Since 2018, Digga D, the Ladbroke Grove MC and U.K rap’s enfant terrible, has operated under the constraints of a criminal behaviour order which allows the Met police to vet his lyrics. Yet he’s still grown irrepressibly into a chart-topping cultural phenomenon.
On Back to Square One – Digga’s fourth project and the first full-length release on his own Black Money Records label – that fame is one of many things weighing heavily on his young shoulders. “I’m someone’s idol so I’m mindful when I talk,” he raps on the candid, soulful intro ‘Fighting For My Soul’, which unfolds like a piece of spoken-word poetry before blooming into auto-tuned crooning. Experiments with auto-tune soaked vocals continue on ‘Bine On Em’ – a stone-cold retooling of the Luniz classic ‘I Got 5 On It’ – which suggests Digga is yet to free himself from the cycle of violence that has blighted his life so far. But on the project’s penultimate track ‘Cherish God More’, he’s wearied by that violence, counting the cost it’s taken on those around him and craving faith.
Digga’s sonic palette is evolving, too, from the smutty, 50-Cent-inspired ‘Soft Life’ to syrupy trapwave on ‘Baby Mum’s Crib’. While the bulk of the production on Back to Square One is steeped in road rap – U.K drill’s more meditative, measured predecessor. The jagged flows and reckless supervillain energy that poweredhis previous work is cooled into something slower andmore calculated here. When the pace does quicken on ‘Fuck Drill’, he carves up the beat with a precision that’s peerless, codedly and sometimes not-so-codedly taunting his rivals.
But Back to Square One ends as it begins, with maturity. “Whether you lose someone or you actually get hurt yourself / Always remember, it’s health over wealth / And I can tell you ’cause I’ve sat in like thirty different cells,” he raps on ‘West to North West’ – the project’s outro – before reminding us that the uncomfortable, often violent truths in his lyrics reflect the world he’s transitioning away from.