Interview: Deniro Farrar

In the span of one year, a lot has happened surrounding North-Carolina based rapper Deniro Farrar. Back in February, the Charlotte native self-released his debut mixtape “destiny.ALTERED” which set his feet firmly into the ground as a rapper with immense skill, his own distinct flow and a strong pattern in working with the most talented up-and-coming young producers to support him. Collaborations with like-minded contemporaries such as G-Side and Main Attrakionz further strengthened Farrar’s web presence, with his down-low image allowing his work to successfully do all the talking for him. The most remarkable partnership that ensued during the year was certainly with Californian Greenova delegate Shady Blaze, with Farrar’s steady and strong flow working perfectly in combination with the Blaze’s high-tempo rhymes. Last week, the two rappers finally dropped their much-anticipated “Kill Or Be Killed” EP, and while it’s been a long time coming, it was undeniably worth the wait. With 2012 looking like a wholesome and very promising year for Farrar to look back on, we had the pleasure of catching up with him on his musical background, creative thinking, his collaborations and what we can expect in years to come.

Stream: Deniro Farrar & Shady Blaze – 43 Hours In (feat. ST2Lettaz) (Prod. by Ryan Hemsworth)

Hey Deniro! How have you been and what have you been keeping yourself busy with lately? “Mostly I’ve been working on the collaboration project with Shady Blaze. My manager and I have also just made a deal with Red Audio who will be shooting ten videos for us and we started shooting a few months back in New York. Some of the videos will be with Shady Blaze but we’ll also be shooting videos for my solo tracks from destiny.ALTERED as well as some singles that have leaked. We just did one for my track with Flosstradamus called “Look at the Sky” and I’d love to shoot one for “43 Hours In” at some point as well. Basically I’ve just been traveling and building my brand as a whole, that’s been my mission for now. I’ve been more focused on the music itself, but we’ve slowly been getting back into the shows too.”

Have your live experiences been different now that your music has gotten a bit of buzz? “Most obviously I’d say the reaction from the crowd is completely different compared to when I was performing. I’ve always been doing a lot of shows though, long before anyone even knew who I was. It was good that I already had some show experience before my music had any buzz. But ultimately when it comes down to it, it’s also a lot more different to perform now because my music itself is now different. I have more passion because my music and its messages are deeper. I wanted my music to improve so that it would match my performance’s standard and deserve to go together, and now they go hand in hand perfectly. Now, I just rehearse my show beforehand and chill every time and I feel more confident in my own work to know that it will go well. There’s always room for improvement though, I have a lot more to prove. I want to get to a point where my fan base is so strong that the whole audience comes all for me, even though I enjoy doing performances with other people. That just makes the performance even better for me, when everybody is just anticipating you and wants to see you.”

What have been some live performances that you’ve attended yourself that have impressed you the most? “The one that stands out most to me is Nas and Damian Marley. They just had such an impressive show and set-up. I had the opportunity to talk to Nas as well, he’s just such a laid-back dude he’s just like you’d expect him to be, it’s incredible. Other than that, Pac Div is impressive too. They kill shit, their live performance is crazy. It’s just their interaction with the crowd, with the songs and the interaction between themselves that makes them stand out. To me, live performances are all about people who just always know how to put on a good show. People like Yelawolf, Action Bronson, even Riff Raff. I mean, they’re musically different and that might not appeal to everyone but when it comes to live performances they know how to get everyone in the crowd going.”

Going back to your own music and influences, can you tell us a little bit about how you grew up with music? “I grew up listening to everything, I was just the biggest fan of rap. I listened to a lot of Kriss Kross growing up. I knew every single song on the radio as well, every black mom hits you with the radio songs like it’s schoolwork so I was always up to date with that. When I was hanging out on the block with the older dudes in my neighbourhood I just listened to straight rap. Sometimes they’d make me rap some of the tracks with my own little flavour and they’d give me money for it, I’d rap over existing songs but hit it with my personal twist. I’d never really buy my own records, but I’d listen to a lot of my older brother’s records in the car. He’s only three years older than me but he’s always had an old soul. When we were in high school and I was in 10th grade and he’d listen to Luther Vandross, Three 6 Mafia, all kinds of shit. Three 6 Mafia’s “When The Smoke Clears” and “Choices”, those records I’d listen to every day before I went to school. All the good music that I’ve loved listening to, I’ve learned to love because of my brother as he’d leave the music home and I’d listen to it. He didn’t necessarily influence my taste in music but he really just turned me on to the art of listening to rap for reasons other than beats. I started to understand rap and music much better. That’s how I started out seeking music on my own as well, by tracing back rappers that I enjoyed listening to and by understanding their music, grasping the concept of their music. From there onward I picked my own musical preferences, like I started listening to Tupac on my own in that way.”

