Next year will mark exactly 30 years since a young Fatman D first touched the mic. While it would be another four or five years until Helter Skelter and One Nation tape packs boosted his name to national notoriety around 1996/97, it’s safe to say he’s been part of this music and culture since some of its earliest incarnations…
In the years that have passed, he’s remained fully neck-deep in the game. Inspired and mentored by his good friend the legendary Stevie Hyper D (RIP), Fatman D is a rave favourite who can command crowds with just a shout or a blast on his classic ‘wah do dem’ signature shout. As a founding member of New Breed he was part of the very first MC supergroup with the likes of Foxy and Riddler, then later Shortston, Eksman, Evil B and Herbzie (with DJs Logan D and Majistrate) These days he rolls in equally esteemed company as part of 360 with Nicky Blackmarket and DJ Profile.
Beyond the mic he also runs two of the most consistent labels for breaking new talent. Both Biological Beats and Young Guns have been responsible for debut or early tracks from now-massive names like Dominator (RIP), Turno, Levela, Limited, Macky Gee, Bou, Dutta and many many more including the current new breed of exciting and innovative acts coming through like Toxinate, Enta, Puppetz and Amplify (to name just a few)
It’s fair to say Fatman D has a lot to add to his Linkedin profile over the decades. Yet during all of these activities, he’s yet to drop an album. Until now. Thanks to lockdown crushing his schedule to pieces, he used the time wisely, linked up with many of the talents on his label and got writing. The end result is Tales From South.
Representing his south London ends – Charlton to be precise – Tales From The South rolls out from this week. The full LP drops later this year, the sampler lands right now with two collabs with Limited, one with Replicant and another with Young Guns newcomer Smuggler. Flexing on the fullest of full blast, the album showcases Fatman D well beyond the raves he’s best known for shutting down. Or was until March last year. We caught up with the Bio bossman for a tale or two…
I think MCs have hard a hard time on lockdown…
You’ve got to be smart innit. You’ve got to say ‘what am I going to do?’ You can sit there and wait for your voice to dry up or you can get in the studio. So when lockdown came for me, I was quite happy. I could have a rest. I’m full energy when I perform. I’m sweating out of my neck, I’m not sitting on the side chilling, I’m full-on. So I used the time to focus on my health, focus on my body of work.
Have you always been writing lyrics on the side, waiting for the time when you can finally get round to focusing on an album?
I’ve always been writing little lyrics and notes, four bars here and there. Maybe a little eight or 16. I save them and build things up. Put them on a track, develop a hook or get a feature in. I’ve featured on a lot of tracks with Dominator, Telekom, Limited, Voltage, Randall, Shimon, all those guys. But I thought to myself, it’s time. But I’ve actually done an album before…
Yeah with Shodan years ago but it never saw the light of day. Some tunes are out there but most didn’t come out. But this time I thought ‘right, I’m not going anywhere so let’s see what I can whip up!’ I got some great beats from the guys.
You must be like a kid in a candy store with your labels and the talent on them…
I am lucky yeah. But I want it to be personal. I want to go to a person’s house and vibe with them when they make it. Or if I’m sent a beat I want to digest and absorb it and know I can do something with it.
You know it’s mad you’ve not been on that many records in a musical way as you’re a very musical MC. Your ‘wah do dem’ hook which always reminds me of Eek A Mouse
Yeah Eek A Mouse was more lyrical, telling a story. My ‘wah do dem’ is more of a chant to get the crowd hyped up. But yeah you’re right; it’s a chance to try out new things because a lot of tunes when I’m MCing live are too crazy for full bars and lyrics. So that’s influenced the style of tracks I’m working on. I’ve done a tune with Profile called Bad Mind, which is a full vocal. Another full vocal one with Limited called Gun Crime. I’m doing a tune with Phantom. I’ve got one with Teezy who’s on Young Guns. And I’ve got no doubt there’ll be a tune with me and Eksman.
Wow. So the sampler’s out but it sounds like you’re still working on it?
Yeah I’m spreading it across. And we don’t know when we’re definitely 100% coming out of this thing.
And why rush? Your debut album in a career that goes back almost 30 years. Are you glad that first album never came out then? You only get one chance to make a first impression and all that.
In a way yes, in a way no. There were some smashers on there. There was a tune called The Beat Goes On with a hip-hop vibe and a lot of people gravitated to that. But then things didn’t quite work out there. You never know what’ll happen in the future though. For now it’s all about Tales From The South.
We’re talking south of river here aren’t we?
Yeah South London born and raised. I was born in Greenwich Hospital, raised in Deptford then moved to Charlton. All south east London. Not a lot of people talk about Charlton. Say I’m speaking to man from Brixton and I say I’m from Charlton they’ll look at me funny like ‘yeah?’ But Charlton was ghetto as fuck. But that’s how it always was – if you’re not from a recognised ends then you’re country, you’re a country bumpkin innit. But, like, all of us on New Breed – me, Eks, Herbzie, Foxy, Shortson, all the original members are from south. I want to represent where I came from.
