Dialect interview: How the Leeds battle rap veteran got to the top of his game
Dialect was one of the first Northern MCs to break into the grime scene. The Leeds rapper talks busking, clashing and going viral with Abbey Maclure.
Leeds MC Dialect is a battle rap veteran, known for his quick-wit, punchy bars and legendary clashes with the industry's finest.
He's been in the game since grime was in its infancy, one of the first Northern MCs to capitalise on a scene that was once limited to London.
But you'll often spot the Little London-born rapper, real name Marcus Freckleton, busking in Briggate.
He doesn't need the hype around his name; he's had that in bucket loads for more than a decade. So why does he do it?
"My dad got me into it and it’s a release for me," Dialect told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"I get to try out new music, meet new people and fans react way better when they can physically see me and talk to me. It’s something that I’ll always have in me."
Dialect's dad Cleve, aka Reverend Chunky, is a street-soul musician who has toured across the world.
But Dialect wasn't always going to follow in his father's footsteps - as a shy youngster with a speech impediment, he didn't pick up the mic until he was in Year 7.
The 32-year-old said: “My dad played a lot of music, I was always around it, but I started out wanting to do art and design. I used to have a bad stutter, so I never thought I’d go into music.
“When I got into high school, one of my good friends was always rapping and he was the influence that got me into it. Everyone was trying to do the MCing thing, it was when grime had just started.
“From there, my dad encouraged it when he saw how much I was getting into it.”
This was the early 2000s, when grime fever was sweeping school playgrounds and kids challenged each other in lyrical battles - as hits from the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Wiley broke into the charts.
“I was a bit of an angry kid, so my lyrics were the typical stuff,” Dialect laughed.
“A lot of grime back then was controversial at times, but it was mainly talking about the streets you’re living in, what’s happening around you. That’s the narrative that came into my lyrics.”
Dialect's raw energy and sharp lyrics quickly got him noticed in Leeds, but getting artists in the Capital to take him seriously took some grafting.
It was in the clash scene, grime's answer to battle rap, where Dialect eventually broke through - tearing down MCs with his lyrics.
He added: “When I first started, no Northern MCs were getting a look in and for a long time, it worked against me.
"But as I joined the battle rap scene, going down to London in my 20s, being from Leeds helped me get the hype on my name that I needed.
“I was one of the first Northern MCs to get any recognition down south. But it took a lot of hard work to get there.”
Dialect is known for his memorable appearances on online platforms Don't Flop, Lord Of The Mics and SBTV - as well as a legendary Red Bull clash, where he captained a team of Leeds rappers who took on AJ Tracey's London side.
There are no holds barred when it comes to clashing, something that requires a thick skin and smart comebacks.
“It takes professionalism, preparation and a very sharp mind," Dialect said.
"You have to have the passion for it. But most of all, you need to enjoy it. I definitely enjoy the clash culture, it stems from the grime clashes we used to do back in the day as kids, so it’s natural to me."
The Leeds artist isn't limited to clashing, though, and he's spent lockdown refining his skillset as a musician.
He's just bagged a Rinse FM radio show with his childhood best friend, DJ Josh Demello, and has released two new singles this summer - the energetic Ey Up! with Sheffield MC K Dot, followed by afrobeats track Want It Bad featuring his partner Amelia.
There are more singles to come this year, backed by funding from the MOBO Awards.
“They’re helping me to break that glass ceiling," Dialect added.
“I’m excited to see what opportunities are coming and the doors that will open."
Music for the masses
An unexpected promotional boost came Dialect's way in June, when dancing pensioner Sylvia Nolan was filmed grooving to his new single Ey Up! as he busked in Briggate.
The clip instantly went viral and brought a smile to the rapper, who admits he was having a bad day.
“I wasn’t in a great mood, I didn’t want to go out - it was one of those days," Dialect said.
"As soon as I played Ey Up! she started dancing. The crowd of people that came over was mad, everyone was going nuts. An hour later, I got the video on my Instagram as a plug - and it ended up going viral. It was crazy.
"If I didn’t go out on that exact day, at that exact time, it wouldn’t have happened."
Becoming a "beacon for the North"
Dialect's track Different was picked to soundtrack Leeds United's kit launch for the 2020/21 season.
It was a proud moment for the Leeds lad, who is determined to use his platform to help the city's young rappers break through.
He's planning to host his own rap battle event, Talk Is Cheap, in the city later this year, and has vowed to stay up North to get more eyes and ears on the city.
“Leeds is next," Dialect said.
"I’ve seen it come from down south, to Birmingham, to Manchester. It’s moving upwards and right now, Leeds is in a better position - we have more artists taking it seriously, more resources.
“The city is bubbling and there’s a lot of stuff going on, it’s really exciting - especially after Graft winning Rap Game UK
"I’m working on being a beacon for the North. I want to help others have the same platform as they would get down south, helping to bridge those gaps for people.
“If it's your dream to do something, believe in yourself, work hard and perfect your style.
“And approach local people. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask - because us Northern artists are more helpful anyway."
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