See the first magazine cover of Digga D


The Digga D 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 speak to me for their cover story on iD – their first cover story – due to restrictions on their license terms. A criminal behavior order was issued to the 20-year-old rapper (he will be 21 in June) in 2018, after he was sentenced to one year in prison for conspiring to commit violent disturbance with members of his collective of exercises, 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 must be shared with the establishment, with detailed lyrics, within 24 hours of its release to fans.

Can you imagine being one of the hottest names in music, with the world at your feet, and not being able to live your dreams to the fullest? Born artist Rhys Herbert knows his past is tarnished – he’s been locked up multiple times for violating the suffocating restraints of his CBO – but this ongoing struggle to silence his voice feels personal to him at this point. “I’m used to it now,” Digga told me when I spoke to him last year. “It’s always 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 movie went into a lot of detail about the Criminal Behavior Ordinance and how he navigates the world with it 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 the radio all over the country,” Kwabs, co-founder of Mixtape Madness, says on Zoom , in a play that also features Digga D’s attorney, Cecilia Goodwin, and her manager, Bills. “I think Covid, plus all the restrictions he’s had, made it very difficult for him even to understand how important he is to a musician in this country.”

Digga D wears Calvin Klein waistcoat. Supreme pants. DIOR scarf. Jewelry (worn everywhere) specific to the model.

Cecilia Goodwin, who works full-time with Digga D and her hands-on team, was one of the driving forces behind last year’s gripping documentary (whose director, Marian Mohamed, received a BAFTA nod on the back of this one). Her case, she said, was unlike anything she had never worked on before – he was one of the first artists to receive a CBO that directly affects their music – but it was a challenge that she was ready for. to relieve. “Digga was referred to me by another black lawyer I know, who gave my contact details to Kwabs,” she said. “Kwabs contacted me and basically said, ‘Here’s an artist who needs help, who doesn’t have a bond, and he needs a lawyer.’ I ended up working with him while he was in custody, after being arrested for violent disorder and violating his criminal conduct order. This is how our journey began. But what attracted me to Digga was how ambitious he was; how talented and kind he was. Such a nice kid. He had everything against him, but he had a lot to gain. And I just thought, “I want to be a 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 – Type twice Calendars for 2019 and this year Made in Pyrex – have both peaked, the last at number three and the first in the Top 20. And that says nothing about his batch of Top 40 singles, notably “No Diet” and “Woi” – for which he has all two of the silver plates. – and his collaboration with AJ Tracey, “Bringing It Back”, which ranked number five.

Digga D started in music six years ago alongside its 1,011 cohorts (now known as CGMs), just as British drill was breaking through the door as a force to be reckoned with. Influenced by the reggae and dancehall performed in his Jamaican home as a child, his rap style – punchy, leaving no empty pocket – was perfectly suited to the British exercise. The movement, inspired by the Chicago drill scene of the early 2010s, with elements of grime and road rap, matches the reality of life in London from the mid to late 2010s. It’s 2017 that everything changed for Digga D. He released a Next Up? freestyle with 1011 on Mixtape Madness, his brightest star, and his career exploded from that point on. “I stumbled across Digga on YouTube,” says Bills, who has directed the artist since 2017. “The track that caught my eye was a 1011 song called ‘No Hook.’ There were some crazy worms in there. I was working at Mixtape Madness at the time and asked him to do Next Up? freestyle. The rest is history.

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All Burberry clothing.

Kwabs was grateful for Bills’ talent. “He was creating a lot of content, A & Ring and bringing the talent to Mixtape Madness, and he was ecstatic with enthusiasm for Digga D. The rest of us felt it. West London and exercise just weren’t on the map. There were a couple of drilling artists making a bit of noise on this side of town, but we hadn’t really had any drilling artists from central-west London like the Notting Hill or Notting Hill areas. Ladbroke Grove. From this premise there was a point of curiosity. But when did we download the Next Up? freestyle, there was really no turning back. It’s gone crazy! “

Working closely with Digga’s day-to-day management team, Kwabs is committed to the cause. “As far as my connection to Digga and his family, it came from a more unhappy place: when he was called back and the Next Up? Freestyle has been eliminated, ”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 coin plate for his Next Up? and, at the time, I think he had about 30 million views in five months. So, we went there, and the minute they deliver the verdict, the police take down the Next Up? from our YouTube channel. It kind of put it in context for me, like, “Is that how the system works in relation to this young man?” I am fully involved. Let’s go crack. ‘”

This campaign to silence black art is far from new. Do you remember form 696? This was the racist risk assessment form that sites and club promoters were required to fill out when grime, garage, and bashment (i.e. black music) were played and played. It was created in 2005 during a crackdown on filth, also once considered a ‘violent’ genre, which was scrapped in 2017 after the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, reviewed its existence. Two years later, Met Police sentenced the Brixton Skengdo x AM exercise duo to suspended jail time for performing the song Tentative 1.0. “Instead of muzzling what drill 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,” journalist, author and host youth Ciaran Thapar writes in an article for The Guardian, and I totally agree. With so much to carry on his shoulders, the Digga team says he’s doing their best for someone in such a restrictive position.

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Supreme tracksuit. Sunspel t-shirt.

“Working with him, I probably have a few more gray hairs and a few more wrinkles,” says Cecilia, “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’s so excited and in such a hurry, he wants to do it all right away. He doesn’t necessarily see tomorrow like we see tomorrow.

Bills agrees. “What Cecilia said about him wanting to do it all 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 feel like he’s catching up to some degree, but not overdoing it. to ruin the trajectory of his career or to put his freedom in danger.

Through it all, Digga D’s story – albeit partly unfortunate – is inspiring. Obstacles will stand in your way, but only you have the power to remove them and break free. Now in a happy relationship with British model Mya Mills, and with hordes of new fans arriving at every room, Rhys has plenty of reasons to live and be happy, and no opp can stop his rise. “Digga D is at a certain point in his career where he’s about to take a big break,” Bills said when asked for details on his upcoming debut album. A lot of exciting things are planned, which, for obvious reasons, they cannot yet disclose. “But the fans have to put up with him so he can try to find a balance between keeping them happy and also doing what’s best for his life and career. Just know that he’s got everyone in the long run, innit . “

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Supreme tracksuit. Sunspel t-shirt. Hermès scarf. Sneakers (worn everywhere) Nike. Calvin Klein Underwear socks.

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All Ambush clothing. Budd gloves.

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Calvin Klein cardigan. Supreme pants. DIOR scarf.

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Prada Linea Rossa jacket. Oakley glasses.

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Credits


Photography Liz Johnson Artur
Max Clark Style

Grooming Bari Khaliue with Mac Cosmetics.
Photographic assistance Mathias Karl Gontard.
Stylist assistance Marina de Magalhaes and Giulia Bandioli.
Director Yasser Abubeker.
Special thanks Rachel Campbell.
Casting director Samuel Ellis Scheinman for DMCASTING.


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