a huge claim I’m making, but I think I was the first person to do it. [laughs].

That is a huge claim.

If anyone can bring me a date prior to when I dropped that preview, of any UK artist using the video Twitter function for music, I’ll be surprised. That’s how people found out I was rapping, at uni, they were coming up to me asking “Bro is this you?” I decided to get a proper video of me doing that freestyle on my own channel which cost me like £15. I didn’t have the Ps to get it out on Grime Daily and this was before any promo or Instagram pages, it was literally just a link on Twitter. I put the video up on my own channel and I think in the first week it got like 10,000 views. I didn’t deep that I had something that was picking up steam. My SoundCloud numbers were at something like a quarter million plays, but I didn’t have the money to take it seriously and I didn’t understand the music game at all.

It was hard to keep up financially, I was at university, and I was working. The buzz went down and I also didn’t know how to handle that for a minute. But that’s how it started, there was never a real strategy behind how I was moving. Fast forward a bit, J Hus followed me on Twitter, and I was like “This is so random.” I got a DM saying it’s his management, I linked up with them and they started managing me too. I went on the Common Sense tour with Hus. That was crazy.

That summer was wild. I think Common Sense was one of the best albums to come out of the UK in that decade.

100%, and that was a huge thing for me. They mentioned that they could potentially bring me on tour but I didn’t believe it. One day we were in a meeting and they said, “Yeah we’re going on the tour, DC is gonna be performing with Hus” and I was like “Whoa what?” I was so rattled, I didn’t believe it. I definitely felt imposter syndrome when I was on the tour though. I just remember thinking I don’t even know what I’m doing here, like personally [laughs].

I also hated all the tracks on Under the Influence, so I tried to perform others. “Dock City” was too fast so I couldn’t perform it, so were a lot of others. I didn’t factor that I needed to move about and breathe, and it genuinely just wasn’t working. Since I was performing for a new crowd, I wanted them to be able to hear what I was saying so I had to chop and change a lot of tracks. But I’m grateful for the tour because I learnt a lot.

“Neighbourhood” was the track that garnered a lot of attention. But you already made Under the Influence by then. What was that project about?

The reason I named it Under the Influence is self-explanatory. It was about the influence of everything around me. That’s why the cover is a block of flats – the ends. The influence of the ends and everything in the ends.

How was it received?

I can always tell when the reception is not genuine. I knew from previous releases that this just wasn’t it. My label at the time didn’t do much to help with the project. But looking back, it’s the game. You have to have leverage. If others aren’t gonna pull their weight, you have to do it for yourself for them to see your value. It shouldn’t be like that because that’s your label and they signed you, but that’s just the game. I don’t take it to heart. But yeah, I just knew that it wasn’t it.

We’ve all had a friend, or a friend of a friend that would’ve made it in football if it weren’t for an injury. Apparently, you’re also quite the baller too?

[laughs] I wouldn’t say injury, nah. I just had my chance and didn’t take it. But yeah, football was my thing. There were a lot of footballers in my ends. I had my chances man, I’ve been everywhere – Blackpool, West Ham, Sheffield Wednesday, West Brom, Leicester, Exeter…

Where were you when your fitness let you down?

Leicester. That’s the one I regret. I couldn’t believe it man. I was 16 or 17, and my biggest problem was I wasn’t talking. I just wasn’t comfortable because I didn’t know these man so I was shy. I was playing well and everything was great, my fitness was great. But I was still in college and they were dialling my mum saying, “He’s missed two months of school, we’re gonna have to kick him out if he doesn’t come.” I’m getting pressure from my mum like “What are you trying to do here?”
I went back to ends for like a week or two, and hadn’t done any running at all. I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. By the time I got back to the academy at Leicester, I was so tired it was embarrassing. In running drills, I was getting blown out by the keeper [laughs]. It just didn’t work out. I was really gutted ‘cos I knew I could’ve made the team. After that I fell out with my agent as well, we stopped talking and that’s when the opportunities just stopped

In “Neighbourhood” you’ve got a lyric: “Got stabbed at a party, ever since then, I don't party the same. Still got the scars on my face”. How has that impacted you emotionally and mentally?

