Last week Dr Syntax played at Konductors Lab in Leeds so we went down to check out his new album and have a chat with him. Synax’s knack for witty social commentary, self-deprecating humour and intelligent wordplay, all delivered with his trademark charismatic style that belies his nerdy appearance, have earned him a legion of die-hard fans throughout the UK and beyond. After a slew of well-received guest appearances from 2003 onwards (including his classic contributions to Foreign Beggars’ ‘Asylum Speakers’ LP), Syntax dropped his critically acclaimed ‘Self Taught’ LP in 2007. As well as more traditional hip hop tempos, Syntax can drop double-time flows as fluidly as anyone from the UK’s grime scene, as exhibited on his long-awaited sophomore album ‘Benny Huge’. Here is what he had to say:
Inhabit: Firstly, Tell us about about who you are, and how you got into the rap game?
My name is Dr Syntax and I’m an MC. I’ve been rapping since I was very young. about 12 years old. I did most of my growing up in the countryside in Oxfordshire, and got into hip hop through Pete Tong’s rap show and tapes from my babysitter. He used to bring Public Enemy albums and Vietnam war films round. Awesome. Later on Westwood’s rap show and Yo! MTV Raps were big influences on me. Hip hop wasn’t mainstream in the UK back then, especially not in the countryside. You had to seek it out.
Inhabit: You moved from London to Manchester recently. Does the Hip-Hop scene differ between the two cities?
On the whole Manchester is very underground. There’s a lack of regular nights going on, but there is potential. Having said that it is a big city and we still get big names playing up here. London is so big I wouldn’t say there’s one scene – there’s the ‘road rap’ scene, there’s a whole scene of hipsters who dress like the cool kids and go to J Dilla tribute nights, there’s the underground ‘backpacker’ scene – I could go on. It’s not the incredible Hip Hop Mecca some people think it must be, but there are a lot of like-minded people who love hip hop, not to mention some great artists.
Inhabit: You now have your own Radio Show in Manchester. What kind of preparation goes into your shows or is it a ‘go with the flow’ kind of thing?
I do the ‘C’mon Feet Elements’ show alongside Andy Peek every Monday on Unity 92.8 FM between 7 and 9 pm. It’s available online too if you search for Unity Radio. We mostly play hip hop of course, but other stuff will creep in if we like it, be it dubstep, breaks, electronica – anything goes really. We stay up to date with new releases but also drop classics, and I play demos people give me if I like them. We’re going to start having a lot more exclusives and guest appearances this year. We don’t plan too much – pretty much go with the flow.
Inhabit: Your new LP was released last month. What is your favorite track on the album and why?
I’m really chuffed with the album so I don’t know if I can pick a favourite. I feel it all sits together cohesively, but at the moment I would have to say ‘There’s Got To Be More’, simply because it’s not what people expect from me – double time rhymes and tear out amen breaks – and it makes crowds go mental when we drop it. It’s a lot of fun to do.
Inhabit: You have supported various Wu Tang members. How did it feel playing before such heavy weights?
The best one was Gza in Camden (London). It’s always slightly nerve racking supporting a much bigger artist in front of their fanatical audience – if you don’t pull it off they’ll get restless – but Gza’s crowd got really into what we were doing. That was one of my favourite shows ever.
Inhabit: How did the Neurosonics Audiomedical Labs video come about?
The director, Chris Byrne, contacted Foreign Beggars and they got me involved. We spent a couple of days waiting around to get spun on a giant turntable under hot lights. It was very surreal but when it was finally finished I was pretty blown away by it.
Inhabit: You haven’t made any releases from Beer and Rap records for a while. Why is that?
Sadly Beer and Rap records is dead. RIP! Big up Newborn aka Johnny Rap Attack. He put my first album and singles out and helped massively to get my name out there. For me I’m happy doing things with the Dented Records camp – the line up is myself, Foreign Beggars, London Zoo and Kyza, which I feel is a very strong team.
Inhabit: What are your plans for 2011?
I’m touring at the moment to promote the album and I’m working on new music with Screwloose recordings (a drumstep/dubstep label), as well as a new project with Pete Cannon (who produced most of my album), a rapper called Derogatory and a singer called Becki Stephens (formerly of pop band The Pipettes). I’m really excited about that – it’s already coming together nicely and can’t wait to get things rolling. Last year I toured the UK and France with Foreign Beggars, so I’d love t do that again in my own right this year.
Ben Hughes/ Dr Syntax
‘Benny Huge’ LP out now from www.drsyntax.bandcamp.com