D Double E, your favourite MC’s favourite MC, seems to have a bit of an inferiority complex. “Things are getting pretty deep, bro… 24/7 I try and do the most”, he confides on new album ‘D.O.N.’, losing sleep and feeling pressure to perform.
It’s nothing short of astonishing that Darren Dixon, a true veteran of the UK grime scene, doubts his standing. A former member of early ’00s groups N.A.S.T.Y Crew and Newham Generals, D Double E was spitting over selectors before the term ‘grime’ even existed, and continues to dazzle whenever he jumps on mic with a flow that is simultaneously fast, furious and funny.
After decades of genre-hopping solo features and plaudits from disciples Skepta and Dizzee Rascal, D Double E finally dropped his debut album ‘Jackuum’ in 2018. A surprising hit Christmas advert with Ikea followed last year, bringing the East Londoner’s characteristic “bud-a-bup-bup” and “dirtee-tee” noises to the masses.
Although most grime fans will wax lyrical about his abilities, D Double E still isn’t satisfied. ‘D.O.N.’, which stands for ‘Double or Nothing’, is an all-guns blazing album – Dixon’s now-or-never moment as he enters his 40th year.
‘D.O.N.’ sees the “lyrical leng” explore new sonic territory in an attempt to keep pace with the hybridity of UK rap today. His team ups with south London sibling production duo Splurgeboys, ‘Outta Order’ and ‘Contact Us’, draw heavily from trap and drill, with ominous bass lines and Dixon’s gnarly delivery, which is slower than usual here. D Double carries off the transition with relaxed assurance, adding warmth to the grit through his trademark humour: “I’m the seafood king… Top it up with lemon and that vinegar ting”, he jokes over luxe sound effects on ‘Catch Of The Day’.
Elsewhere, ‘Ring Ring’ (a collaboration with west London rapper Skrapz) and ‘Trouble’ (with Triggz, a signee to D Double’s label Bluku Music) don’t really bring anything new to the table, and leave you longing for D Double’s former days of attack, epitomised by his 2010 underground hit ‘Street Fighter Riddim’. Thankfully, though, there’s plenty to make up for this on ‘D.O.N.’, from the bounding, afro-bashment of ‘Bedroom Bully’ featuring Ms Banks to captivating exchanges with Giggs (‘What You Want’), Ghetts (‘Where Do We Come From?’) and JME (‘Grinding Away’).
Dixon might have moments of self-doubt, but the explosive, reload-heavy clash with Kano on ‘Tell Me A Ting’ shows that he really has nothing left to prove. “Man will rob William and take that”, he fires. When it comes to grime, no one does it quite like D Double E.
Release date: October 23
Record label: Bluku Music