Interview: Grime Legend D Double E Plays NBA 2K22 For The Very First Time, Talks Basketball & UK Music

D Double E prepares to get a first look at the latest edition of the NBA 2K franchise, NBA 2K22, on the PS5.

Photography by Kwimoh

Under the warm and inviting lights of Jukebox Studios in West London, D Double E—sporting a stylish, retro Chicago Bulls tracksuit—is preparing to get a first look at the latest edition of the NBA 2K franchise, NBA 2K22, on the PS5.

Growing up in East London an avid basketball fan himself, the grime icon has seen the growth of basketball from both a cultural and gaming standpoint throughout the years. For D Double E, as a young Londoner, basketball courts weren’t as readily accessible as they are now and, as he recalls in our interview, the games weren’t “looking real like they do now.” Gone are the days of NBA Jam on Super Nintendo and NBA Street on PlayStation 2 where, although legendary games of their era, the realism and depth present in the new gen of console games had not yet kicked in.

The NBA 2K games have become the defining basketball game over the last decade, expanding in scope and scale with every release. This year’s title sees the re-introduction and evolution of The City on New Gen consoles—where players can roam, explore and customise their avatar, as well undertake missions and build their career journey in a new and exciting way. There are also even more customisation options, some of which D Double E tested out for himself.

With his track “Deeper” as part of the soundtrack, after spending a couple of hours with NBA 2K22, D Double E talked to us about his love of the sport, his first impressions of the game, the importance of the relationship between the UK and the US, and, of course, all things grime.

NBA 2K22 is available now on PlayStation 4 and 5 via the PlayStation store.

“I think it’s a good time for the UK in general right now. The next step will be to have more UK ballers actually playing in the NBA.”

COMPLEX: At this point, you’ve only played NBA 2K22 for a couple of hours, but what’s your first impressions of the game?

D Double E: It’s good, man! I think there’s so many little zones, you just have to find where you’re at and see how you want the screen to look when you’re playing because, in my head, I’m trying to blame it on the screen. But I need to just come away from here, go home, do my ting and say, “What you saying now?”

Did you have a favourite part of the game?

That crep section is hard! And then, obviously, playing the main thing.

What did you think of the sneaker design feature? You called yours the “Elavaters”.  Was there a specific theme you were going for or was it just vibes? 

That was vibes, but I know that trainer and I respek it! When I was scrolling through, I went to the end and then I thought, “Nah, let me go back up.” I was looking for something classic and all I could see is Lebron, Lebron, Lebron. But I didn’t want Lebron! But you see them ones there? CUTTING! That’s why you see when my avatar, he’s looking...

—Skilly’s looking clean! I can’t lie [laughs]. Were you surprised at how much detail there was in terms of customisation options?

Yeah, I was surprised. There’s a lot of depth in the game. I didn’t even want to go into changing the hair [on my avatar] but I know if I did, the barber would’ve done a mad ting if I checked what trims they had. The colours, the dye—I could’ve come out of there looking mad.


I see you’ve been on your Bluku Bike flex lately. How was it being able to cop your own in-game bike, too?

That was sick as well. It was out of the blue! I didn’t think that section would even be there, but it just adds to it. If you have your own player, you’re giving him a life, innit? You can’t just put him on and play. You feel like that’s your guy.

What kind of player are you on the court? You named your NBA avatar “Skilly”, so is that an indication of how you feel you play?

I’m more of a careful baller. I look to pass and it’s not always about me scoring. I’m one of the team players. I’m not really one of them man where you give it to me and I’m always gonna try and shoot. When I get an open space and I can see it, I go for the shot moretime. But I’m an everyman kind of player.

How did you get into the NBA 2K games? For some people, they play the video game first and then the sport—which one came first for you?

Boyyy… I got into it from when I was into basketball. From NBA Jam on SNES, NBA Street—all of that. I was playing them before they were looking real like they do now.

That’s interesting. So what are some of your earliest memories of the sport?

My first memories of the NBA would be the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Phoenix Suns… There’s just certain basketball players that had character; I was into the characters. And then when I went into the games, I just started seeing people that I used to like. So you had the bait ones, like [Dennis] Rodman, colourful hair and that, and then I was checking out Alonzo Mourning and Karl Malone, “the Mailman”, and Shawn Kemp. Then I was into Steve Kerr—three-pointer don for the Bulls—and then all the tall ones, like the seven-foot ones, those guys drew me in.


Would you say you were maybe more into the characters, the style, more than the sport itself?

