Deniro Farrar has a cult
firstname.lastname@example.org | @YESRyan
On The Patriarch II, the June follow-up to the mixtape generally lauded as Deniro Farrar’s breakthrough, the Charlottebased rapper marks time by how many grams he can move off of his west Mecklenburg streetcorner per hour. He extrapolates the potential via grams in a kilo and hours in a year while at the same time reminding himself that the outcome isn’t easily predicated on a fourth-grade-level math formula. The unknown variables were the human costs he incurs while trying to put shoes on his daughter and pay his mother’s bills — the friends he lost, his brother Tune, who was wrapped up on his own charges.
But don’t confuse Farrar with being a gangster rapper. His message is one of contrition as he moves further beyond that lifestyle, but also don’t call him a conscious rapper. Farrar paints gritty, Bellowsian portaits of real, imperfect and, most often, the downright broken human experience, but it’s an experience that’s all his own. Farrar has parlayed that into a wave called Cult Rap that’s all his own as well; he uses the standard descriptors like “music with a message, music with a meaning.” Cult rap is something more powerful than journo-labels can capture. It’s defined not so much by any particulate sound — he’s reached across time zones for the right blissed-out tunes to complement his naugahyde vocals — but by the fact that its remarkably empathetic and often pitilessly honest.
Y!W: The one constant in your music is your voice. It’s raw and authoritative, and there’s no comparison other than Tone L c, though I realize that’s not even fair. Is that sound the product of at least a little bit of active cultivation?
DF: Nah, I really rap like that. I like to think I really sound like that, but I know it really comes out when I rap because I can put more emotion in it. I really do sound like that though. It just comes natural. It’s not a voice I create when I go into the booth, but lot of people think that.
Y!W: Your beats have come from far and wide, and represent a variety of disciplines. Was this your way of avoiding being associated with any regional scene from the outset?
DF: Yes and no, but to be honest, I didn’t even know I was going to get the recognition off of working with all these young producers like I did, because I just thought they were going to be dope. But, I would never want to just be considered a “local artist.” Now that was never my aim. I always wanted to aim higher than being a local rapper. I wanted to be locally popular and known for rap, but I really didn’t care if I was or not. I knew once the world cosigned, everyone else would cosign with the world.
Y!W: I came to the record you did with Shady Blaze, Kill or Be Killed, after falling down the Main Attrakionz rabbit hole after a Greensboro show at Longshanks they did in 2012. I’m under the impression that you two still have not met, but that partnership seemed to open up a lot of doors for you.
DF: I was actually with Main Attrakionz at that Greensboro show. It was in a little pool hall? I wasn’t Deniro Farrar at the time — well I was, but not to a lot of people. I wouldn’t really become Deniro Farrar until later. I drove up from Charlotte to support Squadda B and MondreMAN, and they came back down to my crib in Charlotte. I still haven’t met Shady Blaze though. We keep in touch a lot. He just congratulated me on the success of The Patriarch II.
Y!W: Ryan Hemsworth shows up on your records more than anyone, and DJ sets tend to be extremely left field. Is that the case with beats he sends you? Is there a lot of back and forth there?
DF: Never man, never. I was on his sh*t from the jump. As soon as I heard him, I was like, “Man, this dude’s dope.” I heard him on some earlier Main Attrakionz tracks and I just thought he was great. He does send me some left-field sh*t, but it’s the left-field sh*t that helped make me who I am today. Most people, when they hear it, they’re probably like, “What the…,” and then say the same thing when they hear me rapping over it.
Y!W: Your Greensboro show on Thursday is part nonpartisan voter-information drive, part pretty, urbane, independent music showcase. Your music’s already very subtly political, but with the current state of NC politics, is this an occasion to ramp that aspect up?
DF: There’s already too much politics in politics, bro. I always try to be active in politics as far as my music goes, but my thing is, I just want to show people a good time. I also want to make them think and let them know that I’m politically aware of things that are going on. I’ll probably perform a couple of songs with that bent, but we’re in a college town, people want to hear that Deniro Farrar is really about. We’re going to mob out and it’s going to be a dope show.
Y!W: It’s been interesting to follow how much family has played into your lyrics as your babies have been born and your brother has gone away. When did you personally become aware that it was becoming so prevalent in your writing?
DF: It really has. I’ve watched it slowly happen and it’s a good thing. I felt like I needed to put that in my music because that’s a lot of my motivation — my family, my brother, my children. It becomes a lot at times to deal with on a day-to-day basis let alone rap about. My brother and I haven’t talked in a couple of months, but we just got this understanding where my mom talks to him so much because she still thinks of him as the baby, but I already know he’s a man. When we do talk, he tells me to keep doing what I’m doing because what I’m doing is motivated by his situation. I know it’s making him happy. We write a lot because I don’t really like the phone conversation thing lately from dealing a lot with that situation.
Y!W: I know you come from a really big family, but what was different about the relationship between you and Tune?
DF: We’re alike in a lot of ways, people always mistake him for me, but he’s like a young OG. He has a lot of wisdom about him. One thing I regret is not having my career where it needed to be at the time to have things for him to do so he would not have wasted his time with the nonsense that he got tied up in. I try not to bash myself about that, but you know.
Y!W: You’re quick to remind your audience that you’re not proud of some of the things you did during your own struggle, but you don’t disown them either. When did that turnabout come that you’re able to reflect on your past rather than continue to act on it?
DF: I just recently stopped doing the sh*t that I’m rapping about. It was January of this year that my little brother got his case, and I just had to say, “Fu*k it.”
I’m definitely worth more alive than dead. I feel like as long as I’m alive I can change my ways. The things I was doing, if I put it in rhymes, somebody can actually learn from that. Everything I went through was real and relatable, and there are other human beings going through the same struggle as me. Hearing is relating, and hopefully that’s cause for them to change the way I changed.
Y!W: I hear echoes in your rhymes of comparable stories that came a generation before you; like “The Calling” on The Patriarch II reminds me of Supa Nate’s prison phone freestyle on Outkast’s Aquemini.
DF: I’ll say I never hear other people’s music and let it influence my rhymes. Everything I say is a reflection of the way I’ve lived, everything I’ve been through and the course of growing up and going those things I did on the street. We do go through a lot of the same struggles, and it really is a slave system in there. They tell you what to do, when to do it and how to do you. You have to “Yes, sir” and “No, sir.”
Otherwise you have a bad day. I know that wasn’t the question, but the question of influence comes up a lot and I keep keeping telling people I don’t get influenced by other rappers because no other rapper can live my life.
Deniro Farrar will headline the free Show of Hands concert at the Downtown Greenway trailhead. The show starts at 6 p.m.