Skiba, Shabba, Bassman, Trigga, DRS, Fox, Harry Shotta, GQ, Visionobi, Gusto, SP:MC, Codebreaker, Sense, Fokus, Chickaboo – the list is near infinite when it comes to the quality of the drum and bass MC game in the UK right now…and that’s without even paying tribute to the countless heads who paved the way.
It’s definitely time to add a new name to that list, though. Few have been as proficient in quality, work rate and originality as the man behind the vocal on one of the most talked about tracks of 2020 – Duskee.
While Hack It alongside boy wonder K Motionz firmly announced his name on the scene, Duskee had been doing his thing for a handful of years before. His thoughtful and intelligent flow had seen his work smattered across a number of different tracks, most notably a collaborative EP on Fokus Recordings with FarFlow.
However, it’s in the last eighteen months that Duskee has really come into a class of his own, with a stream of seemingly unending stellar contributions to some of the most noteworthy tracks in recent times.
Duskee himself says that as Covid was “a time of silence, it was the time to be heard.” He’s most certainly done that, attacking the scene and working with a mass of producers and labels on a hectic release pattern.
In the past 12 months alone, he’s released certified bangers with T-95, Monrroe, Bru-C, Waeys, Annix, Degs, Nu:Tone, Sl8r, Villem, Zero T, Disrupta, PAV4N, My Nu Leng and Skepsis. Do you think he’s planning to slow down anytime soon? Of course he’s not.
We called up the man of the moment to hear about how he’s stamped his mark on the scene throughout the pandemic – and how this work is just the start of what’s to come. We start with his most recent success: his first debut solo EP release Solar Boy on PAV4N’s DarkMode imprint.
Let’s jump in with the tracks you’ve had released on DarkMode in the last couple of months. It looks like the reaction to them has been really positive so far…
Yeah, it’s been good man. It’s still early stages, but so far, the feedback has been really good. I’ve heard from a lot of different labels, artists, producers and vocalists who have all been really complimentary, so I’m pretty happy with how it’s going.
When did PAV4N get in touch about getting you involved with the label?
It was during Covid so it must have been maybe six months ago? I had these tracks sitting there and got in contact with him and he came back saying he loved them. I’ve got one with Pav as well which is cool because he’s an absolute don in the game and then it all spiralled from there. I’ve got a lot of time for him and he’s a cool guy.
He’s a legendary figure so it must have meant a lot having him reaching out to you. What have you learnt from working together?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve been a fan of Foreign Beggars since back in the day, so for him to show that kind of respect, it obviously meant a lot. He’s got a really good head on his shoulders and he knows the game inside out, so I was trying to take on board whatever I could when speaking with him. The track Radial Waves worked really well. I wrote the vocals and sent them over and he just instantly smashed them. The vibe is perfect – it was meant to be. The connection between us on it is really strong.
And you had Disrupta on production duties who you’ve worked with before. You two clearly have a good working relationship as well…
Yeah, we linked up through our management Inside The Night. We got taken on at the same time and ended up making a track together called Deep Thoughts which did pretty well after coming out on Liquid V. We’ve got a really good chemistry when it comes to working together and making music. He really gets my vibe when it comes to the liquid stuff and he’s very on point with his production. He knows the vibe that I need to translate my emotional thoughts into action.
What’s your working process like when writing? Are you constantly writing new material, or do you write specifically for what the producer sends to you?
It’s changed throughout the years. I used to just write lyrics constantly and then when it got to writing songs it changed because for me personally, I need to resonate with the music that I’m hearing to create. It needs to make sense to me. Some people work differently, but I have to sit on it for a bit and let the emotions come out.
It’s been a really busy summer period for you in terms of releases – you’ve worked with some massive names across the dance music spectrum. You’re clearly comfortable jumping on a range of different tempos…
I’ve had some crazy collabs both in and out of drum and bass and feel really blessed to have worked with a huge range of producers that cater to my style in such a way. My roots are firmly in drums and I intend on trying to elevate myself through the genre as much as possible, but I’m more than happy jumping on these other things when they suit.
The collaboration with Skepsis and My Nu Leng was cool. Skepsis reached out to me because we’ve got the same agent, so we connected through there. He hit me up with this bassline tune which was new to me. I sent him the vocals and actually didn’t hear from him for three or four months, so I was thinking maybe he didn’t like it. He then messaged me saying My Nu Leng wanted to collab on it as well and it was coming out in two months. I was like, ‘okay then, let’s go!’
Do you feel as an MC/ vocalist you have the freedom or even the expectation to explore different sounds and genres?
I feel like not everyone is going to be happy if you jump onto another genre because they might listen to me for my soulful music and that’s what they know me for, so some people might not feel it. Drum and bass is what I like best and is what I want to do, but I’m happy doing other things as well. You can’t always please everyone.
Let’s look back at your musical path. What kind of musical influences did you have that inspired you when you were growing up?
I listened to a wide variety of hip hop back in the day, but I never really had inspirations when it comes to music. I just listen to a wide variety of styles and genres – I just absorb things. I’ve always had this love for drum and bass, but I guess hip hop is where it started because I found lo-fi. I’ve always wanted to bring the two together, so those two genres are my inspiration to be who I am.
When did you first start to see the crossover between the two?
