The dope rapper from the Menagerie and Imagineers crews talks to us about all sorts including his views on the scene, his creative process and forthcoming releases. Check it out.
Please introduce yourself and tell us where you're from.
I'm Dr Syntax from the Imagineers crew. I'm from Sibford Ferris, Oxfordshire.
How long have you been rhyming at a serious level and who were your biggest hiphop role models when you started out?
I don't know what you mean by at a serious level. It doesn't pay the bills or anything, but I've been rhyming since I was about 12, developing my skills ever since. The first tracks I was on that came out were 'Glacial' and 'What Goes Up' on the Foreign Beggars' first LP, 'Asylum Speakers'. As far as role models go, I remember watching Public Enemy videos when I was 9 and thinking Chuck D was the shit.
For those that haven't come across you, how'd you describe your style of rapping to them, and perhaps the kind of content you drop?
Dope flows, tight rhymes, hype live shows. Standards have got to be high nowadays. As far as content, that could be anything I'm inspired to write about. Tracks I've guested on that have come out have been some straight up rhyming so far, but I've got my LP 'Self-Taught' dropping this summer, and most tracks are concept based on there. Observational rap with a healthy cynicism.
Is there one or two releases which you're most proud of, or which you think show your talents in their dopest light?
I see everything I've guested on so far as an advert for things to come – just having fun rhyming, flexing my skills and whetting appetites for my solo stuff. To me, 'Glacial' on the Beggars' LP still stands out and I'm still proud of it. I still drop that live. Also, 'Let's Have Some' with Wordsmith still holds up to what's coming out now. Sadly, that was released on a wack label who didn't know how to sell it properly, so not a lot of people have heard that. I've got it on my Myspace page, and I'll stick it on a mixtape as well soon.
How did you hook up with your various crews, and are you an official member of Foreign Beggars now?
I'm not a member of Foreign Beggars, but I'm part of the extended Dented family. You've got me, Dubbledge, Skrein, Graziella, Focused Few and Stig. My LP is coming out on Dented.
Menagerie were formed a few years ago. I met Elemental first, then Tom Caruana and Nick Maxwell. That was the original line up you hear on 'Wild Kingdom' (the first CD). Now Koaste and Ido have joined and we're working on the follow up. Similarly with Imagineers, we just met up through a love of hiphop. I met Hines first down in Brighton, who was already tight with Clev Clevely and Enlish, the other emcees. DJ Manipulate is the most recent addition. He's one of the sickest scratch deejays on the planet.
When can people expect your album with Skrein to drop and what gossip about that can you share with us.
The most important thing at the moment is my 12", 'Sub-Cultures', dropping this Spring, and the LP, 'Self-Taught', dropping in the summer, so the Skreintax EP will follow those. We're still adding the finishing touches to that, making it sound tight. As far as gossip goes, I'm afraid I've finally weened myself off Heat magazine, so you'll have to look elsewhere for that.
What other projects have you got lined up, as a solo artist and with the Imagineers and Menagerie?
Aside from my 12 and LP, I'm going to drop a mixtape, as is the fashion these days – a few loose ends, live shit, radio appearances, old bits that have faded into obscurity. You know the drill! We're working on a Menagerie LP at the moment, produced by Ido. Look out for the next Inja 12", the 'Scarred' EP, which has a Dag Nabit produced track with myself and Orifice Vulgatron, and look out for future mixtapes from Enlish aka Big Dave. That kid is so hot right now.
You've worked with quite a few very dope artists and producers in the UK now. Is there anyone still on your wish list?
I've been fortunate to work with some of the dopest in the UK so far. I'm more interested in working with the people I know and click with than contacting people randomly. Really, I want to work with people most haven't heard of yet, who are too dope to go unnoticed. A few to look out for are Mole and Iris, Greenkeepers, Stig of the Dump, Mr J, Joncept, to name just a few. Those are all people with high standards that you have to work hard to sound good next to.
How do you like to create a track. Do you sit and pen verses in a rhyme book or wait to hear a beat that grabs your attention?
Both. Normally, I get a beat I like, stick it on and write, but sometimes I'll just write to something I have in my head. There's no set way to go about things, but generally I like to write to the beat.
If you were put on the spot right now and had to put together a track about a specific topic, what'd that be?
Right now? I reckon it would be about beating a teenage geek to death after listening to him ranting about winning some internet shoot-em-up for 40 minutes. Why? Because I'm currently in an internet drop in surrounded by super nerds, who seem unjustifiably cocky on their home turf.
What do you make of UK hiphop's current quality and what have been your most favourite artists and releases in recent years?
Ok. A bit of a flooded market, with too little quality control. Wordsmith is always dope, Dirty Diggers get props, definitely.
The scene's quality seems to continually improve. Do you think it'll be long before domestic hiphop breaks into the mass market?
It already has. I walked past a 6 foot Sway poster in the underground yesterday.
What level of success are you aiming at reaching to feel like you've achieved what you've set out for?
I'm not looking for success, just recognition from those that matter. Hiphop doesn't owe me anything, but I'll keep doing what I do while I feel it's relevant.
Have you got any tour dates we can look ahead to, and what goes down at a typical Syntax performance?
There's a show in Brighton on 21 April with Foreign Beggars and myself. It's Beer and Rap's first birthday, so people need to attend that one. Beer and Rap is run by my DJ, Newborn. He's putting on the Lo Down and Dirty tour in the UK with Thirstin' Howl and Rack Lo. You can catch that at Cargo on Thursday 18 May with myself in support (that's the 'Self-Taught' launch), as well as other dates TBC.
You must have seen quite a few places and scenes touring with the Beggars and company. What's been the best crowd you've faced?
There's been too many man. Cardiff, Cambridge, Leeds is always good.
How are your freestyling skills and what other areas of hiphop culture have you practiced in the past?
I can freestyle well. I don't do anything else, I'm afraid. Just rhyme.
What music and general interests occupy your time when you power off hiphop mode?
I'm particularly fond of working in a stuffy office most of my waking life.
How should people keep up to date with what you're up to and what shout out's do you wanna throw out there?
Check out www.myspace.com/drsyntax for new tracks, show dates etc. Shout out to Massive Warriors and the Dented fam, and Rap News. Keep doing your thing!