Stig Of The Dump – ThinkZebra Interview
Since he first blasted open the UKHH scene in the late 2000’s Stig Of The Dump has constantly been one of the most innovative, honest and above all talented MCs we’ve got. From his humble beginnings Stig has risen to a prominent position both in terms of respect from his peers and a devoted fanbase. Always coming correct lyrically and well known for his no nonsense approach to both subject matter and himself, his latest EP “Cannon Fodder” has been another layer of the onion that is Stigs mind, showing a deeply personal side to the big man from Newcastle. I was lucky enough to be able to get on Stigs case for an interview, during which we talked about the highs and lows of his career, his latest release and his eagerly anticipated forthcoming project with Jehst.
Sofa King – I think the first time I heard you on record was when a mate of mine played me “Homeless Microphonist” waaay back in the day and I was hooked from that point because you seemed so different to anyone else about at the time. How much do you think you’ve changed as a person since those early days of sleeping on floors and struggling?
Stig – Wow, in at the fucking deep end eh? Ha. In all honesty I don’t know how accurately I can answer you, you would have to ask someone else who has known me for the entire duration & for better or for worse, there are only hand full of those. I personally don’t think i have changed much, certainly in terms of core values & beliefs.. I think maybe I just refined my opinions & learned to better vocalize them as well as better channel & focus my aggression/anger/frustrations. I think I’ve learned to master a lot of my addictions/insecurities & weaknesses. Both artistically & as an individual, however it’s an ongoing change & I try to improve on all counts as I mature. I think I’m probably still pretty stead fast in my beliefs & still probably seen as outspoken, or uncontrollable to some but my motivations are always positive so fuck if someone misconstrues my actions or words. The homelessness & general shower of dog shit i was forced to deal with has probably left me with a more pessimistic view, however i also think it is probably a more realistic & open one. I am definitely not as into excess as i was in terms of booze, piff, food, pretty much everything. I’m more about quality over indulgence these days but that’s probably just me becoming more & more of a fussy cunt.
SK -I heard you got a project on the way with Jehst, what’s it been like working with Billy Brimstone himself?
Stig – Good, me & Bill go back a few years, I’d met him a few times through music but we built up a rapport when I lived in the Beggars studio & a couple years later he lived with me for a minute as well as working on a remix of my Braindead 12″ with R.A The Rugged & Muddy Funkster from my Mood Swings LP, so we’re peoples. He’s a deep guy, between the general puerile shit all mates chat, he is mad knowledgeable about the art form & we break some serious bread, plus he’s always honest with his feed-back, which is exactly what I need in a producer. It can be frustrating trying to find mutually conducive times to be in the studio, especially with two busy schedules but once we get in, get some piff put in the air & some decent waffle time out the way, we generally put down solid work. I’ve recorded about 4/5 tracks so far, some of which I definitely think are on par with the best form I’ve been in, if not better. It’s just hard finding a balance between the “Fuck You” music I enjoy making & performing & the more honest & open music I feel obliged/compelled/need to make. Although his beats generally dictate which angle I take & there is some serious weight to the tracks we’ve created so far. I honestly feel like I am having some big breakthrough’s in terms of writing, my form is definitely improving, I may have lost a level of rawness in terms of polish but my drive & execution are better than they have ever been so I’m eager to see what comes from the final product & am looking forward to upping the levels again.
SK – You first made your name in the battle scene, particularly as a freestyle battler. Obviously the whole battle scene has blown out of all proportion in the last few years compared to when you were at it. Do you think it’s been a positive for the UKHH scene or just a bandwagon that a lot of trendy’s have jumped on?
