deM atlaS: The RAPstation Interview

deM atlaS The RAPstation Interview By Kyle Eustice If you haven't heard the music of deM atlaS, you should. The Rhymesayers signee is on a meteoric rise to notoriety thanks to his clever lyricism, impeccable hooks and super tight production. Reminiscent of classic '90s hip-hop, his tracks ruminate a type of maturity you wouldn't expect from a 22-year-old emcee. As D-I-Y as it gets, deM atlaS, real name Joshua Evans, caught the attention of Rhymesayers' CEO Brent Sayers (Siddiq) by playing countless shows around the Minneapolis area. He quickly landed a record contract in 2013. With two EPs under his belt, 2013's Charlie Brown and 2014's DWNR, Evans is yet another powerful addition to the RSE family. Charlie Brown explores his deep connection to the cartoon outcast while DWNR dives further into formidable childhood experiences. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his first full-length album, which drops soon. In this candid interview, Evans opens up about everything from his relationship to his father to playing sold-out shows with Atmosphere. His latest single, "Drive North," was released January 15, 2015 and is one of his best videos to date. Please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ8BmKJogXk&feature=youtu.be to watch the video for "Drive North" now. RAPstation (Kyle Eustice): I got the video for "Drive North" the other day and I had to talk to you. It's so well done. Now I'm so bugged I missed you at Red Rocks with Atmosphere. deM atlaS (Joshua Evans): You live in Colorado, right? Yes, I do. Word, word. I heard Atmosphere is playing Red Rocks again in August. Are you going? I hope so. That was a crazy time, a crazy experience. Yeah, I want to talk about it. First of all, I can’t believe you're 22. You're doing a lot better than I was doing at 22 so props to you [laughs]. [Laughs] What did it feel like to be in front of such a massive crowd at a venue like Red Rocks? Yo, it was mind-boggling. It was definitely surreal. I've visualized that. I wanted to be there, you know what I mean? I saw myself there. It's no accident that it happened that way. Kind of like manifest destiny? Yeah, yeah. Were you on the whole tour? Yeah, I was on the entire tour. I went out with Atmosphere and Prof. We went all over Canada and it was my first time touring. I was like, 'Wow!' Every night was packed. It was so strange. Tell me about your origins. I started doing music during high school. I grew up in North Minneapolis. I moved from there when I was 10 then I moved to the suburbs, this town called Eagan. I can't stand the place. It's just too plastic, you know what I mean? There are some cool things about it, I guess. I moved to St. Paul after high school and I've been here ever since. How did you get the attention of Rhymesayers? It was a combination of a single song doing it and also playing a lot of shows. Early on, I was like if I want to make this happen, I need to be seen so I knew I had to get a project out there, and that's the Charlie Brown EP. I did the whole do-it-yourself thing. It was only online. It wasn't pressed or anything like that. I knew I needed to play a lot of shows. I played and I played and I played. There was a time when I played like three shows a week. So you were a man on a mission? I really was. I knew that was how you make it happen. Nobody knew me so I had to get out there. Look where you are today. It's pretty cool. There'd be nights where there would be two or three people in a crowd. I would be lucky if 20 people showed up. Sometimes there were 200 and that was like a really big night. [Laughs] To end up at Red Rocks doing sold-out shows with Atmosphere, I give you props for that. Tenacity is the only thing that works. That's a classic example. I just manifested that. I just wanted it. Why you did identify with Charlie Brown? I learned this after the EP, but Charlie Brown is from St. Paul. It's just a story about this kid no one understands. Sometimes he thinks no one really likes him. He's someone I identify with; being from the suburbs. He had a suburban lifestyle. Being the outcast, you know what I'm saying. So you felt like that growing up? Yeah, in a lot of ways. Like the scene where he's kicking the football. I don't even play football, but I played football. I was always getting picked on and stuff like that; from my football skills to the color of my skin. It's a suburban town. Probably a bunch of snotty white people [laughs]. Not all, but there was definitely a lack of diversity. Let's just say that. I can relate. My parents wanted me to have a good education so I went to an upperclass Catholic school. I got picked on because I wasn't wealthy like everyone else. There was no diversity at all. So when I graduated 8th grade, I told my parents I had to go to public school. I ended up at Central High School. In St. Paul? No, in Omaha. Oh, there's a Central in St. Paul. There's probably a Central in every city. [Laughs] There probably is a Central in every city. I see the girls I went to school with and a lot of them are suburbanite housewives wearing pearls and... Ooooh and awful dresses. Right [laughs]. That could have been me. No, that wouldn't have been you. Many of them seem pretty unhappy. I can imagine not following your passions in life and just following some formula of the "American Dream." Some people don't even know that their lives are being planned for them. They are systematically just following a routine. They're not even awake to the fact. They don't even know that they have control over their destiny. They just follow the herd then they wonder why they're sad. It's because they aren't doing what they really love to do and being who they really, truly are. I didn't really think of it that way. Your situation sounds