David Dallas

By Poppy Tohill

Recently opening for the ‘Rap God,' Mr Marshall Mathers himself, David Dallas is very much New Zealand's own hip-hop/rap god.

Not only has his career fallen into place over the last few years, but his third studio album ironically titled‘Falling Into Place,' has been nominated for the Taite Music Award 2014.

David joined me on the phone, prior to the awards night for a chat about how his musical journey began, being the support act for Eminem, collaborations and influences and how exactly his career fell into place.

Congrats on getting nominated for the Taite Award by the way! You were also nominated back in 2012 for your album Rose Tint, what does it mean to you to be nominated again for this album? (Falling Into Place)

Cheers! Yeah, It's cool. I think it's actually the third time I've been a finalist for the Taite Award. It's great cause you're in really good company and it's an award about music as opposed to just anything else and it's supposed to be a very creative award, looking at things from the whole spectrum.

What would winning the award mean to you?

It'd be wicked, a total honour. Obviously it's an important award. Just for the fact it's across all musical genres too, is wicked. But you know, I don't need an award to validate what I do, but obviously it would be great.

Looking back to the past for a bit, You've achieved a lot since you first sprung onto the scene as a part of the duo ‘Frontline,' how has it felt moving through those past outfits to get to where and who you are today?

Yeah, I mean it's crazy now when I look back on it. I've had a pretty long musical career from the moment that P-Money & Scribe put me on the ‘Not Many' record. I'd been rapping for ten months at that time and I was still a student at Uni with no real aspirations for a musical career. I just thought it'd be cool to be on student radio one time. But to think this is what I've done and it's become my career is just an amazing thing.

If you weren't a musician, what do you think you would have gone on to do/be doing now?

I don't know to be honest. I've got a degree in computer science, so I guess it would have been something tech related but to be honest I just don't know, (laughs). I got a degree in that stuff but I couldn't have seen myself sticking at that for a long time, yah know. Maybe I would have done something with video games or something within the skateboarding industry because they're the only other things I was really interested in.

So growing up, was music always a big part of your life?

Yeah, it was huge. But not making it, I was just a huge fan of it. I was always into rap music, but I didn't personally know anyone who rapped, or anyone who made beats. I didn't even know how rap music was created! I just looked at my peers around me so music wasn't something that I saw as being a viable thing to do. I just did normal shit like went to school and went to Uni (laughs). It wasn't until I was in Uni that I started to meet people and they wrote some raps and I was kind of like, ‘Oh I like rap, maybe I could try that?' I mean I was fanatical about the music and it's only sort of now that I realise all that time I spent listening to the music and learning the words, all of that is what really enabled me to be able to do this. So I was actually studying it but I didn't realise I was studying it, I was just a fan.

Was there any particular hip-hop artist that inspired you to pursue a career in hip-hop?

I don't know if any of them inspired me to pursue a career, because music was never something I saw viable to do here. If anything, it was the local artists P-Money & Scribe who put me on ‘Not Many' that made me realise "Woah, you can actually do this, you can actually make music here." The artists that I'm biggest fans of, they didn't inspire me to make music they're just the dudes I listened to at the end of the day like the Jay Z's, the Kanye's and Snoop. If I had to put down the most important artists in my life at any particular time, It'd be Mobb Deep when they put out ‘The Infamous', Snoop when he put out ‘Doggy Style' and the Roots with ‘Illadelph Halflife.' Those particular albums at that given time were just super important to me and I feel like those were the ones that influenced me most to this day.

It's quite ironic that your album's titled ‘Falling Into Place,' seen as your career really seems to have fallen into place over the last few years, what has the success of the album meant to you?

(Laughs) I guess again, it's just a validation of the fact that I'm doing something right, more than anything else. You make music, you put your heart into it and you try make stuff that you're proud of and that you like, but at the end of the day you don't really know if anyone else is going to like it. So it's kind of the most validating thing to find out that, "Oh shit, there is other people out there who have similar tastes and like the kind of stuff I'm into as well."

Did you expect the album to get so popular so fast?

There's certain things you think are going to resonate and others that you're unsure about. Like obviously when we put Runnin' as the first single, some other people at our label thought "Oh this is going to be tough to get on radio, but the producer Fire & Ice thought ‘This is the one, this is really going to work.' I didn't know, cause it was the eleventh hour by the time we handed that project in. So yeah, I thought it might, given the chance. That's the way music goes. It's the people who decide that and a lot of it is out of your hands really.