Straight away, I realised that I’m not bulletproof. It humbled me. It makes me think twice now. The way I always think about it – because I don’t have any recollection of it – is that that’s how easy it is to die. I have no recollection of it, and I could have died. Just gone. It’s not worth it for me at the end of the day.

Was there ever a moment that they thought you might not make it?

I don’t think so. But I remember the ambulance came with a camera crew to the scene – so random. They were filming a show called Trauma Doctors. [laughs]

[Laughs] What?

I’m telling you, it was mad.

I don’t mean to laugh but…what?

Yeah it was mad. I don’t remember any of it, I just remember waking up in the hospital and they reached out to me after like “Yeah they were recording, would you like to see the recording?”

Did you watch it?

Yeah, obviously because they came to my house with a laptop and everything. I saw myself on the stretcher, being put into the ambulance, and I didn’t remember any of it. I was awake for the whole thing but I had just blacked out. In the ambulance, I remember they were asking me questions and all I said was “Whatever you do just don’t tell my mum.” But yeah, I was awake for the whole thing. It was just a weird and surreal experience.

You’ve also got a line in “Paro(noia)”: “Gotta thank God that the light turned green. Takin' a right down Francis Street”. You seem to be relaying some sort of wisdom, being the person that says, ‘it’s just not worth it’.

I realised I have nothing to gain from this. I think at this age as well, I’m not trying to be fighting people on road. It’s embarrassing, like I’m too old for this. Every situation I’ve been in after that experience, I’m like “Yo enjoy it man, enjoy the win”. I’m still alive, just enjoy it bro. It’s definitely changed how I approach things and I can see things with calmness.

Did that experience affect your paranoia?

100% bro. I was always looking over my shoulder anyway, but after that, every time I would walk into a place I’d look at everything around me to see what people might have in their hands or whatever.

How did your mum receive the news that her only child had been stabbed?

I don’t even know. I think she got a call from an ambulance that someone got stabbed. At the time she was with my uncle and I think she just collapsed. It was a lot, it must have been a lot to take in.

Did it change the dynamic with your mum?

It didn’t change anything around our relationship, she was just more worried. She was paranoid every time I went out after that.

In the video of “Paro(noia)”, there’s a scene of an argument with the lyrics: “She moves like I'm pedalin' white, but just tryna step with the guys”. What’s that referencing?

That scene in particular is literally how it would go down in my house. My mum would be searching through my stuff and I would come home and I could tell that someone had been in my room. Her paranoia sky-rocketed. I used to do stupid things when I was younger, and growing older I moved away from all of that so she knew I was focused on what I wanted to do. But after that experience… I guess she was just being a mum.
How does your mum receive your music?

Oh, she’s my biggest fan man.

Do you have to make censored versions of songs?

No, I don’t really care.

Does she care though?

No, not really. She obviously feels a way about my weed smoking and always has, but she’s the one that texts me like “Oh someone just commented on your video.” When she’s going through the comments, she sees that it’s a positive thing because people will write that my music has helped them in some way or has helped save their life. I always tell her, I know you don’t like it, but I like it, and at least I’m not glorifying it. I’m just speaking about something and how it affects me. But content-wise, she’s easy. She’s my biggest fan.

What’s your dream collaboration with a US and UK producer and artist?

Out of the U.S. I’d love to work with The Alchemist, that’s a producer. Artist wise, J. Cole, Jay Z,  would it be weird to say I don’t think I would like to work with Kanye West? It’s weird because I love him musically, but I don’t think we’d align. Out of the UK, Kano and Skepta 100%. Maybe Giggs, there’s nobody in the country that can rap like him on “Essence.”

In the Loop was a huge success and it has opened a lot of doors for you. What’s next?

More music man. Higher quality. Everything about the process, it’s just going to be done with a higher quality. That’s all I can say man. Bare music, bare videos -- everything at a higher level!