Minutes into his set at the Hawthorne in Portland for the Bow Down Tour along with Floridian Denzel Curry (the first true headlining tour for both the Charlotte native and the Floridian), Deniro rips off his now sweated through white shirt and reveals his ink, a collage of scars, and dreams woven into his body. If you slowed his tracks down and had him acapella his rhymes, it would be slam poetry. Towards the end of his set, he trust falls into the audience, they hold him up, his heels never leaving the stage, arms spread, he looks like a budding rock star.
Denzel is next to rush the stage, and from the side of the stage, he pulls Deniro back into the fray. With the Instagrams, Tweets, and Snapchats piling up, the guys spend an hour making sure everyone who wants merch is taken care of, autographs are signed, and a worn out Deniro slinks back to the hotel, where he picks up his drying clothes from the laundry room. “I’m a domestic nigga,” he jokes.
He’s also a member of the North Carolina Rap scene whose produced (in the new generation) not only he, but Well$, the queen of Jamla, Rapsody, J Cole and King Mez amongst others. It’s a landscape that may be the next to be called the epicenter of Rap if, of course, their prospects can make good. And, after the show Deniro sat down exclusively with HipHopDX to talk Nas’ Time Is Illmatic, dropping out of High School, and his ambitions of being a revolutionary.
Deniro Farrar Reveals Why He Thinks Fame Is An “Illusion”
DX: You are on the Bow Down Tour, right now. How is it going, and what are you looking forward to?
Deniro Farrar: I’m looking forward to the fan base growing. That’s my mission. To make the fan base grow.
DX: And you really take your time after the show, like tonight…
Deniro Farrar: Of course, that shit counts! Fame ain’t real. I tell people that all the time, I tweet that all the time. It’s not real.
DX: What do you mean by that?
Deniro Farrar: It’s not real. It’s an illusion. Being famous is an illusion. People get stuck in it. It’s a drug. They can’t get enough of it. It’s addictive. They can’t get enough of it. It’s like social media. It validates people, it’s what keeps them going, it gives them a sense of worth like fuck, I’m somebody! Really, we are all the same. You interviewing me, but I could ask you some shit that would change my life if you told me about your life. I want people to see how normal I am though.
I want them to see that shit though. Fame is not real! The moment a motherfucker starts thinking they’re famous they act like it. And that’s when they’re no longer pure. And I can’t act like something I’m not. I’m not famous. I’m a coordinator. I do extraordinary shit though. The music is extraordinary. I’m an ordinary nigga though. At the end of the day I’m going to die off like everyone else. But my music is going to live. People are going to remember me. I was an ordinary nigga who did extraordinary shit.
Deniro Farrar Explains How Reading Inspires Growth & How He And Nas Differ
DX: You’ve got several books in your bag. When did you really get in to reading?
Deniro Farrar: Like a couple months ago… I’ve always liked reading though, but I really just got back into it, to be completely honest. I’ve strayed away from so much shit because I had so much going on in my life with my music and my sons and shit. I felt like I had gotten to a point where I had said everything I knew and that I’ve learned in my music. I was like, ok, I have to grow more, I have to read more, I have to experience more. I dropped out of school in the 9th grade. So that’s why watching that Nas documentary today was so effective. I was like damn, that’s dope. I was 15! Nobody told me to drop out…
DX: How did it hit you when you were watching that?
Deniro Farrar: Like, ok, that’s what’s up. I know I ain’t crazy then… at least I know I ain’t crazy. Yeah, but I’m totally different from Nas, though. Nas is a great songwriter; his impact on Hip Hop is so crazy. But I was actually doing the shit that I rap about. He was rapping about it from a standpoint of like as a kid who was watching all of the shit around him. He was almost like a reporter. He reported what he’d seen. He’s so detailed because he visualized it and wrote it. It’s like Kendrick Lamar… he was a good kid in a bad city and he wrote about what he saw. Me?
I was a bad kid in a bad city and I wrote about it. It was real. Everything I wrote about, everything I said, I did. I remember in one of my earlier songs I was like “I went from buying J’s to bussin k’s and duckin strays, my momma worried about me sick / I’m comin home with failin grades / Made enough money to pay her rent and buy us Christmas bikes / Just some niggas from the ghetto that aint livin’ right. Addicted to the block we be out that bitch every night. My daddy wasn’t ever home when we hung up our Christmas lights.”
Deniro Farrar Illuminates On The Similarities Between Hustling And Music
DX: Now you’re trying to be on the “straight and narrow” for your sons. What’s that transition like?
Deniro Farrar: It’s a smooth transition. I have to be more business savvy now than ever before. Even then, I mean in streets, different rules apply. You still had to be business minded, business oriented but different rules apply to the streets. If a nigga was fuckin’ up the money you could apply pressure. Now, when a promoter is on some other shit, you can’t go apply pressure on nobody, hurt nobody, about no money. It’s a more professional aspect. But now, I’ve got somebody to be the bad guy, I’ve got somebody to be the collector. I have a manger now so he does that. I’ve never had that before.
DX: Is it harder to hustle product or to push the music?
Deniro Farrar: When you hustlin’, all you have to do is go out to the streets and have the product. And it’s in a certain area; you’re not worried about people invading your turf, trying to hustle on your turf if that’s where you are. But Rap? Everybody invading this shit. Everybody rap. Your fuckin’ homebody who’s watched you rap for YEARS? This nigga wanna rap now. His little brother wanna rap. His little brother’s homeboy wanna rap. Everybody’s doin’ it! You can come to one neighborhood and get 30 types of product.