Was Stevie Hyper D from Charlton? Is that how you knew him?
He’s south yeah, but he was Fulham, which was south west. I’m south east. How I met Stevie though… I need to go back for this. So it’s the early/mid 90s and I’m an up and coming MC. I used to go to a woman’s house in Clapham. Maria, she ran an outfit called Steppers which was a bit like a collective, doing parties and that. We were all going round her house, her son Morgan was a DJ called Undertaker and my friend Rekless (who is now Project Nando) would go over.
So I’d be there and different people came around. Guys like Adam F, Kenny Ken, then one day a guy with a big old orange coat on comes in. Everyone’s whispering ‘it’s Stevie Hyper D, it’s Stevie Hyper D’. I went up to him and said ‘bruv who are you?’ cos I’m looking at him and he doesn’t sound like the MC I’m hearing on the tapes. He says ‘Stevie Hyper D’ and I’m like ‘nah, prove it.’ So he fires out some bars and I’m like ‘rah, that’s Stevie Hyper D bruv!’
Fast forward a few years and his friend Rolla started to drive him around and we became part of his crew. He already had a big crew with guys like Daddy Angi and his guys from Fulham. But we started to roll with him and become his entourage and a bit like security. And that’s how we became tight and it went from there.
He gave you your breaks, right?
Yeah, it was 96 into 97. The Island, Ilford, One Nation. Stevie’s done four or five parties that night and he’s tired. I think it was either Andy C or Randall playing and Stevie’s like ‘yo I’m tired, I’m fucked, I can’t do this any more.’ That was my moment like ‘bang – here’s the mic, you want to do this? You do it now!’ I am shitting it but I’m saying to myself in my head ‘you want to be this big MC, you’re telling all your boys you’re going to do this, do that, rah rah rah, now prove it. And do not fuck it up!’ Don’t fall, trip, drop the mic. Be you. So I’m doing lyrics and the horns are going and flame throwers going up. It was vindicating. I knew I had it in me from that moment.
The rest is history and all that…
Well that was 96, then in 97 we go to Helter Skelter and he just disappears. I’m looking left and right and the place is heaving with people, it’s kicking right off but there’s no MC and there’s a mic there! I thinking I’ve got to pick up this mic and MC right now! So again I’m thinking ‘yeah this is my time’. I went in and did Darren Jay, DJ Rap, quite a few – four or five sets.
Then the tapepack put you on map…
Yeah people were coming up to me, patting me on the back and that and I’m like how do you even know me and they’re like ‘yeah Energy 97, mate, I was that guy with the top off and the whistle and you gave me the thumbs up’ All of that. It was crazy. And it went from there.
Where was Stevie?
Fuck knows. We travelled in different cars, he was coming later, I was there a lot earlier and there had been no MCs. A few people knew me there, guys like Kenny, were like ‘come on the mic man’. A lot of DJs are happier with an MC fronting them.
Make so much difference. That moment when the MC comes in. It’s like take off.
Oh yeah. Totally. That’s why I come with a ‘bullet bullet’ or something. Something for people to know I’m here. Like Stevie would have his ‘junglists are you ready?’ call. And that’s the first port of call. That introduces you like it’s oh it’s Stevie Hyper D time.
Did he pass any words of wisdom to you? Or do you hear him in your head?
It was more about watching him. I watch the situation ad see what’s going to happen. I watched how he’d attack the mic. He just had pure energy and that’s what I’ve always applied. Have energy, don’t be lazy, come with substance, come with something people can sing along to. Like the ‘wah do dem’ thing – it’s a call and response thing, like a little catch phrase. So all that is from watching him perform. And that’s stuff I’ve never forget.
Amen. So fast forward a few years later, you set up New Breed with a few others. That was the original D&B supergroup.
Well that started the day of Stevie Hyper D’s funeral. The day he got buried, we were at Maria’s house. We’re all upset and grieving. Me, Foxy and Riddler are there and we were like ‘we’ve got to keep this thing going, let’s make a crew’. That’s how that started. Riddler went to do his thing so then it was me and Foxy. Fast forward, we’re at Pure Science and there’s this kid spitting super fucking fast. Turns out his name is Eksman. I ask him where he’s from, it’s Brockley. The ends basically. South. We share numbers, he’s in. He brings in Herbzie, we bring in Shortston and that’s how it formed and we flew. We flew high for a very long time.
Not long after, you launch Biological Beats…
Yeah it started first pretty slowly over a few years with some international artists like Bassface Sascha from Germany and DJ Evol and DJ Target, both from Canada. That’s how Bio Beats started then I properly developed it a few years later. It was always the plan, though. I was always thinking that I’m not going to be an MC forever, I need other things to build up for the future.
