Despite working in the world’s most weed-drenched genre, you won’t catch London MC Stefflon Don getting high on the job. “I know a lot of people who need drink and weed before they get in the booth,” says the MC, real name Stefanie Allen. “If I do that, you won’t get a line out of me – it doesn’t work!” The 24 year-old’s laser focus and ambition has been clear since she asserted “Steff Don is the teacher” on 2013 single ‘Style’, and staying away from intoxicants has certainly aided her rising career. To casual listeners, it might seem as though she came out of nowhere with the sizzling success of hit single ‘16 Shots’ at the end of last year, but she’s been grinding away for years perfecting her raw dancehall flow.
The Jamaican genre has been a staple for Allen since a young age. “People in school didn’t even know I was a music lover, they just knew I loved Vybz Kartel,” she laughs down the phone, talking about her school years in London. Bubbling – a mutated style of dancehall that she was listening to and experiencing during a period of living in Rotterdam – has come to inform her sound, not least on ‘16 Shots’, her biggest hit to date, which arose from her thinking about how it’s a major issue for Jamaican people if someone cusses their mum. “I just thought, let me do something around that. I would have a major issue too if anyone disrespected my mum and I thought, I’ve never really heard a song like that before.”