Dave-O is the latest MC, songwriter and producer to emerge from Leeds’s flourishing grime scene. His new single Dem Tingz recently featured on Charlie Sloth’s show on BBC 1Xtra.
“What inspired it was the whole meme culture where people pick up things on the internet and it goes crazy, it goes viral,” he says. “There was a video of a guy from Birmingham and he was saying, ‘You don’t do dem tingz, you don’t do dem tingz and we picked it up as a saying between me and my friends. From there I got inspired to make a song out of it.
“The whole point of the song is when someone does something that you don’t particularly like or you don’t feel is the right thing to do, I just tell them ‘you don’t do dem tingz’. It’s like a little saying that we came up with but it’s catching on. From that internet meme it’s a local thing that everyone says.”
Having begun making music since his early teens, Dave-O became increasingly focused on his work while studying music production at university. “I’ve been taking it seriously from there,” he says. “Before this point I’ve had a few things to test the waters. My name was Tenacious David at one point, that was a little phase where we just put out some mixtape things. I had an official release out in 2012 with my friend Thai-Guy, he was my producer, he produced the song Dem Tingz. We had a collective called QtrToLate and we released it in 2012, it did really well, it got on quite a lot of blogs, we made quite a lot of money from doing gigs and selling the material.”
Dem Tingz is available digitally now, with a video on the internet music channel Vevo. Tomorrow Dave-O will perform at the Applebum event at Canal Mills.
“I performed at the event they did in Manchester, at Antwerp Mansion, last month. That was really good, the promoters liked what they heard so they’ve booked me again,” he says.
It’s an exciting time. It is getting a little bit easier for artists in Leeds to get heard but at the same time we’re still fighting a battle to get through the London crowd.Dave-O
Dave-O describes Leeds’s grime and underground hip-hop scene as “vibrant” at the moment. “The only thing I would say is not really on our side is that all the major platforms where the underground scene in the UK is thriving are in London, so it’s easier for underground artists to break away from that scene. But I think the Leeds scene is quite vibrant, there’s a lot of really good artists out there. One guy in particular who I really like is Denmarc Creary. Dialect has been flying the flag for Leeds for quite a while as well – that’s one of my closest friends, we’re going to put a release out soon for his stuff, I’ve produced some songs for him on his new release.
“It’s an exciting time. It is getting a little bit easier for artists in Leeds to get heard but at the same time we’re still fighting a battle to get through the London crowd. I feel like there’s not a stigma but just an unwillingness to support someone who’s not from London because no one [there] really hears about the underground music that we make here. The more we keep plugging away, pushing through, the easier it’ll get for everyone.”
Last autumn Dave-O turned model at a Music Meets Fashion show organised by Paramount Music in Leeds. “I was on the catwalk for the first time which is quite different from what I usually do but that was good,” he says. “I performed at the event they did at the HiFi Club the year before. Henna Angus is doing amazing things.”
His plan for the rest of this year is: “Loads more music, lots more performances. I have a few acting gigs that I’ve done as well that are going to be coming out soon – one is for the Leeds Capital of Culture bid for 2023. I also did a short film for a company called Left Eye Blind and Studio 12 from Leeds, that’s nearing completion. I have a few other short story ideas that I’m looking to get out there myself. I’m looked to get on radio more. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me.”
Dave-O performs at Applebum at Canal Mills, Leeds on Friday March 24. www.facebook.com/daveomusic