I read a really good point in an old interview with you that not many MCs run labels, that’s very true. An MC is going to have a different A&R ear than a producer who runs a label, right?
I used to be a DJ before I was an MC. I know how to mix. I used to stand there watching Bryan Gee. He was always in the cut. He’d play the b-side of the plate. The side that everyone else isn’t playing. That was a big influence. But I’m fascinated by all forms of music. I was brought up on the best artists; Bob Marley, Jim Reeves, Otis Reading. My stepdad had The Doors and Joe Cocker playing. So having that wide range of influences is good. I also listen and think ‘would I MC over this?’ I give it a try. I think ‘would Bassman MC over this?’ So I try his style. I try and think of all the MCs I know. Or I think of which DJs will play it. That tune’s dark, it will be good for Grooverider, that tune’s got reggae in it, Nicky will play it. That tune’s got soul to it, Bryan will play it. I’ll hand select the DJs who are going to get that first. There’s a method to my madness bro.
Old school dubplate mentality. Bio is best known for championing new artists. So many big guys had early releases with you. Bou, Dutta, Macky Gee, Dominator.
Yeah I’m proud of that. I used to know Dom when he promoted nights and booked New Breed. So I’d see Neil regularly then we lost touch, he stopped promoting. Then he hit me up and said ‘I got some tunes for you.’ One was Golden Shaker, I was like ‘yeaaah’. From that release was the point I really wanted to start building a crew. He was the first then he brought in Flat T and Telekom. They were the main guys I had.
This was the next lot. The next generation. Propz & Rowney. Hizzleguy. A lot of young heads were coming through at this time and Dominator was getting bigger and bigger. Groove, Hype, Nicky picked up on them first. Groove played Golden Shaker on Radio 1. That blew Neil’s mind. That’s how it used to be back in the days – that’s what motivated people back then. Getting plays from these pioneers and getting their music out there and getting their art to a level where DJs play it. That’s what gassed them – I think there are too many new artists looking for quick fame now.
It’s your responsibility as a label owner to make sure they’re being realistic I guess….
Bro I have to be like a counsellor. I’ll chat to my artists all the time and give them advice or reschedule things to make things easier for them. I’m not one of them label owners who’s like ‘the bassline’s crap! Don’t like this snare!’ I just want them to make the best music they can. Music is a feeling; it’s however you’re feeling, you could be pissed off, you could be happy, you could be high, whatever. Don’t give me a tune that you think sounds good because it sounds like something else we’ve released, give me a tune that’s you.
What tunes are coming?
Kastro’s got a single, Enta & Kastro have a collab EP coming, Enta’s working on some amazing things. He’s such a humble guy, I got people like Dillinja calling me about him. That’s never happened before, for him to ring about an artist. The same happens with Traumatize. He came with Gas Dem first, then came the Stereo Yout releases. I even had Shy FX and Chase & Status calling me for tunes of his.
Has he got anything coming up?
He’s got an EP coming up. We’re going to sit on that until the raves open properly. What else is coming up? I’ve got bits from Klay, from Puppetz and a sample pack coming out from Klip & Outlaw, Enta and Puppetz. That’s with Hedex’s ByTheProducer series. And that’s before we get to Young Guns – Teezy’s got an EP. Chubbs is about to drop something. Smuggler and I’ve got a new guy called Nkid. He’s done a tune called Robot. He sent it to me for Young Guns but it’s so good it needs to be on Bio. Young Guns is like the Under 21s, Bio is the senior team. This is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s so much stuff from so many talented artists. It’s been non stop. We’ve not stopped during these locked down times.
It’s such a tricky one. I wouldn’t blame any label for pausing until we’re back to the dance…
Yeah, everyone’s got to do things their own way. But if you stop releasing music, you stop giving people hope. We need something to look forward to and something we enjoy. I know what hard times are like, it’s not new to me. You’ve just got to find a way. And we’re not putting out everything. We’re sitting on some big things too though bro. Like this Dominator remix EP with remixes by his old mates. Upgrade’s done one. Limited’s done one. Limited was brought to me by Dominator in the first place. T>I’s done one and there’s a few surprises along the way…
Sick. So what are your hopes for this summer?
I think we’ll get back to it and see parties this year. When we do is another thing but I’m hopeful we’ll get back to this. I just wanna hear those big tunes through big systems again. And all those things we take for granted. I wanna hug someone and say ‘you know what mate? I’m so trolleyed, lemme get you a drink my friend’. I wanna be on the mic and someone give me a spud saying ‘big up Fatman!’ and I’ll be like ‘you know what, big you up bruv.’ I want to see IC3 doing the robot. I wanna see Shabba and Skibba going mad with Shotta. I want to see Grooverider playing that deep set or Bryan doing a V set or my new guys and coming and smashing down their first parties. Bro, I can’t fucking wait.