I got to have a extended conversation with one of my favorite artists Deniro Farrar. We discussed politics, jail, addiction, and of course his musical pursuits past, present, and future. I learned a lot from this interview and had a great time talking with Deniro. He’s a super down to earth dude who knows how to joke around but isn’t afraid to talk about the hard stuff. Big ups to his manager Konstantin for helping facilitate our talk.
What sort of music do you enjoy other than hip-hop.
I’m a fan of oldies music. A lot of old soul music like Marvin Gay and Al Green. I am also big on Laura Hill, John Legend, Adele, and FrankOcean.
Did you grow up in a musically conscious home?
Not really man. I was one of those kids who always knew every song on the radio, and my mom would tell me, “If you knew your academics like you knew these songs you would be alright”. She was never against music, but she was more focused on education. She would try to censor music; she didn’t like the cursing. I had gotten into Three Six Mafia real heavy at one point so she was not happy with me listening to that shit, so I had to hide that shit from her. My love of music wasn’t the result of my family or any of that shit, although I started listening to rap through my older brother. He would go out and buy CD’s and we shared a room so when he was gone I would listen to all of his rap CD’s; Master P, Tupac, Three 6 Mafia. From there I went out and started finding my own artists.
What stage names did you go through before deciding on Deniro Ferrar?
I went through a bunch. You know how in elementary school you wanna be a fire fighter one minute and a ball player the next? I was like that with stage names. I was The General, Mr. Swag, stupid shit like that. I landed on Deniro, and I didn’t plan on adding the Farrar. This guy David Luddy who I was recording with when I first started rapping told me that Deniro wasn’t good because if you Google it you would get a shit ton of other famous people. He saved a song we did under Deniro Farrar and he kept doing that shit and I told him to stop and that I didn’t want Farrar on the end of my name. But he kept doing it and it stuck, so I just embraced it. People were curious and would ask me how I came up with Farrar, so I guess it worked out alright.
When did you start rapping and what were you doing before then?
This is my second year. I dropped Feel This November 19th 2010, so not even two years yet. Before that I never thought of myself as a rapper. I thought I had the talent to rap but I was afraid to live out the dream and was just trying to stay afloat. I would do little odd jobs here and there, but mainly I was busy hustling.
So in less than two years you went from beginning you rap career to doing shows with a number of huge artists (opening for Mike Poser, NAS, Damien Marley, Public Enemy, Wale, Chiddy Bang, performing with BIG K.R.I.T., Smoke DZA, and Curren$y on the Smokers Club tour, Wiz Khalifa’s Wake in Bake tour, and SXSW in Austin, Texas). How did you manage all that?
That was all a blessing man. A lot of that I owe to my manager Konstantin; besides my musical ability, he played the biggest role in making all that happen. I won’t say I didn’t deserve to play all those shows, but I had no resume. I had just dropped Feel This and was touring with fucking Wiz. All that shit was a daydream. When I was on tour with Wiz I was still a fan, bumping Kush and OJ. It was crazy, but I was just soaking everything up. I watched how the big rappers manoeuvred off stage, how they interacted with other people, and a lot of them (I won’t name names) were kind of dick heads to fans. I observed how people absorbed the fame they had and if they let it get to their head or not so that I could handle myself if I get to their position. I was really humble, that nigga in the corner watching all the shit. I conversed with a lot of people trying to make my mark so that when I get to where I want to be they’ll remember me from tour.
Of all the people you met on tour, who surprised you the most?
Kendrick Lamar. I saw how talented the dude was and how he was blowing up. Before we chilled I thought he was gunna be a dickhead. Same goes for Schoolboy Q because he has some cocky “I don’t give a fuck” raps, but they were the coolest dudes. I had several conversations with Kendrick about real shit, life situations and all that. He was so humble in the way he carried himself. He conversed with me like a homie rather then being like, “Who the fuck is this wannabe rapper?”
There was a big change in the sound and lyrical content from Feel This to DESTINY.altered. What caused this shift?
It came mostly from me getting more comfortable with myself as a rapper. Feel This was the first project I ever recorded in the studio, and it was all over the place. I had no designed lane that I was trying to go with it; it was just me displaying what talent I had. It was my introduction to myself musically. DESTINY.altered was who I am; I got better with my performance as an artist. It was a more focused project; the lyrical content and the production were more cohesive than Feel This.
The beats on DESTINY.altered come from a number of diverse producers (Bilal AMG & Oswin SM, David Heartbreak, Keyboard Kid, Ryan Hemsworth, Blue Sky Black Death, SPADEZ, Storm Watkins, Silky Johnson, nem270, SKYWLKR, Lyle Horowitz). What made you decide to include so many different producers whose beats were nothing like those featured on Feel This?
With Feel This I was using a lot of the beats that were “hot” at the time. For DESTINY.altered I was ready to leave that copycat shit behind and find my niche. I don’t want to be one of those artists that are trendy now because rappers like that will eventually fade out because their music lacks substance. I wanted to bring substance back to the art of rap. All the producers who I worked with saw my vision so the beats worked perfectly with my rapping. From front to back DESTINY.altered made sense. With Feel This I had to explain what I was doing in interludes and shit because I was taking people in so many different directions. I didn’t have to do any of that explaining on DESTINY.altered because it was a one direction deal. My whole objection was to make it sound like an album, and an album isn’t just a bunch of songs thrown together, rather it is a collection of songs that tell a story and compliment eachother. I got a lot of good responses from it, so I’m glad I chose to do what I did.
