Words By: Dwayne Wilks
Da Flyy Hooligan sat down to discuss the genre he labels ‘Gourmet Rap’, staying true to his craft and how Hip Hop has shaped him.
Like much else in life, Hip Hop goes through seasons. Testament to this is the upsurge in the popularity of the US subgenre of Connoisseur Rap. Connoisseur Rap or ‘Gourmet Rap’ is in part an homage to the lyric driven, street music of the late nineties/early noughties golden era. Recent acts that have piqued interest in the sound again are names like Griselda, Mach Hommy and Roc Marciano who have individually and collectively built a mass following that love their uncompromisingly gritty sound.
Born and raised in North West London, artist Da Flyy Hooligan hasn’t let distance or geography stop him from making a sizeable contribution to the genre. His music is quintessential Connoisseur Rap, though he prefers the apt label ‘Gourmet Rap’ – “people call it Connoisseur Rap and I think that’s a fair label for it but I feel Gourmet Rap is more befitting”, he says. One listen of “Savile Row”, his track featuring Westside Gunn, and it’s easy to understand why; his bars, which yo-yo between decadent and derogatory, are spat over a beat that exudes darkness and luxury simultaneously. As he gears up to drop an album entitled MonOhFlyy, the rap veteran chopped it up with us to take us from his past through to his vision for the future.
Who is Da Flyy Hooligan?
DFH is an MC coming from North West London. I’ve been in music for a very long time, man – I wanna say 20 years but it feels a lot less than that. I was a producer as well, I was taught to use the MPC 200 Excel by RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, so when it comes to Hip-Hop royalty, I know a lot. There are things that I’ve managed to achieve in my career that even signed artists with million-pound budgets haven’t managed to achieve, they haven’t managed to generate a relationship with the founders of this thing we call [Hip Hop] music.
So yeah, I’ve done Hip Hop for a very long time. I only really took it seriously – really seriously – in 2014/15 when I released my first track with Westside Gunn. That was when I realised that I can look at things differently – I can see the potential in something. I intentionally chose a lane that was different to what my peers were doing, whether it’s Road Rap, Trap, Grime, Drill, Afrobeats, I always felt I could connect with the Hip-Hop, the slam poetry that was coming from America. So, I stuck to that.
Given the nicheness of your subgenre, how have you approached building a fanbase and working to where you have features with artists as esteemed as Westside Gunn?
It starts with a button – I call it the “f*ck it” button. I’ve always been the kind of cat where, if I see all 5 of you going this way, I’m gonna go that way – I’m not gonna follow. If it doesn’t speak to me, it doesn’t speak to me, I just have to follow my heart and my passion. That’s what Gourmet Rap is. Gourmet Rap is art, its culture, its music, its food, its jewellery, it’s the most elegant stuff. Just because we come from the hood or the streets, doesn’t mean we don’t know about Stanislav Szukalski (the Polish sculptor). It’s [all about] how you look at it – how you perceive art.
How I hooked up with Westside Gunn [WSG]? Sean Price – may my big brother rest in peace – introduced me through the song he did with WSG, a song called “Black Tar”. I saw the song online and was like to P, “yo bro, you never told me about this song”. He was like “yeah, dude’s fire, I think he’s gonna be dope.” I was like “yeah, I can hear what you’re hearing”. And then I connected with WSG.
Tell us about your upcoming album, MonOhFlyy.[I worked on it with] with a genius who goes by the name of Oh No, he’s the younger brother of Madlib. I share a birthday with Oh No as well, so the 6th November – which is our birthday – was when we were meant to drop the album. Oh No listened back to the album and was like “I can add some more stuff, I can change some more things” so it’s going through another process right now. I believe it’s being mastered now and it might actually end up being 1st December [that it comes out]. But it’s still a good rollout, and I don’t know of any MC or producer in the UK that can say they have an album with Oh No so I’m happy to wait [laughs].
How did your relationship with Oh No come about?
I went out to Cali and hooked up with a bunch of geniuses. My first night there I recorded like 5 songs over some beats, thought nothing of it. Came back to London, and my OG, Montageone, hit me up like, “You know those beats you were spitting over? Those beats belong to Oh No, and he sent me a bunch of fire emojis.” So, from there, Montageone was like “I think we should do an album”. He had the whole idea for it, he was like “I’m gonna call it MonOhFlyy”, so it’s [an amalgamation of the names] Montageone, Oh No, Da Flyy Hooligan.
When you speak of ‘Gourmet Rap’, what exactly are you referring to?
When you’re talking about the real essence of Gourmet Rap, you’re talking no drums, just a sample. And then what you’re getting is the lyricism, the imagination, the cadence. ‘Cause effectively, what happens is that your whole Rap becomes an instrument, it becomes part of the instrumental.
I wanna put that [Gourmet Rap] label on it before someone corporate comes and takes that over. Because I think ownership, in this era is more important than any other era. You can look at the timeline and see what happened with all the UK Hip Hop terminology. So, with Gourmet rap, we’re gonna name that and we’re gonna be the gatekeepers of that.
That’s what this genre is about. It’s not about letting [just] anyone in and [them] now dictating what we do so that we can get a quick buck. Nah, we do it ourselves: we set up our own Bandcamp, set up our own website, we put up a limited amount – we then shot it and reinvest that and then keep that cycle going.
Do you feel like the UK music industry are ready to make space for the Gourmet Rap genre?
Whatever’s destined to happen in the UK is going to happen, there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Especially now more than ever. The industry can’t say “now we’re gonna lock off Gourmet Rap because them man believe in being their own bosses, and that’s gonna empower other people, black, white, brown, yellow, blue, purple, to be their own bosses as well.” They can’t do that. The people will switch on them. And that’s what Gourmet Rap is about, it’s for the people, it is for the culture.
What’s the most powerful tool each of have in our homes – in this room right now? The internet. You don’t need no label, you don’t need anyone but yourself, your own drive, your persistence, your vision, your goal, your thirst, your hunger. There’s probably a handful of people in the UK that can tell you about Da Flyy Hooligan. But then you go to America or other parts of the world, say you know me or you’re related to me and they’ll give you a pass. That’s how the world works.
Where do you hope to see the UK’s relationship with the genre in 5 years?
I see Gourmet Rap being embraced by everyone. I can see man from other genres getting on Gourmet Rap – it’s not difficult to do. I can hear Stormzy on a Gourmet Rap tune, it’s easy. 5 years from now I see quite a few people doing it. So, when a man that does Gourmet Rap uploads his album to iTunes and [it] says ‘select a genre’ and you get that drop down, you’ll see Gourmet Rap and you can click that. It’s about playing chess and not checkers.
Consistency as well, that’s another big thing because once you get your momentum going and keep it going, then you can have a very healthy, very decent career. You won’t have to worry about doing “this, this and this”, for someone that’s offering you a loan because you’re already used to the idea that I sell 100 vinyl’s every 3 months, that’s good enough to keep you going. Not just vinyl’s – CD’S, hoodies, if you wanna get creative – even figurines.
It sounds like you want to be the bridge that introduces the UK to a sound that’s only been attempted Stateside?
That’s who Da Flyy Hooligan is and that’s what I wanna bring to the UK, now more than ever cos I feel it would be amazing to create an alternative genre for the yuteman coming up whose thinking “yeah I like Grime and what not, but what else is out there, what else can I experiment with”.
MonOhFlyy is scheduled to be released December 1st. To check out the podcast this conversation was a part of, check out the 2Gs in a Pod Podcast: EP. 68