Nah! I was into the characters like Michael Jordan because of the trainers. So when I started watching the NBA, I was into the people now, not really caring about the bait characters like Rodman or whoever. I would start saying names to you that you wouldn’t know. I was properly into the ting! But what got me in there was the fashion side, and then I even went back: I started watching, like, The Harlem Globetrotters and started going even more and more back because I knew there was more to see. So I’m into the real ting, not just the famous ones. But what got me on it, first, was the creps and the style.

You’ve mentioned a few players already, but have you got a favourite NBA player?

I would say Jordan’s still my favourite. There’s a few others, but if I had to put it all into one, I’d say Jordan.

I was going to ask if your favourite player influences your choice of team? But you said the Lakers are your team, right? And Jordan was a Chicago Bulls man.

Well, the Lakers are my team at the moment. When I was thinking of the best players that I might know [to play NBA 2K22], I think of the Lakers and I think of—bless his soul—Kobe [Bryant] and he was in this ting. It’s not the ‘90s but it was early 2000s and he was still merking. Sometimes I look at a team and I’m like: “Who is this?” Certain teams have got a few man, but yeah: Lakers for me. I could’ve said, “Yeah, [Golden State] Warriors!” because of Steph Curry, but you know what? That wouldn’t be real to me because I can’t remember Warriors when I was into my ting. So I could only be into it because of him, and you can’t be into it because of that. So, Chicago Bulls, Scottie Pippen, [Horace] Grant, Steve Kerr—you know them ones there? They’re my guys. Warriors probably have other man but Curry... James used to play with Wade, innit? There’s a few double-ups, but there’s a few teams where one man is putting in work. But with the Bulls, I know the team proper. Give it to Kerr!

We saw you shooting hoops recently with Steel Banglez, so we know you’ve still got your shooting tekkers. How much time do you spend playing basketball and how much time do you spend playing NBA 2K?

I’ve got the tekkers! I would say it’s an even split. Like, when I’m on it, I’m on it. And when I’m not, I’m not. I go through phases. In the last two months, I bought two balls and one of them I left in the garden. Remember when we had that little flood? When I looked at my ball, it had bare snails on it was all muddied off, you get me? I had to get another fresh one. Now I’ve got the fresh one all locked up in my whip—I drive with it; it’s in my car—so when I’m ready, I can just do the random ting.

Your track “Deeper” appears on the official NBA 2K22 soundtrack. How does it feel to be representing grime and East London on a global platform like this?

It feels good, man. It feels good... It feels like I need to take it in and play it myself, you know them ones there? But it’s big around the world, so it’s a good thing.


How important do you think the relationship is between the UK and US culturally?

It’s very important, man. We’ve always known it’s important. We know. From as far back as I can remember, the British have always been ready to have open arms for Jamaican artists or whoever. But when the British have tried to get a tune with an American artist, they get hit with 50 grand for a verse and then the yardman are like, they want their money too! We had work to do, and now we’ve come up, the Americans are there and the Jamaicans are there and they’re like, “Yeah, mon!” Now the mix is happening. So we’ve always known it’s important, but tables turn and things change, so I think it’s a good time for the UK in general right now. The next step will be to have more UK ballers actually playing in the NBA. 

Next month will make it a year since the release of your sophomore album, Double Or Nothing. You’ve been loading up the features, but what’s next for your solo material?

I’m working on a project as we speak. I’ve got a couple more features coming out, but yeah, there’s a project that I’m trying to put out as soon as possible—I’m just working on it, trying to certify which songs to put on there. I’ve got a lot of songs; I’ve been working on for the last six months, so it’s just about deciding the energy, the vibe, and getting the right tracks on there—and the name. Then I’m moving forward to the tour in December.

What’s been your musical highlight of the year so far? 

Just me seeing everyone at festivals again. Parklife, Wireless, Outlook—there’s so many happening. It’s just good to see. It feels like, “Rah! Okay. This is it.” Even the new artists must be thinking, “This is the life them man were living!”

I can’t talk to a legend in the game and not ask your thoughts on the state of grime in 2021. How healthy do you think the scene is right now, and what does it need to do to improve?

Everything’s vibing, man. It’s vibing! That’s like saying what’s the state of the UK, because everything makes everything. Everything’s connected. So, the state is great. There was a time where it was all just a bit singy, but now we’re back again. Big up Unknown T, Digga D, Headie One, Tion Wayne—it’s bars, innit! Everyone’s spitting bars so, for me, it’s harder than ever. We’re known for bars; this is Bar Land! Where did it come from? Why is man spitting like that? It’s live-r than it’s ever been.

NBA 2K22 is available now on PlayStation 4 and 5 via the PlayStation store.


All gameplay images captured from NBA 2K22 on PlayStation 5.

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