- Tue, 2011-12-06 12:45
South London emcee Dot Rotten first made his mark on the grime scene in 2006 under the name Young Dot. Following a name-change, a brace of mixtapes and a stint with the renowned OGz crew – which he co-founded – he was snapped up by Mercury Records. With his debut album due for release next year and a nod from the BBC Sound of 2012 poll, Dot Rotten is on the verge of becoming the next grime emcee to make the transition to the mainstream.
I Like Music sat down with Dot to chat about becoming an emcee, moving from the underground to the mainstream, his forthcoming album, and battle hip hop.
“I Like Music because…one song can connect someone from one side of the earth to someone on the other side. It brings people together.” Dot Rotten
ILM: Hi Dot, what have you been up to over the last few months?
Dot Rotten: I’ve been in the studio, and I’ve just come off of the Chase and Status tour.
ILM: How was that?
Dot Rotten: Really good, I really enjoyed it. And I’ve just finished the J.Cole tour as well, which wasn’t as good as the Chase and Status tour, but was still good. I’ve also been helping my friend build up a studio and finishing my album. Just keeping it consistent.
ILM: When did you first start getting into music?
Dot Rotten: I started taking it seriously around the age of 14 or 15. But I’ve always been around a studio environment from when I was 6 or 7 years old… I kind of only started taking it seriously when I was in my early teens, but it always was something that I knew I would probably get into based on my surroundings.
ILM: When did you make the decision to start pursuing it as an actual career?
Dot Rotten: I did my first mixtape when I was 16 or 17, and the feedback that I got was really good. A lot of people showed love so I just continued. I never really took it to the point where I thought “I’m gonna make a big income off of this.” It was all for the love of it at the time, but slowly and surely I just continued and started learning new things about A&Rs and labels. From there it just got to the point where I didn’t stop and a lot people started getting interested and I started to see that this industry’s huge compared to what you might have thought it was on an underground level. So, it took a little time, but throughout the whole process the more I did it the more I got serious about it.
ILM: Who have been some of your biggest inspirations musically?
Dot Rotten: There’s a whole variety of people; no-one in particular. Music’s like a phase. Time’s change. I’ve got so much musical influence from jazz to soul to rap to hip hop to grime, and all this other stuff. I’ve been inspired by so many people.
ILM: How have you found the transition from being an underground grime artist to signing with Mercury Records?
Dot Rotten: Going from the underground to being with a label you have to make a certain type of music, and you’ve got to do that in a way that makes you comfortable and that you’re happy with. I haven’t found it difficult. I’m still making what I was making before, but now it’s just with a big machine behind me. Everyone’s different though, so my experience with a label might be different to another artist from the grime scene’s experience. But everything’s going well for me at the moment and I can’t really complain. I don’t pay too much attention to the videos and what people say, I just see the numbers going up and people talking, which is good. I just keep doing what I need to do for the fans.
ILM: How has your sound changed or developed in the last year or so?
Dot Rotten: Over the last year my sound has definitely branched-out and broadened. I learnt some new stuff about myself last year; about how I write and how to put together a song that doesn’t just sound like a freestyle. I did that before, but due to working with some of the bigger name producers I’ve been working with it’s been… for the majority of my career I’ve produced and engineered and done everything myself, so working with other people has made the sound bigger, and not like it’s just recorded in a room in London. It’s been a good experience and the music just sounds better and better. That’s all I really strive for. I want whatever I say to sound better, or to be something that I hadn’t said before. I’m constantly trying to transcend the level that I’m already at.
ILM: Which big name producers have you worked with?
Dot Rotten: The people I’ve been working with have been amazing. I’ve worked with TMS, Naughty Boy, Craze & Hoax, Mojam, Al Shux, who produced Empire State Of Mind for Jay-Z. I’ve worked with quite a few people and it’s been going really well.
ILM: How do you go about writing?
Dot Rotten: I’ll get into the studio and I’ll just meditate with a song for ages, listen and come up with about three concepts and see which one fits the mood I’m in. I try to make sure that my music relates to everyone. When you write grime lyrics you just write whatever you want to say, whereas now when I’m writing songs I’m more focussed on a feeling that will stick with someone for a whole day. I’m more conscious of how other people will feel rather than just how I feel. I want people to hear a song and be attached to it. That might have happened with the songs I wrote before, but that was just based on what I was saying about me, but now some of the songs I’ve got that ain’t out - I can see them getting played in twenty years. I’m trying to make more timeless music. Things that won’t fade away. Like a Bob Marley song or something. They stay relevant regardless.
ILM: What’s in store for 2012?
Dot Rotten: I’ll be dropping my first album, so hopefully I’ll get some good feedback from that.
ILM: Is there a date for it yet?
Dot Rotten: I don’t think there is just yet.
ILM: Is it done?
Dot Rotten: The majority of it is. There’s two or three tracks left maximum. So it’s there. I’ve been sitting on it for ages. I’ve just released a warm-up single called Keep It On A Low. That was just a quick viral to see what it would do, and it’s been going really well. The next single, called Are You Not Entertained, should drop very soon. And away from that it’ll just be building up to the album release late next year, and then I’ll move straight onto the next album.
ILM: What have you been listening to lately?
Dot Rotten: I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop and watching a lot of battle raps. I’ve also been listening to quite a lot of ‘60s music just to hear how things are written, and the way that things were said back in the day. Nowadays people say a song’s about apples and it’s about shoes; back in the day if a song’s about apples then it’s about apples.
ILM: So you’ve been doing some homework!
Dot Rotten: Yeah, basically! A lot of research on how other artists work, and also how people who’ve done music ascend to another craft. I’ve done a lot of research on musicians’ lifestyles.
ILM: So have you got goals and ambitions outside of music?
Dot Rotten: Definitely. You can do music for so long, and it will work if you’re good at it, but once I’ve got to a certain level in music I’d like to use it as a platform to get onto other pedestals. Acting, business, all this other stuff. Obviously if you’re on a label there’s all this funding, so you can make things happen. That’s what I’m trying to work on.
ILM: You mentioned battle raps: which battle rappers do you like in particular?
Dot Rotten: I watch a thing called Grind Time all the time, and there’s a guy called Dirt on that. He’s the guy. I feel like he’s one of the best rappers in the world right now. Away from that, if it’s UK, there’s this thing called King of the Dot and there’s a guy called Lunar C on it who’s a really good battle rapper. I just listen to that because it brings you back to when you used to write hard, underground bars going against everyone.
ILM: Do you think you’ll have a chance to go back to that kind of stuff?
Dot Rotten: There’ll always be a part of me that will return to that, but because there’s a level that I’m trying to get to at the moment I might not be able to produce the raw stuff I did two years ago until I’ve solidified myself in the industry. Once I’ve done that then I’ll be able to do it again. You can’t do it no other way: you can try to supply to both crowds – which isn’t hard – but at the same time you have to focus on the big goal. When everyone listens to you then you can do what you need to do, say what you need to say and show them what you’re really about. You have to play the game to come up.