The dancehall musician MDotR wears a white hoody and poses in front of graffitied shutters
Photo: Semih

Meet MDotR, the White Dancehall Star Who Keeps Going Viral

In some corners of the internet, the “Turn Red” rapper is simply known as “Big Bomboclaat British Guy”.

You’ve probably seen clips of MDotR’s freestyles posted on social media – the internet quite frankly loves a meme of this man. It’s a little to do with the wild and frenzied way he attacks the microphone as sweat beads roll down his temple. It’s a smidgen to do with him looking like Simon Pegg, if Simon Pegg had been really into Sean Paul instead of Star Wars. But it’s a lot to do with him spitting lyrics in a strong Jamaican Patois, while being a white English bloke from the Isle of Sheppey. Clips of him in full flow with captions like “The first time you eat jerk chicken” or “Five pints deep on the karaoke at the work Christmas do” have understandably become viral gold dust. In some corners of the internet, he’s simply known as “Big Bomboclaat British Guy”.


But if you spend as much time scrolling through these clips on TikTok and Twitter as I do, then you might feel a strange sensation take hold. A sort of mystic allure. The witty captions begin to dissipate and you find yourself thinking: I actually quite… like this? Delve a bit deeper into the comments sections of his videos on YouTube, and you’ll see a similar phenomenon repeating over and over: People come for a laugh, realise he’s actually quite good, and they become fans.

Despite his recent TikTok fame, MDotR has been around for years, in various iterations. He started out as a grime artist, before immersing himself more in the Jamaican music and culture he’d loved since childhood. He tried imitating the dancehall he was listening to, but it wasn’t until he picked up on the Jamaican Patois and started blending dancehall with the UK drill sound that he really found himself.

Since then, his freestyles (on platforms like BBC Asian Network and BL@CKBOX) have been racking up millions of views. Recent dancehall track, “Turn Red” – which, at the time of writing, has around eight million plays across YouTube and Spotify – is a certified sheller. This year, he’s opened for Popcaan, Beenie Man and Sean Paul, and his freestyles have been reposted by celebs like Amber Rose, Wiz Khalifa and Shaquille O'Neal.


He’s got his own YouTube channel, Cook and Vibe, where he celebrates Jamaican culture, and there’s even a documentary of his life in the works called White Lion. That’s why we felt it was time we had a chat with this Sheppey-born, London-raised dancehall sensation.

In our interview – during which he, of course, slips in and out of Jamaican Patois – he explains his love for the Caribbean and how he overcame the internet jokers.

VICE: Hey MDotR. So, how did you learn to speak in legitimate-sounding Patois?
MDotR: I’d been going to the Caribbean when I was 16 or 17. But I'm talking when I'm nine, ten years old, my older sister’s partner was from St. Vincent. So from [that age] the accent has been around us; it's been spoken in the family. I think listening to the music constantly from childhood, going up towards 15, 16 – by then you’ve caught the little slangs and the way they say things and clock what it is.

The Secret History of Drill

It was just a build-up over the years of being around Jamaican people and going to Jamaica. I done dribs and drabs before on songs, but it wasn't until about six or seven years ago where I fully done Patois. That's when I felt more comfortable. But even now, if I'm writing lyrics, I'll just say it and if it comes out in Jamaican, it comes out in Jamaican, then I know it's natural to me. If it doesn't, I’ll just say it in English and move on.


But it’s so naturally blended in with everyting I say, it’s there all the time. It's definitely not put on. You simme cah, you can't be a act and a gimmick in Jamaica – them will shoot ya. You can’t do that. You can't be like a TikTok troll there. No, no no – doesn't work. So I have to be real to it. So everything I do is real. Really can talk like that, really talk like that when mi call mi bredren dem, when I call my manager and my people, am a Jamaican when I talk. From time I land in Jamaica people would never know no different. Never ever think that I'm not from Jamaica. If ya dun know me, am mi just there, am mi a drive mi car and pull up and I've got my Jamaican phone and I’m with my bredren... you hear by the way I talk. You’re not even gonna [question it]... yeah?

It's got to that point. Now I'm famous as an artist there. But just before I really blew as an artist, it got to the point where I was just a Jamaican.

You initially started out making grime, right?
I was in London, and grime… that's what it was – I just went with the culture. But it was always reggae and dancehall music for me. In 2017, I kinda adapted this grime energy, the Jamaican Patois and English beat and I put them all together. I was like, “OK, this is what I am.” Because I was trying to be an authentic dancehall artist, but I'm not, I'm not an authentic dancehall artist – I'm a white man from England who does dancehall. So however authentic you say it is, it probably isn't going to be authentic. It's going to be my style of it. I didn’t realise, but I moulded a sound that was like this fiery, crazy-energy Patois craziness. That literally just took me through.