You’ve obviously been into rap for a long time, but you mentioned in another interview that you didn’t necessarily always want to become a rapper. What was the exact trigger that gave you the confidence to start pursuing your rap career full-time? “It was David Luddy. He was really the first person that believed in me to the point where it actually made me believe I could become a rapper. I wasn’t a rapper at first, I had the talent but I didn’t have the drive at the time. One day he emailed me a beat and told me to write a rap to it. I had never written a rap before at the time, so I lied and told him that I wrote a rap to it, got in the booth and freestyled it and that shit was hot. He asked me to do a double and when he played it back I couldn’t do it because I didn’t actually know how to rap. Well, I knew I could rap but I didn’t know how to write out my raps. He was on to me and asked me whether I freestyled it, and when I replied yes he brought me out of the booth and told me “You’re a star”. He basically talked me up and then I went home to actually sit down and write a rap, and that was that song “In The Ghetto” that I have on my first mixtape. When I wrote it and I listened back to it, I was surprised at myself. It was crazy. I had rapped before and did little recordings at people’s house or whatever, but this was the first studio record I ever wrote. To me that’s still one of the best songs I ever wrote and it was the first time I really recorded. This was all like two years ago.”

Stream: Deniro Farrar & Shady Blaze – Fallen Soldiers (feat. Main Attrakionz) (Prod. by Ryan Hemsworth)

How did the people that surrounded you react to your decision to pursue rap? “In terms of people that surrounded me like my family, they already told me that I could rap before I started recording music so they were very supportive because they always wanted me to do it. As far as my city goes, Charlotte doesn’t really have a support system just yet. Even at this point right now, nobody in Charlotte shows me the amount of love that I’m getting outside of Charlotte. But I don’t feel a certain type of way about that because I know that I still reach a lot of people through the internet, it doesn’t matter that my city doesn’t show much support. I mean there’s a music scene in Charlotte, but it’s not big even though we’ve got Atlanta right up the road. As much talent as there is in Charlotte no one has blown up on a national level with a distinct Charlotte sound, therefore we don’t have a real music scene yet. If someone would blow up then some record labels would show up to snatch some talent from here, when you’ve got money in the picture that’s cool but it’s not happening here yet. Also, the thing is that I’m the only one that’s making music that is Charlotte. You’ve got people from Charlotte making music that sounds like they’re from somewhere else, but the real people making real Charlotte, down-south country sound.”

So how would you define the North Carolina sound and how can we hear it back in your music? “It’s just by the things I say, by some of the terms and slang that I use and by some of the ways I describe things. You’ve got rappers that sound like they’re from the South while they’re from the North, and viceversa, like with A$AP Rocky whose flow sounds Houston while he’s from New York. I understand that, but I’ve always wanted to keep my style North Carolina, even if I want my music to go further than the borders of North Carolina. I want my music to be heard on a national scale, especially now that my music has more substance to it and I feel like that’s what rap is missing these days. That’s why I like my music being on the internet, because I can get a lot of recognition other than locally. If it were up to my city my music wouldn’t make it nowhere other than local, and I never wanted to be a local anything, fuck that.”

What has Charlotte given you that sets you apart from rappers from other areas? “Konstantin Kazmierski, my manager. That’s all I gotta say. We met through somebody else and he really started dealing with me after about a year, and we’ve been rocking together ever since. He’s got a complex mind, he’s so different and we’re almost polar opposites but we both share the same dreams. That’s how we work well together. Even from a creative standpoint, we never really clash because we are so different that when it comes together it’s something beautiful.”

