Singer, rapper, writer, producer: Degs is no ordinary MC signing for Hospital. They even announced his arrival in song form…
Having cementing his role on the label via Logistics’ album on Safe In Your Arms, last week Degs followed it with his first proper Hospital single Poveglia. Written, arranged and sung by Degs, produced by his right hand studio man De:Tune, named after a famous haunted island, Poveglia is a serious soulful statement of intent that’s tailored for the incoming warmer weather and hints at a bright future on Hospital.
It’s also the latest creation to come from one of the most pivotal years of the Horsham multi-instrumentalist’s life. Following years of working in the corporate game, and occasional appearances MCing jump-up events, he suddenly found himself putting pen to paper again and writing a vast array of styles. This resulted in a whole album with his brother as Kikuyu Soul and series of freestyles to tracks such as Lenzman and Redeyes We Were Kings… Which is how he came to land a role on the Hospital roster. This is how it went down…
So this all came about through freestyle videos?
Yeah I started putting them up on Facebook and Instagram and both Tony Colman and Chris Blu Mar Ten from Clinic Agency got in touch to say they were interested in what I was doing.
The system works!
Yeah man. Everything that’s happened lately has been down to social media. I put in years on the underground drum & bass scene and it wasn’t until we started posting videos that my profile had any real development. The more videos I put up, the crazier things got.
Amazing. I was wondering if you were singer first or an MC first?
I’ve had a varied musical background. In the past I played guitar and I can play piano and drums and been in various band projects. I never really took it seriously at first then I started rapping to D&B around 2007 and just focused on rapping. It wasn’t until the middle of last year I tried mixing rapping and singing together. I basically neglected singing for 10 years but now it’s definitely a big part of what I do.
You released an album with your brother as Kikuyu Soul last year. Was that a factor in you bringing your singing back?
That facilitated it more than anything else, I think. My brother Matt and I always wanted to write music together, but we took very different paths in life from a job perspective. But last year he sent me a beat and I did some bars on it and he just carried on sending some really nice soulful beats over. I produce as well so I started working on the tracks too and I was inspired to start writing again. I hadn’t done it for years and it was such a nice feeling. I got the bug for it so we ended up making a whole album full of R&B and downtempo and hip-hop and island vibes and Afrobeats. That’s when I thought I’d try and combine the dual style of rapping and singing can work for me over drum & bass.
So it sounds like this time last year you went into some type of crazy creative flux?
Absolutely! All I’d been doing previously was MCing at underground events and supporting bigger acts. I hadn’t sat down and written anything like this for years. When I actually started writing it was like the floodgates opened. I was trying all kinds of styles and genres. One day I’d be doing stuff at 175, the next it would be 100 or 130. It was like I was exploring a side of me I’d left dormant for years and years. It just flowed.
Like you’re out of control and it’s happening before your eyes
Totally man. I was coming home from work and sitting in the studio with no plan and just seeing what would come out next. Then I lost my job and that gave me even more time to explore. I scrimped and saved decided to give full time music a proper go and a few months later Hospital got in touch.
What was your job? Sounds like that was getting in the way of your creative goals
It was! I was working in corporate sales, travelling up and down the country, doing presentations and technical sales pitches. It was extremely long hours, so it was difficult to come home and get anything out of my head because I was so drained. I wasn’t fulfilled at all.
It makes you appreciate what you do now though
Completely. What’s already happened so far has more than justified all the hard work I did before – ridiculously early starts and putting myself out of my comfort zone. I just chased financial security rather than life satisfaction. Yeah, it definitely does make me appreciate everything that’s happening now more than I might have done if this happened when I was younger.
I appreciate your titles. The Kikuyu soul album is named after a Newcastle player Asprilla and Poveglia is named after haunted island. What’s going on here?
I love titles that mean something to me or have a deeper meaning. So Kikuyu, for instance, is the name of my mum’s tribe in Kenya and Asprilla was the man! Growing up we had our favourite strikers and Asprilla was one we always agreed on. He was the guy. He’d score goals and do backflips and do all this cool stuff and we both wanted to be like him when we grew up.
How about Poveglia?
I like it when titles aren’t too obvious so the song is about an ex I kept going back to even though there were bad consequences and it was a bit of a mindfuck. So the lyrics were pretty straight forward in terms of context and imagery but I didn’t want the title to be too bait. So I looked up forbidden island and that came up. I read into it and it’s a mad place. Even local tour guides didn’t want to go there because it had really bad consequences. That’s how I felt about my ex. Not that she was haunted but that bad stuff happened every time we got together. There was a bit of commonality, even though I was stretching the metaphor a little!
So what happens next? You sing, you MC, you play lots of instruments and you produce… There’s got to be some interesting releases on the horizon!
I can’t reveal too much sorry! details on everything will follow soon. I’m working with some fantastic artists and also composing and arranging music myself. It’s really fun and I’m so grateful that I get to this as a job now. Me and my brother are also working on Kikuyu Soul’s next EP too and the shit he’s been firing at me has been insane, he’s an incredibly talented musician anyway but he keeps stepping up the levels. It’s great to see.