When rap music began emerging as a genre in the 1970s, it was all about which emcee could outflow the others and win the favor of the DJ and audience. There was the unwritten law that a rapper must achieve a certain level of credibility on the streets and among his peers in order to be regarded as the best in his game. While in many ways the game remains the same, the rules have indisputably changed. No longer does a rapper have to be from the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhood in his city to gain the respect of listeners and other artists.
Danny Seth embodies the very notion that the toughest flows can emerge from the unlikeliest of artists—regardless of their race or background. A white London rapper quickly on the come up in the United States, Seth is no stranger to stereotypes; in fact, he even wrote a track about them. In “Stereotypes,” which appears on Seth’s second EP Prespliffs Volume II, released in January, he confronts the critics who attack him on the basis of being white and Jewish.
“I think now is the time in hip-hop when it’s acceptable to talk about where you’re from,” said Seth. “There are people like Drake, who didn’t come from a broke background and is Jewish. Obviously I get the haters, but fuck them. I would probably hate me, too.”
Unfortunately, Seth says most of the hate he receives comes from people in his hometown. The rapper, who has spent time working in the states, has received criticism from English listeners that feel his background and American influence disqualify him as a true UK “grime” rapper.
“It’s hard when your own city doesn’t back you,” said Seth. “I’m trying to do something so different. I’m trying to come from an American standpoint. I love grime and UK hip-hop, but I can’t do either of them because I’m not from a grimy area. In England, you either do grime or you do UK hip-hop. If you do anything else, you are shunned upon, which is horrible to think.”
For his first EP Prespliffs Volume I, released in September 2012, Seth experimented with several different movements and trends in music. A couple years ago, when he was making the record, electronic dance music, dubstep, and trap were becoming increasingly prevalent in rap music. But he soon found that listeners were quickly writing him off as just another EDM-trap artist. “I hate that shit now, but a year ago it was cool as fuck—no one else was doing it. I was quick to get pigeonholed—people were like ‘bars, bars, bars.’ I thought, ‘Oh fuck, this is not what I wanted at all.’ ”
Seth took a step back and reevaluated his goals as a musician. With his second EP Volume II already in mind, the rapper found it was crucial to understand the sub-genres of hip-hop music and to study the moves of powerful artists who he admires. For this sort of insight, Seth traveled to hip-hop capitals in the United States working alongside other artists who had achieved success for their atypical styles.
“I lived in Los Angeles, I went to Atlanta, I went to New York. I wanted to get a feel for how Americans were feeling the hip-hop scene,” said Seth. “I was friends with Trinidad [James] before he blew up. I was there as everything was popping off. Even in England, I was in America in my mind with the music I was listening to. I’m just trying to reflect that sound with an English twist.”
Seth was pleased—and a little surprised—to see how quickly hip-hop fans in the US embraced his uncharacteristic sound. A blend of influences including everything from UK bass to dirty south has landed Seth’s music on several blogs that praise his flow and persona alike. On making that often-tricky transition to America from across the pond, Seth admits it was easier than he thought. “My shit took off over there in the states. I had to hustle a lot, too. After some blogs picked me up, I caught wildfire.”
Perceptive of the current climate within the hip-hop sphere, Seth embraces this mixture of the high and low, counting Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and A$AP Rocky as major influences. In “See Me Interlude,” another track off Volume II, Seth raps over a drum-heavy beat that samples Carl Orff’s classic orchestral song “O Fortuna.” ”
He also has his own fashion venture in the form of a menswear accessories label called Boadicea, named after the ancient English warrior queen. “I think this is a good time for music and fashion,” Seth said. “I’ve got so much respect for Rocky—he’s the first rapper I’ve seen on the cover of Vogue. The fact that the music and the fashion go hand in hand and I’m getting attention for it is great.”
And since he has been getting attention for his music and style, Seth is also aware of how his persona might be misinterpreted by listeners.
“I don’t want to be seen as a gimmick,” said Seth. “There are a lot of white rappers out there who are gimmicky and shit like that. I wanted people to see that I could make the bangers—I could make songs like ‘Toronto,’ but I can rap, too.”
Still Seth is not afraid to expose his more humorous side, but does so within a specific context. At the beginning of the video for the track “WVRNING”—a precursor to his highly anticipated mixtape, TeaSpliffs—Seth introduces an alter-ego that mocks his most persistent haters, who have gone so far as to make derogatory phone calls.
“He’s sort of my version of Eminem’s Slim Shady,” said Seth. “What I wanted to prove is that I’m a nice guy, I’m a funny guy. I can have fun and make jokes in the intro, but when you listen to my rap, the jokes stop and the fucking lyrics take over.”
With such an original flow and the confidence to back it, Seth certainly has a grander vision for his career as a rapper. “When I’m having lobsters with Pharrell and Yeezy at the same table, then I might sit there and think, ‘All right, I’m doing quite well.’ ”
Above all, however, he strives to keep it real. “I never want to come across as fake. I haven’t come from a terrible background. I just chat about what’s on my mind at the moment. Lucky for me, I’ve had a lovely run with women and fun experiences with drugs as I grew up, so I chat about real situations.”
In addition to finishing up his trilogy of EPs, Seth is also working on a covers record called Sheets, in which he remakes tracks from some of his current influences, including A$AP Ferg’s “Work.”
Seth credits the help of his network of friends and supporters as a significant reason for the success he has experienced so far. As part of an artist collective called Last Night in Paris, Seth is one of several directors, painters, designers, and musicians who collaborate with one another on their respective projects. He’s also worked with other collectives including a New York based group of producers who go by Tribe Gvng.
In-house music producer Zach Nahome, who Seth has referred to as a 19-year-old wunderkind, has made some of Volume II’s toughest beats including “Paychecks” and “Flow.” “We really get each other and started in this together,” said Seth of Nahome. “He used to make house and when I started making hip-hop, he converted. He actually linked up with Last Night in Paris first, which is how I initially got involved. Now we’re all one big clique.”
Seth’s efforts thus far have been entirely independent. Having recorded all his music from his living room studio, he’s only just begun to scratch the surface. Already garnering the attention of influential artists and producers, the charismatic young rapper is confident about his future in both music and fashion. Although his ultimate goal is to become a successful artist by creating music he believes in, Seth is adamant about achieving fame and fortune on his own terms.
“So many people are quick to label an artist as white rapper,” said Seth. “I fucking hate white rappers apart from Eminem. I’m not going to name names, but those who make music for white kids. I’m trying to make music for the white kids and the black kids and the whoever. I want whoever to say, “Yo, this sounds dope. I wanna get fucked up to this.”
With a sharp ear for emerging trends in hip-hop and the capacity to navigate the ever-changing landscape of the genre, Seth is extremely dedicated to making himself a more fully developed and innovative artist. While he may not have to prove himself in the streets, Seth is intent on creating music that will garner attention from fans and respect from the artists he admires.
“I’ve had the chance to work with some big people, but I don’t want to jump ahead of myself,” said Seth. “I don’t want to work with the biggest producers, be hot for a minute, and then fall off. When it’s the right time and big producers come to me to work, we’ll work for the album. For now, I wanna do this all myself.”