D‑Block Europe are young Black rockstars

Young Adz (left) wears jacket archive HELMUT LANG courtesy of LA NAUSÉE, trousers Y/PROJECT and hat, sunglasses, jewellery and underwear talent’s own Dirtbike LB (right) wears top and harness GIVENCHY and hat, sunglasses and jewellery talent’s own

With their explicit lyricism and infectious trapwave sound, D-Block Europe have certified themselves as one of the most popular UK rap acts of all time. We met the duo on the day they scored a Number One album to talk sex, religion, money and mental health.

Taken from the new print issue of THE FACE. Get your copy here.

It’s the only one I’m missing,” says Young Adz, half of South London duo D‑Block Europe, as he looks down at the platinum Rolex Daytona hanging from his wrist. He’s on set for their FACE cover shoot, but right now, the North London studio resembles a jewellers: a dealer from Hatton Garden’s The Secret Garden Jewellers has arrived with a Goyard duffle bag stuffed with pricey timepieces for Adz to choose from. The 28-year-old picks the £75,000 watch and returns to his lunch.

Today is a big one for D‑Block Europe. Their third studio album, Rolling Stone, has just entered the UK charts at Number One. Its title is a nod to how the duo see themselves. We’ve hit the stage where we are literally young Black rock stars,” says Adz. Dirtbike LB, Adz’s best friend since Year 7 and D‑Block’s other half, has taken the celebrations a step further: he’s just bought a Lamborghini Performante. I went light,” laughs Adz, LB went high, high.”

The Number One is just another milestone in the astonishing career that Adz (real name Adam Nathaniel Williams) and 27-year-old LB (Ricky Earl Banton) have built together, brick by brick, bar by bar. The Lewisham pair have conquered the charts without compromising their art. By multiple metrics, they’re one of the most successful UK rap acts in history. Since 2019, eight full-length D‑Block Europe releases – three albums, five mixtapes – have reached the Top 10.

Their lyrics are unflinchingly honest and explicit, detailing dark tales of the drug trade and sexual decadence. With their half-sung, heavily AutoTuned melodies, they established the subgenre known as trapwave, also adopted by UK stars such as M Huncho, Nafe Smallz and – when he was still finding his feet as an artist – Central Cee. D‑Block Europe fill arenas with young fans while making their parents wince.

Adz entered the rap game and the trap game early in life. Hustling on both fronts from the age of around 12, by 15 he’d secured a five-album deal, but was released from it as he struggled to find focus and stay out of trouble. He caught a few cases and found himself on tag after being arrested aged 17 for being involved in county lines in Oxford.

Things started looking up when LB’s brother brought Adz to the attention of NYC hip-hop heavyweight Jadakiss, whose group The Lox had a label called D‑Block. Jadakiss took an interest, which led to the formation of D‑Block Europe with Adz at the helm. But Adz got into more trouble, at one point having to go on the run after his mum’s home was raided by police. The US is strict about giving visas to people with drug convictions, so the focus was kept on audiences this side of the pond.

Young Adz wears jacket stylist’s own and trousers, hat, sunglasses and jewellery talent’s own

Previous iterations of D‑Block Europe have included additional members Aero Sinc, Kb and Lil Pino, but they eventually found success as the duo of LB and Adz.

To an unseasoned ear, Adz and LB may sound like they make music about the same clichéd subjects artists have been rapping about for years: selling drugs, taking drugs, spending money, getting bitches in Paris and bitches in Spain” (Plain Jane, 2020). But beneath all that bravado, there’s a vulnerability. They rap about PTSD, the brutal realities of dealing and struggling with substance abuse. I was like seven or eight odd years in the bando, breathing in secondhand crack /​I was watching Andy injecting heroin, I think that’s what made me tapped,” Adz sings on 2019 track Thoughts.

