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Starz & Deeza: get to know one of MC culture’s hardest working duos

Nine months of lockdown, restrictions and no live music industry has tested and challenged even the tightest of couples in these turbulent times. But imagine working, performing, writing and running a label together on top of that…

This is how Starz & Deeza roll. It’s how they’ve rolled for a very long time. A couple for 13 years and an official MC double act for 10 years, their whole operation is based on intensity. From their firing Q&A bars to their crazily prolific output to their international, territory-bridging concepts to their ability to flex between D&B and grime in an instant; this London-based duo are on it 24/7… So much so that even during the leanest, meanest year most of us have ever experienced, they’ve built up their following by 20,000. It’s not hard when they’re putting out content like this on the regs…

Plenty more is en route in the coming months. Later this month they’ll drop a collaboration with the one and only DJ SS before rebooting their Lockdown Sessions series, delivering another Believe In Tomorrow mixtape with Kenny Ken and loads more. Read on for the full story on a truly unique MC duo and how – even during the most turbulent of times – the music keeps them closer than ever.

How was your NYE? It must have been your first one not working in about 10 years!

Deeza: Yeah, it was a weird experience. In the run-up to it we kept asking ‘what are we doing on NYE?’ We really didn’t know what was possible, or if we were better off sitting indoors! But we ended up really busy. We arranged a photoshoot so we could go into the new year with new images. We then dropped the Die Hard drum & bass mix with IllFigure, then recorded a new Lockdown Session set and released that as well.

Busy!

Deeza: It meant we were pretty active with people on socials and got a bit of that adrenalin rush just from all our activities.

Starz: We made ourselves busy!

Deeza: I’m glad we did. Even though it was online we still got to interact with our fans from all the content we made.

That’s the story of 2020 isn’t it. You’ve got to keep yourself busy, not just to stay relevant in the music game but just to keep yourselves sane!

Starz: Exactly. I didn’t appreciate just how much of a benefit the shows were to my mental health. By the end of last year, it really started to affect me that we hadn’t been anywhere. That level of release is so important to all of us as artists and ravers. It’s been hard to keep that passion alive.

Deeza: Totally. Writing and being in the studio has been such an important outlet. It gives you some type of hope. That was my drive to keeping me going.

Did you do any sitdown raves?

Starz: The closest thing we did was the Notting Hill Carnival Access All Areas event. It was the first time in 50 years the carnival didn’t happen, which was very sad. We’re residents with the CMC Matrix Sound System who run a system there. They invited us to do a set in a film studio and condense our two days at carnival into an hour’s set. We had to bring the Carnival energy to a room with a few people being very quiet with their masks on. It was really strange.

Carnival is really important for you guys isn’t it? I was watching videos from Carnival 2010 with you guys performing. You guys go back further than I thought. Take me back to the roots…

Deeza:  We’ve been together 13 years and always been doing music together. My dad died in 2010 so for a few years music wasn’t a priority at all, life got on top of us. I actually broke my ankle four years ago and that’s when we started pushing like we are now and fully rebranded and took things up a level.

Starz: We were gigging all the time in between but not that seriously.

Deeza: Yeah and all that time gave us a lot of experience to reboot in the way we did. It’s funny you mention Carnival, Starz took me to my first ever one in 2009. We were watching the MCs and I said, ‘We could be up there!’ So we found out who to ask, submitted a demo and the following year we were booked. We played not long after my dad died. That show was incredibly emotional and from that we were booked every year and have been made residents. We played eight years on the trot.

Did you both meet as MCs?

Starz: We didn’t meet as MCs. I was a naughty girl when I was younger and was raving from the age of 14. So by the time I met Deeza, when I was 16, I was pretty much a seasoned raver. I had no intention of becoming an MC at all. Then I went to this night in Brixton. None of my usual raving mates wanted to come but I managed to get a non-raver friend to come. We were sitting down and she asked me if I thought anyone was hot. Bearing in mind we were 16 and that’s the type of thing  16 year old girls chat about! I looked around and didn’t see anyone I liked and then suddenly the crowd parted, I saw Deeza and pointed at him and said he was nice.

Deeza: I was there to MC. I saw her point so I asked why and she told me. I was like ‘oh okay!’ I said I was MCing in the other room so come and check it out and Starz was at the front raving and enjoying it. It was sick. So after the set we went to my car, had a smoke, got chatting and I had to leave.

