Having started out in the UK grime scene at the tender age of 13, Dizzee has amassed a following bigger than he ever imagined. He’s been making beats and rhymes in the studio for a decade now and hip hop lovers all over the world have been fiending for the Rascal to drop by their town. Australia was fortunate enough to be able to witness the fitness of his stripped back live show at the Big Day Out and also at his exclusive solo sideshows this month. Riding on the success of his third album “Maths and English”, Dizzee has shown a maturity beyond his years with his professionalism and stage show presence, but get him in a room full of sneakers and watch the 13 year old inside come out! We knew he would enjoy the change of pace of answering questions about music, so instead we jumped head first into the all important sneaker quiz.
You have a massive love of Nike sneakers right? So where did that all start?
Yeah yeah, I love them. Just being a kid and where I’m from it’s the thing. Reebok Classics were all that as well, but Nike, they were mad. I always thought they had the better colours and shape.
That’s like pretty much all of us, we had such a childhood fantasy about sneakers and then you get money…
It’s the first thing you do, isn’t it?
Just go crazy for the sneakers. So how big is your collection?
I got about 100 trainers right now. I got rid of loads. Every time I get rid of them I get more, from around the world. I just keep picking them up.
Do you call yourself a collector, or are you just a sneaker lover?
I’m just very irresponsible, basically. I don’t keep them there to be like “oh, I’ve got that” and keep them all tidy and neat. Why buy them? Know what I mean? I wear them. It’s something that I don’t just open and keep forgetting I’ve got them. I don’t keep them all there wrapped and wake up and brush them off, from all the shit.
So what’s your favourite style of Nike?
Air Max, init!
Have you done any Nike ID?
I’ve done a couple actually; I’ve got 5 or 6 pairs of Nike ID. I’ve done a few different colours since it came out. You can do alright with the colours, I got a couple of wild ones.
Let’s talk about the Nike Supersonic event you did, how did you get involved with that?
They asked me, init!
Did you get to keep the Lamborghini you drove to the event in?
I wish but there’s no point having one in London.
How come Nike haven’t approached you for sponsorship, they obviously know you’re into Nike.
I don’t think they do that for musicians, they only do it for sports people. It’s how it goes. I’ve always had a good relationship with Nike. I used to run when I was little as well but I didn’t really pursue it so it was good to be asked to do the Supersonic event. I got friends that pursued it though. Ricky Fifton is sponsored by Nike, we grew up together, we were tight. I was with him the other day.
I suppose all the big collectors like Clark Kent aren’t exactly sponsored by Nike, but they do cop a lot of promos and freebies, so it works well. You still rep Nike shoes, no matter what, because you always name check them in your lyrics…
It’s a style thing init...
It’s unlike Run DMC who were obviously out there to get a sponsorship.
Nah, I don’t even think they were. I think that was just their thing in the video and Russell Simmons approached them, approached adidas in Germany and adidas still didn’t want to know about it. Russell had to do a lot like show them the sales figures like “since this song has come out, check your thing and see how much we’ve done” and eventually they were like “fair enough”. Nike is a genuine thing for me, I bragged about it before I even realised about endorsements or anything like that. I’m not doing it for that reason to try and get sponsorship, because then I’d probably stop. I’ve never had no endorsement but they have been treating me good, giving me stuff.
The Nike 180 you did, did they approach you to do that or was it an idea you had come up with?
It was kind of an offer, they approached me like “let’s do a trainer” and it worked. I actually had a pair on the other day, the Dirtee Stanks...
Did you see our Issue 10? We did a whole series of London trainers and featured the Dirtee Stank.
That’s wicked man!
I don’t think anyone had seen your shoes before that?
There were only 60 pairs made, and not everyone got a pair that were meant to, so there are loads flying about.
Yeah I’d like to find one!
Hahahah, see what we can do.
So it came out in the brown colourway but there was another colourway too right?
Yeah, purple, brown and white.
And it was never for sale. That’s why I see them on eBay for a thousands?
Yeah hahaha, one day!
Didn’t you used to wear one black and one white sneaker back in the day? What was that about, haha?
They made a big thing about that, I don’t know why. I did it that one day. I don’t even remember where. You know when you’re a kid and you trying different things. You know why I did it? Diadora used to do this thing, they bought out a new line of trainers there was a green one, a blue one, and a red one and the way people was wearing it, was you wore one with the other and it looked actually quite good, but it didn’t quite work with what I was doing!
MC Shan wore one red Clyde and one blue Clyde and he wore his red and blue tracksuit.
Right, there you go…maybe that was what I was missing then, the tracksuit!
Back to the Nike 180, the sock liner featured the train map you used to use back in the day in East London. How important is it for you to pay homage to where you came up from?
Yeah always man, it centres me how far you come…
How old are you now?
You’re a baby!
No I’m not!
You’ve definitely been living the life man; you’ve been doing it since you were 15.
Yeah, but even a bit earlier. I was 13 or 14 when I really started getting some proper recognition. On radios and raves I must have been like 15 or 16.
How is that though? To go from being a tween to supporting Jay Z at 17!
Yeah that was a bit mad. I’m humble though. Still to this day he is my inspiration. I don’t think I realised until watching someone like Jay Z. I mean listening to someone like Tupac when I was a kid really made me want to be like a revolutionary and look after people but Jay Z is cleverer, he’s a bit more of a way to live longer.
Exactly right, you go from hustling and you find you can make a living through hip hop and you still get crazy money anyway, why sell drugs and try and kill yourself and other people?
Exactly, everybody talks about that and that ain’t new where we come from. It’s not even a hard question, there’s no doubt about what an inspiration Jay Z is. It’s good that you can show people you can come up, and I know he talks about it loads, like when I talk bout Razz, none of that has more of an effect on my life than music, ever, if I’m being honest.
How’s Australia been treating you? All right?
We’ve been saying, it’s probably the best tour we’ve been on, ever. It’s been so laidback. I’ve been here before but I think cos the way it was before, it was all a bit of a blur, it was all too quick, I’d never flown that far before, I don’t think I ever really got over the jet lag, so I don’t remember much. This time around, people are beautiful, the vibe is so relaxed, it’s like one big joke really.
You have a real tight knit group of people (4 or 5 in your posse) and people are surprised when they find out there are so few of you putting on a touring international show.
It’s people who are multi talented and multi tasking. Bibs and bobs, we all do more than average.
Are you still based in the UK?
Yeah yeah still there.
Do you see yourself moving to America?
It doesn’t appeal to me that much staying there. We’ve been going there for years now, and more and more I see what it’s really about underneath, it’s nice to go there and ball out because the dollar is low, buy nice clothes... but fuck growing up there.
Do you get recognised a lot?
Over here it’s been ridiculous.
You’re a superstar here.
I didn’t know that. I really didn’t, until I went to New Zealand or all them places and I couldn’t walk down the street. I was baffled.
At Big Day Out, because you were on so early, everyone was trying to get in to see you, and no one could, as everyone had gone specifically that early to see you play.
Faaaaaaaaaaaarkkkk! Really, this is history to me.
But it’s good to know, because you can come back out every time you drop an album and you know you’ll be welcome. What’s the plan then, from Australia where are you going next?
I’ve got a little tour of UK, then I’m going to get out to America, because I just signed with Def Jux over there to release my new album. It’s a one-album deal, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s nice man, it’s good to be on the complete other side of the world and know that all this is happening. It’s crazy.