Digga D Can’t Be Stopped 📈

Words: Yemi Abiade
Photograpby: Owen Samba-Dhelot

“This is the first time in my life I feel free,” said Digga D on the eve of the release of his third mixtape, Noughty By Nature. “Free from all the hassle from police, pussy haters, probation and crazy entanglements. Really living a movie and this mixtape is just a scene from it.”

It’s Digga D’s world and we’re all just living in it, which is fitting, because the evolution of 21-year-old Rhys Herbert has been nothing short of cinematic. After being seemingly written off by the justice system as a real-life criminal leading the moral panic around drill music in the UK and navigating his way through said system with his sanity intact, Digga has been steadfast in his rise as one of the UK’s most exciting talents. Despite the threat of prison following him daily and the legal red tape around his content hampering his creative expression, he has proven unbreakable and unburdened as he finds new artistic inspiration, planning out every move meticulously and delivering his brand of addictive, absorbing UK drill to the masses. Anyone who has watched 2020’s BBC documentary Defending Digga D will be well-versed in his struggle to negotiate his career with his legal situation and will be happy at seeing his trajectory since—one he wasn’t prepared to give up, which speaks to the fighter in him mandated to rise to the cream of UK rap.

Across his two previous projects, 2019’s Double Tap Diaries and 2021’s Made In The Pyrex, and even prior work with his 1011 collective, Digga showed tremendous promise as a precocious young MC, if not still rough around the edges, figuring himself out artistically while keeping things entertaining. Arguably, there wasn’t so much depth outside of the standard drill subject matter. New mixtape Noughty By Nature however, with a cover laying out his evolution from child to young man, is a representation of being on a new artistic plane. From the minute the beat drops on the semi-autobiographical “Intro”, in which he claims the streets “made me a demon,” the West Londoner is focused and driven. Where he continues laying out vivid stories of opp warfare, his tightness in delivery and ever-improving wordplay invigorates the music and his mission statement—yes, the growth is there, but he’s still on crud. On the tracks “Load Up”, “Stuck In The Mud”, “Main Road” and “G Lock”, there’s enough imagery to fill a museum, proving Digga never runs out of ways to lay out his world of drilling.

The most endearing quality, however, is Digga D’s versatility, which shines in new ways on non-drill productions that offer him the space to slow the flow down and, for a fleeting moment, be vulnerable. It is arguably these tracks that showcase his powers to the fullest. Not many rappers could recreate the magic of G-Unit’s 2003 classic “Stunt 101”, but Digga said no problem, injecting his own magic into “Pump 101”. Here’s hoping 50 Cent heard it and a collaboration is on the way. Later, on “Hold It Down”, an homage to the Queens legend’s “21 Questions”, Digga speaks to the importance of a ride-or-die, a partner by his side at his best and worst—a side of him seldom heard until now.

On the melancholic, piano-led “Addicted”, Digga lays out the unconquerable rush he gets from the road life, even resorting to singing to compound his pain. He’s having the time of his life but, beneath all of the fun, he recognises his own faults—namely his too-close-to-home connection with the roads, showing that as quickly as he’s gained this success, it can be taken away in an instant. That perpetual dance with the devil shrouds his music as he walks a thin line between leaving the streets and being consumed by that life. This type of growth and self-examination can only be the result of living through dark times, as Digga—in and out of prison and the victim of a stabbing—knows all too well. It’s a line he walks with poise and devastating efficiency, making Noughty By Nature an engrossing listen from start to finish and one of the more complete tapes to come out of the scene so far this year.

Now, on a great run in what is still a young career, Digga is expanding. With collaborations with American rappers B-Lovee and Moneybagg Yo in the books, the feeling is that the Londoner sees the other side of the pond as a market to conquer, a mission that has begun in earnest. Back home, he has proven himself as one of our most visible rappers, an artist with drill origins who can switch it up artistically and shed his skin. An artist with his finger on the pulse of the scene while leaving an element of mystery as to what his next move will be. But, perhaps most importantly, a young man who’s turned losses into wins and tragedy to triumph, channeling his past to frame his present in a positive manner. More power to him.

Posted on April 18, 2022