You get quite political on both of your mix tapes, more so with DESTINY.altered;
“Lost and stranded,/ funny how you planned it./ Now I’m kidnapping you and holding you for ransom/ Mr. President, now your in my residence./ Voted for a black man I feel ain’t represent.”
My issue isn’t just with the president; my issue is with politics period. Politics is some serious fuckitry. My biggest issue with Obama is that a lot of people of colour went out and voted for him because he is technically of colour himself without knowing his morals and politics. I get angry when people say, “We got our first black president”, when in fact he isn’t even black racially; his skin complexion is dark but he is as white as he is black. Honestly though I don’t fuck with any presidents because they are all just puppets; they don’t make a lot of the decisions that we think they make. Presidents are all fall guys for people to get pissed off at. They just have good talk game, as I said in NWO; “You had a good talk game./ Something better change before you’re outlined in chalk mayne”. I have a good talk game; I can talk a mother fucker out of his money and I can talk a bitch out of her panties, but at the end of the day it doesn’t mean shit. Most people don’t take the time to go out and research the statements that politicians make; they just allow themselves to be spoon-fed bullshit. It’s all a façade, smoke and mirrors that they put up and people fall for that shit. I’m not one of those people.
You talk about some really personal stuff on DESTINY.altered, including your mom’s drug addiction;
“I’m reminiscing about the past on the late night./ Looking for toys then I stumble across the crack pipe./ Asked my momma what it was, she looked surprised,/ told me a lie as she wiped the tears from her eyes.”
There was so much shit going on at the time that I can’t even say whether or not it was my moms crack pipe or not; it could have been hers, her friends, anybodys. I was exposed to a lot as a child, which forced me to grow up faster than I would have without all that shit going on around me. Everything is different now; my mom has been clean eighteen years. She doesn’t smoke, she doesn’t drink, she doesn’t drug, she doesn’t do anything. A lot of my motivation to make it with music is to assure that she lives comfortably. She sacrificed a lot for me, and crack is one of the hardest drugs to come back from; a lot of people out there are going to be strung out on crack for the rest of their lives. The fact that she is strong enough to stay clean inspires me. Not to mention she has eight kids and no husband to help out.
Are you close with your siblings?
I’m very close with my two sisters and five brothers. I’m living with my sister right now, so I spend a lot of time with her and my niece. I have an older brother that lives in New York, so whenever I’m up there for shows and what not we hang out. I got younger brothers who come up and visit all the time. I see my older sister sometimes when I go to jail because she is doing time. We got a close family; we still get together and eat on Sundays.
You mention your criminal past in your music;
“Drug dealers speak pig Latin so fluently./ Can’t find a job cuz those two felonies ruined me.”
I used to be heavy on my hustle. I was riding with my former homeboy and was going to deliver a package and I ended up getting arrested with the package and my gun. I got possession with intent to deliver, possession of an illegal firearm, and assault on a government official because I spat on the cop. I wasn’t even 20 and didn’t have any serious prior charges so the judge took it easy on me, gave me five years of probation. I’m trying to get past that point in my life, which is why I’m getting serious about this rap shit.
You claim that you have songs by Deniro and songs by Deniro Farrar. Can you explain what exactly you mean by this?
I grew up in a bad neighbourhood but was a good kid in some ways. I did well in school and got bumped up a grade, but I was always getting into shit. Deniro and Deniro Farrar is a good versus evil type thing. It’s something I still battle with. It’s almost a split personality. You can hear that in my music, so I have to differentiate the two.
You have a lot of tattoos but don’t seem like the kind of guy who got them for aesthetic purposes.
All my tattoos represent that Deniro versus Deniro Farrar. The tattoos on the left side of my body represent good with Holy tattoos, God and angels. The right side of my body represents evil, Satan and demons. I definitely didn’t throw a bunch of bullshit on me because I thought it looked cool, that ain’t me.
Who in today’s hip-hop climate do you think is doing the game proud?
It’s hard to say without going on for hours. I listen to all different kinds of hip-hop, and within each different type there are artists who are doing justice to the industry. BIG K.R.I.T., Ab-Soul, Shady Blaze, Danny Brown, and Kendrick Lamar to name a few.
You have collaborated with Bay Area rapper Shady Blaze a lot. How did you two link up?
We haven’t even met man it’s crazy. He is a cool dude. We linked up through Konstantin; he got me the feature for Shady Blaze, and when he emailed me back the feature I thought “Damn this shit is crazy. Dude is so far away and we share the same vision”. That one song brought about our collaborations, including the album we just finished up together.
What can we expect from that album?
It’s done, we are just waiting to release it. You can expect the best of west coast and east coast at the same fucking time. It’s a good comparison and contrast between our different styles, styles that mesh together really well. The whole project is very well put together; people are going to like it a lot.
What has been the hardest part of being a rapper for you?
Wondering when I’m gunna blow up and what song is gunna get me the exposure that lets me go viral. Once I get to the masses it’s a wrap, getting there is the challenge.
What is your favourite part being in the rap game?
Hearing my own music. I’m a fan of my own music; I play my shit as much as I play the next man’s. When I record some shit in the studio I’m on the engineer pressing him to email it me so as soon as I’m done I can bump it in the car, bump it with my boys, bump it at the house with my sister and her boyfriend.
What does the future hold for Deniro Farrar?
I’m working on another solo project, trying to keep shit moving. I don’t know when that big executive will give me that extra push to blow up so I’m trying to expand my catalogue.
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