Talking influences, industry and Hip-Hop with UK rapper: Dereck D.A.C.
Following the release of his latest project, "Who Sold My Soul?" with producer KIANVSLIFE, we had a day out with Dereck D.A.C in LDN to find out what hip-hop means to him and what fuels his fearlessly unique sound.
Garments are made by sustainable clothing designer Joshua Samuels.
All Photographs taken by: Alex Messer.
Who is Dereck D.A.C?
Umm, who am I? I would say I am a creative artist before everything. Rapping is an extension of that. But yeah I would say it’s for the love, I’m a passionate guy, this is all I have. I would say, when I think about it, I feel like I embody the culture and what it’s about so much. Like when I think about underground hip-hop and the culture, like rapping in the streets and freestyling, I’m more that than a studio cat. Like that’s who I’d say I am. I’m about, ask me to rap and I’ll rap, you know what I’m sayin?
What are your biggest influences in life and what do you think has made you who you are today?
I guess it's that I was a bit of a loser in life, one of the main reasons why I do what I do is when I see creative people that can rap, especially in freestyling. Like the fact it doesn’t matter who the fuck you are, it’s about what you say. That was a huge influence for me, like being a no-one and then coming in cyphers and people being like, ‘yo you’re sick’. I think as a human being you want to feel part of something, you know, it’s a human instinct.
Also, I guess living in so many different places, growing up in Brazil, Barcelona, Brighton, being born in London. Also the fuckries in life, like my family and shit and not having a perfect upbringing, like a lot of people. I think that defines you, you can either go one way and do bullshit, or you can go the other way and use that as a catalyst to really want to do something.
Talk to us about the concept behind ‘Who sold my soul?’ Where was the concept born from and when did you start working with Kian?
So me and Kian have been homies for ages, at uni we would just chill and smoke weed together. We didn’t start making music together for ages. In his final piece for his masters, he had to produce for someone else. So he said we should make a project for his masters and that’s how ‘Umm.. Random Shit’ was made. For ‘Who Sold My Soul?’, we had finished some projects with some homies and we were getting into the industry and it just became toxic init.
We started fucking with big cats and it left a bad taste in my mouth and it ended in tears. We’re all friends now but when you’re like 18/19 and no one really knows what’s going on, it kinda all fell apart. After that I started washing dishes for the summer and me and Kian were like, yo we wanna make a project. At the time guys like Mike and Earl were dropping this soul based rap shit, and what was going on at the time was kinda like spoken word over beats. In that time I was hella depressed and felt like I just failed my life. I’d been working for years making music and then it all fell apart. Started from scratch again, no longer making music with the same people.
I think it’s scary when you’re used to working in a group then suddenly being like oh shit, now I gotta do this by myself. So I saved some money and was like I wanna leave Brighton to go and make some music and me and Kian decided on Lisbon because I could speak Portuguese and it was cheap. Through making the music, the idea started manifesting even more. We decided we wanted to do soul music because we were fucking with those beats, and I came up with the pun, ‘who sold my soul’. It wasn’t even going to be deep, it was just a pun. I was rapping about experiences, not really sending for anyone but it sort of ended up more of like figuring out where I am and how I lost myself in the bullshit. Unwillingly you end up writing all this and see it’s all a reflection of that time period.
There’s a lot of classic samples in the project, how did you go about finding and selecting samples?
So basically we went crate digging a lot in Lisbon. There were a lot of record stores in our area and we would go and buy some records - or pretend to want to buy them then shazam them cos we were poor as fuck. But also I’m really good at digging on the internet and that’s a skill in itself. Unfortunately, a lot of these dope 70s records are not readily accessible, especially in the UK. So the internet is such a blessing especially if you’re poor. So digging online is almost like the modern way of digging. But it’s not just music, like I’ve sampled weird Youtube videos. A lot of the skits are just random shit of like some guy talking about selling his soul with like 10 views from 10 years ago, now homies on a vinyl and doesn’t even realise it. Yeah.
What do you think helps fuel growth as an artist?
