Basketballer, video producer/director and rapper Daps speaks to SB.TV about his Trap tribute to footballing legend Ian Wright, going on secret missions in London with Kanye West and screwing in Tamera Mowry’s light bulb…
In preparation for this interview I found out that on November 3rd this year Mr. Ian Wright MBE reached the age of 50. The man is walking, talking and living proof that black does indeed not crack. That’s nuts right?
[Laughs] He actually told me he was turning 50 when he came down to my video shoot, I was like ‘whaaat?’ it just didn’t make sense to me, it made me feel a bit old too. I was like ‘Gee, you’ve doing this for a long time.’ It’s crazy man – he’s a cool guy.
You forget when you’re watching the video that this is a fifty year old man in a hoodie – he just pulls it off. It’s ridiculous – it works.
[Laughs] I’m so happy because a lot of people would have made it look cheesy.
He didn’t even have to do anything, he just stood there against the wall –
He just stood there against the wall with his hoodie up and made it real cool.
Many who saw the video seemed to be impressed by the fact the man himself made an appearance. How did that happen? Through management?
It was through a mutual friend.
We all have idols we want to give credit to, but what made you want to run with paying homage to Ian Wright? Was it some bolt of creative genius?
It was a mixture of things; firstly it was a light bulb moment in terms of the type of track that I wanted to make anyway. Secondly, I wanted to do a track about someone that resonated with me. So growing up I looked up to Ian Wright, he was one of the most prominent strikers in the Premiership and back then he was probably the biggest black player in the UK. So it just made sense…
Do you remember his initial reactions to the track? Was it online? Was it in person?
It was in person, if you watch the video…the part where him and I are laughing together happened because Ian couldn’t keep his laughter in – it was the first time he heard the song. So while I’m rapping and performing to the camera, he’s giggling and smirking going ‘oh wow, this is crazy.’ So when you see the two of us laughing – that’s the first time he actually heard the song.
Talk to us a bit about your history, who was Daps before Ian Wright?
Daps was always a rap fanatic, Daps was always making rap music. Daps was involved in the industry in different ways and before that he was a basketball player – talking in the third person is weird [laughs] – he was an entrepreneur and a business man. That’s a short, concise summery.
I’m told you previously worked with Wretch 32, Pusha T and Kanye – what did that work consist of?
I produced a video or two for Wretch, one was with Angel and I’m sure I did another video for him. With Pusha T, his new album just came out and I was involved with the album cover photoshoot as a producer. I worked on a project last year for two months with Kanye, it was a little secret project over here. I was a part of the unit on his secret missions in London. It was interesting we went everywhere; we went to Paris and Italy with him a few times. I definitely learnt and soaked in a lot – definitely interesting.
Secret Kanye missions? Is it all still a secret?
I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement which lasted a year and it’s been over a year now but they haven’t put it all out yet. So all I say is that I worked with him, I don’t really go into too much detail about it, name-dropping and going crazy. Basically it was a nice little project…what I can say is that we shot a portion of the N****s In Paris video. All the Paris imagery you see in that video – we shot. I was also there randomly when they were making the Cruel Summer album, I was sitting around watching them make all the Cruel Summer songs…it was pretty interesting.
People are making positive comments on the look and the feel of the Ian Wright video, what was it like having Fabien Montique as the creative director on that project?
I met Fabien during the Kanye project, so I’ve known him for a while now. We did a project together for Tiesto, which never came out. Then we did the Pusha T photoshoot earlier this year in New York. So we’ve been acquainted from a business standpoint on a few different occasions. Working with him wasn’t difficult at all, he is an easygoing guy. He’s really forward thinking and has a lot of cool ideas, so we just merged his ideas with my ideas and I’m here with Ian Wright [laughs]
You were already a pretty heavy hitting all-round creative, how did you get into that world? Tell us a bit about going from a London kid to making all of this a reality…
As a kid I was creative, I used to draw Nike trainers growing up – that’s something I am going to do before I die by the way, I am going to design a Nike shoe. I’ve still got my drawings now, my Mum kept them for me – I’ve actually got them in the house from when I was like six or seven years old.
How things went from child’s play to reality? My brother has his own production company, and so that’s who I was doing all my videos for – with me directing and producing. He set that company up with his own blood, sweat and tears. While I was out in America playing basketball he said, ‘hey come work for me, for a little bit.’ A little bit turned into a while [laughs], he set the blueprint for me and he thankfully trusted in me to be involved with certain projects by myself and through that I made a lot of connections.