Starz: I think we swapped MySpace details!

Deeza: Yeah! Then we kept in touch and the following spring in 2008 we began to link.

Starz: In that time I’d started to MC myself.

Inspired by Deeza?

Starz: No, I was inspired by my good friend Lady Blazer. She was the only female MC I’d ever met at the time. She was a good raving friend and we were out every weekend together. Then one day I took it upon myself to write a lyric. We went out to Bagley’s and I told her about it in the toilet and spat it for her. She said ‘that’s amazing! You have to keep on with this!’ She dragged me out of the toilet and took me straight to Harry Shotta and told me to spit my bar for Harry. I couldn’t believe it. I was 17, Harry was rising like mad back then and I was being told to MC to him! He was really into it and told me to keep going, too, so that was me really.

Deeza: At the time I was doing a radio show with DJ Addict, DJ Remedy and MC Kid in Wimbledon and I invited Starz to come down a few times. One time she came down and I had a few special guests – MC Fun, Harry Shotta and Lady MC. Starz came along and it was one of her first ever sets. The video is still on YouTube now.

Starz: It’s pretty amateur haha

Deeza: Yeah we cringe when we watch it a bit but nonetheless it’s history. It’s pretty epic for what it is and what it was.

Starz: I’d been MCing for three months and there we were with Fun, Shotta and Lady MC. It was like ‘woah’.

Was that the point when you thought you could MC and write together?

Deeza: Yeah pretty much for me. Starz had gone back to London, I was driving back home and listening to the set and I thought ‘she is sick.’ I’d been sparring with my boy MC Kid for a long time and we tried writing together a lot and it just didn’t click but when I heard Starz I thought if ever there was someone I could team up with it would be her.

Starz: And of course he fancied me.

Deeza: Yeah she had a bit of leverage there to be honest! But that was it really and eventually we started writing together. We were initially called Bonnie & Clyde and did a few mixtapes one with Harry Bizzle, another with DJ Messy and another Mr Quiet. That was the start of us writing together and we’d play around with concepts and ideas. We were super inspired by Uncz at the time. I think quite subconsciously we were influenced by them.

I can hear that influence. The tag team and speedy back and forths. You know each other’s bars inside out. That’s exactly what Skiba, Shotta and Funsta had locked down.

Deeza: Definitely. And what we do now is what we wanted to do back then. But you need years and years of experience working together to get that tightness.

Starz: And also finding our sound and style together. Personally, from that first video we just mentioned, I think I sound like a teenage boy. We’ve developed so much as performers since then, which brings the vibe.

And writing comes very naturally by the sounds of things!

Starz: We write in so many different ways. Sometimes I write a line, he does a line and so on. Sometimes we both go away and write and split up the bars between us. There are times when we write half and half. It’s cool. We pick up the vibe off each other very easily and quickly and it’s got to the point where we can swap and interchange very quickly.  Our last Lockdown session, Lockdown 18, is the backwards edition where we did the audio as our own bars but in the visual I’m spitting his bars and he’s spitting mine.

Ha!

Deeza: It took a while to practice so comes across properly on the video. It’s quite mad to see Starz’s voice coming out of my mouth but it’s just another way to spice things up. We’ve done so many lockdown sessions we don’t want it to go stale.

Deeza: We’re coming with the new variant. It was going to be the second wave session but that seems a bit dated now, it’s all about the variants.

This all must intense as a couple! Living and working together hard anyway but on lockdown doing things off your own energy and momentum, that’s extra hard…

Starz: Yeah very intense. We have our trials and tribulations like any couple anyway and lockdown has had an affect on that for sure. But we work through it and I’m glad we have. Sometimes we question what we’re doing. What’s the end goal now? If there’s no industry and clubs have been taken away from us then why bother? But we know why we bother. We love the music.  We love this. We’re never going to stop doing it.

Deeza: It’s funny, they say never mix business with pleasure but we’ve done that for 13 years now. And I look back and think ‘wow, how did we pull it off?’ Sometimes when we row with each other the music brings us back to earth. If we were a normal boyfriend and girlfriend we may have gone separate ways when we’ve rowed. But because we’ve got something so special with our music we look beyond that . We can be rowing in the car on the way to a show but we hit the stage professionally and by the time we’ve finished the set we’ve forgotten the beef between us. But if I was an MC and she wasn’t, or the other way around, then one of us would still be pissed off after the show.