Some of D‑Block Europe’s crudest bars – rich n****a still fuck a council estate bitch, outside” (Skims, 2024), for example – could easily be perceived as being misogynistic. They are, however, arguably more progressive when it comes to the subject of going down on women, which has been considered taboo by elder generations of rappers. The way I eat that pussy, you’d think I’m starving,” LB bragged on their 2019 anthem Darling. As D‑Block Europe’s influence and profile has grown over the years, the topic of pleasing partners orally has remained a recurring lyrical theme.

Despite all the debauchery described on Rolling Stone, the duo have matured, not least because both are now fathers. And they are, too, veterans of UK rap, a status reached while in their twenties. In February this year, the duo played four nights at London’s O2, following two sold-out gigs there in 2022. I definitely feel like an OG,” says LB with a grin. A young OG.”

When you look back at your career, how would you define each era, from debut mixtape Home Alone in 2019 until now?

Adz: It’s hard to answer because we haven’t stopped. We haven’t taken three years out and lived with what’s going on. Even now, we’re thinking about what we’re doing next. After the O2, what we dropping? Where we at this summer? So it’s kind of hard. I would just say [we’re in the] middle of the book.

Do you ever feel satisfied?

LB: Crazy people are never satisfied.

Adz: Satisfaction lasts, like, 120 seconds? Ninety seconds? And then it’s go bigger”.

What are your metrics for success?

Adz: That’s a good question. I feel like it’s the fact we’ve stayed true to ourselves for so long and just done everything on our timing. I know there are so many people with careers in music who might have done things they don’t want to do, morally, in their soul. And they look at us and are like: Rah, I’d love to just be free and run it up as a family.” Because it’s all gonna come. If you’re great at what you do, money is in the making. That’s how we measure success.

How would you describe your dynamic? What do you each bring to the table?

LB: The main thing is trust. We’ve had our tests as friends, since school, since [the] playground. Everything else in between, that’s brother shit. We’re both Muslim, so the ego ain’t gonna cross over, you feel me?

What made you take music more seriously?

Adz: For me, my reason is because of LB.

LB: Honestly, I remember chatting to him on MSN and he’s messaging me like: Yo, I’m gonna send you [this] song…” Man’s listening like: This can’t be him!” Because I don’t know him – it was probably three months into Year 7. It was the maddest freestyle I’ve heard, bro, but he’s 11 years old! I showed it to my big brother saying: This is my friend from school.”

Adz: He’s our manager now.

LB: Fast forward and [Adz] had a deal at 15. Obviously, when you’re at school, that’s something we all admire. [But] I think it was as soon as we left school, [he] might have caught a case? It’s gone from a bright playground, bro’s got a deal and shit, then it got dark. [But] I’m like, yo, my best friend’s the best rapper in the world [so] we’re confident. If you can back it up, why not? Before I saw myself in the picture I knew 100 per cent he could do this.

You represent Europe, in a way, and you’ve shot videos in France, Germany, Albania… Is there anything about those different cultures you’ve seen that you carry with you?

Adz: Obviously, we’ve got a colourful view on the world. We got people in the trenches in Holland, in France. And we take things from them.

In England, people take themselves very serious before they’re even serious. And then you touch Europe and you see people taking themselves so not serious, as long as they don’t get disrespected. They’re very playful. That’s how we are.

That’s why we came in smiley and dancing. If you know you’re on what you’re on, you don’t need to have a screwface. LB comes from a family of gangsters, in the best way to say it, so we grew up around a top-tier set of people and that’s a big part of us.

RIP Big B, his older cousin. That was who gave us our whole fucking spinal cord, in character development, in the streets.

LB: People look at us and think: why are they so chilled? Why they not shouting: Ah, we got a Number One!” But we’ve been lit before being stars. To be a real star and be lit, you’ve gotta think you’re the shit from day one. Once that’s instilled in you, you could go in the store in a plain white Primark T‑shirt and £50 trackie bottoms and talk your shit.

You’ve explored the topic of PTSD in your songs. Being on the go, do you feel like you’ve had time and space to heal from the trauma you speak about in your lyrics?

