Deniro Farrar is covered in tattoos and rhymes over trance samples, nuy isn’t a tacky Flo Rida clone. His second album Destiny Altered, is death, politics and sex over gloomy atmospheric electronics. Farrar witnessed tough times while living in two Charlotte housing projects and left High School before finishing ninth grade. He refuses the “conscious rapper” label and sits in the same contradictory class as Freddie Gibbs and Schoolboy Q, both promoting and condemning aspects of his imperfect life.
The 23 year old only started rhyming in 2010, but he’s one of the chosen few blessed with a natural talent that many of his peers lack. Farrar spoke to me from a sweaty hotel lobby in Atlanta while on a small two week tour. He was high as hell and we talked for nearly an hour about everything from his mother’s previous crack addiction to J Cole’s mediocre album. Farrar answered with brutal honesty and became more outspoken with time. The conversation wasn’t all serious though. We laughed about Deniro’s plans to sleep with Kreyashawn, he rapped a verse about Kendrick Lamar, and after the interview said he only uses Skype to watch Turkish women undress. — Jimmy Ness
What were you doing before music?
Um… You really want to know? Ah shit, fucking hustling man. It’s nothing to glorify, but I was just doing what I had to do in order to survive out here. I ended up catching some charges behind that man, so that did really ensure that I wouldn’t be doing anything too positive with my life. You know once you get in that system. It ain’t a good look for me.
Basically, I did little ends and outs, little odd jobs here and there but I’ve never really been the working type. I never really liked to go to work. I took it upon myself to hit the streets hard and I paid the consequences in the end but for now it’s just rap man.
How long did you spend in prison?
I actually did a couple of months for drug possession and a gun charge. When it all boiled down to it, I got a lawyer and I didn’t have to wear the gun charge. I ended up pleading guilty to simple possession and simple assault on a government official. I actually ended up getting three felony charges. I was arrested for possession of a gun and marijuana; I spit in a police officer’s face so they gave me a malicious conduct by principal. But when it was all said and done, I just pleaded to simple assault on a government official and possession with intent to sell and deliver. They threw the gun charge out which is a blessing.
Why did you wait until recently to pursue music?
I didn’t have people like Konstantin and David Luddy (Deniro’s managers) in my life yet. I actually never wrote a rap song until I made “Feel This.” I never wrote a rap before that, which is crazy. So the only thing I was waiting on was somebody that was as serious as I was about my music and my craft. I met them and it’s been game over since then.
Did you always want to be a rapper?
I just always wanted to be something. I always knew I had it in me to be somebody other than what I was at the time, which was a fucking wannabe drug dealer. I always wanted to be somebody though and rap was something which I always knew I had a talent to do. I always knew rap songs. Every song that came on the radio, I knew that shit. I wanted to be a rapper but I didn’t know I had it in me to rap.
You have a lot of tattoos, but don’t come across as someone who got them just because it’s popular at the moment. Do they all have a meaning?
Honestly, if you could really see my tattoos, there’s a real story in them. Half of body, it all makes sense. Like from the front to the back, there’s a heaven side and a hell side, meaning good and evil. I believe that there’s a god and there’s a devil because if you put an extra ‘o’ on god you get good and if you put an extra ‘d’ on evil you get devil. So I believe in good and evil. I put that shit on my body. Everybody got a good, everybody got a bad side so I chose to display that. Use my body as a canvas.
What about “Venus” which you have tattooed on your neck?
That’s my mom man, that’s her name. It ain’t a planet, that’s her real name.
Why did you decide to include so much personal information on Destiny Altered?
When I used to perform my first mixtape, I didn’t think everybody was going to accept that shit man. I was more worried about people accepting my music. Because it wasn’t me. So with this project, I just opened up man. I listened to a lot of Drake and I don’t wanna say I gathered inspiration from him, but listening to Drake, he basically puts his life on a track and you feel like you know him. You know how he grew up, you know. Like I’ve never met him but I know that his parents were divorced. I know he was on was on that TV show Degrassi that he made money off and fucked it up and now he’s making it off rap.
So I thought I would incorporate the same thing in my music so people feel like they know Deniro Farrar. So they know my struggle man and when I did it, it was like shit, I didn’t know everybody loved that shit man.