Starz: We can literally be screaming at each other in the car, just moments before the show, then we’ll get in the club and it all changes.

Deeza: We see our fans, we get such a buzz off performing and by the time we’re in the car again it’s fine. Our shared passion pays off and puts things in perspective.

When you love your job, business is always pleasure. What was 2020 looking like this time last year?

Starz: Oh please. Don’t even ask. It was so painful seeing things get cancelled they way they did.

Deeza:  We had so many shows booked in. We had a West Coast tour almost full booked in, going to do Oregon, San Fran, LA, San Diego. That was all planned out. We had shows in Canada pencilled in, we had Germany booked in, Spain booked in with Innovation. We were doing lots of BBC Introducing stuff as well with performances at Fat Tuesday Festival in Hastings and Live Lounge performances. We had Boardmasters booked in. Hundreds of different raves across the country. So that’s why we kept pushing, we had good momentum going and we didn’t want to slip right back to a few years before. So we’ve kept things growing and gained over 20,000 more followers on all our channels.

Starz: It can take you months to build yourself up to a point but days for you to fall from that to square one again. We have to keep busy and keep that momentum going.

I think it’s been so hard to do that for MCs. You need a mix, you need beats or you’re doing spoken word. Do you make your own beats?

Deeza: We make some beats but it’s too time consuming to do everything.

Starz: We’re also massive perfectionists which makes it hard as well. We’ve done a few tracks.

Deeza:  Our tracks Weed Is From The Earth and Say No More were both done by us. But beats-wise we get tracks from a friend called Westy. He sends out beat packs from different producers and we track down the producer and work with them to lease the beats. That’s the way we work with grime. D&B producers don’t work that way – it’s more of a collaboration.

Starz: The production thing is very different. Grime guys are banging out tunes bang bang bang. But it’s different with the D&B guys.

You guys strike me as junglists at heart but you bounce on grime very naturally too…

Deeza: Yeah we’re D&B ravers at heart. But as MCs and rappers we feel we can expressess ourselves more on grime. There’s more space and people can take in what you’re saying a lot more. We love D&B, we love performing at D&B raves and listening to it but the hip-hop and grime influences are something we love exploring and feel just as comfortable with.

Nice.  So what’s coming up? You got a tune with SS haven’t you?

Deeza:  Yes! It’s called We Don’t Care, SS featuring Starz & Deeza and it’s coming on his Back To Jungle LP. It’s a special track and we’re proud to be working with him. Growing up I had loads of Formation Records so that was incredible. We’ve also got two tunes coming with DJ Certified, one of which has a special guest who we can’t reveal yet. We’ve also got the second Believe In Tomorrow mix with Kenny Ken. The initial one was the most iconic one we’ve ever done. It came about through a Whatsapp group we have with our management who are also Kenny’s management and he reached out to us. The vibe was very clear on that one: Better times are coming. We still believe they are! The feedback on that was great so Kenny’s doing a second mix for us any time now. And on top of that, we’ve also got Bridging The Gap 3 coming out….

That’s such a wicked concept

Deeza: The idea was born from a gig at Xcellerated in LA. When we came back home we thought it would be cool way to connect again with MC Zee from Canada, Construct in LA and us from UK. That mix, the energy and vibe it’s second to none. It’s one of my favourite mixes we’ve ever done. The second one included Joey Mojo and Camo MC and Dino from LA then Zee, Caddy and A2 from Canada. Adding New Zealand into the mix meant it was four nations on one D&B mix, which I don’t think has been done before. So for the third we’re developing it even more. The DJ is Tru Troopa from Canada. We got MCSs from the US, Canada, New Zealand, hopefully Australia and Bulgaria and Belgium, who we’ll hopefully feature. We want to include as many people as possible in it. It’s not just the Starz & Deeza show, it’s all of us, we’re all in this together and it’s really important for us to work together and support each other during these times. The lockdown sessions were part of that as well, we want to use our platform to showcase ourselves and the culture.

Starz: If you can get a camera and do a 32 bars over it and you’ve got a dark background then do it. The content we get back ranges so much in quality and, in normal times, that would probably be annoying but because it was during lockdown it doesn’t matter. We just want to create things as a team and do something cool with people who inspire us to entertain the fans, the scene and ourselves.

Deeza: That’s what it’s all about really and we wouldn’t want to do it any other way…

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