5 for Friday: D Double E, JD Cliffe, Joel Culpepper and More

This week’s 5 sees two legends continue their local collaborative run with ‘DON’. Both D Double and Skepta have had a creative renaissance in the last 12 months, ‘DON’ is proof that they don’t plan on stopping either. Which is all the better for our scene. North London rapper JD Cliffe steps in with ‘YDI (Young, Dumb and Ignant)’ a zoner of a track, highlighting the chaos 2020 has had on the mental states of creatives, while despite the difficulties, still wanting to take risks and live life, preparing for the incumbent better days.

Funk/soul crooner Joel Culpepper releases a double track in ‘Return/W.A.R’ – a bit of a throwback structurally, but right in keeping with his influences. The infectious energy of ‘W.A.R’ and the cool, heist-ready ‘Return’ fuse interestingly in Culpepper’s electric short film for the video. Young T and Bugsey have had a banging year. They continue that streak with ‘New Shape’ – a bouncy, drill-infused joint, celebrating their wins with some heavy flexes. Ragz Originale drops the self-produced ‘OG lullaby’ which feels like it could be the B-side to his last drop ‘ring out’ – the wintry, airy production is still present – a perfect jam for the season.

D Double E and Skepta – DON

The two icons reconnect for the titular track from D Double’s latest album D.O.N (Double or Nothing). The album suggests high stakes. Both track and video deliver. A classic heist story, D Double and Skepta are posted in a mansion when two pretty women carrying duffel bags of cash step in to celebrate their win. Things switch up quick. Skepta is on smoke, barking out bars “I’m international / bigger than the capital’’ as he blazes down a country lane off the motorway fast as possible with the feds in hot pursuit. It wouldn’t be a Skepta or D Double track if it didn’t feel distinctly British – this is more like The Getaway than Vice City. D Double bides his time, respecting Skepta enough to let him run his verse without jumping. He asks himself, repeatedly, like Tony Montana would, “Bigger than me?! (x3)” before delivering the trademark punchline: “Bigger than Moiii Moiii?!’’ all said while lounging on a motocross bike, aware that he and his legacy are in a different gear to the rest. It’s a snarling celebration of a career that has spanned the genesis and evolution of a sound, without losing any of its stature. Salute.

JD Cliffe – YDI (Young, Dumb and Ignant)

The warbled, piano loop that opens the track, and provides its foundation throughout sounds as if JD Cliffe hit the keys from 5000 leagues under the sea. This is the fundamental sentiment of the song – trying to stay productive while drowning in an uncertain situation. Lockdown (1 and 2) have been hard for everybody, and JD wrote and produced this track from a mental space that many other young creatives and people, in general, might have been in during these weird times. When the snares drop, JD starts spitting: “ain’t no guidelines how to live / just live it / lately my mind ain’t been the clearest / I been running through the weed and these spirits…”. With so much idle time, the question is: what to do? Of course, you could use it to level up, as most have. Including JD. ‘YDI’ signals a new and more mature creative direction in his music and subject matter. But, a pandemic is about survival, first and foremost – productivity is just a welcome bonus. JD is admitting that he might’ve embraced his vices more than usual through this strange space in time. But it’s what he had to do to make it through this. Like we all have.

Joel Culpepper – Return/W.A.R.

Joel Culpepper’s ‘W.A.R’ was covered in an earlier 5 for Friday, so the focus is on the second track ‘Return’. Opening with a ponderous, very 70’s bassline, scratchy commentary overlaid on top. This matches the energy in the visuals, shots of London’s skyline behind iridescent clouds, before a giant alien ship enters the frame, levitating ominously above the city we know as home. Culpepper is creating a dystopian environment of paranoia “I been here since the morning / hear them voices are calling…”. Then suddenly the tempo shifts. It becomes something hopeful, the images change, from cold city skyscrapers to the warm hues of community. Culpepper stands on an elevated platform on the block, speaking of forgiveness “but mamma said let it go (x3) karma comes around” as three young girls run around, blissfully unaware of anything other than the fun they’re having. Similar to W.A.R, Culpepper has created a song that has duality at its heart. There’s anger in Culpepper’s lyrics and delivery, but there is also a willingness to forgive and reconcile. It sounds like he’s embraced both Malcolm X and MLK’s teachings in his writing. His debut album “Sgt Culpepper” is coming soon. Stay tuned. 

Ragz Originale – OG lullaby

One of the Mini Kingz, Ragz Originale comes through with another lowkey heater. Stepping about in a very clean, tranquil space, similar to the house in Ex Machina but luckily there’s no dangerous AI’s lurking about. He almost gets straight into the chorus, taking no time to warm up – he’s been doing this all year. Ragz sings out “the closer I get to goal, all my problems multiply…”. He’s repackaged the old adage: mo’ money, mo problems. Having founded Mini Kingz alongside BenjiFlow and Oscar #Worldpeace, as well as his burgeoning production credits and Ivor Novello nomination in the last few years, Ragz is ruminating over the pitfalls of the success he’s built for himself. It seems like every artist has this moment: grateful and happy for the rewards of their work, but sometimes the cost of the rewards can be difficult to understand. The song is catchy, fresh-sounding and atmospheric. Ragz has all the tools needed to become an OG.

Young T and Bugsey – New Shape

The Nottingham duo have had a breakout year. With the hit song ‘Don’t Rush’ spawning a challenge that took them global and brokered a collaboration with DaBaby, Young T and Bugsey are part of a new wave of talent hailing from the Midlands. Hot off their collab with Headie One, ‘New Shape’ signals a sonic evolution. The jumpy, drill-infused beat has both of them flowing on it effortlessly. The visuals mark a shift as well – they feature as car salesman, with the directors and editors having fun with it – starting off with 80’s style theme tunes and stylings, they aren’t afraid to have a laugh with their music. Before cutting into an ultramodern showroom with Bentley’s and Lambo’s littered all over the place while Young T and Bugsey drop a couple flexes. They’ve earnt it.