Stig – I’ve always been quite conflicted with my opinions of the battle scene. I was always vocal about my participation purely being about a means to an end, i.e rent/food money, exposure, a means of sharpening my sword, a night out of the rain, or free booze. What ever the motivation, it was always a means to something, I wasn’t really stuck on the art form of battling. I think these days, with it’s mainly pre written, prearranged, accapella format it has become so detached from the music that it has its own microcosm in the same way turntablism has. It’s routes are in Hip Hop music & culture but it has almost transgressed that & now is its own entity, so you get kids who don’t give a fuck about hip hop music but follow battle leagues obsessively. You have battle mc’s who not only don’t have any musical inclination but also have no idea how to actually construct bars, they don’t even know the origin of the term BAR in terms of a section of music, rather than a line with a punch at the end. It seems cadence, flow, metaphor, simile, alliteration, delivery, syncopation, mic control & all the things that make up the art of rapping, are no longer the things to focus on. It’s purely about delivery, punch, crowd control & execution & more importantly, genuine lyricism is of less importance than impact & theatrics. That is why 99% of the worlds “best” battlers, or at least in terms of general opinion, are also the worst in terms of making music. That said, I have no issue with it as an art form, I watch it from time to time & pretty much always check for the bigger battles. I think there are a hand full of battlers who still adhere to the art of rapping & others who are capable of making the switch between the two but there is only a thinly veiled link between them as scenes. There are some battle rappers I rate & would work with on track, equally there are those that I rate but wouldn’t work with on track, there are also a huge majority I don’t rate as battlers & I would never consider working with under any circumstance. I think as with rapping, when done properly it is incredibly entertaining & a true art form but when done badly it is cringe worthy & at its worst infuriating & crass. My only actual issue’s arise when the lines are blurred & purely battle experienced MC’s become delusional & claim to be good “Rappers” without any of the necessary skills or respect for the art form or culture to back it up (again not that there aren’t exceptions, Madness, Illmac, Tony D, Lee Scott but I think it’s the difference between those who came to battling through hip hop rather than the other way round) AND vice versa, when rappers over use the term battle in their lyrics, or have predominantly battle raps in their tracks but have little to no ability or experience in the battle arena.
SK – What do you think it is about Stig that people don’t get from other MCs?
Stig – Again, I think you’d have to ask them. I’d like to think an uncompromising truth, someone who refuses to pander to money or peer pressure & will only ever make music for the love of doing so. I know sometimes I may take an angle musically or stylistically that isn’t to everyone’s taste but I hope they understand my motivation for doing it in the first place is a positive one. I hope they get entertained by the bravado & humor but understand that it is genuine & that I am about what I speak about, while also being honest enough to drop the bravado & show a deeper side. Basically I want them to realize that I am the fucking shit & that everyone else is playing catch up! Hahaha!
SK – On your Cannon Fodder EP especially, you wrote some very personal lyrics, why’d you think so many rappers feel like they’ve got to live up to an image rather than be themselves?
Stig – Because I feel like ALL people create an image for themselves, they project an image they aspire to be but some are further from attaining or just less honest with themselves about who they are, through insecurities or delusions. I think it’s something we all do to some extent, I try to project as accurate an image as possible but it will always be marred by my ego & influenced by what I would like to be perceived as. I guess the image they have to live up to isn’t always the issue, it’s their reasons for doing so. If they are projecting an image for financial gain or for fame & attention without due care of the falsehoods or the consequences of what they may be perpetuating, it’s a negative thing. If they are projecting a false image for a vicarious sense of assertion or power, it’s a negative thing. I think most people don’t like the simple truth of who they are, they aren’t the potential superstar they were sold & people don’t want to accept that, or they are insecure about themselves, or they think the key to attaining what they have been told they need is to act a certain way or project certain falsehoods. They hide their insecurities behind their vicarious identitys. They’re told they need money or possessions or attention to be happy, or they have to look a particular way, or dress a particular way to be accepted but its utter dog shit. We are all stumbling through life collecting insecurities & if uncontrolled they dictate how we act. Plus its fun to play make believe.
SK – What would you say has been your personal career highlight so far?
Stig – There have been several & hopefully they will continue to come as I progress. Winning the E.O.W (End Of The Weak Worldwide MC Challenge) title twice was special & they were both incredible on their own. The first time I flew to New York & spent a few days out there, returning with the first win. The second time, after a years’ hiatus was in Germany, after which I got to play at Splash festival alongside one of the best line ups I have ever read, let alone witnessed, including some of my favourite artists across multiple genre’s.
Each release has also been an individual highlight & shows the culmination of a bag of grinding & stress for different reasons each times. The first because of the situation I was going through during its conception, execution, release & push. The second I feel like showed a progression as an artist in terms of beat choice & finding my feet as a writer. The Stig Of The Dubs & Bar So Hard bootlegs were a mile stone in terms of me nailing double time & diversifying my skills as a writer. As does my joining a live band & dropping Rise Of The Foot Clan 1, which we are currently having re mastered. My latest EP – Cannon Fodder, is definitely a highlight for me in terms of artistic progression & form, plus i am happy with it as a whole product. Hopefully it is just the start of me upping my levels, as conceited as it sounds, the writing breakthroughs & form I feel like I am in at the moment are a major highlight. I feel like I’m close to my peak & where I have wanted to be for a minute. Of course, once I reach it, it’s a steep slope down but as over self critical as I am, I’ve no doubt i will pull the plug before it becomes too contrived.