The album also features a lot of both international artists and NZ artists on a number of the tracks, is it important to you to have an equal balance between the two?

Yeah. I mean there's some overseas artists I obviously love to work with and I think it's great for people from home to see international artists on there, but at the same time it's super important to me to showcase New Zealand's sound. Because there's people here that are really good and I think a lot of the time people shy away from our own artists, like "Aw they're not good if they're from NZ" but I just think if you took an artist and they came from another place and you didn't know they came from NZ you'd still be trippin' out on them, so I just try to showcase our talent.

Ruby Frost's pop style isn't exactly what you'd normally collaborate with, how did working with her come about?

Yeah, I figured that would trip people up. The two songs she's on in my album were actually made in 2012 when we met, so it was before all the X Factor stuff last year. They're the only two songs from those sessions that were kept and everything else was made last year. So, I actually met her through a friend who knew Ruby Frost's manager and he asked if I'd heard of her and yah know, non music people always think every artist should collaborate together and it'll sound awesome, but most of the time it doesn't, it sounds bullshit. But I met her at a café and started talking to her and we got along really well, so I thought maybe we should email each other some ideas. The first idea she sent me was her vocal that's actually on ‘The Wire' with her just playing a basic chord progression on the piano. I heard it and thought it was really sick, but obviously couldn't rap to it, like it's not something I would use. But I asked if she'd mind sending me the separate parts which I gave to Fire & Ice the producers of the album, and they worked with it and we built something around it. The thing is too that the final version she sent me is the one we actually used that's played on the radio and everything.

I love the video for ‘The Wire,' it's so powerful in the black and white with flashes of colour, who was the creative genius behind that idea?

Oh, cheers! Yeah, that's all really Joel Kefali. I always give him my songs and ask him what he thinks. I'm simple and wanted something a bit dark for this video, like not so colourful and outdoorsy. I kind of just try to put good people in the position where they can do their thing and I just know how Joel is kind of going to interpret things cause we've done so many videos together that I trust him.

If you could collaborate with any one kiwi and international artist, who would it be and why?

Hmmm. For the kiwi artist, probably Bic Runga, that'd be pretty wicked. To have access to some of her old sessions or something like that and have my boys Fire & Ice be able to play with some of her stuff, cause I just imagine she'd have so much gold you could mine and put it into a more hip hop context. She's a legend. International artist- any of the great producers really, like the Dre. Even outside of making music with them, just to pick their brains. To sit with a Timbaland, Kanye or Pharrell and ask them stuff and figure out how they work would just be gold.

A few months ago now you opened for Eminem, how was that experience?

Yeah, that was crazy! It just felt like a real landmark event.

Did you get to meet him?

Nah, I didn't even see him! Everyone asks me about that, but it was like the secret service or something. With the backstage area I had my own green room and I was next door to J Cole, so all the other guys I saw because they were around. But when Eminem went on stage you didn't even see him. He was in and then he was out, there was tons of security backstage. The rest of the time you're allowed to go up on the stage, like I watched J Cole's set side of stage just sitting there and no one said anything, but as soon as Eminem's band started getting up, everyone had to clear out and you weren't allowed to go within 50 metres of the stage. Then when they finished you couldn't go back until 20 minutes after they'd finished loading everything. It was absolutely crazy!

Seeing as you've opened for him, if you could open for anyone else, past or present, who would it be and why?

Shit there's a few. Obviously Jay Z, Kanye, Snoop & Dre would be huge. All the dudes I grew up listening to that are huge influences of mine.

You also recently did the University rounds for all the Orientation Weeks, how did that go?

Yeah it was awesome. Orientation shows are some of the best shows you can play. It's just cool. Like obviously I was a university student myself once, so I'm down for that sort of thing.

Can we expect some more shows from you around NZ any time soon?

I'm not too sure when the next shows here will be. I guess after I do the Europe thing and then the Australian tour in June I'll definitely be around in New Zealand, but my main focus will be just getting back to making records. What you can expect from me soon though is- we just shot a video for ‘SouthSide' which is a song that features Sid Diamond on the record, so that'll be coming out soon.

Awesome, I'm looking forward it all! Good luck for the Taite Awards and all of your upcoming tours and we'll look forward to hearing more from you soon.

Cheers. Have a good one!



Taite Music Prize