Dels might just be the nicest man in hip-hop. His laugh, almost a giggle, is extremely endearing and comes often, seeming at odds with the hip-hop persona behind debut single Shapeshift and new single Trumpalump. This contradiction in persona spells out the magic formula for the music, with its playful beats that blur genres and incorporate a variety of sounds that shouldn’t work together but do, all overlaid with a generous dose of grimey rap.
His sound has been described in the music press as imbibing hip- hop with an impish curiosity of indie electronica. Is this an accurate description? I ask him. To which he instantly switches to serious mode, “I’d still describe it as hip-hop, even though it borrows from different genres, I feel like it’s still raw and it’s honest hip-hop.”
Dels, real name Kieran Dickens, has come a long way since his days messing around in friends’ bedrooms in his home town of Ipswich, “making random sounds that didn’t sound good to our parents but we just enjoyed making music.” After being discovered at 16 by John Peel as part of a 2step garage band, he has spent the last nine years grafting and is finally releasing his as-yet-unnamed debut album in March 2011 with Big Dada Records. It has taken time but Dels is finally making the music he always wanted to make.
The lyrics to his first single Shapeshift reflect the “disruptive and delinquent” teenage Dels wanting to escape the restrictions of his home-town. The imagination expressed in lyrics about shifting forms to escape the bullies and other such tediousness aspects of inner-city life are pure fantasy and recall a long love of Japanese anime and comic book superheroes. The visual element to his music may be down to the fact he has a degree in graphic design. Dels also creates the art-work for his cover-sleeves and has a big creative input in his music videos such as the Shapeshift video which features multiple hooded Dels morphing into different creatures.
He clearly relishes having the freedom to express himself and admits to scrapping his first attempt to make an album because he woke up one day and decided he hated it, “It was crap and not who I wanted to be. I didn’t want to sound like anything else that is current. I wanted my music to have its own entity.”
It has been an evolutionary process then, but if there was a “big- break” it was when Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, who has co-produced several tracks on the album, agreed to get involved. It’s a modern-day MySpace fairy tale. In 2006 the young rapper messaged Goddard telling him he liked his music and Goddard messaged back saying he had always wanted to incorporate rap into his music and did Dels want to get involved? “I thought it was a lie,” he says laughing. “I logged out of MySpace and logged back in to make sure it was real.”
The pair have been making music ever since and the new project is really a collaboration between them. The album, which is out in March, also features experimental producers Kwes, Micachu of Micachu and The Shapes, and Sampha, which makes for some eclectic listening and should mean a lot more people will come to know this nice boy from Ipswich.
Dels will be performing at the Diesel/Adidas launch party hosted by Vice this Thursday at East Bloc
The debut album will be out next month on Big Dadda Records