SK – You’ve had a long and productive working relationship with Pete Cannon, most obviously with your latest Cannon Fodder project. What made you decide to do a full project with Pete and why does it work so well?
Stig – Fuck Pete Cannon, he’s a nobody without me, he been trying to ride my coat tails !!! Hahaha! Nah, Pete is my dude, he’s an incredible Producer & very VERY diverse with his styles but his main thing is BANGERS. From the first time I heard his beats when I was sleeping in the Foreign Beggar’s vocal booth I knew he was next levs. He generally has the sound I like, be it boom bap, more Synthy shit or Trap/Dubstep shit, whatever genre he sends me, they always seem to have something I connect with. Especially his Hip Hop, the drums KNOCK which is very important for me & I know as well as digging out huge breaks/samples I know he also plays a lot of the shit himself. As far as Cannon Fodder, I needed to drop something new post Mood Swings & he sent me another bag of bangers, I decided to call it Cannon Fodder for the connotations the term has, in terms of war/struggle/underdogs etc & also as big up to Pete. He is also like minded in terms of his approach to music & general attitude/sense of humor. If not a little more fruity, I mean, I loves me some non hip hop but you wouldn’t catch me whining to Morrisey with a “Something About Mary” quiff a la Johnny Bravo but then that’s him & I rate him for it.
SK – ThinkZebra being the perfect example, the Underground scene in Hip Hop has always had its own look. You’re a man who’s particular about his garms. Do you think we’ve developed our own look over here, or are we still just copying what we see from the States?
Stig – Do i really look particular about my garms to you? You must be rocking a potato sack Hoody & Clogs or some shit! Hahaha!!! I’m a scruffy fatty, I like nice garms but can barely afford them. I would rarely rock a designer label, certain I would never pay through the nose for it. I have a couple of brands I have a soft spot for but materialism is not something I like to associate myself with so I try to always keep them low on my list of priorities & as such won’t give them any column space. I have a lot of love for indie companies like Supremebeing & Think Zebra though, ultimately if the label is making fresh threads without feeding the machine, I got love for that. Think Zebra definitely get mad daps, I fully rate their range, especially the “STOP BEING SHIT” Tee, which you will no doubt see me wearing, if you watch other dudes dress sense that hard. Sam the designer has had my back for a minute & helped me out with several design jobs & is generally very good peoples & a fucking boss & I love what they stand for, he explained the name to me, telling me it comes from the saying “When you heard hooves, think horse”.. instead “Think Zebra”.. think different. Which is something I am 100% about.
I couldn’t really comment on a UK “look” as I don’t watch that fickle shit, I don’t subscribe to what is fashionable or not. Britain has always & will always be a leader in that department but it’s not something I give a fuck about. All I know is that Ugg boots make me want to kill, the only thing worse than a women in Ugg boots, is a fucking man, in Ugg boots. Equally, dudes with low cut jumpers rocking cleavage, Beats by Dre (a.k.a The Emperor’s New Headphones) & any other item de jour are rarely sported by anyone I personally consider to have any style.
Of course if my gym game ever improves & pays off, I will no doubt turn into a complete hypocrite & dress head to toe in dog shit labels purely for the implied “status” that every shallow self obsessed, characterless cunt desires. That & animal Tees… I love those “Wolf & Mountain” type, market fodder Tees.
SK -You’re now hitting Europe on tour, why do you think so few UK acts make the step up and go for a wider audience on the continent?
I’m currently sat in a venue in Strasbourg called Molodoi, Europe is INCREDIBLE. I think most people don’t tour here because they either a) don’t have the wider vision to reach further afield than their own city, let alone new territories. Or more commonly, I don’t think the opportunity arises for a lot of acts. I’ve been out for the odd show here & there but this is the first time I have played a run of dates & it’s purely because I am fortunate enough to have signed to a European booking agent who came across my shit, decided to back it & has killed it for me. I’m approaching each date assuming I am completely unknown in the towns/cities/venues I hit up & I try to put every show on smash as hard as possible so they have me back. I would encourage anybody to try & come out here though, not only to broaden their horizons & experience new cultures but also to see how differently you get treated, even as a new comer you are treated extremely well, their hospitality is amazing & they really take care of you. I’m sat in a huge room, with pop, food & booze on tap & every single show I’ve done has been the same. The crowds are also very responsive & last night’s show in Amiens was one of the best responses I’ve ever had.
Fingers crossed tonight is as successful.
I gotta go soundcheck.
Au revoir bitches.
Stig Of Le Dump.