Many UK artists are seemingly afraid—or even ashamed—to admit they take influence from across the pond. But not Young Adz and Dirtbike LB. The south London pair, aka D-Block Europe, wear their Stateside influences proudly—a habit honed ever since Jadakiss first tried to sign Adz when he was just 15 years old. And on The Blue Print — Us Vs. Them—billed as D-Block Europe’s official debut album—they lean in as hard as possible. In lieu of grimey square waves, 2-step bounce or the swinging rhythms of Afrobeats, the duo look to the influence of Young Thug, Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane (after whom they named one of the songs on their 2018 mixtape with Yxng Bane) to deliver rolling trap 808s, molasses-like Auto-Tune melodies and melancholic tales of escaping street life. D-Block Europe also get honest—giving way to more moments of reflection than their fans might expect. On “Proud”, for example, Adz meditates on fatherhood, pushing himself harder to provide for a daughter he rarely sees, while elsewhere, he hints at struggles with mental health. This may technically be D-Block Europe’s first album, but The Blue Print — Us Vs. Them is also their fourth full-length project in only 12 months, and arrives after a 2019 that saw one of UK rap’s hardest-working acts put out more than 150 tracks. (That was on top of the bank of unreleased music they sit on, all of it freestyled and recorded with a tireless approach that doesn’t pause for writing sessions.) “We say what we want to say, when we want to say it, as it happens,” Adz tells Apple Music of that ferocious work ethic. “And obviously, if you record over 1,000 songs, it’s just natural that you’re going to progress because practice makes perfect, right?” All of which inspired the 29-track album’s title. “We are the blueprint,” says Adz. “Whether it’s down to sound, visuals, behaviour, fashion—whatever you want to look at—we built a whole blueprint. There’s people out there who don’t know why they do what they do, but they’re still doing it. They do it because of us. They’re literally using our blueprint.” Join D-Block Europe as they talk us through some highlights of that ambitious road map.
Destiny Young Adz: “‘Destiny’ is one of them, the day that you live, like, the whole scene. The whole thing. So that’s why it’s the first song on the album; it’s got that energy to it. There were around 20 people in the studio and it was just pure energy.” Dirtbike LB: “The money was destined.” Adz: “Yeah, meaning we are going to get rich. By hook or crook. You see people like Young Thug? They’ve got thousands of songs out there. We just think that’s the only way in. Two, three tapes a year or more. It’s normal.” LB: “We’re trying to normalise that in the UK.”
Top Thai LB: “He wrote this song in one of our favourite restaurants. That’s the name of it.” Adz: “We were going to eat, we just saved it as that: ‘Top Thai’. We’re going to go eat Thai. That’s it. Kind of like when you’re with a beautiful woman. We’ll refer to them and the whole experience as being like Top Thai because it’s beautiful.”
Proud Adz: “I cried when I made that song. I’m weak, I’m vulnerable. We’ve done a lot of things and we’ve been through a lot. We don’t have a lot left to give. This is fine, this is life, this is normal, but while you’re dealing with real-life matters, real-life things, being a baller, living life, you’ve got to remember we’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.”
Michelin Star Adz: “This is like a woman-appreciation moment. It’s one of those uplifting celebrations. It’s hard to make those sorts of songs with a girl and a boy. It’s easy to make an anthem song for a girl, but it’s hard to balance them both in a way.” LB: “This song’s a very well-orchestrated one. We have female artists on the album and we wanted to uplift them and praise them.”
GS9 Adz: “I love this song, the way it just snapped and came together. In my past life, I used to be a certain type of guy with a certain type of job. And like, I paid my dues but I could easily have ended up like Bobby Shmurda [the US rapper arrested in 2014 and sentenced to seven years in jail] so I called it ‘GS9’ [after Shmurda’s hip-hop collective]. Like, I’ve really seen things. You know what I’m saying? I’ve really seen things. It’s like I’m on licence. And we’ve left certain things behind. You’ve got to read between the lines.”
Pure Adz: “We’ve opened up so much more on this album. A million, trillion per cent. We’re vulnerable and we just don’t care what people think about us anymore. People are going to hate us, but we’re family. It wasn’t even actually planned like, ‘Yeah we’re going to open up more.’ We’re so vulnerable and so emotional, but that’s just how it came out and we don’t care. You’re never going to sit and go, ‘You never asked your friend if that was too emotional on that track.’ We just do it.”
UFO Adz: “‘UFO’ is not a song any other artist would make in the UK, and it will grab different eyes—and definitely not our usual fans. It will encourage different types of people to listen to our s**t. We don’t want to make a song with an artist that is just trending everywhere or doesn’t fit with us. We don’t care what’s hot or who’s doing numbers. Our music’s too personal for that. If that was the case, we’d just be on the radio 24/7. We’d be on every billboard, but we don’t care about that.”