straight outta south london: the square's deejillz sounds off on the state of grime
Deejillz opens up about that Novelist diss track and the rise and rise of grime, as we premiere his new track.
Sorry East London, but south of the river is the new epicentre of London's grime scene, delivering next level talent like Stormzy and Section Boyz for a while now. Now 20-year-old South Londoner Deejillz is stepping out as a formidable voice in his own right, keeping it real with his spitfire delivery and a work ethic that shows nothing but pure dedication to the craft.
When The Square's most high profile member, Novelist, departed from the collective in 2015 it was Deejillz who was quick to shoot back with cold to the bone diss track Water It Down. Not shy to speak his mind, the track was a controversial confrontation that might have seemed ill-advised considering the love for Novelist but showed Deejillz embodying grime's raw spirit. Take an exclusive listen to his freshest offering Rolling Around as we discuss diss tracks, mentors and the return of The Square...
Firstly, what's this Rolling Around track about?
Basically this song is like, boom, I'm back! It's grime but it's not pumping grime. If you like it, you like it, if you don't, you don't... it's a reintroduction to me.
What's the situation with The Square post-Novelist? Are you carrying on as normal without him now he's left the squad?
We're still working. We've been in the studio for five months solid recording songs and now we're about to release a single. We're still good, we still got singles, we still got shows. Even when he left, we were still The Square. From an outside perspective it doesn't look like that, but we know each other and how it is. Him leaving didn't make a difference at all to the friendship and everything else. We still kept it moving, we got so many sick songs to show. We're still going strong, everyone else is still here.
Do you have any regrets about Water It Down, the Novelist diss track you put out?
Nah I don't regret it. When I dropped the track it locked me in certain way with certain people, but at the same time obviously we know each other personally. He knows what's good, he knows what's happened, I know what's happened. Me doing that was more for me to get it off my chest. It makes me look like the bad guy but if I'm the bad guy, why are the same people in The Square still friends with both Novelist and me? From the outside it looks like I'm just a hater, but it's all cool.
That's grime though right?
It's not thinking too deep.
But it's feeling deep!
You make war for whatever reasons and my reason was that I had an issue that was on my head for a while before he even left The Square... and I said it out loud. That's all it was ever gonna be.
How do you feel about the state of grime right now? Do you think it's being fetishised?
Grime is the 'in' thing at the moment. Any artist could jump into grime and make something of themselves. Now we have our platform. Anything that's popular you're going to get people jumping on it. It's positive man. Skepta's putting it on for the UK, doing his thing, everyone's doing their thing. Skepta could tweet tomorrow and say 'I'm having a party in fucking west London' and you're going to see a million people go there. Grime is powerful.
Can you learn to spit bars or are you just born with it?
You can be born with it or you can learn. When I was thirteen I always used to spit bars but back then I wasn't good... but obviously now I'm sick innit!
Would you say grime has its own language?
It's a strictly London thing, no-one, no other country can take that from us. Americans say grime is basically just hip hop but they're not having the full understanding of what it is.
Ego seems to play a big part in grime…
Everyone's hungry, everyone's trying to grab the mic. Grime's a soundsystem genre; one mic, one DJ and however many emcees, so everyone trying to get on one mic trying to be heard. That's one of the best things about our genre, it's competitive but it's not like how it was years ago. It's still touching the roots, it's still a soundsystem kind of culture.
So in that respect it has more in common with dancehall than hip-hop?
If you get a reggae artist or a dancehall artist and bring them to a grime set they're gonna know what to do. They just know, it's not alien to them.
Who has been a mentor to you?
When I first started spitting seriously in 2010, I had mentors in the ends, one of them being Tempo. Now it's the people around me who influence me... Maxsta sometimes hollas me and tells me wagwan.
What's changed with how you make music now compared to when you started out?
When I was a kid it was like, make a song in two seconds and then put it on YouTube. Share it on Facebook. Done. As you get older that's not relevant. Now when we do a song we got to think, is it radio friendly? And if not, you got to go back to the studio and fix that word up and get it mastered. It's so much more business now. It's got to be done. I like it like that.
Text Russell Dean Stone
Photography James Perolls