As is inherent in his moniker, Dapz on the Map has all the ambition in the world – aiming to raise both the musical appreciation of his hometown of Birmingham and make a name for himself in the wider scene.
Despite a number of releases and projects to his name already, the Dapz releases his debut album, Landed, today, which embodies his signature blend of sounds which he labels “grime n’ b”. Upon the release of the album, we speak to Dapz about his emergence in the scene, his perspective on grime and his tune with fellow Brum legends UB40.
For those who don’t know you, how did you got into grime? What’s your story?
I’ve always been into grime. I had a cousin who was eight years older than me and was into jungle and drum and bass, so I followed him. From there, he started listening to garage and a lot of Birmingham pirate radio stations, so I listened to the MCs on there; then I learnt about the London MCs, about the Wylies, the Slimzy s. I remember when grime was created; I’ve been a fan of it since then.
You mentioned some names there, but who were your idols?
From Birmingham there was a guy named Zola. He was the epitome of what I’m trying to do now. He was the melodic king; he could sing and could spit at the same time. And there were guys like Vader, a guy named Brasko, who was a real pioneer. Then fast forward a bit, you had Scorcher, Ghetts, Kano, Craig David, Lauryn Hill. These are my inspirations. These are the guys who sing and rap.
I’m sure you get this a lot but how did your name come about?
My name’s Daniel, so my dad used to call me Dapper Dan back in the day because I always used to look nice and fresh. As I started growing up, I took away the Dan and started calling myself Dappa D. Then my friends and family started calling me Dapz for short.
I took a liking to it, so my name became Dapz. But at the time there was loads of Dapz’s; you had Daps1, Dappy from N-Dubz, people spelling it with two p’s. Some people were spelling it exactly like mine. I couldn’t survive in that crowded name group. I was trying to be on the map, so I said Dapz On The Map and that rhymed.
That makes sense. I read in an interview you said 2017 was a difficult year, but to some extent because it was a comedown from the highs of 2017. Could you talk through that?
2017 was probably my best musical year, barring 2022 – I feel this year is on a level to 2016. In 2016, I was coming off the back of two of the biggest songs I’ve ever done. I’d done ‘Murdah’ at the end of 2015 – I put my daughter on that tune and that tune got me recognised in London.
Then early 2016 I went on Kano’s tour. I came back after and decided I wanted to do my own headline show. So it was a mad year for me. Skepta had done a tour at the end of that year as well, and I was on that. So it couldn’t get better. I think after that, you’re expecting the booking agents, the festival bookings. I’d just supported the kings, Kano and Skepta. But it didn’t come and I think it killed me, killed my confidence, killed my energy.
So what did you take from that?
I was expecting everything, and I realised in this game: don’t expect anything. Keep grafting. Even if things ain’t coming, just graft. When things started to come I felt I was entitled. So I learned there’s checkpoints but there’s no finish line. You can do something in this game that is monumental, but that’s a checkpoint, it’s not the finish line, the race isn’t over, you’ve got to carry on. The whole of 2017 was a down time. I had to find myself again; I’m a God-fearing person and I felt like I lost my faith in him for a while. And I had to regain that.
Let’s fast-forward then, to your new album, Landed. It’s your full-length debut album. You’ve already had a number of releases to date, though. Does this feel like a debut at all?
It does feel like my debut because I’m finally not scared. That 2016 run should have been accompanied by an album. There’s been times when I should have delivered and given an album because the likes of Ghetts, of Stormzy, of Dave, of Fredo – all these guys have got albums. They’re on their second, third, fourth album.
I’ve got as many tunes as these guys, but I don’t have an album. So how can anyone class me as a serious, hard-working artist if you’ve got no album? If you’re a striker, how many goals have you got? It’s all good assisting but where are the goals? Where are the trophies?
Appreciate the football analogy, I know you’re an Arsenal fan… This album has a mixture of sounds, something you’ve labelled ‘Grime n’ B’. What made you want to have that variety?