Do you both work together in the creative process a lot? How do you usually write your bars, do you have a routine to tend follow when writing? “We definitely work together on the whole process and I would say that it’s really the same each time. The writing is triggered by the beat and the way I’m feeling at that point in time. If the combination works for me that’s when I get into my creative zone. Me and Konstantin always discuss our different ideas and concepts, it’s just me and him working on it together and we critique the work together. Before anybody else, Konstantin hears it the first though and he helps me out with it a lot. I usually start writing once I’ve got a vision for the track though, I can’t write without a concept. Once I come up with a creative concept, I take it from there.” Do you derive all of your concepts from your own experiences or do you ever work from someone else’s perspective? “It’s hard for me to write about things I don’t have experience with but that’s a challenge to me, making music that’s fabricated storytelling-wise. I’m ready for that, but it’s hard. I try not to make music from other perspectives a lot but I still want to do it and show people that I can get creative in any type of music. I think that’s necessary for anyone who wants to be an artist. That’s the difference between an artist and a rapper, a rapper is just going to rap but an artist is going to try to stay ahead of the times and create different trends. At the end of the day, I’m not saying that you over saturate the game when you rap a lot of true shit but you’ve got to put yourself in other people’s shoes sometimes when you make songs. You’ve got to fabricate material because technically you already know how it is to be in a certain position so you have to look at it from other standpoints, that’s growth.”

Are there any artists that you look up to outside of rap music? “Real talk, I like Adele. I know it might sound crazy because we’re so different but her music is so powerful. Even though we come from two different walks of life I understand her, her music is still touching. That inspires me to make music, any time I hear people from different genres of music it just makes me want to make music that’s equally powerful. My goal is to perform or make music and people witness it who come from a different walk of life, and can still relate to it. I mean even Tupac, people were attracted to his music but he never had to compromise his music. I want to make music that’s true to me, and that way attract people to my music universally. I don’t want to have a Flo-Rida song to attract a certain type of people, I want to be able to do that while staying true to myself.”

What drives you to write outside of music? “Just family. My mom, my niece, my sisters, my brothers. I do music because I love it but from a standpoint of making money by doing it, that’s my biggest motivation, I want to get them out of their current situation.”

Stream: Deniro Farrar – Reasons (Prod. by David Heartbreak)

Looking back on destiny.ALTERED and everything you’ve put out so far, what are some of your own lines that you’re particularly proud of and why? “Shit, there are so many good ones! I’m a big fan of my own music, and I don’t think a lot of people can say that anymore. It’s kind of hard to have an own favourite lyric because bar by bar they have such significant meanings to me. If I was on some punchline battle shit all the time, it’d be different. Like if I was spitting lines like 2Chainz’ “Left hand on the steering wheel/right hand on that pussy” all the time then it wouldn’t stand out that much. That’s how I see it, so I’m not sure if I can pick a favourite line of my own. What’s your favourite?” Well as far as entire songs go “Reasons” is a standout track for me, I think that’s what seriously got me into destiny.ALTERED and the rest of your music. “”Reasons” is my shit, seriously. When I said “Made enough money to pay her rent and buy us Christmas bikes / Just some niggas from the ghetto that ain’t livin’ right” That touched me, you know what I’m saying? Because those are things that I really did. That has meaning to me, when we decorate the house for Christmas and my daddy ain’t home, all those song have specific weight for me.”

Are there any lines by other artists that are particularly impactful to you and that you wish you could have written? “Hell yeah, I wish I could’ve written that 2Chainz line! [laughs] That was cool as hell. But yeah there are a lot of lines that I find really good. Some songs have significant meaning to me, I may take it in another way as another person may take it. Like on Meek Millz’ track “Use To Be”, the line “I’m a let the top down everytime I shoot through / To give them motivation even though I know they hating”, that touched my entire body and soul. I know where that line comes from, having come from a certain situation, a poverty stricken area, rolling through with your Rolls Royce phantom and people act like they’re happy for you but they really hate you so you let the top down anyway because you made it. That touched me.”

How do you usually get in touch with producers that you want to work with? “A lot of the producers that I work with are musically relevant and popular, but I guess we kind of choose each other. They’ve either heard my music or I might have heard their work for someone else. If they send me beats I basically choose whether they fit my style, I usually collaborate in that way. We also like working together with up and coming producers, I guess it’ll keep changing with time. Shout out to Ryan Hemsworth though, he’s someone we’ll definitely work with for a long time.”

