Digga D’s story originally appeared in i-D’s The New Worldwi-De Issue, no. 363, Summer 2021. Order your copy here.
Digga D, one of Britain’s brightest young music stars, was unable to tell me about his iD cover story – his first cover story – due to restrictions surrounding his licensing terms. A criminal behavior order was imposed on the 20-year-old rapper (he will turn 21 in June) in 2018, after he was sentenced to a year in prison for conspiring to commit violent disorder with members of his drilling collective , 1011. This has meant that Digga is no longer allowed to see the friends he grew up with in Ladbroke Grove in west London and, perhaps more shockingly, his art has to be shared with the establishment, with detailed lyrics, within 24 hours of its release to its fans.
Can you imagine being one of the hottest names in music, with the world at your feet, and not being able to fully live out your dreams? Rhys Herbert-born entertainer knows his past is tarnished — he’s been locked up multiple times for breaking his CBO’s suffocating restraints — but this ongoing fight to silence his voice feels personal at this point. “I’m just used to it now,” Digga told me when I spoke to him last year. “It’s still stressful, but it’s something you learn to adapt to.” In November 2020, Digga D released a documentary with BBC Three, aptly titled Defend Digga D. The hour-long film went into great detail about the order of criminal behavior and how he navigates the world with it hanging over his head.
“At this point in his career, Digga should have had a face-to-face interview with someone like you, JP, and been on radio all over the country,” Mixtape Madness co-founder Kwabs says on Zoom. , in a room that also includes Digga D’s attorney, Cecilia Goodwin, and her manager, Bills. “I think Covid, plus all the restrictions he’s been through, has made it very difficult for even him to understand what an important musician he is in this country.”
Digga D is wearing a Calvin Klein vest. Supreme Pants. DIOR scarf. Jewelry (worn everywhere) belonging to the model.
Cecilia Goodwin, who works full-time with Digga D and her team, was one of the driving forces behind last year’s gripping documentary (whose director, Marian Mohamed, received a BAFTA nod). His case, she says, was unlike anything she had worked on before – he was one of the first artists to receive a CBO that directly affects his music – but it was a challenge she was willing to take on. . “Digga was referred to me by another black lawyer I know, who gave my contact information to Kwabs,” she says. “Kwabs contacted me and basically said, ‘Here’s an artist who needs help, who hasn’t gotten bail, and he needs a lawyer.’ I ended up working with him while he was in police custody, after he was arrested for violent disorder and a violation of his criminal behavior ordinance.That’s how our journey began.But what made me drawn to Digga was how ambitious he was. how talented and nice he was. Such a nice guy. He had everything against him, but he had a lot to gain. And I just thought, ‘I want to be part of this journey,” because I felt like it was going to take us somewhere in history. And he did, because he’s doing amazing things right now.
Indeed, it is. To date, the two mixtapes of Digga D – Tap twice Agendas for 2019 and this year Made of Pyrex – both peaked, the latter at number three and the first in the Top 20. And that says nothing of his batch of Top 40 singles, including “No Diet” and “Woi” – for which he has silver plates for — and his collaboration with AJ Tracey, “Bringing It Back,” which peaked at number five.
Digga D got their start in music six years ago alongside their 1011 cohorts (now known as CGM), just as British drilling came through the door as a force to be reckoned with. Influenced by the reggae and dancehall played in his Jamaican home as a child, his style of rapping – hard-hitting, leaving no pocket unturned – suited the British exercise perfectly. The movement, inspired by the Chicago drill scene of the early 2010s, with elements of grime and rap, corresponded to the reality of life in London in the mid to late 2010s. everything changed for Digga D. He released a Next Up? freestyle with 1011 on Mixtape Madness, his brightest star, and his career skyrocketed from that point on. “I came across Digga on YouTube,” says Bills, who’s been managing the artist since 2017. “The track that caught my eye was a 1011 song called ‘No Hook.’ It had crazy verses on it. I was working at Mixtape Madness at the time and I asked him to do the Next Up?freestyle.The rest is history.
All Burberry clothing.
