Dapz On The Map Has Found His Aim 🎯

Consistency is key for Dapz On The Map. The West Midlands grime pioneer has been repping Birmingham for years, bursting onto the scene with classics like “Murdah” and “Froggy”, before cementing his status with a cluster of well-received EPs and mixtapes, most recently 2019’s Champion Settings. But in Dapz's view, dry creative spells have stopped him from kicking on from past success. In 2022, he seems re-energised, determined to capitalise on the long-awaited release of his debut album, Landed. But after over a decade as a major player in the game, why has he waited until now?

“I’ve dropped bare tunes over the years,” he explains, “but I didn’t feel like I was at the level that you need to be at to create an album.” Dapz and I meet in a trendy hotel bar in Dalston, East London, where he’s fuelling up on chicken and rice after a long drive down from 0121. “All the songs I’ve made that have connected with the people,” he adds, “they’re all album-worthy tunes, but I wasn’t confident enough in myself to label it as that. I am now, though.”

This change in approach is reflected by the new ground Dapz has broken this year. He recently linked up with UK reggae legends UB40 for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games' official anthem “Champion”—a big move for a rapper who has always repped for his home city. “I’m proud to be from Birmingham, but if I was from Manchester or London, it would be the same,” he says of working on the song. “This is just where I’m from. I’ve shared so many experiences with the city, had kids in the city, passed my driving test in the city, found my first love, done some mad things, done some good things… It’s my home."

Not that Dapz is afraid to fly in new directions. As the title suggests, his debut album hinges heavily on the theme of “landing and expanding”, with lyrical content backed up by fake flight announcement interludes that reassure listeners “once your emotional baggage is stowed, we do have copies of Matter Of Time, Froggy EP and Spring Clean available onboard.” But besides the jokes, why does the idea of landing resonate with Dapz?

“The best way I can describe what I feel with Landed, is that it relates to a film called Flight with Denzel Washington. It’s based on a pilot who has this huge responsibility, lives on his shoulders, but he’s an alcoholic, and they don’t know that. A plane crashed that he was flying—he landed it upside down, killed about 8 people, but a lot survived and it was classed as heroic. When they examined him and he was tested with cocaine and alcohol, they wanted his head. But he’s a pilot, a loyal servant, and he’s a good guy. Landed is similar in the sense of the responsibility I have on my shoulders: I have kids, I have a partner, I have family members who wanna see me win, I have my own pressures as well. And even though I have all this responsibility, I’m expected to fly the plane. No one wants excuses—they don’t care about if you had a good or bad day at the office—they expect you to land this plane.”

Not long after meeting Dapz, it’s pretty clear he feels a sense of responsibility to create. And dealing with that pressure isn’t always easy. “It’s been hard to create, so the album’s come from a place of struggle,” he says. “When you’re not financially stable, that pressure intensifies. My kids have got to eat and my kids have got to be clothed. Sometimes you’ll have a really good month, but sometimes you won’t. So how do you deal with those months, how do you battle through?”

“I had to realise that people are fans of Dapz On The Map the same way that I’m a fan of Arsenal. You’ve got fans who expect a service, they expect a level, so you’ve gotta maintain.”

On the track “Contingency”, these themes take centre stage, as Dapz raps: “We don’t need a contingency plan/We just need some consistency, man,” ruminating on the expectations he faces from fans. When asked about the message, he’s quick to draw an analogy with his beloved Arsenal: “I expect Saka to play every week, without fail. I don’t care if you’ve fallen out with your girlfriend, I don’t care if you’ve had an argument with your brother… I’m a fan, I demand it—quality every time, no excuses. I had to realise that people are fans of Dapz On The Map the same way that I’m a fan of Arsenal. You’ve got fans who expect a service, they expect a level, so you’ve gotta maintain.

“That’s what the game is. This music game is very similar to the football world, very similar to the athletic world: you have your moment, your 15 minutes, and what you do with them 15 minutes is what determines whether you’re a legend, a one-hit-wonder, or a ‘used-to-be.’ I used to feel like I could get overtaken by this new wave of artists, thinking, ‘Where’s my position? Where do I fall?’, but I came out of it when I realised it’s your personal level that counts. I can only work on me.”

This shift in perception has had a couple of effects: peace of mind and a hunger for greatness. “Now I look at it like I’m just trying to enjoy the journey as I go,” he says. “I feel like I get more done with that mindset as well, because the pressure’s eliminated. I feel like, in 2022, I’m having a wave again. I’m in a very blessed position. The last time I was here was probably 2015/16, when I dropped ‘Murdah’, ‘Oh My Days’, did my headline show and it was going really well for me. But I didn’t ride the wave. I fell off the board and didn’t decide to go back surfing. Now, I’m gonna ride it consistently.”

It’s a statement of intent, boosted by newfound confidence in the melodic, self-coined ‘Grime&B’ sound Dapz has sculpted over the years. But what has changed this time around? “It’s a different Dapz that’s doing it now. Older, wiser, more experience in the business. He’s a senior player now—he’s not a spring chicken anymore—and he fully understands the game.” All aboard.

Dapz On The Mapz’s debut album, ‘Landed’, is out on October 28.

Posted on October 12, 2022