You mentioned before that you work with the type of producers you’ve collaborated with to achieve your own distinct sound, to differentiate yourself from the general rap game. How do you try to differentiate yourself from other artists that use the same type of up-and-coming producers and resemble the same production sound? “I don’t think I have to consciously differentiate myself from other rappers, even those who use the same producers as me. I just feel like my music does that for me automatically because of how I rap. I just try to incorporate as much as I can from my life, because nobody can rap my life other than me. No one has my slang, my experience or my Charlotte way of living. I feel like I’ve got my own movement, I might work with the same producers as some other artists but my music has its own distinct story to it. It is something I’m conscious though, I mean I’m aware that I work with a lot of the producers that the guys I’m cutting records with also work with, I hope they don’t take it as me jumping in their lane. I guess I get the producers from similar lanes but I try to put the music in its entirety in my line with my personal content and style.

I think this style of music is evolving though. It’s like the underground is becoming a new type of mainstream rap. I feel like a lot of mainstream artists used to steal from the underground and bring it to the forefront and take the credit for it for years. This type of music that I’m making isn’t new, it’s just that mainstream rappers have been taking it. I feel like artists like Shady Blaze, me, we’re just going to be around for a while because we’re bringing the underground rap scene to light a little bit more, without actually having to go mainstream. We’ll just bring the mainstream audiences towards us without actually having to change our own music. That’s how we will be around for a while. Just watch, the revolution will not be televised.”

Stream: Deniro Farrar & Shady Blaze – Therapture (Prod. by Keyboard Kid)

You’ve done some collaborations in the past with other rappers and have more coming up, could you talk us through what you find important when seeking out a collaboration? “ I’ve been collaborating with the same people for a while, like G-Side, Shady Blaze, Main Attrakionz, Lush Life. As far as people who I want to work with in the future are concerned, they just have to fit in with what I’ve got going on. I feel like I don’t need any unnecessary co-signs, I just want new collaborations if it’s someone that will take my music to the next level.” What do you find most satisfying about a good rap collaboration? “It’s hard to explain. Them having the same level of respect that I have for them, not having a feeling that they’re looking down on me or vice versa. When they like the song as much as I do and give our collaboration priority and give it all their effort, that’s when a track works for me. That gives me motivation to work with them, especially if I already like their music. It’s also just important to recognize the friendship you have with someone and keep that separate from what you create with them on a professional level.”

So keeping that in mind, what has been your most successful collaboration so far? “Shady Blaze, man. And I know that’s crazy since I still haven’t even met that nigga. I’m just now getting Skype down with him. I mean I’ve definitely enjoyed all my collaborations so far but working with Shady Blaze has been the most exciting, because when I send him stuff I just preemptively know he’s going to kill it.” Can you tell us a little bit about how this collaboration between the two of you came about? “When I first heard Shady Blaze’s tracks I was just like “Wow, who is this fast-rapping dude?” He’s from a whole other walk of life but he’s on his shit .I just fucked with him from the start. As soon as we talked more and he told me about his movement and Greenova, it made sense to work together. When we recorded our first track together, it was a great vibe. We are not similar as rappers at all, we have very different styles but we have the same movement and vision, and that’s what made it work. We have the same outlooks when it comes to politics, the government, poverty and how it’s a kill or be killed atmosphere when you come from certain places here, so those common points that we touch base with is what essentially makes our tracks good collaborations. I’m very pleased with the results, when I listen back to the songs from “Kill Or Be Killed” I’m still just very impressed by our own work. Especially “43 Hours In”, I feel like it’s one of the best tracks out this year. It’s actually so crazy that we haven’t met yet, I’m almost afraid to hear how our music will sound once we actually meet if it’s already this good via an online connection.”

Are there any collaborations that you still would like to see happen? “I would like to work with some big names. I’d love to work with Danny Brown. I was walking in the streets of Austin, Texas for SXSW and when I saw him I felt like he’s one of those people that has the type of personality that he doesn’t realize how big he actually is. He a cool nigga. He’s just different, he isn’t afraid to be different either. He’s pioneering a movement, and he is lyrically really strong as well. He’s got a lot of character in his music as well, he raps like he looks. He’s a beast, I feel like he should get far more recognition that he gets now.”

What can we expect from you in the coming future? “More videos, more shows, for sure. I’m also working on more solo material. More me, you’ll definitely be hearing more of Deniro Farrar in the coming months.”

Any parting advice? “There’s no stability in being unstable.”

Deniro Farrar & Shady Blaze’s “Kill Or Be Killed” EP is available now via Bandcamp, download it here.

Sindhuja Shyam

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