David Dallas is the Artist Formally known as Con Psy. Formally known as one-half of the award-winning NZ Hip Hop group Frontline. Formally known as the next to blow. Bring these pronouncements forward to the present tense and David Dallas is now known as the most gifted wordsmith New Zealand Hip Hop has birthed and the most valued lyricist on Dirty Records roster.
Early in the piece, label mate P-Money was quick to spot the prodigious talents of the new kid coming up, recognition that led to Dave’s searing verse on ‘Not Many – The Remix’. The song heralded the arrival of an untapped rap talent that New Zealand Hip Hop was quick to make room for.
After releasing his debut solo album “Something Awesome” in 2009 things started to move fast for David with recognition from Hip Hop blogs in the US and soon after winning a NZ Music Award for “Best Hip Hop Album” New York Hip Hop label Duck Down showed interest in signing the Kiwi MC to a deal.
Now located in New York Grindin’ caught up with David in his native New Zealand enjoying the summer before heading back to NYC.
Most people first heard of you on Scribe’s Not Many Remix and then on P-Money’s “Magic City” album. How did those opportunities come about and what was it like being a part of the success those releases had?
They came about through Nick (Forty One) playing our stuff to P-Money and Callum at Dirty. Nick already had a relationship with them through DJing and he’d just started getting into production. I was totally green – I didn’t know anyone or how anything worked. Fortunately they liked our demos and when the opportunity to remix Scribe’s song came about P thought it would be cool to get a new kid on there so he gave me the call up. Working on “Magic City” just followed on from there. It was pretty crazy, jumping from doing computer science at Uni to being on the TV and Radio and having some of the first verses I’d ever written on these records which ended up being super successful.
Your next official release was Frontline’s album “Borrowed Time” with producer 41. While it received a lot of critical acclaim it did not sell to expectations. How did that feel especially coming from the earlier successes you were a part of?
It’s weird, because local hip hop had become so huge in 03 and 04 and there was so much hype around it that everyones expectations had kinda become unrealistic. 05 was the beginning of the downturn. At the time I was disappointed, but if I look at what the record did in comparison to what records do now or even before that local hip hop boom we had, it’s rather successful. I think I was more disappointed at how difficult I found the record to make, I really feel like I laboured and stressed over the writing process way too much.
You then went on hiatus for a little while did you ever consider giving up the microphone and getting a regular job? If so what made you hang in there and stay doing your music?
It took a long time after that record before I actually wrote another song that I thought was half decent. It was awkward because though Nick still wanted to produce, he didn’t dig the whole artist thing and wanted to transition out of it to just produce and be a family man. I was down to do the solo thing but it kinda meant starting from scratch again. The most frustrating thing about that time was even though I was working and making these songs I loved (all the stuff that would eventually become ‘Something Awesome’) I was having to sit on them because my situation was up in the air. Meanwhile to the general public I was totally off the radar.
In 2009 you came back with your debut solo album “Something Awesome” which definitely had a different feel in terms of sound and also had a name change from Con Psy to David Dallas what was the reasoning behind that?
I just became more comfortable using my birth name. The only reason I hadn’t used it in the first place was because I didn’t have the confidence to really put myself out there. I’ve never been a “look at me” kinda person, I’ve always been pretty shy.
Another thing that was notable on the album was the honesty in your lyrics from your personal relationships to struggling as an artist to pay the bills. Did you find it hard putting these lyrics down and giving your listeners an insight into your personal world?
Nah, I’ve always found the heavier/more personal songs easy to write. I guess it’s cause I’m just drawing from personal experiences as opposed to trying to think of clever lines or something poignant to say.
The video for the single “Big Time” got a lot of attention from people internationally including Kanye West who posted it up on his blog. Was that a defining moment for you in terms of seeing the possibilities of making it overseas and how did you get the video to Kanye for him to view it in the first place?
It was kinda vindicating because I loved the vid and didn’t feel like it really got appreciated – also, the sentiment of that song means a lot to me. I put it out as a single when most people told me it was a bad idea cause it didn’t fit with radio, not uptempo enuff, too much lyrics etc etc. As fate would have it, nothings done more for me internationally than that song/vid. I think Kanye or his people stumbled upon it after seeing the Jonathan Boulet video which was directed by Special Problems. They must have looked into the other videos that they’d done and found mine.
You have also had the support of other notable US based blogs such as 2Dopeboyz how valuable has it been to have them post up your music and how did you get on their radar?
The blogs have been super important. We wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing now without them. Everything actually started because one Kiwi fan emailed the ‘Indulge Me’ vid to a blog called illRoots, they posted it and then the vid ended up a bunch of places including OnSmash. It was really encouraging, so after that my boy Che started reaching out to people and sites like The Smoking Section started showing us support.
Being one of the first Hip Hop artists from this part of the world signed to an independent Hip Hop label in the US do you feel any pressure at all or a responsibility to represent for the Hip Hop community down here?
Nah, I don’t feel no pressure. I get super patriotic, especially when I’m overseas – but I’m just one dude, and I realise regardless of what you do you can’t make everyone happy. There’s always gonna be people back home who feel like I don’t represent them at all, or think they could do a better job etc – so I ain’t really fussed. I just want to make the people who dig my stuff proud, and keep being me – one voice from N.Z.
What are your thoughts on the Hip Hop scene in the States and where do you see yourself fitting in?
It’s cool, there’s a whole bunch of new artists coming through that I rate. As far as the scene, I don’t think iI’ll ever really fit in but I’d like to think my songs deal with pretty universal themes. Hopefullly people can relate.
If there was one piece of advice you could give someone wanting to emulate with what you are achieving what would it be?
Get good people around you. Work on your craft as much as you can, and try to think of what you can offer other people instead of what they can do for you. Guarantee they’ll be much more inclined to help you if you do so.
You are now based in NYC and have been there for a while how are you finding it so far? Has it been a culture shock or relatively easy to settle in? What are your likes / dislkes?
Culture shock hasn’t been too bad cause I’ve been over a bunch of times in the last 18 months. I like that things move along at a faster pace work-wise here. The food here sucks though. I can’t overstate that. U.S food is shit.
When people first meet you what are their reaction when they find out you are a Hip Hop artist from New Zealand?
Surprise, followed by a mention of some random foreign place they or someone they know has been to. Chick at our gym hit me with a “Wow New Zealand? I just met someone from Scotland”. Blank stares and awkward silence ensued.
What do you miss most about NZ?
The Mrs. Family. Food.
2011 is just around the corner what are your plans and when can we expect to hear new music from David Dallas?
“The Rose Tint” is coming top of next year. That’s the only thing on my mind right now, tryin to make this release as good as it can be.
In 5 years from now where would you like to be?
In a big ass house by the beach in N.Z.
What’s your definition of Grindin’?
Doing hard work you don’t enjoy. Making music ain’t no grind.