Because I’ve been doing this for years; [making] melodic songs where I’m actually singing all the way through. For someone who’s a grime fan, it can be a bit alienating – and I feel like I needed to bring everything in and actually put it under an umbrella: ‘Grime n’ B’. That’s who Dapz is: grime and singing about relationship issues. I feel like I wasn’t getting embraced because I didn’t embrace it. Sometimes I was shying away from it.
So I decided to come up with a new genre, and this is my sound. I believe that when I’m gone, probably managing somebody else and I’m no longer in the game, I believe my genre will live on and there’ll be other guys doing this ‘Grime n’ B’ thing. I feel like people will see me putting out three albums, four albums doing this, and think ‘Grime n’ B’ is where it’s at.
You mentioned those who paved the way for you in Birmingham. What’s the relationship with your hometown like?
I love it. I’ve been in Birmingham since I was 19. Then from 19 onwards, I’ve lived in West Brom and then gone back to Birmingham. I’m a product of both. I don’t class Birmingham and West Brom as the same thing; I class West Brom as its own thing. I feel like people get that misconstrued.
I can do a tune called ‘Born & Raised’ and I can do a tune about West Brom as well – because I’m from both, I embrace both. My family, my roots, my Jamaican culture is in West Brom. I’ll embrace that to the day I die, that’s my culture, that’s where I’m from. But Birmingham is where I’ve lived all my life.
So what do you make of the Birmingham scene and how have you seen it develop over time?
I would say I’m second generation of the scene. So the first generation is those names I’ve said before; the likes of Vader, Brasko, Midlandz Mafia, Flatline, Lady Leshurr – that’s first generation of the grime scene in Birmingham. Second generation now is P110, Dapz on the Map, Deadly, Mayhem – Deadly and Mayhem are borderline first generation, though – so SafOne, Tempah, Scorpz, Hecki, Choppa. And now, the new generation, the first generation is like K2, M1llionz, Mist.
I’m from second generation, so I’ve seen the scene from the beginning, and can see it currently now. I’ve seen everything. It’s amazing, I love it. I feel like we should collaborate with each other more. I feel like the last collaboration that Birmingham’s done is probably ‘She Wants A Man From Brum’ – and that was in 2015, which is terrible. I feel like there needs to be more collaboration within the city. That’s what would take Birmingham to the next level now.
And beyond Brum, how do you assess where the grime scene’s at now? As someone who’s been very much part of its ascendancy, what do you make of its rise?
I wouldn’t say it’s on the rise, I will say it’s established though. I feel like it’s established to the point where it’s made another genre, drill. That’s how established grime is. ‘Clash’, Stormzy and Dave. What is that? Is that a grime tune? Or is that a drill tune? I believe some of the biggest songs from our country has been a grime song.
Speaking of other Brum legends, you did a tune with UB40. What was it like working with them?
It was good, I was drinking tea with the legends; I’m dancing with the legends. These guys are like 55. Some of them are nearly 60, and they’re still touring, still out here. I’m 34 and was thinking maybe I’m getting old but no bro, I’m still a baby. I can still be out here when I’m 45, singing my heart out.
I believe that now – because I’m seeing them do it. Okay, I might not be spitting on 140 [bpm] anymore, but I might be spitting on 130, 125. At that age, I can still carry on because I’m watching these guys set an example for me, it’s just a different genre.
That’s another checkpoint. And your track ‘Beautiful’ has done really well on TikTok, with more than one-and-a-half million streams on the platform. What’s that track about?
Pheleba [who features on the track] is my partner as well. She’s the only feature on the project.
It really is ‘beautiful’ then…
Yeah, it’s just about having confidence. I used to want to be a player, used to want to have my cake and eat it – have loads of girls on the side and just be that guy. Live a bachelor life and have a relationship at the same time. And it couldn’t work. It was crashing. I was breaking hearts and my relationships were jeopardised because I wanted to have two lives at the same time.
I think ‘Beautiful’ was the end of that. It’s let me just show people that: number one, this is my woman and number two, I’m showing us having a child basically, you can’t get more personal than that. If you look at the video, it’s mad. I feel like by doing that, it showed a sense of maturity, and said, ‘Hang on a minute, this guy’s proper’. It’s the biggest tune I’ve ever done, I would say.