Bubbling London-via-Holland rapper Stefflon Don is touted as the British Nicki Minaj – here’s why.
If your idea of ‘bubbling’ involves candles, a warm bath and a hefty dose of Radox, you’re in for a shock. London rapper Stefflon Don’s here with a new definition – hyperspeed Dutch dancehall. Switching between grime, rap and bubbling on tracks with the likes of Jeremih, Lethal Bizzle, Angel and K Koke, she’s fast becoming the hottest name in UK hip-hop, even hitting the top end of the BBC Sound Of 2017 poll. But just who is this enigmatic artist everyone’s calling the British Nicki Minaj?
Stefflon Don: the making of a grime queen
Most big grime names have an origins story involving crew clashes on the mean streets of Bow (or similarly run-down chunk of Broken London). Few take in eight years in Rotterdam. Yet that’s exactly where Stefflon Don – aka Steff London, aka 25-year-old Stefanie Allen – grew up, having been born in Birmingham and moved to Holland at the age of five. A very different sort of upbringing, then, than her grime peers, she told i-D. “Weed was legal, so that eliminates a lot of crime. The places that sold weed also sold Class A's, which obviously wasn't allowed, but that also eliminates a lot of crime. When I lived in Holland, you never heard of anyone being stabbed or shot, ever.”
Landing back in the UK aged 13, she took a few years to settle in with the cooler kids at her North London school but soon became the queen of the inner-city jungle. It wasn’t until she turned 19 that she took up rapping in earnest between jobs as a hairdresser and cake-decorator, though, inspired by the likes of Missy Elliott, Foxy Brown and Destiny’s Child. In 2013 she put her first track on YouTube and in 2015 she felt confident enough in her music to start releasing regularly. Her November 2015 release of a version of Section Boyz’ ‘Lock Arff’, written, recorded and released inside a week, catapulted her to scene stardom, even featuring the group’s Inch in the video. “He told me he thought I had one of the sickest versions,” she said in her i-D interview, “so I went to go meet him and he agreed to being in the video... That was the video that really kicked things off for me."
What is ‘bubbling’?
As Steff’s style emerged over the summer of 2016 on her debut single ‘Hot Prop’, a mixtape ‘The Plug’ and guest spots on Angel’s ‘Hop On’, Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Wobble’ and Jeremih’s ‘Late Nights: Europe’ mixtape amongst others, she swiftly became One To Watch thanks to her sharp, witty lines and ability to skip between the rap, grime and bubbling genres. Bubbling? It’s an offshoot of Jamaican dancehall that originated in Holland when a Dutch DJ accidentally played a dancehall record at the wrong speed. Frankly, it’s amazing John Peel didn’t invent it back in 1974.
Stefflon Don: the latest tracks
Closing out 2016 with the dynamite-bass rap swag cut ‘Real Ting’ and its accompanying mixtape, bagging a spot on the Sound Of 2017 longlist and signing to Sony, Steff hit 2017 like a blue-haired truck, dropping a new dancehall-heavy single ’16 Shots’ in February. An album is in the offing, which will hopefully fulfill her vaulting ambition of being as big as Adele.
The mystery ex-boyfriend
We’re hoping the album will also fill us in further on Steff’s troubled romantic history. “I've only had one boyfriend,” she told i-D. “He loves me writing about him — 'It's so good for your music; I gave you something to write about.' 'Bitch you broke my heart, how about you didn't and I could have written about the good side of love instead. How about you was faithful'!”
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