I think I must have been about 20 or 21. When I first got into drum and bass all I knew was heavy stuff like jump up. As I got older and got to know the scene and the different sub genres, you hear different artists that I’d never seen live before. I went to Outlook, I can’t remember what year, but I watched Calibre for the first time and saw some hip hop down on the beach and I walked away from that festival a changed man. It just changed me – I’d never seen music like that before. That’s where the journey really started for me.
When you were listening to jump up, did the MCs inspire you, or did you keep them at a distance as you knew you didn’t want to go down that route?
When I was getting into it all, all I knew was Eksman, Skibadee and Shabba. When I first started doing jump up raves, I instantly knew I didn’t sound right. I’m writing lyrics that people need to hear, but no one is really listening to what I’m trying to say. I dealt with that for a couple of years but then sort of gravitated towards the scene I’m in now. It was never working before at these heavy raves because the music was so scatty so I could never get my message across.
You’ve got a really unique laid back, but thoughtful flow. Has this been a conscious decision or has your style evolved over time?
Thank you, man. It’s evolved for sure. When I wrote hip hop, I was doing this style but then tried to write the faster bars when I was doing the jump up stuff. After seeing different parts of the scene, I thought this is for me – I can slow this down and write meaningful music. Liquid and soulful drum and bass is such powerful music and I feel like what I’m trying to do is bridge the gap and get this style to be a mainstream sound. For that to be the case, I feel it needs lyrics that people can hear and understand.
Your lyrics are so thoughtful and emotive – what inspires you to write? Is it just the world around you?
Just life experiences if I’m honest. Obviously, the world around me as well – we all have a strange take on the world. I’m quite an emotional guy and have had some crazy past experiences at times, so those moments have stuck with me. This is a way of getting it off my chest and when you’ve got a passion for music, things combine really well.
Can you remember the first time you wrote a lyric?
The first lyric I wrote was when I was about 19. I had these two friends who spat grime. They were releasing tracks and stuff. I was chilling with them in my car and I put a drum and bass track on and asked them if they could spit over it. After they did, I was like ‘wow, I need to do that,’ so I penned a lyric there and then.
I think the first time I heard you was on Life FM. How important has radio and live streaming been for your own career development?
Personally, I don’t think they’ve necessarily helped me as an artist. They’re good in the sense that they’re like a training ground so you can practice material and learn the skills that you need to have to perform live. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done countless radio sets – I used to have my own show on Flex FM years ago. It’s good in aspects as you get to perform your music, but I think it’s better if you’re a DJ or producer. As a vocalist I don’t think it portrays you at your best, but that’s just me. I hope my music is listening music that can be absorbed in a live setting or when you’re chilling at home.
I want to talk about the impact the collaboration you had with K Motionz on Hack It has had. That really allowed you to stamp your name in your scene…
Yeah, definitely. He was doing bits from young so fair play to him, he’s a don. He reached out to me after I was on Bailey’s Mi-Soul radio show. That collab helped me in the sense that it put my name out there to other producers and labels. The track came out on UKF, so it got me recognised. It was funny that it blew up around the start of the first lockdown and I was just stuck at home, unable to go out and perform it. My first time performing it was only a couple of months ago. It was a big moment and it confirmed to me that being vocal in tracks was what I wanted to do.
It’s also a slightly different vibe to what you normally do – because that’s club music first and foremost, right?
Definitely. I feel it’s good to have that balance of the big ones that go off in the dance and the emotional sad ones as well. You can’t do those kinds of tunes all the time. He sent me the instrumental and I sent it back within a couple of days. It proper resonated with me and I feel it did with him as well because he came straight back like ‘wow, this is the one!’
From that moment, did you know you were onto a bit of a winner? It’s got this anthem status now…
I’m always a believer of gut instinct and as soon as I heard the tune, even before my vocals, I knew it was serious. When he sent me a clip back with my vocals and I saw how gassed he was as well, I was like this is going to do bits. I think we found out a couple of weeks after doing the tune it was going to come out on UKF, but not for another six months. I just wanted to get it out there! When I got the message that Break was doing a remix as well, I was pretty gassed. Break is the remix king.
In recent months, we’ve seen the return of live events which obviously has added a completely different dimension to your work. What was it like getting back on stage?
It’s been unreal. The first show back was a live PA of my music – it was emotional. It will go down in my memory for a long time. I’ve been working with Shogun quite a bit now and have been doing some shows with them which has been crazy. It’s just different levels from before Covid to what it’s like now. I used the time off during Covid as a prime time to write music – I thought as a time of silence, it was the time to be heard. Since coming back and being able to be back on stage, it just reaffirms that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. For me, I’m a performer – I live for it. Being on stage is home for me.
I was going to say you’ve been working with Shogun – can we expect a lot more from you with the label moving forward?
Yeah, man. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to talk about it right now, but from next year, I’ll be working much closer with the label. I have a tune coming out with Disrupta next month and then lots of exciting stuff in the future. I’ll have to hold onto that for a bit, though!
What more can we expect from you in the coming months then?
I’ve got some real good shows coming up and then release wise, I’ve got another track coming out on Hospital and after, one on Critical. It’s wicked to work with these kinds of labels – it’s been a crazy time. It’s been really busy with releases, so I feel blessed these labels are enjoying the music. It’s been hectic – I said to myself I wanted to be heard so I was going to really attack the scene where I could. Covid was a time of darkness where there have been some really bleak times, so I’m really grateful I’ve been able to rise out the other end.