DeBe, a moniker that originates from his teenage days as a graffiti artist, was born in Northampton – Kingsthorpe specifically. The unorthodox rapper often plays fast and loose with his sound, incorporating elements of grime, R&B, dubstep and garage. Debut EP ‘The Life Of Reilly’ has just landed, and New Boots went in search of answers.
How/when did you start making music?
I started spitting bars in school and discovered GarageBand in 2008. I just had a lot of ideas in my head for songs that I’d thought I’d try and lay down.
How would you describe your sound? Who are your main influences?
I’d describe my sound as out the box, unorthodox, left, slightly skits? I had a lot of musical influences from young. I knew the Nas album from back to front, I remember listing to his music on my Walkman CD player. In at the Deep End by Roll Deep had a big influence as well. When I was young I remember my Aunty catching joke at me singing Alicia Keys when I was in the shower, so I guess her too.
My Mum listened to baseline and garage a lot – I wasn’t fixated on DJ EJ, but to this day his tag is still stuck in my head. There’s always been different types of music around me and I appreciate it all, there’s a lot of music that I wouldn’t put in a playlist or vibe to, but when I hear it I know it’s sick. When it came to making music myself I always take pride in making sure I kept things original. Being so critical I guess that’s how I’ve been able to develop my own style.
Do you collaborate with others on the beats, or fly solo?
Early on majority of my music was done by myself, but as I got older my friendship group kind of all chipped in. I’ve been making music for years but I never really put stuff out, as soon as I did I started collaborating a lot more.
Tell us about this EP, ‘The Life of Reilly’.
To start off T.L.O.R is a start of a trilogy – so you heard it here first. There’s a lot of songs on the project that was made a while ago; I’ve got over 100 tucked away. Each track on the EP represents an emotion that I’ve had to deal with whilst grafting to put together the EP. There was a time when I was going back and forth to London everyday, being in the studio till late and having to go back to the ends for work. I was running on like four hours sleep daily. Once I found a team to work with it was our priority to build a catalogue of songs which came over a period of like a year or so. I had a lot of other stuff going on outside of music that effected me in different ways on different days, so going into the booth was like therapy for me.
The EP cover took a good couple of months to think of. I said to my manager that I liked how Giggs done his visuals for his ‘187’ track, which is also produced by Machine Baby, and I wanted to pay homage to NN. We sat down and came up with a concept that ending up taking inspiration from the original King Kong artwork. I’m using the Express Lift Tower as my Empire State Building.
My cousin Meks actually came up with the title for my EP. Reilly is my last name and “The Life of Riley” is a popular saying for someone who has it easy, which is kind of ironic.
Earbuds & Nick French worked on ‘Enough’. Earbuds also did ‘Comatose’ and ‘Front Row’. Sammy Byrne made ‘Nuffin Long’, I made ‘Vamp’ and Baga finished the EP off with ‘Uprising’ – he also chipped in on the mixing and mastering.
The videos are well thought-out and have a punchy vibe that fits the music just right. Do you storyboard these things in depth?
It’s a collaborative effort: everyone will give their ideas and whatever sounds good gets shot, whatever looks good gets edited. It’s the same with the music; I’m just lucky to have a friendship group who have a lot different skills.
It feels like a great time for Northampton rap.
It’s just great to see the whole NN scene thriving, and the hometown getting behind homegrown music.
Any live shows yet?
Favourite DeBe moment of 2019?
There’s been a few. I’d say not long after I put out ‘Keep Da Pound’, which was produced by Machine Baby, someone hit me up saying that I had inspired them and to be honest this is what makes me want to do what I do. If you take time to listen to my music it’s mainly me venting, and kind of reiterating my mantras in art form for your ears.
What was the last album you bought/streamed?
The last project I listened to was Schoolboy Q – Crash Talk.
What is your burning desire to do in the future? What plans do you have?
The plan for the foreseeable future is to be able tour internationally. I’d like to eventually be in a position give people opportunities back in NN too [ones who deserve it anyway].
The Life Of Reilly is out now via the usual platforms