Adz: Everyone’s got pain, innit. But we are getting things in our life now that can outweigh that pain a lot more. So for instance, children: how much pain can you be in when you’ve got a child in front of you that loves you more than life? Or loyalty, good brothers, winning? Of course, money don’t just make everything better, money makes a lot [of things] worse. But every time you pray, you feel better.

LB: It’s more spiritual. I feel like I’ve healed, but there are scars. How much those scars are gonna affect you is up to you.

Adz: Some scars hurt, some scars keloid [grow over].

LB: Did it heal clean? Does it still affect you?

You’ve also spoken of lean and weed in your music. We’re seeing and hearing about a lot of young men who are self-medicating because of their pain. Do you think society doesn’t care about their pain?

Adz: One hundred million, trillion per cent. If you’re a man [who shows] no emotion, no one gives a fuck about you. Drug abuse and that, if you go to the doctor’s and you say you’re depressed or whatever, they’re gonna give you medicine anyway. So if you want to fight that in your own way with drinking or smoking, it’s the same. Arite, so is he better for not drinking or smoking but he’s taking Xanax from the doctor? It’s the same shit. You’re numbing. You can’t handle it, so you need something else to help.

I don’t judge on that. I just try and go back to Islam – like Islamically, how should you move with that? That will be my advice, even if I don’t follow it. As far as men? No one don’t care about you. You gotta be a tough man or the world will eat you up, and these chicks will chew you up. The wrong girls will chew you up, the wrong mum will chew you up, the wrong aunty will chew you up and spit you out and leave you there on the corner, begging like a nitty.

You have talked about sex and oral sex in a way other rappers haven’t. Do you think that maybe you started a bit of a cultural movement where more women are having orgasms with their partners because of what you guys have been talking about?

Adz: A billion per cent. There’s rappers talking about eating pussy now who weren’t talking about eating pussy [before]. Remember, you was cancelled if you done that! Now, if there’s a kid in school that talks about eating his crush’s pussy, everyone will laugh and say they done the same thing. We done that to the generation, like we did with everything else.

That’s how you describe your impact?

Adz: I don’t want to claim a title for making everyone wanna eat pussy [laughs]. That’s a title we don’t want. But out of all of the accolades, we can put that one in there somewhere.

Ads: [For] a lot of people, their education in women doesn’t even exist. For them to understand a pussy when they don’t understand a woman, they don’t understand themselves – that’s a lot of people. Just on that subject, they’re gonna be fucking their gyal for however many years, she’s never going to climax, or climax very rarely. She’s gonna bump into a guy that’s educated about a woman’s anatomy, he’ll give her the time of her life, and then he’s lost his gyal.

Hard pivot: you’re both Muslim. Was that something you grew up with?

Adz: We’re all born Muslim. But imam Shakeel [Begg] from Lewisham masjid – best imam in the world, we love him dearly, he’s a part of my heart. Lewisham masjid gave some good dawah [inviting us into Islam] when we was young. Islam’s always been a part of our life indirectly or directly. I reverted when I was 12, I think LB was 14. We’ve been Muslim most of our lives.

What do you want your legacy to be?

LB: To complete our deens [pursuing a path within Islam] is one of the only things you can say, because everything else is…

Adz: …irrelevant. What legacy? It’s all a lie. Music’s haraam [forbidden] innit?

There are different types of music. Yours talks about drugs and sex. But you believe all music is haraam?

Adz: All music is haraam.

So what’s your justification for making it?

Adz: None. Even when we was selling crack, we didn’t justify it to no one. We just have to acknowledge it’s bad and that’s it.

Anything else to add?

Adz: Thank you to the fans for getting us here. We love you, the best fanbase that the country has seen.

LB: Yeah, I hope fans remember me, too. Anyone we’ve helped through music and interviews, we’re happy we could be a part of your life – and you could be a part of ours.



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