Releasing projects. I think this is a mistake that me and a lot of people have made. Like if you don’t release things, you don’t get feedback, not necessarily from other people, more from yourself. The more you do things, the more it helps your artistry. It might start like, I wanna sound like these guys, or sound like Wu Tang but the more you make it, the more you ask, is that really who I am? I don’t really have a fear of releasing bad music, I don’t think there is such a thing. You can release something that’s unrefined, but bad music is so subjective.
Personally right now I feel like I’m at a stage where it’s come full circle. I feel like I spent all of years in Brighton building a certain idea of who I am as an artist and working towards that and it reached its cap. Now moving to London and being here for 6-7 months now and being like, shit I’m starting again - in a good way. I’m starting again and I’m rethinking about everything like, why do I have long hair, why do I wanna rap like this? As an artist I wanna express myself in every way, what I look like, how I rap. Yeah. I’m at a stage where I wouldn’t say I’m breaking through, but in between doing bits and not doing bits. Like I’m figuring out how to get to where I wanna be without really selling my soul and forgetting who I am. But at the same time evolving myself and becoming who I really am. I want the music to reflect that.
What’s your opinion of hip-hop right now and what keeps you rapping?
This is my life, no joke. My head is so fucked most of the time and writing is so cathartic that by accident I end up writing a lot of shit that's personal. Even if I write it in metaphors and certain ways, it’s a personal thing about how I’m feeling or about my situations. I wanna be the best version of myself and I feel like I’m getting better every day. Most of the time I’m not even writing, I’m just freestyling. Before ‘Who sold my soul?’, I didn’t make music for like 6 months so that I could just reflect on life. Now it’s been 6 months since I made that project and I feel like I’m bubbling with ideas and shit.
In the UK I feel like the music is dope. But I also feel like there’s room for a new scene that’s coming through. There’s a lot of other cool cats making shit and creating hip hop in their own way that’s not just 90s boom-bap with UK rapping. Like how do we make this our own creatively? That’s the part of the scene that I’m trying to help pioneer. I feel like the foundations were laid and that’s sick, without that I wouldn’t be rapping myself. I feel like it’s up in the air right now and I feel like it’s going to take a few people to help pioneer this movement of like new wave alternate rap that’s really anything, that’s genre-less.
What are your views on spirituality, do you find music a spiritual experience?
A lot of my family are religious but I’m not. My mum is heavily spiritual, she used to send me to Buddhist shit when I was a kid, like we’d go meditate and then go to the zoo and shit. I love my mum and she’s so into that so it’s always been a part of me but I try to meet it in the middle. I’m not crazy about all of it but some things really hit. My brain is very logical but I am also spiritual. I feel like the more I get into my art, inherently it’s going to get more spiritual. Like Capital Steez, he used to be a sick rapper and then he started meditating and astral projecting and shit and homie changed and started coming out with the craziest shit. I’ve been listening to him since I was 17 and I still find new shit in his bars.
Rapping is such a weird thing. It’s like pulling words and context from nothing, almost like you’re pulling them from an alternate reality. Especially when you’re freestyling, that word or that verse that you’re spitting existed in an abyss and somehow you’re connecting to it. Sometimes I’ll be freestyling and on rare occasions and I won't even be thinking but I’ll rap some of the maddest shit and it’s like I’m not even here. It’s almost like my brain isn’t a part of what’s coming out and it feels so connected to something. It’s so surreal, I can’t really explain it but it’s some other-worldly shit. I’m a spiritual person definitely, yeah, but I kind of went away from it for a while and I feel like I’m getting back to it now. It’s always been a part of my life and it always will be. You gotta believe in something, but also we have no idea what’s going on really, like this could be a matrix. So it’s really down to me what to believe. I think human bodies are very powerful and it feels like there is something else there. Art is so weird, the fact that we like to draw or write, or make beats and take sounds and put them together and press play, and you feel something. Like that’s what keeps me existing. It’s like a need to create. I’ve quit rap 3 or 4 times and every time I come back but I just can’t get away from it, it’s like it’s part of me. I feel like I must have been a poet in a past life or something.