I’m going to ask you quite a personal question. You mentioned your mom having a drug problem on the project. Is she aware of that?
Yeah and she’s been off drugs for sixteen years, for the record. And she says ‘son I know you shed light on your upbringing and I was drugged out.’ I really didn’t have a mom growing up, the streets had my mom. She’s so proud of me with the music I’m making man, but she’s like ‘baby you got to make one song to let them know I’m off drugs and doing well.’ So I’m making a song right now to big her up. I don’t want people to think she’s just out here still fucked up off crack man because she’s not. She’s a strong independent black woman.
Thank you for telling me about that. One of the moments that stood out to me on the album was that you mentioned picking up your mother’s crack pipe and asking her about it when you were a child. Was that a true story?
Let me tell you something about Deniro Farrar and Destiny Altered man. Everything is so fucking true. Even when I say my little brother is making moves. I keep him with me because he was in the streets heavy and he’s young. I keep him with me now because I have been afraid for him. And I put that in my opening intro, you know, how I worry about him.
So everything in there is true. I found crack pipes when I was young. We never really had antennas on our TV and we couldn’t really watch it, because she would break them off and smoke crack off them. I would pick them up and ask ‘what is this?’ And I know it fucked her up to see me that young and do that, she would cry and I would tell her ‘momma don’t cry.’ So that shit was real man.
You also mentioned not wanting to be stereotyped as conscious?
I think I’m more aware than conscious because I still say a lot of negative shit. I still tell motherfuckers I’ll kill them, cause I mean that shit. And that ain’t the most positive thing I can say, but that’s just how I feel. I mean that shit when I say it. So I ain’t a conscious rapper. A conscious rapper will constantly bring you positive energy and I mean I got a lot of positive energy, but at the end of the day I’m still realistic. We’re living in a fucked up world and a fucked up society. I just shed light on the things that I feel people should be aware of. I don’t want people to put me in a genre as a conscious rapper like I’m on some Public Enemy shit, no disrespect to them. But I’m not like that man.
Is that why you included some sexual tracks on the album, like “No first night sex?”
I mean at the end of the day even those conscious rappers want to rap about fucking but they afraid of how society is going to perceive them because they’ve been so conscious the whole time. When Bill Clinton got his dick sucked, he stayed getting his dick sucked but he just got caught doing it. You know, he apologized to the public but you ain’t got to apologize for something that human’s do. I get my dick sucked, I have sex, so I put that in my rhymes. I ain’t no fucking angel, you know what I’m saying?
So you’re obviously not trying to be a typical rapper or put yourself in a box?
Hell no, because once you’re put in a box, you can’t do nothing else but what’s inside that box. People in prison can’t do shit in prison but what prison allows them to do. That’s imprisonment man. I feel like that’s taking the creative control from yourself when you put yourself in a box. Like Waka Flocka will never be able to make a Taylor Swift song. Not saying he would like to be on a track with her, but he’s put himself in a box where if he does, his gangsta credibility will be jeopardized. Fuck that! I’ll do a song with Taylor Swift and I dare a nigga to run up on me!
What do you want to achieve with your music then?
At the end of the day, a motherfucker lying if they tell you they don’t want to make money off music. That’s fucking lie. I put in a lot of time and effort in this and I want to reap the benefits one day. But basically, I want my message to be heard. If I was that focused on money, I would just start slanging albums at the back of my truck to make a quick buck, but really right now we’re slow grinding so we can be heard.
Man, the internet powerful as fuck. And with the Internet, it’s people like you that hear my music. You live in Vancouver. I’ve never been there a day in my life so for you to hear my music, that’s just about the internet and it just shows that my music getting out there and people are receiving my message. So that’s what I want. The money gone come.
I actually originally heard you when I was in New Zealand.
Yeah that’s crazy, shout to New Zealand man!
Your production is pretty unique, these aren’t typical rapper beats. Why did you decide to go with this style?
If I went out there and got a Lex Luger beat, I would have been just another rap nigga with another Lex Luger fucking beat. You know what I’m saying? I would have been another rapper with a catchy dumb ass hook and they would kick my ass out of this game as soon as I made a hit and I was a one hit wonder. Man, I want that longevity. I want that timeless music, and the beats and the producers that I’m working with, I’m so blessed and honored to have them working with me man. Because they are making beats that people are afraid of. People are afraid of new shit. But I’m not though. I love it man. At first, they were weird to me and I really didn’t know how I would rap on them. But I like being uncomfortable. Because I’m uncomfortable, when I’m comfortable.
