Up the Dubz

Role mod­els? Nah. They don’t think so. Tulisa talks N-Dubz busi­ness with Lau­ren Mur­phy

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

IT’S MID-JUNE and I’ve found my­self in some­thing of a quandary: N-Dubz’s Ir­ish la­bel rep has just asked me which of the trio I’d pre­fer to talk to. I think back to March 2009, when I last in­ter­viewed the group in Dublin’s Mor­ri­son Ho­tel, and how I was greeted by a flurry of limbs, shiny track­suits and gold jew­ellery as the two male mem­bers tum­bled around the plush suite in a play­fight while their fe­male coun­ter­part pa­tiently sat in the corner and rolled her eyes ex­as­per­at­edly. N-Dubz, you see, are what some might call “char­ac­ters”. Dappy is the more an­i­mated, un­in­ten­tion­ally hi­lar­i­ous per­son­al­ity, Fazer the coolest, and Tulisa is the one with the co­her­ent an­swers – the self-con­fessed chav with a heart of gold and man­i­cured claws of metal.

But let’s back­track for a sec­ond. Per­haps you’re won­der­ing who the hell these kids with the made-up names ac­tu­ally are. Some of you may al­ready be versed in the mu­sic of N-Dubz, par­tic­u­larly those of you in your teens (or well-ac­quainted with some teenagers), or those of you who have an aver­sion to mu­sic be­ing played aloud from mo­bile phones on pub­lic trans­port.

The trio’s story be­gins in Cam­den, north London, about 10 years ago. Dino “Dappy” Con­tostav­los is the son of late Mungo Jerry bassist By­ron (re­ferred to by the band as Un­cle B), who man­aged the group in their early days. Tula “Tulisa” Con­tostav­los is his cousin, Richard “Fazer” Raw­son their child­hood friend. The ques­tion is, how do three kids from a coun­cil es­tate be­come an in­ad­ver­tent cul­tural phe­nom­e­non, sell 1.5 mil­lion com­bined copies of their two al­bums, clock up 20 mil­lion YouTube views, and earn three MoBo awards and the adu­la­tion of swarms of Bri­tish and Ir­ish kids along the way?

When I even­tu­ally speak to Tulisa – af­ter mul­ti­ple sched­ule wran­glings and post­pone­ments – she’s newly ar­rived in Los An­ge­les. The 22-year-old has trav­elled to the US with her band mates to work on new songs for Def Jam Records, with whom they re­cently signed a US deal.

“At the moment, UK mu­sic is re­ally blow­ing up in Amer­ica, with peo­ple like Taio Cruz and Jay Sean,” she en­thuses. “From the first day I came out here, they’ve had these UK dance tunes play­ing in all the clubs. With us, Max Gousse [Def Jam vice-pres­i­dent] came down for a cou­ple of shows, watched us per­form, we had a few meet­ings, and that was it. We flew to Los An­ge­les and had a meet­ing with LA Reid him­self, and he felt it. He got it. He was like ‘you guys don’t need to change a thing, you’ve got it how it is. I love you guys.’ By the next morn­ing, they were like: ‘Yeah, we’re gonna

sign them. We’re ne­go­ti­at­ing con­tracts now.’ We were like, ‘sick!’”

Al­though they’ve been mak­ing mu­sic to­gether since they were 12 years old, the trio’s as­cen­sion to ur­ban-mu­sic deities has ac­cel­er­ated over the past two years. Their deal with Def Jam epit­o­mises both their place at the apex of the UK scene, along with acts such as

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