Kwabs was grateful for Bills’ eye for talent. “He was creating a lot of content, A&Ring and bringing the talent to Mixtape Madness, and he was ecstatic about Digga D. The rest of us felt it. West London and exercise just wasn’t on the map. There were one or two drill artists making a bit of noise on this side of town, but we hadn’t really had any drill artists from the interior of west London, like the neighborhoods of Notting Hill or Ladbroke Grove. From this premise, it was a point of curiosity. But when we downloaded the Next Up? freestyle, there really was no looking back from there. It’s gone crazy!”
Working closely with Digga’s day-to-day management team, Kwabs is committed to the cause. “As for my connection to Digga and his family, it comes from a more unfortunate place: when was he recalled and the Next Up? the freestyle was demolished,” he explains. “I had to go to court in June and explained why Digga is such a bright young talent and how music can play a key role in his career transition. We brought his 10 million game plaque for its Next Up? and, at the time, I think it had like 30 million views in five months. So, we went there, and the minute they gave the verdict, the police pulled the Next Up ? from our YouTube channel. It kind of put things into context for me, like, ‘Is that how the system works with this young guy? I’m getting fully involved. Let’s go crack it.”
This campaign to silence black art is far from new. Do you remember Form 696? This was the racist risk assessment form that venues and club promoters had to complete when grime, garage and bashment (i.e. black music) was played and performed. This was created in 2005 during a crackdown on filth, also considered a ‘violent’ genre, which was scrapped in 2017 after London Mayor Sadiq Khan reviewed its existence. Two years later, the Met Police gave Brixton drill duo Skengdo x AM a suspended prison sentence for performing the song Attempted 1.0 – they received a gang injunction for it in 2018, but it was rightly abandoned at the beginning of this year. “Instead of muzzling what the exercise is trying to tell us, we need to see it as a rich, organic resource with which impactful conversations between educators and the most anxious and angry young people can be harnessed,” said said journalist, author and educator Ciaran Thapar. wrote in an article for The Guardian, and I couldn’t agree more. With so much on his shoulders, the Digga team says he’s doing his best for someone in such a constraining position.
Supreme tracksuit. Sunspel t-shirt.
“Working with him, I probably have a few more gray hairs and a few more wrinkles,” Cecilia says, “but I wouldn’t change that for the world. He drives me crazy sometimes because he’s just one of those people who has so much energy for everything he does and is very impulsive. But that doesn’t mean he’s reckless or anything; there are just times when, because he is so excited and in such a hurry, he wants to do everything right away. He does not necessarily see tomorrow as we see him tomorrow.
Bills agrees. “Cecilia said he wants to do everything now, I think that’s the biggest challenge to treat him as a person,” he says. “With him going to jail a few times, I think he’s just trying to catch up – trying to find a balance to at least let himself feel like he’s catching up to some degree, but not overdoing what. whether to the point of ruining the trajectory of his career or endangering his freedom.
Through it all, the story of Digga D – while unfortunate in part – is inspiring. Obstacles will stand in your way, but only you have the power to remove them and set yourself free. Now in a blissful relationship with British model Mya Mills, and with a host of new fans arriving at every play, Rhys has a lot to live for and be happy about, and no opp can stop his rise. “Digga D is at a certain point in his career where he’s about to break through,” Bills said when asked about his upcoming debut album. Lots of exciting things are planned, which they can’t disclose yet for obvious reasons. “But the fans have to support him so he can try to find a balance between keeping them happy and doing what’s best for his life and his career. Just know he’s got everyone in the long run, innit.
Supreme tracksuit. Sunspel t-shirt. Hermes scarf. Sneakers (worn everywhere) Nike. Calvin Klein Underwear socks.
All Ambush clothing. Budd gloves.
Calvin Klein vest. Supreme Pants. DIOR scarf.
Prada Linea Rossa jacket. Oakley glasses.
Liz Johnson Arthur Photography
Styling Max Clark
Treat Bari Khaliue with Mac Cosmetics.
Photographic assistance Mathias Karl Gontard.
Stylist assistance Marina de Magalhaes and Giulia Bandioli.
Directed byYasser Abubeker.
Special thanks to Rachel Campbell.
Casting Director Samuel Ellis Scheinman for DMCasting.