Adlibs are synonymous with iconic rappers and in Grime there are none more immediately identifiable than East London’s D Double E. “It’s mwee mwee”, “biddi-bup-bup” and my personal favourite: “urgh-awn urgh-awn” – that half-groan half-intimidating chest pump. It’s all part of the wild world D Double E has crafted over the past two decades. Whilst the world fawns over Stormzy and even Skepta, D Double E has kept his brand of rap largely within the realms of Grime fans.
That was until 2018’s huge hit “Fresh N Clean”; a track that featured on an IKEA Christmas advert. In the UK, Christmas adverts have become big business in recent years and if your song was on one, there’s a good chance it would make an artist a household name. Lily Allen’s “Somewhere We Only Know” for John Lewis is probably the bar for Christmas adverts, and D Double E managed to tackle Generation Rent’s messed up property market situation in his own inimitable style. It’s an admirable feat and rightly cherished – who else is rapping about the condition of a kitchen?
But D Double E is much more than an emcee who had success with an advert. This is Grime royalty. D has been on the scene longer than even Dizzee Rascal. Just as the world caught on to Skepta late, D Double E is now reaching a wider audience too. “Double Or Nothing” is only his second album, but then Grime wasn’t an album-heavy genre for many years. Countless song-stealing guest appearances recently on Kano, Skepta and Dizzee albums only highlight the momentum D has going into 2021.
The track “Catch of the Day” sees D sharing his favourite fish dishes. No, seriously. He quite literally reverses the simile schemes of emcees to highlight that no, he’s actually talking about food:
When I said I want mussels, it’s not a gym-and-it ting“Catch of the Day” – D Double E
When I said I want an oyster it’s not a travellin’ ting
When I said I want cod, it’s not a gamin’ ting
When I said I’ve got crab, it’s not an itchy ting
Biddy bop bop, I’m the seafood king
What twenty-five oysters, are they all for him?
Top it up with some lemon and that vinegar ting
When I said did you see the lobster, it’s not a football ting
(EXCLUSIVE) I’m in the restaurant cattin’ for fish n’ ting
While your girl’s online doin’ her catfish ting
The production from Diamondz though is quite frankly, off the hook. The darker sounding tracks where D has built his brand are as moody as ever. Giggs provides the assist on “What You Want” while Diamondz provides another jewel on “Deeper Deeper”. A standout track, however, is “Tell Me A Ting” featuring Kano as both emcees tear up the infamous “Dun-Dun-Duuunnn” sound effect.
My one criticism of this track is that the beat is perhaps TOO hard – we need some M.O.P. on the remix! Ghetts is the next best thing though, lending his renowned flow to “Where Do We Come From?” with a reminder that East London is not on any tourist guide of the Big Smoke: “man don’t rate no acid attacks, then again that’s how grandad felt, when I was out here with a shank in my hand, fisticuffs? That’s grandad’s world”.
Even the tracks with a sexual theme (“Bedroom Bully”) are heavy and beset with masculine energy. You’ll be slamming your woman against the headboard if this is on your Valentine’s playlist and fair play to you. That’s where D maintains a level of respect – he’s applying his aesthetic and style to different topics in a way that still works. Sonically, it has to be done that way because some Autotuned crooning simply wouldn’t suit the album and I commend the decision, as “Double Or Nothing” works really well as a complete piece.
D is clearly a big fan of the Super Nintendo, “Street Fighter Riddim” being hugely popular ten years ago. Here he’s spitting over the beautiful Chrono Trigger soundtrack on “24/7” and the fact the theme of the track is time and purpose, it’s no surprise to find that D produced the track himself.
There’s rarely a misfire. I found “Trouble” fairly pedestrian as a song but no doubt knocks with a strong subwoofer, but the album as a whole is the perfect length and is as good as any example of Grime. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of Kano’s best work, but this is D Double E at the peak of his powers. His style is full of menace and pain but there’s plenty of goofy charm and fun references. The interactiveness of songs like “Contact Us” are difficult not to engage with and it’s a shame fans can’t get the maximum impact out of these moments through live performances – which is ultimately where Grime is at its best.