With heavy involvement in the scene since the early nineties and as a fundamental contributor to classical hip hop collective Broke N' English, DRS has established himself as one of the most respected and well-known MCs and lyricists in the business. A favoured MC by many drum & bass DJs and a common site and sound in the clubs, DRS has finally channelled the positive feedback he's received into producing his first full length album, with the most common compliment sent his way inspiring the title, 'I Don't Usually Like MCs But'.
Featuring collaborations with a whose who in global production talent, the album also showcases the sounds of his native Manchester with beats from Calibre, Marcus Intalex and Dub Phizix to name but a few, reflecting the extraordinary scene that has now established itself in the city
For a preview of the album make sure you check out the album launch party on August 25 in London at a secret warehouse locationfor where DRS will perform live alongside Riya and Strategy with DJ sets from Marcus Intalex, S.P.Y, Fabio, Calibre, dBridge, Klute and Doc Scott.
To find out more about this extremely fruitful creative group we talked to DRS himself, who also shed some light on his lyric writing process, the album in general and life out on the road with Toddla T.
How long have you been working on this project and how long previous to that did you begin constructing it in your mind?
The album took two and a bit years to make. I didn't really have any ideas or vibe when I started, just a hand full of CDs and USB pens filled with weird and wonderful beats from producers I have the pleasure to call friends. I think from the first couple of recordings me and George (Dub Phizix) knew this was going to be something special, so letting it grow organically became the order of the day. There was never a rush to get it finished really, we just wanted to complete it and that we did.
What's the process of approaching producers for a beat? Were they written specifically for you or did you handpick them yourself?
Well nearly all these producers are friends on a personal level, so it was never really a problem getting beats from them, which is a blessing. Some of the beats were written specifically, but a lot were just beats these bunch of geniuses had lying around their studios haha. I'm a vibes man, so when I listen to the beat I'm looking for a bit of melody or a rhythm to grab on to. Once I hear that in a beat I'm in it.
In that respect how are the lyrics written? Do you have pre written bars that you adapt to the beat or do you wait for the beat itself to inspire your writing?
Every track on the album was written for that beat, I want my words to be a part of the music, not to stand out or draw the listeners attention away, just to be heard as part of the over all sound. So yeah, I let the beat inspire the mood or vibe of the words I write but sometimes if you're feeling a certain emotion before you start writing like anger, it will find its way into your creation!
Are there any specific sounds or beats that tend to lead your creative imagination in a specific thematic direction?
I think yes and no. Yes, like when I get a beat off Enei for instance it usually makes me screw my face up and my hand writes moody words haha. But then no, like when I get a beat off Calibre or Dub Phizix, it may be a hard sounding thing, or soulful or whatever, but there's always the light and the dark in the music so my writing could go either way.
Obviously a lot of inspiration comes from a personal experience, take It Ain't Easy as an example. Is it therapeutic to air these things through your music or do you think it's an important factor in making your music relevant to your listeners?
I think it helps for me to air my personal experiences; my music is always stone cold honesty. When I wrote It Ain't Easy I was going through some shit, and when Marcus sent me the beat it actually brought a tear to my eye! Haha, so yeah, I think the listener will understand the honesty and sympathise with the constant rollercoaster experience known as life.
There is a big Manchester family feeling to the album, such as the mass collaboration on Bun Ya. Do you think this family dynamic is partly responsible for the great music coming out of the city at the moment?
I would say so, it is a family! For years all of us lot have been doing our thing in different corners of the city, always meaning to hook up and do something but it never happened. But in the last two years or so we've brought it all together,
and it's going off!!! Everyone knows their strengths and their part in the machine so they stick to that. We were just sick of everything being straightforward really, we're just here to bend the rules a little haha.
Would it be fair to say you guys do everything together, from partying through to making music?
Yeah we're a firm, we party together, A LOT!! Hahaha, but when we leave the club we go to the studio and record tracks and ideas, make beats. Sometimes we just record the room for hours while everyone's mash-up talking shit, if someone comes up with an idea and we can't remember it. So don't be wary of the partying, that's us lot at work. I can only speak for our thing, and all I see is a bunch of talented people, who all do different things, pulling and pushing in the same direction at the very same time, "strength in numbers."
Who from that crowd do you see doing big things in the future and who do you think is king of the castle?
All those lot, Strategy, Skittles, Dub Phizix, Fox, Chimpo, Roller, Konny Kon, Tman and so on. They can all take this thing as far and wide as they want to take it. The doors open now and making good music comes easy to all of them so the future is looking brighter.
Obviously you're known as a drum & bass MC but Kmag last saw you rolling with Toddla T. What do you get out of that experience that's different?
Yeah man, I love to work on different tempos and with different DJs and producers and me and T just clicked, we have so much joke on the road and that side of things is really taking off too, so it's mental at the minute.
What's next for DRS, more giggling, albums or any chance of more output from Broke n' £nglish?
Just touring the album, some new Broke n' £nglish material is on the way, loads of releases on Estate Recordings, Scuttlers album, Bun Ya was the début, loads of stuff with Toddla T and with Toddla T's kind of sound, clothing labels, tattoo shops hahaha, that's enough for now! Oof. Just wanna say thanks to everyone who supports us! It's appreciated. Blessings.
Words: Sam Oliveira
Photography: Gary Brown