Dutchavelli Isn’t Afraid To Show His Vulnerable Side On ‘Dutch From The 5th’


Words: Yemi Abiade

When Dutchavelli was released from prison last year, few could foresee the impact he would have in such a short space of time. From the explosive single “Only If You Knew” to the present day, Stephan Allen has kept the streets gripped, his gravelly vocals and vivid, true-to-life stories of life on the roads proving the perfect marriage with turbo-charged drill instrumentals. Rarely does an artist come around with such vim that you hang onto his every word, Dutch’s authenticity seeping through every bar he spits.

The rapper from Clapton has gone from strength to strength, from “Surely”, “Black” and “Bando Diaries” to genuine song of the year contender, “I Dunno” with Tion Wayne and Stormzy, with his GRM Rated Award win for Best Newcomer this year cementing his growing stardom. Perhaps the title of ‘King Of Drill’ is a stretch, but he is currently, easily, one of the UK’s most exciting artists. Further proof of his powers would be his propensity across a full body of work, and his debut mixtape Dutch From The 5th, in a word, is an experience.

From his first words on the mixtape’s “Intro”, serious pace is set, as Dutch begins to take stock of a journey that could have ended in a cell: “I could not care if he’s talking the hardest, woke up today and they told me I charted.” Trading the streets for music has been fruitful, but Dutch has a message for those plotting on his downfall. He addresses them with his now trademark charisma throughout, on the football-themed “Kaka” and the uber-sinister “Ching Splash”, where he lays out who he will and will not see.

Dutch’s world is complicated and murky, which The 5th emphasises in spades as he recollects tales from the bando, fallen friends, time in prison, the anguish dealt to his family and his ultimate transition off the streets and to the charts. The overall feel of the mixtape is one of darkness, but his success is that one crack in the dark, opening up a light that will see him to greater heights. He is at his very best when he is autobiographical and introspective, touching on the moments that made him. “Only If You Knew”, “Darkest Moments” and project outro “Zero Zero” are fitting examples of him in this pocket, his uncanny ability to paint the grittiest of pictures about his life.

Sonically, The 5th treads familiar drill territory courtesy of production from The FaNaTiX, MK The Plug, Big Zeeko and more, but the nuances in the music—the piano riff on “I’ll Call You Back”, “Zero Zero’”s movielike composition—suggests Dutch is thinking bigger than drill, expanding his artistic wings. A self-confessed music fan, his vision is pushing the musical confines of drill itself, adding yet more layers to a now burgeoning sound.

If you thought The 5th was simply hypermasculinity and bravado, Dutchavelli proved a wildcard, for he displays a different, and welcome, side to himself: vulnerability. He lays himself bare on project highlight “I’ll Call You Back”—with a tear-inducing piano sequence and an unpredictable use of Auto-Tune—crooning with genuine emotion as he sends a message to a friend, a prediction of what could’ve been for his life if he hadn’t gone to prison. It’s a passion not many drill artists exhibit, and with it, Dutch pushes himself further from the pack, a sensitive gangster as in tune with his grief as his anger. This vein is repeated on his love letter to a love that never was in “Never Really Mine”, but don’t get it twisted: The 5th is still packed with greaze. His partnership with Birmingham native M1llionz proves one of this year’s most potent on “Cool With Me”, while he exhibits impeccable chemistry with London singer-songwriter Ray BLK on “Skr On Em”, two features that accentuate, rather than distract from, the main attraction: Dutch himself.

Ultimately, The 5th offers crucial insight into Dutchavelli: the man, what makes him tick, his flaws, regrets and fundamental survival skills. With his career now ascending, he is taking his second chance at life after prison with both hands, refusing to let go and embracing his imperfections.

Posted on November 10, 2020