i don’t kick ball, do i look like a baller…
He may prefer German engineering but Meridian Dan is a true Londoner at heart…
There have been a number of factors that have helped grime return to the forefront of people's minds. New talent, hot singles, the right time, the right frame of mind… a perfect storm, if you will. One person who can definitely take some credit for the current renaissance is Daniel 'Meridian Dan' London, whose Heavytrackerz produced single, German Whip, helped open the door to a flood of other 140BPM based bangers. "I'd stopped MCing around 2006 to become a boxer. So I just picked up the music where I'd last left it. It wasn't conscious or purposeful; it's just what I knew," says Dan of returning the scene to the sound, the style, the ethos from which it was born. We talk to the North Londoner about CPR, first kisses and being part of one of grime's most legendary crews….
What were you doing 10 years ago in 2005?
Boxing. I was an amateur boxer for Repton Boxing Club.
What was the first bar that you wrote?
It was a Ragga bar and I was about 12 or 13. To be fair, it was about being as tight on the tune as a tyre is to the rim…! It got quite violent, the second line was "Smacking up man like say I'm Shaolin"… I was quite into the kung fu at the time [laughs].
What are your memories of the Meridian days?
My brother was heavily into DJing and I remember PCs came about, so my mum got me a PC and I downloaded some program called Dance EJ. We used to make beats on that; EJ was sick. Basically that was the first ever Meridian tune and we made it on that program. Everybody used to come to my house, we had our decks, we'd buy vinyl, we'd do little mini sets in my house and stuff. Real good times. They're the foundation when you think back. Meridian, I don't know how we did it. For that estate, for that like crew of people to all have gone on and… everyone can stand alone, it's crazy. I don't know - JME, Skepta, Big H, Bossman, Pres T, myself - it's just crazy. It must be something in the water.
Why do you think grime is so hot right now?
I think people like Danny Brown have known about our scene for a long time, it's just people wanna talk about it now. I think we've reached a point where our tunes are getting played over there [in the U.S.], but they've known about it for a long time, they're just starting to be a bit more vocal about it. It's always nice when an artist respects an artist, no matter who it is; when I get tweets from any level of artist, it's always great.
Where do you think the scene went wrong?
I don't know because I wasn't really making music then. I was still listening to a lot of Bloodline and Meridian; JME, Skepta etc. But I wasn't in a place to make music to be honest and I didn't know what was happening. I saw Skepta was doing really well though.
What do you think the scene needs to do to sustain itself?
The American production is so many levels ahead of us. It's because our scene is not supported from all angles. The press always - bar you Hattie! - always wanna put a lid on it so I feel it's got this stigma attached to it everywhere it goes. With that happening, people can't make money. The talented producers are going elsewhere with their talent, they're not producing the music because they're making house, they're making dance, they're making R&B. I'm just trying to break that stigma. I made I'm From a Place, which is about tapping that stigma. Don't put me in a box because of where I'm from, don't put me in a box because of what music I listen to. I listen to XFM sometimes, I listen to Kiss…!
Who's your favourite MC?
There's a few of them. I think Pres T is sick. President T is like everybody's favourite MC. I like everyone who's close to me, like everyone who came through Meridian. On my upcoming album, I'll give you a bit of juicy, I'm not reaching for features from people because music is about where I'm from, what I do, what I like. I'm not reaching out to people for the sake of it. It's about family.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Fireman. I did apply, but when it came round to the whole process, I'd lost my license for driving without insurance so… yeah. Apparently when you apply to be a fire fighter you have to have a full license.
What were you like at school?
Everybody's friend. I was sat nicely in the middle, between the wannabe rude boys and the nerds.
Who was your first kiss?
A girl called Natalie Williams. I was in Year 5. It was at the bus stop. I walked her to the bus stop and gave her a kiss.
What was your first job?
Washing plates at Tottenham Hotspur.
What was the hardest part of growing up for you?
Realising that it's a process and to not try to make things happen overnight.
What advice would you give to kids growing up?
To enjoy the process!
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
To keep my nose clean.
What's on the bucket list?
Travel the world. I wanna buy a brand new motorbike and ship it to South America and ride it from the top to the bottom with a backpack and loads of money.
What's the bravest thing you've ever done?
I gave someone CPR once, but they didn't make it. Somebody had a heart attack at work. He was complaining of a stomach-ache in the morning, then later on, I heard everyone shouting and the guy had collapsed. We all ran upstairs and he was down on the floor, convulsing. I gave him mouth-to-mouth, but yeah, he passed away unfortunately. That was the first time I met him as well, that morning.
Who do you look up to?
Both my parents, they're just hard working people, you know, they've put in the graft.
No regrets. Actually I wish I took my time. The only things that have gone wrong in my life are when I've rushed or didn't take my time.
Age is… irrelevant.
Dan's debut album, I Am London, will be out next year. Listen to his latest single, In The Street here.
Text Hattie Collins
Photography Olivia Rose
Styling Jack Borkett
Photography assistance Rowan Hall, Menelik Simpson
Fashion assistance Caio Reis