like mine when I was going to school. I just found it hard to really have a true connection with anybody. I noticed the clicks and I noticed so many things that really got me down. In fact, I was severely depressed my senior year of high school. I've always been able to relate to comic books better than people. Growing up, I read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes. I didn't even watch Charlie Brown until after high school. I struggle through depression sometimes. I went though some crazy stuff, too. Once I got to public school, I started doing a lot of drinking, among other things. My parents sent me back to a Catholic high school. You just went crazy wild because you were so pent up in that Catholic school so you were trippin' acid [laughs]. [Laughs] Yeah, I went the complete other way. At the core of it was always music. All I cared about was going to shows and essentially that's where this career was born. I notice a lot of '90s hip-hop influences in your music. How does a 22-year-old emcee have such a solid grasp on that era? I can just relate to it more so than what kats are saying today. It just makes more sense to me. I don't know really how to rhyme with a certain flow pattern. I would rather just say what I mean in a way that is super blunt. They did it best in the '90s. I dig B.I.G. "Suicidal Thoughts?" That shit is fucking real. "When I die/fuck it/I want to go to hell/'cuz I'm a piece of shit/it ain't hard to fucking tell." It sent chills down my spine. It wouldn't have the same effect if he didn't do it the way he did. It's all in the delivery. It's all in the delivery. Yeah. I see emcees as jazz players. I see emcees as the modern day trumpet players. I mean, obviously there are still trumpet players around, but I see the voice like an instrument. Are you working on a full-length? Hey, I am working on a full-length and a side-length, you know what I mean? Is there a projected release date? Keep your eyes open in March. I'm going on a Florida tour and I'll have something by then. I want to talk about "Drive North." The fact you talk about broccoli in the hook is awesome. [Laughs] Broccoli is a metaphor alluding to something else. It's like your parents sending you that Catholic school. The Catholic school is the broccoli. Force feeding you this shit don't need. It just so happens that I don't have the best relationship with my dad. Right now? Yeah, it's just a part of my art. It's just how it is I guess. He left my life when I was 4. My parents used to fight all the time so it's for the best. I have these little memories; some good, some bad, but mostly bad. It just came to my head when I was listening to the beat. I'm best friends with my mom though. Where was the video shot? All in Minneapolis and around St. Paul. I like the concept. Is it kind of like a catharsis? Like you are going through something so you get in your car and go for a drive to figure some things out? That's precisely what it is. It's that feeling you have when you're sitting at a diner by yourself, listening to Otis Redding, sipping your coffee, the sky is gray, you see the birds - that's the feeling I wanted to capture on that song. You definitely did that. Where can people find DWNR? It's on Bandcamp, Soundcloud and it's also on the Fifth Element page. I love that store. Every time I go to Minneapolis, I run into Sean [Slug]. That's amazing 'cuz I never run into Slug. Rhymesayers seems like a great family. From the first time I played 7th Street Entry, it was sold out. It was all homegrown. Siddiq was working the lights, Slug backstage taking pictures and he had this big grin like, 'Hey, nice job.' He asked what I wanted to drink. I said, 'I'll take a Jameson and Ginger.' He's like, 'Eww, really?' [Laughs] Those little twists that he has. They are really supportive kats and I'm really happy to be a part of the team. How did this all start? It started in 2012. I stopped going to school, moved out of my mom's house and I first met Slug and Brother Ali when I went to Eyedea's memorial. It was at this place called Cherokee Park, which was close to where my mom lived. I thought that was really funny so I just walk there. That's where I met Slug. Of course, he didn't know me. He had his sunglasses on and looked kind of sad. A bunch of kids crowded around him and he was like, 'Hey, what do you want to hear?' Then he played and I thought that was wicked. Then I started playing a lot then I got the attention of Siddiq. He said he wanted to chop it up with me. I scroll down and I see "CEO of Rhymesayers." You left school so you had to make it work and it did. That's one of my favorite mantras: make it happen. School just wasn't for me. I didn't feel right. I read that at the end of a show, you told the audience something like, 'Fuck fear. Don't let people tell you what to do with your life. Do what you feel.' That's a great message to put out there. I really like your song, "Wanna Be A Kid Again." Why do want to be a kid again? Oh man, I like that question a lot. Damn. I want to be a kid again because I feel like a lot of my childhood was lost on not appreciating the time that I had. I was one of those kids that really kept to myself and played a lot of video games. I didn't really want to go outside. I didn't play outside that much. I look back on that and slap my head. It's funny how fast time goes. I look at outsiders now with a new appreciation, but back then I never wanted to go outside. That's why I want to be a kid again so I can look on the world anew and look at it with pure eyes. What you'll figure out, when you're in your 30s like I am, is when you look back on 22 you will realize, 'Damn, I was a kid.' So actually you're good. You have your whole life. You're right. That is a very comforting thought. Thank you Kyle.