Your fame has grown with each clip that’s gone viral. With “Turn Red”, which has more of a dancehall sound, you seem to have exploded.
The song just went crazy. I literally signed to Sony last week. Since then, it's just like my whole life’s changed. It was changing anyway. But now the influx of fans that recognise me, it's like… everywhere, every street, everyone. It's not just one person or the young group of people, it’s everyone recognising me everywhere. I'm still taking it in. I'm still not even used to having money in my bank, bro. I haven’t even spent none. I still feel like I’ve got no money. I can’t get my head round it. I think with “Turn Red”, people are really taking me seriously now as an artist. It’s kind of gone way past the meme and the gimmicks stage everyone was kind of stuck in for a good few years.

Yeah, because before this success, you were getting attention online, but it was sort of the wrong attention, right?
Not really. Yes, but no. Don't get me wrong, I've always had a solid fan base. It was just split 50/50. Some people took man seriously and some people didn’t.

Were you down about it and questioning your future in this kind of music?
When I first went viral it sent me into a big depression. Where we're from and how we grew up, we grew up quite masculine, where we never took no disrespect from anyone. So it was like, now all of these people are laughing at me, and I can't do nothing about it. What are you gonna do, fight the whole world? Five million people watching your video? You can’t do that, bro. Yeah, that sent me into a depression.


The first video was called “100 Gyal”. They just put it out as a kind of joke. Lucky enough, three days after that, I flew to Jamaica. I was there for a couple of weeks. They give me my confidence back. I done a TV thing where three artists perform for a minute and the public vote for who to win. They voted for me, which is obviously going to give me some confidence.

If the Jamaican public have voted me to win and they like me… I have to thank Jamaica all the time – that’s why I love Jamaica, man. I honestly believe if I never went to Jamaica when I did, I probably would have stopped. I’ve never even thought about that before, but I probably would have stopped.

What would you say to people who say, as a white English guy, you shouldn't be making this kind of music, that it’s cultural appropriation?
I'll say you shouldn't be saying that because you're segregating people. Don't segregate people, man. There’s too much religion and different stuff out here to segregate us already. All that is, is you’re trying to draw something out of something. Don't try draw something out of something, man. If them man does dancehall music, he does dancehall music. If you think he talks like a Jamaican, he talks like a Jamaican. Because there's plenty other white people who are from England, but they speak French when they go to do their Fashion Week because they’re in the fashion industry. There's plenty of people who go to Spain and talk Spanish, because they've got villas over in Spain.


But just because it’s Jamaican, it’s different to everybody. People take it for a joke, like they think Jamaica is a joke. It’s an actual disrespect to Jamaica. Because you can go to any other country in the world and speak their language, but you can't come to Jamaica and speak their language. Why not? Jamaica is a Patois-speaking country. So no matter how English you say it is – “Oh, it’s still English” – yeah alright, well you’re not gonna understand it, and I will, that's the difference.

On a big man level, when you go to Jamaica, and you get off that plane, you start going around Jamaica. [But] when I get off that plane, and I start going round Jamaica – believe you me, I’ve got it a lot easier than you have. Because I know everything they're saying. I know how much everything costs. I know what everything is. I know everything.

You seem to get a lot of love in Jamaica and from the Caribbean community. And you’re invested in the culture. Perhaps some people are getting offended on the behalf of others?
Right. That’s the funny thing, because I've had interviews in Jamaica [where] we've actually laughed about it. Look, everyone's entitled to their opinion. I'm sure not every single Jamaican likes me. But predominantly, Jamaica’s got my back. It's nice to have the people behind me, it's really nice. I feel like they fully accept me with open arms, and I don't think it's just because I sound good. I think it's because I love the culture so much, and they love that, because they're very proud people.

Because you’ve been heavily memed, I see a lot of comments on YouTube where people say they came to your videos to laugh, but then they realise you’re sick. You’re turning the meme-rs into fans.
It's the opposite of what usually happens. Most of the time people go viral for silly stuff. They've got no real talent, it's just a bit of a joke. But the difference with me is there's a lot of talent behind the memes – it was never meant to be a meme, it was never meant to be a gimmick. So it's exactly what you said, when people go and they really check it out, they’re like: “Ah rah, this is really good.”

In history, I think I've probably changed more minds about liking me than Michael Jackson. I don't think there's ever been an artist in history, bro, that has changed as many. I don’t think it’s happened before. There’s never been nobody like me, bro.

Nice, man. I'm buzzing for you.
Sounds like a success story, dunnit?