Two powerhouses of UK grime have come together to make a sizzling new single to heat things up before December. Relative newcomer Stefflon Don and grime king Skepta dropped their collaboration Ding-A-Ling on 17 November.
Produced by Rymez, this collaboration between Birmingham’s rising star and the grime veteran features an offbeat hook from Chuck Berry’s nudge-and-wink 1972 single My Ding-A-Ling. Punctuated by this infectious sample, the track layers Stefflon’s fierce rhymes over steady, bass-heavy drum machines and electronic horns. Stefflon’s opening verses on the track are slick, sexy, super-fast and empowering. Straight out of the gate, Steff spits fire:
“So this lickle bredda wants to be the man/Slide in my DMs on Instagram/I don’t know if you know who the fuck I am/But somebody best tell him who the fuck I am/She is Stefflon Don, 5’5″/Big tits, brown eyes/See them dick pics, she ain’t really about that life/She’ll gun-butt your mom, then slap your wife.”
It would do the track a disservice to not say it wasn’t wall-to-wall steamy, but what’s novel about the Skepta/Stefflon team up is the role reversal. Despite his flow being characteristically muscular, Skepta’s lines are more of a touching tribute to his girl than just pure filth:
“Me and my girl in matching hoodies, that’s autumn winter/She don’t wanna build and link up/Nah, she’s is not inna that mix up/Them artist could not draw this picture/Sex so good, I forgot to eat/Sex so good, I forgot to sleep/This is my princess, this ain’t a bitch/Your ting needs to put on the leash”
Within this context, it’s refreshing to hear a woman take the lead, especially from a newcomer like Stefflon Don. Since her mixtape Real Ting thrust her into the limelight in 2016, being frank about sex and promoting female empowerment has bee central to Steff’s brand. In a recent interview, she said, “I feel like there should be someone to stick up for women and make them feel good and beautiful about themselves…I feel like a lot of men are not taking that role any more and just degrading us. If you can look for love within yourself and also from another female artist, that’s sick. You don’t need it from a male artist.”
However, what’s really dividing opinion is that sample. The squeaky voice isn’t actually lifted from the Chuck Berry classic (obviously). What is actually being sampled is a deep cut from an episode of The Simpsons – episode 8, season 3 to be exact. The sample is from the scene where a kid from Springfield elementary sings the highly suggestive My Ding-A-Ling in a talent contest, and gets hurriedly thrown off stage by Principal Skinner.
For some people, the flat, tuneless Simpsons voice is just too much. When fans were quizzed in Fact magazine’s ‘Singles Club’, one interviewee described some listener’s sentiment towards the sample very accurately:
“I like Stefflon Don, I like Skepta, but it’s difficult to enjoy a song built around a Simpsons sample as annoying as this one. That scene where the kid sings My Ding-A-Ling is pretty funny, but when it’s repeated ad nauseam throughout a song… let’s just say I have a new appreciation for Principal Skinner shutting this performance down.”
Another interviewee described the sample as “the most irritating thing I’ve heard all year…like, road works and my next door neighbours putting up shelves in the middle of the day.”
Don’t get us wrong though – despite what your sentiment towards The Simpsons sample may be, you can’t argue with Steff’s flow on this one. Refusing to be overshadowed by a rapper as accomplished as Skepta, Stefflon Don’s bars on Ding-A-Ling are a force to be reckoned with.
This single comes hot off the heels of Stefflon Don signing an absolutely whopping record deal with Universal. Signed for a cool one million pounds, it’s one of the biggest deals done in the UK for a good long while. In an interview with NME, Steff remarked, “since I was 19 I said I was going to sign for a million” – and now Birmingham’s finest has got her wish.
Looking to the future, it looks like there’s going to be many more exciting things on the horizon. With a roster of huge collaborations under her belt, Steff is also tipped to release a single with Canada’s premier Jewish rapper and steadfast grime advocate, Drake. On her colab with Drizzy, Steff said: “We haven’t actually been in the studio together [but] it’s gonna happen…we’re gonna make fire bangers.”
Considering the strength of her last trans-Atlantic collaboration with French Montana, this will certainly be something to look forward to. The soulful, dancehall vibes of Hurtin’ Me introduced us to Stefflon Don’s more sensitive side, and her impressive singing style. A song about being wounded by an ex, this tune proved Steff’s versatility and her massive crossover potential. After Hurtin’ Me and Ding-A-Ling, we’re certainly looking forward to what’s in store from Stefflon Don going into 2018