Radio BurgerFuel

Interview: Diggy Dupé

Posted by Lee Densem


You' will often find him pounding the streets of Grey Lynn outside the Radio BurgerFuel studio with his dog. Representing Central Auckland (CA) hard, Diggy Dupé is back after an 18 month hiatus with his debut full length album called ‘That’s Me, That’s Team’. He is our neighbour, and he has found a new local with the opening of BurgerFuel Point Chev! But first and foremost, he is a musician who has had to come to terms with how to release music in the middle of a global pandemic.​

Just like everybody else in the world, 2020 has turned many people's lives upside down. Lockdowns, bubbles, social distancing have been added to our vocabularies. Masks are now not just a thing to bring out for Halloween. Musicians and creatives have faced different challenges with many losing their only regular source of income with live gigs cancelled for long periods. Here in Aotearoa, there is hope that with a likely return to Level 1 across the whole country soon, things might get back to a new normal. One of our friends (and neighbourhood rapper) decided to release his debut album in the middle of a global pandemic. So, we started by asking Diggy Dupé how it felt to put it out in such different circumstances.

“Yeah crazy times. Despite what’s going on in the world, it was a relief and also a testimony to myself. And also feeling like I cemented myself in the industry. Because first full album, people don’t really do that these days.”

He talked about wanting to make a “solid” body of work that could stand the test of time. And to show that he can “go 12 rounds and do that championship round… Having a full album under my name is one of the best feelings that I can have."

Dupé says the full-length album has been coming for a while. "All these songs and little projects were just warmups.” After his 2018 EP ‘Island Time’ he asked himself what he was going to do next. The plan was to release a double EP, until an intervention from “one of the bros.” The conversation went along the lines of “bro, no one’s going to take you seriously unless you do a full album”. Diggy's response? “F**k. I’ll do a full album then.”


With the onset of Covid, That’s Me That’s Team could have joined so many projects in being delayed or dumped. But in this case the release date never changed as most of it was recorded before lockdown. Dupé says “it was just the problem of getting it mixed and mastered.” Like the rest of the world “we had to pull some strings and do some running around via email, a lot of calls and messages online.”

Taking so much of the creative process online can present challenges for artists who are used to being more hands on. Dupé says “that distance from it made me hear stuff.” But whereas in the past it was easy to fix it, this was a time to “just send it. It’s art bro. You’re always working on something, but there has to be a point in time where you’re like, ‘nah this is it’.”

The whole experience was obviously different, but Dupé says he sees positives in it as well. “Like I had time, and also listeners had time. You know, everyone is at home, so had time to listen and watch content which is cool for creatives.” The downside for almost all musicians is the lack of live shows. This was particularly hard for Dupé because most of his promotion is via word of mouth. You will often see him out and about, whether just walking his dog around Grey Lynn or popping up at a show. He says with those options out the window it was hard.

“I’m not that guy on IG with his front camera on, talking all the time. I let the music speak for itself. I’ll see you in person and I’ll tell you about it and you can listen. I feel like my product stands [by itself] so you don’t have to do that much promotion. If you’re over promoting something, it’s kind of like ‘why you trying to sell me this’. It’s a bit dodgy.”

“I’m not that guy on IG with his front camera on, talking all the time"

Forced or otherwise, there were obvious differences in recording, but That’s Me, That’s Team feels like a sonic evolution for Dupé as well. You would expect this after almost two years since the last sizeable release. But listening to the new LP, you get the sense that he has grown as a person in this time too.

“Oh yeah. For real. I feel dead certain of myself now. Whereas the other tapes, I was just finding myself. Even if you listen to those tapes and think that this guy seems so on point. I was still lost or confused. So, I feel like this album is just me, like I said. Being a testimony to myself. Me telling myself I can just do this. And this is what I wanna do.”

Dupé still tried to capture the “same essence” from his first projects, but he was committed to trying different things “just like baby steps, little one-percenters.” He refers to UFC fighters like Israel Adesanya who are always trying to tweak their craft. “They’re already good at striking but want to get better at wrestling”. Taking this philosophy to his music, Dupé is also trying to become more versatile which is why ‘That’s Me, That’s Team’ has such a mix of beats. “It’s like a journey, it’s like windy roads, then flat straights, then you’ve got the steep-as hill that you’re speeding down. That’s what I wanted my first album to have.”

It all stemmed from a conversation with Rizvan, who acted as producer, collaborator, and confidant on the record. He says Rizvan told him “bro, you can pretty much rap over anything, but at the end of the day your voice is going to be that glue, that common theme. That’s going to be the thing that ties everything together.” Dupé says it allowed him the freedom to try new things. “I don’t have to be the one that’s always yelling in the raps. I can smooth out my edges and be vulnerable. Or talk about my partner, or my love life.”

