Our Daily Bread 495: Dubbledge & Forest DLG ‘Ten Toes Down’

February 16, 2022

ALBUM REVIEW/MATT OLIVER

Our resident hip-hop lexicon and expert Matt Oliver is back with a new review. Matt’s been busy with his own music pr business of late, but been selecting choice cuts form the hip-hop scene for the Monolith Cocktail’s monthly playlists. We’re glad to have him back on writing duties with this review of the recent UK rap duo of Dubbledge and Forest DLG.

Dubbledge & Forest DLG ‘Ten Toes Down’
(Potent Funk) 10th February 2022

By definition Ten Toes Down means to totally commit to something, and Watford emcee Dubbledge has always shown devotion to the home cause, an energiser helping mangle the angles of hip-hop as part of LDZ and Problem Child and showing off all his resplendent showmanship as ‘The Richest Man In Babylon’. Quite how Ten Toes Down became a lost album is a mystery; one assumes the standard suspect of industry foul play was at work to deny Dubbledge another chance to blow your house down, though a couple of dust-offs within a compact package suggest a reconfiguration of his geezer-ish cunning done as a wink and a smile and living by the seat of his pants. His is the sort of flow that stores cheekfuls of rhymes akin to an iconic trumpet player, gargling them about the place and working every last facial muscle before leaving the front row festooned in comedic phlegm and flavour.  

It’s this force of personality, providing the sort of unsubtle putdowns still worthy of an opponent’s applause, which loves nothing more than the spotlight being turned on full whack, but knowing the prove must always back the show. The closing track ‘Your Mum’ is ready to take the mick, but Dubbledge and his stretchy syllables get away with it by including some parental value not to be taken for granted: the man has layers. On what it takes to be a ‘Soopa Gangsta’, Dubbledge put his spin on Big Pun’s most famous lines about Italian culture, and pulls another fast one by being more knowledge of self than guns and furs stereotypes.  

‘Taking Libs’ continues his studies into the male-female occupancy of Venus and Mars (“I buy you fish and chips, you should be happy”) – the persona can have the flippancy of a 70s sitcom and pique a PC interest, but that’s entertainment. The album’s centrepiece, the diary of extortion that forms ‘Itchy Itchy’ (previously ‘The Phil Mitchell Crackhead Song’), looks like being the album’s weightiest material; except it’s delivered so that heavy addiction comes off as cheeky chappy tomfoolery, including giving crackheads a shout out on the outro. While you’re not exactly rooting for him as he ducks and dives to fund his habit, it’s more comic strip than public service confessional – and we’re alright with that.  

Dubbledge doing damage (“I ain’t trying to be something that I’m not” is verification, if needed, straight out the gate), bears many technicalities: it’s all in the timing of pauses, the theatrical fade aways mid-conversation, the accentuation of pay-off lines on every fourth/eighth/sixteenth bar (including the ‘aw yeaaaaah’s that pepper ‘Chess’, an Amen-break wrecking ball re-sourced from 2011’s Chase & Status/Tinie Tempah collaboration ‘Hitz’), and the pointing of the mic crowd-wards for feedback, before he runs down to your funny bone. Obviously, bravado by the bucketload helps as well: the posse cut with Kyza, Micall Parknsun and TBear, the Englishmen of the belly dancing ‘Mad Dogs’ bumrushing crews out through the fire exit, is a classic case of in-for-a-penny impudence. For all the posturing putting a finger to lips, who wouldn’t be moved by it’s to-the-window, to-the-wall hook of ‘we’re the bollocks!”  

All this weight has the right backer: Forest DLG, the newest alias of producer’s producer Chemo/Telemachus, loads up ten moments of loudness spanning rip-n-run club bangers, neck grabs heading into the red, heavy synth power (‘Tear Dem Apart’ – again the title tells nothing like the whole story), and the title track re-enacting a Lock Stock car chase. On ‘Lend a N A Pencil’, Dubbledge peacocks “while I’m standing on a tightrope, one toe balancing/in between the forces of good and evil like Anakin”, while FDLG adjusts a bass frequency back and forth like a bored studio nerd. It’s only on ‘Awkward’, cartwheeling between folk, psychedelia and Big Brovaz’ ‘Nu Flow’, when the producer has a bash at putting on a night on the tiles for his muse to caper across. As much as it’s the album’s sore thumb, it perfectly frames D’s soul-bearing performance. 

Never reduced to anything cartoonish despite circling some slapstick bum notes and hormones ruling head, Dubbledge puts on a proper show. Ten years or so on hold hasn’t deadened the impact of Ten Toes Down, and though there are perhaps few surprises given his work in the intervening years, those experiencing his spectacle for the first time have a cult hero to give a big hand to.   

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