When I do these beats, some of them I’m like oh shit how the fuck am I going to rap on this because it doesn’t even have a steady drum pattern. But I end up doing it man and it turns out great. I wouldn’t trade the producers I’m working with for no fucking Lex Luger, no fucking South side, no damn Just Blaze. None of that. You give me Ryan Hemsworth, Flosstrademus, David Heartbreak, Silky Johnson you know what I mean, Black Sky Blue Death. You give me them dudes, I’m going to give you some classy shit.
Is it true that you gave 100% of the revenue from ‘Destiny Altered’ to the producers?
Yeah man, because at the end of the day I owe them everything. They created a sound. We haven’t really made enough money off the album yet to be sending no $30,000 checks, no fifteen grand, no thousand dollar checks. We ain’t even seen no money off it like that, but please believe everybody gunna reap the benefits that had anything to do with this project.
You’ve worked a lot with Shady Blaze and you are doing a mixtape together. How did you two link up?
It was crazy, because I had already heard of Shady Blaze. I was just out getting my buzz out up on the internet. My manager KonstantiI has a lot of great relationships and built a lot of rapport with a lot of these artists. Me and Shady Blaze, we had a lot of phone convos and really it took us from there. Honestly, I’ve never met Shady Blaze in my life. But you know the internet and these cell phones are a motherfucker. We talk all the time.
Even everybody I do beats with, as long as they are in the states we talk. We got the same concept man, we gon spark this revolution me and him got going on. That’s why we doing this project right now because we got the same vision I feel, and it’s crazy because he’s in a whole different time zone where he’s three hours behind us. For us to have the same vision, just lets me know real recognize real all over the world man. So shout out to Shady Blaze, that’s the homie.
We got the same outlook on life. Because if you listen to a lot of the songs we did, like the
“NWO (New World Order)” we were talking about some deep shit on there, even “43 Hours” in. We talk about some real deep shit, little do people know.
You’ve opened for Young Jeezy, Nas, J Cole, Big KRIT and even Public Enemy. Any cool stories?
I’ve had the honor and pleasure of talking to basically everybody I’ve been able to open up for. But the one that really stuck out to me was Nas. He really stood out to me because I grew up watching that movie Belly. I always looked up to Nas because he was such a smooth dude. He just so laid back. Like damn, he can’t be that laid back in real life and when I met the dude, he was just like that. And I told him, I said ‘man you just like you was on that movie and that’s crazy.’ You know we just had a conversation and I let him know how I was out there rapping and he let me know that it’s a blessing to be in my position because it took him a lot longer to get in the position that I’m at.
Me and KRIT man. Every time I see Big KRIT man, that’s my nigga. Shit he slept on the couch at my crib. Big KRIT that’s the homie man. That dude, we have convos. You know when I see Big Krit man, I don’t see him as a rapper. When I see him, he hug me like ‘yo man what up.’ It’s just love when I see that dude. We convo about everything.
I’ve seen a picture with you and Kendrick Lamar, and he’s holding your album?
Oh shit! Yo, I mean Nas was one of the most laid back dudes but Kendrick Lamar… he’s one of the most down to earth motherfuckers I have ever met in my life. It was so crazy, I was like dude. Man that shit was crazy man. I wrote a song and I mentioned his album in there. I had a chance to rap it to him. And I told him ‘I never wrote the song with the intention of meeting you.’ The verse went something like this: [Deniro actually raps the verse to me at this point.]
“Thoughts manifest, and I’ve been sinning lately.
I don’t need to see a doctor, bitch I know I’m crazy.
Serving packs to my people, playing Section 80.
I wonder how my life would be if my daddy raised me?
I should have played ball and followed in his footsteps.
Now I’m amongst the population where they kill us for a rep.”
And I rapped that shit to him. And he was like ‘dude that’s crazy. Like I like that shit, like really.’ That was cool man. I wrote that shit because it was real man. When I used to ride around serving them motherfuckers that weed, yo I’d be playing Section 80.