"I don’t have to be the one that’s always yelling in the raps"

He has put this to good use, rapping over a smooth R&B beat on ‘5:35’ (featuring Rizvan & REDDXROZAY) and talking about gambling issues in his family in the catchy ‘CT&T’. But perhaps the best example of taking a risk and changing his style comes with his lyrical stylings over a heavy west coast beat from SmokeyGotBeatz. Dupé says the track ‘Echo’ was not even going to make it. “I was like I don’t rap to this stuff bro. But Smokey forced me to rap over it, he kept putting the beat back up.” He persevered and tried “just slowly inch by inch stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new and seeing what happens. And the result has surprised Dupé by all the good feedback he has been getting from people.

We talk about another track ‘One Day’ which comes at the back end of the album. Over a Haz Beats production, he called on Youngness Ikinofo and gave him free rein to say whatever he wanted, saying “this is your time to tell people your story.”

“Oh bro, shout out to my cousin Youngness. That was so sentimental. He did a song with me and Rizvan a while ago called Any Technicality. He just reminds me of GZA, just the way that he flows and theirs layers to his lines and he’s so chill. But if you know him as a person, that’s his whole life. He’s such a hippy! He’s so happy about life and he’s got the biggest holes in his jeans and stuff.”

‘One Day’ was supposed to be the outro for the album, until Dupé was inspired to make ‘Seven Years’ after hearing a track from ChoiceVaughan.

“I think he was doing his tape ‘Deuce’ with Tom Scott. I went in the studio to do my verse for that tape, and Tom was there, and they actually played me Kentucky Gold before it got released. And I was like (sorry for my language) ‘F**K, this shit is crazy! I love this song!’ Then ChoiceVaughan sent me a bunch of beats and there was a version of Kentucky Gold that he worked on. That’s why if you put them together they kind of sound similar. That’s why in the beginning I was like ‘shouts to the cuzzy Joel and Tom Scott. I was inspired by Kentucky Gold’.”

Hearing how Tom Scott approached it, Dupé decided he would do the same and talk about “my growth in life”. He also said “I wasn’t going to do the shout outs, but I always do the shoutouts. I wanna tell people what happened from Island Time until now. Because it’s been so long in music years.” So Rizvan pressed record and the rest is history.

"I wasn’t going to do the shout outs, but I always do the shoutouts"

It feels like perhaps a new purpose and identity has arrived, with hip-hop once again flourishing right across Tāmaki Makaurau. So, it seems only fitting that two other Auckland alumni JessB and Church & AP dropped releases on the same day as Diggy Dupé.

“Yeah, I was talking with Church (Leon) about it a couple of weeks ago, because they released on the same day. And JessB had a fire EP – that 'Three Nights in Amsterdam' and I listened to it front to back that day as well when I was walking Kazu. Everyone has taken their own path in music, sonically, but I felt like all of us have taken our culture and identity and just ran with it and all gone our separate ways and we’re all trailblazing. Like if you listen to JessB’s one it’s so heavy on the dancehall and it’s just a good vibe. And then my stuff is just me and Central (Auckland) and the stories of my people. And Church & AP, they're just going off on a crazy-as goose chase and being really experimental.  And they’ve got the youth behind them and they’re speaking for the next generation and stuff.”

Dupé feels like everyone has become self-aware of who they are now. "We’re not looking elsewhere, we’re trying to be like ourselves, because that’s all we know.”

“Everyone’s different. It’s kind of like the nineties of New York or LA. No one wanted to sound like the next person. I don’t wanna sound like Church & AP, or SWIDT. I don’t even want to sound like Rizzy or Melo, my brothers. I wanna sound like Diggy. You know."

"I feel like if everyone sticks to the path they are on, you’re gonna look at this new renaissance of the NZ hip-hop scene and realise that f**k, everyone is so unique. Even the Ammo boys like Raiza Biza and Abdul Kay. And then Mo (Muse) sounds different to all of them. Mo’s like Bas if you compare them to Dreamville, he’s the real deep dude. And he’s a smart kid. He’s a pharmacist! He says in his lines too ‘he pushes drugs legally.’ Bro that’s so cool. It’s at a time now where no one’s shying away from who they are."

"f**k, everyone is so unique"

After everything that 2020 has thrown at the world, we wondered if Dupé feels hopeful for the future? “Man. I do. Because I can do anything. Drop an album during times like this. While I still work full time. It’s crazy."

With that, the conversation turns to the shows that are now actually happening. First up is a place that is new to Dupé – and not just as a performing musician. “I’ve never been to Wellington in my life. Never been there at all. I’ve heard it’s crazy down there – the vibe. I’ll give them a crazy set; I won’t give them the seated set. I’ll give them the whole jump around, probably punch a mate or something. One of those sets”

If it is warm enough Dupé says he is going to take the opportunity to be a tourist and jump off the wharf into Wellington Harbour. “I used to spend my whole summer bombing at Point Erin (pools). So that’s want I want to do, to tick it off.”

And that. That is definitely Diggy Dupé.

Catch Diggy Dupé live on tour on Fri 2 October at Meow in Wellington, or Sat 24 October at Whammy in Auckland. The album ‘That’s Me, That’s Team’ is available to listen on all your favourite streaming platforms.