Q&A: Dr. Syntax

Dr Syntax is a rare example of rapper personifying all that can be great about rap. Delivering dry wit, intricately woven schemes and hard-hitting punchlines in every project, he articulates a studious relationship with his art, and does so unapologetically. Whether in his band or with a DJ, he’s a Northern gem you can’t afford to miss when he comes to HiFi alongside his partner in crime Pete Cannon for The Sunday Joint on 19th February. We had a little chat with him.


What was the turning point that took you from being a listener of rap to a writer of rap?

I think it was after a few years of already being pretty obsessed with hip hop, me and my mates started trying to rap. It never really occurred to me that I’d still be doing it as an adult. There’s definitely a tape of me rapping somewhere, before my voice broke, with an American accent.


What do you try and achieve when you pen a verse?

I try and make it interesting to the listener. I try and make it well constructed and easy for me to deliver. Most of all I try to make sure that it’s not shit.



And do you have a favourite punchline? How does it feel to witness Sparkz’s Blaze It Up verse in the flesh on a regular basis?

That would be Big L: ‘Talkin’ bout rhyme for me L man fuck rhymingCause my dick, is hard enough to cut diamonds’.

Sparkz is sick, he is one of my favourite colleagues and it is great to watch him grow as a performer (pause).


You dropped it acapella at the Sheffield o2 in December and I lost it. How would you rate performing as part of a band as opposed to in front of a DJ?

Thanks! I love both for different reasons. Being in a band, there’s a ‘strength in numbers’ mentality. You’re a big gang of mates doing what you love doing, so you feel invincible on stage. When it’s just a DJ/MC combo, you’re more exposed – there’s more of a vulnerability, you could say. But that’s cool, it’s more of a test. An MC should be able to hold the crowd’s attention in whatever scenario so I like the fact I get to do both regularly.


In what direction do you see British Hip-Hop going?

That’s a good question, and hard to answer! I’ve never been able to predict what’s going to happen next. But I do know that hip hop is so ingrained in youth culture now, and there are some really talented young MCs coming through, so the future’s in good hands.



Do you have any stand out memories from your previous Leeds shows?

Uuuugh… it’s all a bit of a blur to be honest. I’ve been doing shows here a couple of times a year for the last 12 years! But it’s always been a lot of fun, I remember that much.


What should we expect from the Leeds gig?

Pears, popcorn and penny whistles! Some hip hop, and just a smidgen of early nineties hardcore.


What’s in store for 2017 for Dr Syntax?

I’m working on more stuff with Mouse Outfit and Pete Cannon, playing some more festivals, putting out some more music and doing my best to temporarily distract people from the impending apocalypse.


Interviewer: Luke Bird