Ian Wright is essentially a Trap record. There’s a section of UK urban music fans who are none too impressed with UK Trap music efforts, many of them see these tunes has an imitation of what’s dominating the US Hip Hop landscape whereas Garage and Grime are distinctly British. What do you say to them?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, you can’t please all the people all the time. I’ve been listening to music since I was seven years old and the first music that I ever picked up on was Rap music and I’ve been playing basketball since I was ten years old and so for me basketball and Rap music go hand in hand – they both have a street culture about them. I grew up in Rap and I grew up in basketball, I lived in America for eight years anyway, so for me I’m not forcing anything. I am who I am, I’ve got influences from America and England. I spent the majority of my adult life in America, so to me nothing is contrived and nothing I do is trying to imitate anybody. I’m glad for their opinions…at least they’re listening.
I spoke to DJ Cameo recently, and he mentioned instances where he would play UK Hip Hop to Americans who liked what they heard but ultimately didn’t see the material as “real Hip Hop” – he went on to add that these heads usually took more of a liking to Grime. In your experience, how do Americans react to UK Hip Hop?
In general, it’s very, very negative.
I’ve played UK Hip Hop to a lot of guys out there, I’ve played it to more open-minded guys. I’ve put a few people onto Giggs out there, I’ve put a few people onto Blade Brown. The street content that those guys are talking about is more what they are used to.
In general – even with those artists – the reason why I think Americans don’t take to UK Hip Hop is for a few reasons. I think that Americans are more closed-minded culturally and musically when it comes to Rap music than a UK person is. That’s because they don’t understand what we are saying, they don’t relate to what we are saying – they’re very American and they know about America. It’s not always a bad thing, and they are not doing it purposefully or saying that ‘I’m only gonna care about this’ or whatever, it’s just that the kind of environment that they grew up in has everything already there. We look to America for our movies, we look to America for our music, or how we dress with the caps, trainers and stuff. With American culture in general anything that you wanna do you can typically do within the country – whether it’s skiing, if you wanna go to the forest, the desert, Hollywood, the ‘hood, the coast, the cliffs – anything. That translates when it comes to the music, they don’t really look outside for Rap music.
A lot of Americans have this misconception about England and think that we all live in townhouses on cobble streets, that we all drive horse and carriages and wear top hats. So when they hear our Rap which is typically aggressive or street, all they think about is Mary Poppins and James Bond so they think ‘what? What are you rapping for? You guys drink tea and eat crumpets’ – and I’m like ‘not where I’m from bro.’ I also think that a lot of the guys that rap in typical harsh English accents…Americans literally, sonically cannot understand it. But it’s getting better, people are becoming more open-minded over there and hopefully I can be one of the artists that can bridge the gap.
As a child of the nineties I vividly remember Sister, Sister being a giant staple of my morning viewing. So when Tia Mowry tweeted about Ian Wright I was verrry impressed –
You’ve had a larger than average number of celebrities around you throughout your career so far, do you have any celebrity friends? Who would you say are the closest to you?
I guess on the American front, it would be Tia and Tamera Mowry. They did a movie with my brother a few years ago and so that’s how I got acquainted with them. I’ve hung out with them a few times, during the Superbowl, going over to their house to eat or whatever and watching American football. I helped Tamera Mowry change her light bulb once because I am so tall obviously. She used me for her light bulb services one time! [Laughs] on the UK front I’m pretty cool with Dynamo.
I would like some more Daps relationship advice, further words of wisdom to join some of your more romantic Tweets like, “Treat a six like a ten, and a ten like a six and you can’t go wrong” –
Oh wow, you’ve been reading my Tweets! Geez! [laughs]
“Treat her like you love her, f**k her like you hate her” and “Is it me or are a lot of women waiting on Prince Charming instead of being proactive and initiating?” Do you have any more relationship gems for us today?
Ooh on the spot I’d say, one of the most important things is to focus on yourself and be confident, self-assured and comfortable in your own skin – happy to be alone, before you delve into the confines of a long-term relationship.
We’re all very exposed with the social networking and computers and so what I’d also say is whatever you and your partner have agreed to behind closed doors doesn’t matter has long as nobody is getting hurt and you both respect each other. Don’t take too many people’s opinions from the outside in. Even your family sometimes, you have to trust in your partner and don’t let the opinions of others interfere with your happy relationship – if it is a happy relationship.
Obviously you’re looking to make a career out of this and be more than some one-hit wonder, so where do you go from here? What’s next…David Seaman?
[Laughs] [sings] ‘I think I’m David Seaman’ – na!
You could pick the Arsenal legends and put together an album, the Gunner fans would love it –
No I’ve got a lot of non-football tracks coming soon [laughs] I should be dropping something in the upcoming weeks. Hopefully there will be another cool video, I need to match Ian Wright since I’ve set a little precedent. There’ll be another song or two, then after that I’ll work on an EP and mixtape – try and gain some more fans and a foothold in this treacherous, treacherous industry [laughs] and keep making great content.