That’s awesome. I’ve got one last question about someone you’ve met. There’s a photo with you and Riff Raff…
I knew you were gonna ask me that! Yo, I swear to god. When you said someone I’ve met, I was like watch he’s going to say Action Bronson, Riff Raff or Kreayshawn. But on that Riff Raff subject, I’m going to throw this one out there and come back to that. But I had a picture with me and Kreayshawn.
I took a picture with her when I was at Austin Texas. Yo, I slid up on her. I knew who she was. But I never approached her like I knew who she was. I just walked up to her and I complimented her. I told her I thought she was very attractive and you know, she was digging all my tattoos so we ended up taking a picture. I posted it on Instagram just to post it because I like pictures and shit. So this little chick from Cali commented on my Instagram and was like ‘yo my homegirl been looking for you.’ I was like ‘who is your homegirl’ and she was like ‘Kreayshawn.’ So I was like ‘yeah ok now you got jokes and shit’ and she was like ‘go look on your Twitter timeline.’
I saw Kreayshawn added me in the picture ‘yo, who the fuck is this fine ass dude.’ Somebody came and found me and was like ‘yo that’s @denirofarrar.’ So I’m like damn that’s crazy. I’ve had conversations with her so hopefully this is going to work out like I’m going to be able to sleep with her. But that dude Riff Raff. People look at Riff Raff and see this weird ass white dude doing some weird as shit, but he’s a real intelligent dude. Real humble, real cool man. He’s funny as fuck. I told him ‘my homie got a place down the way and he seen you walking the streets of downtown LA like it aint nothing’. And he was like ‘it’s cause I aint go no fucking car!” He’s just hilarious man. He’s a real people’s person. He walks the streets of Austin, Texas like he has 50 bodyguards with him but it’s just him and another cat. He’s just real laid back. A real positive guy. So shout out to Riff Raff.
You’re working on a project with Flosstradamus, tell us about that?
I’m going to do it with David Heartbreak. It will be a collaborative project because they are basically in the same type of beat genre. Basically it’s just to broaden the horizons with my music as far as the beats. With trends, people automatically think about fucking Flo Rida and Pit Bull. No disrespect to those guys but what their doing is nothing like what I want to do. I want to take those beats and still put my message on them and that’s what I’m doing right now. So people going to accidentally like my music, not exactly accidentally, but there’s going to be a lot of people that’s fans of the beats that I’m on. So they’re going to receive a positive message and really get to hear good music on accident because it’s the beats that are going to draw people to me.
How was working with fellow North Carolina native Rapper Big Pooh?
Big Pooh, he live down the fucking street from me man. He live right down the road from me out in Charlotte. He was based out in the Raleigh area and shit, but he’s in Charlotte now. He’s a cool dude, real humble. It was an honor to work with him, because he’s a fucking North Carolina legend.
I didn’t have a name at the time, fucking with Big Pooh. He just really liked the track and was really vibing with me. Man, he did his thing. I always judge a rapper on how they rap on my songs because it lets me know how they feel about my shit. I know when a nigga doesn’t come hard because I know when I haven’t come hard. He came hard. Shout out to Big Pooh man.
Why do you think North Carolina doesn’t have national recognition?
I just feel like we don’t have our own style. I don’t even consider J Cole to be a North Carolina rapper, honestly. You know he got that up North shit man so ain’t nobody putting on for North Carolina that’s mainstream. I feel like J Cole, once he actually hit the mainstream and got that buzz, that stole his creative control and made him put out all those bullshit records. And I’m not a fan of J Cole whatsoever, not the new J Cole, but the J Cole that was dropping The Warm Up and shit like that. Like he was coming with that shit.
North Carolina doesn’t have a sound, because they steal, copy and borrow style from so many other places. But little do they know man that if we get our own sound people will be able to identify my music and know that it’s from North Carolina.
When you hear a nigga from NC it’s hard to guess where he’s from. People don’t even know where the fuck I’m from. But I’m being true to the NC movement man. My whole slang is North Carolina. You come down to Charlotte everybody talk like me. I’m not trying to steal no fucking New Orleans slang with a little bit of Atlanta, with a little dab of fucking New York. No, it’s all North Carolina. It’s all Charlotte shit man.