Grime has always been a fiercely independent music scene, from Wiley selling white labels out of the back of his car to the homemade videos of Channel U and Risky Roadz.
Flava D – a quiet veteran of the mid-noughties school – embodies that DIY spirit entirely. She’s not one to chase on the coat tails of others or wait for somebody to pick her up and steer her in the right direction. The highs of her career to date stem almost entirely from a focused dedication to her craft. She’s proven herself as one to watch through her output alone, rather than waiting for someone else to co-sign her. And in that sense, she typifies another common motif that’s rolled out frequently in the street tales of the MCs who flock to her beats: hard work, grinding. We caught up with her to track the key points of the story so far.
Early Years: The Casio keyboard
I’ve always been musical. I remember being six years old with one of those small battery keyboards, the mini Casio, sitting on the kitchen floor when my mum was cooking dinner. I would just be there on my keys trying to make a song, soundtracking dinner. I never really had one of those points where I thought ‘yeah, I want to do this for the rest of my life’ – it was just something that was always in me. I always knew what I wanted to do. I remember just before Year 11 when you talk about what you want to be in life, and people there wanted to be hairdressers or plumbers or policemen or whatever. I stood up in front of the whole school and was like, ‘yeah, I want to make music.’
2008: MySpace days and Wiley
A big step was when I started working with Wiley. I messaged him twice on MySpace but didn’t get a reply, and then one day he actually got back to me and said ‘send me some tunes.’ At first I was like ‘this can’t be the real Wiley,’ and then just ‘holy shit, Wiley’s interested.’ So I made a big folder of twenty-odd beats and one night he ended up calling me to tell me he wanted a load of them. He started paying me decent money. At this point I was living in Bournemouth but had always wanted to move away, so I ended up moving to Kent for two years with the money that he’d bought those beats for. It was when I moved to Kent – a whole new place, didn’t know anyone, just wanted to focus on my music and learn a lot more – that I started thinking about bigger plans.
"Hold On was the tune that changed everything for me"
2011: The release of Hold On
A lot happened in those years [after working with Wiley]. I’d built a big name for myself as a grime producer, having worked with some of the best in the scene, but around 2011 I took a different route. That’s when I started coming off the grime a bit and making more UK garage. That’s what caught [Butterz label owners] Elijah & Skilliam’s attention; that’s the sound that they heard that really drew them to me and eventually led to me signing to Butterz. The Hold On tune that I made, that pretty much changed everything for me.
2012: Butterz and bookings
The first day I ever met Elijah & Skilliam was at a Boiler Room. By then I’d had a few things on 1Xtra and people knew about Flava D – but I’d never played any gigs and wasn’t really DJing. That was the first time I ever actually played out live. I had no idea what Boiler Room even was! After that I said to the [Butterz] guys, ‘look, I don’t really know what I’m doing right now, I don’t know how to work a CDJ.’ So they invited me on their Rinse FM show and ever since then I was regularly going on the show, practising my skills and getting more familiar with it all.
2016: FABRICLIVE 88
The fabric mix is probably the biggest thing in my career so far. The guys at fabric approached me last December. At the time I obviously had a rough idea about the series, but I didn’t really realise how much of big deal it was. After they asked me, I did my research and checked out the previous ones and then was like ‘oh shit, this is big.’ That made me think of what I could do to make mine stand out and be a real ground-breaking thing. I thought that, rather than doing a DJ mix, I’d produce most of it myself and rather than just getting tunes from producers that I support, I thought let’s link up, do a track together and put it on the CD that way. I like the whole exclusive thing, and having a CD full of things that people haven’t actually heard.
FABRICLIVE 88 is out now via fabric