DX: On Twitter the other day, you said “I’m all out of favors,” then a couple seconds later said, “Some people never appreciate what you do for them.” What’s it like being viewed as some of your friend’s only resource.
Deniro Farrar: You know what though? It wasn’t technically about my friends though it was about life in general, though. When I do shit, it’s not like I look for anything in return. I’m at a point right now where I don’t wanna do favors no more. I’m all out. Like fuck it! When you do things for people out of the kindness of your heart, sometimes it’s like a slap in the face. Some people don’t even give a fuck. I’ve done shit for people out of the kindness of my heart and they’ve taken it for granted and didn’t value it. I’ve given people shit I didn’t even have. I’ve done things for people that I wasn’t technically in a position to do, but I did it because I took an opportunity to do it. It’s so weird. I’m all out of favors. People don’t appreciate shit. I’m takin’ it to the house now. I don’t got time.
Deniro Farrar Talks The Power Of Rappers & What he Wants To Prove
DX: You’re in the midst of a big transition. Getting more love from well-known publications. What’s that been like for you?
Deniro Farrar: I’d say two years ago at SXSW I really realized it because the year before I was there as almost a spectator. I had little shows, but it was more so about the experience. Then the next year, my thought process once I got home was like, first off, I’m the only rapper from my city to ever be an official performer at SXSW, next year when I go back I gotta make a name for myself. The next year when I went back I had an article written about me saying I had one of the top five performances out of thousands of rappers at SXSW. I did a secret TDE show with Schoolboy Q and Kendrick and in the article it says, “I write this after Schoolboy exists the stage, Deniro Farrar had the most captivating performance.”
DX: How does that performance differ from your tour performance?
Deniro Farrar: Tonight? The performance I did was to fit the audience because these are young kids. They want to jump. You see Denzel he’s bouncing the whole time, but it’s because their attention span is [shorter]. The Internet has made them so spoiled with the music. It’s like that with the live show. I only gave them “Pain” tonight, and “Fears.” But I got a whole set of that shit. And it’s the realest shit ever. Even the up-up-up songs, them shits are the realest shits ever though. So many days go by I say, “If I knew what I knew right now, back then I woulda kept my ass in school” and that’s an up-up-up song!
DX: Is it because if you’re just paying attention to the beat you’ll overlook the message?
Deniro Farrar: Yeah! During a live show they may not get the message. But when they go back and listen to my shit? They’ll be like “Man, Deniro the realest! The shit he was saying!? I didn’t catch it!” But when I perform “Pain,” I tell them to just stand there and listen because it’s the realest shit ever. Period. And then when I rap it? It captivates everybody. I can’t really see the people because it’s a blur, but I can feel it. It’s so powerful.
DX: You told your fans, “Don’t drink and drive, don’t smoke and drive.” And when a song is meaningful you ask them to stop and listen because you really want to get through to them. Why do you find that important?
Deniro Farrar: It’s almost… it’s like a duty. We have a powerful voice as a rapper. We have a duty to effect people. It’s a fuckin’ job. How are you gunna effect people with your music? Are you going to be effective in a sense where you’re just like everybody else, effective for the moment? I look at rap as like you’re either a microwave or an oven. Everybody who’s rappin’ right now is a microwave, you throw them bitches in for 30 seconds and you can eat. Me? I’m like bruh. When your mom cooks its like ‘fuck she’s been cookin’ all day! But when you eat it, it’s so good.
DX: So you’ve been in the kitchen for a bit?
Deniro Farrar: Yeah I’m in the kitchen. I’m still in the oven. I’m like a fuckin’ pot roast like all day. Once you get that shit though, it’s so good. I want people to hear how versatile I am. I’m like let me I’ve you something to take with you… it’s the message in the music. Yo, the realest shit? I rapped “Fears” and cut the music, did it acapella. After I performed it a little dude walked up to me and said, “You’re the realest bruh. You’re like not even Tupac the realest, you’re just THE REALEST.”
My little brother 21 facing a murder and an attempted murder charge. Niggas don’t know how to walk away. Either you take a life or you get your life taken. Niggas don’t put that in music though. Our voice is so powerful. We can save lives, man.
Deniro Farrar Speaks On Where He Might Be If Not For Music
DX: During the Nas’ Time Is Illmatic, his little brother Jungle took an old picture of their friends in their neighborhood and pointed out where each individual was. “He’s serving life, he just got out…” literally every single person was facing something and Nas was like, “Damn.”
Deniro Farrar: If it wasn’t for the music…
DX: If it weren’t for the music, where would you be?
Deniro Farrar: I don’t know man. And that’s real.
DX: Would you still be alive?
Deniro Farrar: I don’t know. All my homeboy’s dead. Like literally. It was four of us: Little Will, Cory, Eric, and me. And like, everybody’s dead. Everybody was murdered. One of my homeboys was wrongfully murdered. He was [shot and] killed by the police. Jesse Jackson, the reverend Al Sharpton, everybody came to my city to march. He was running from the police, he had a gun on him but didn’t have it in his hand; they shot him in the back. One of my homeboys was gunned down at a party; one of my other boys was gunned down trying to rob somebody. It was just so weird, man, because we always hung together in this crew. I was always the extra nigga, I was always doing bad shit but nothing bad ever happened to me. For some reason, people were always praying for me.
I had a conversation with my cousins when I was in Florida, these are still big drug dealers in their city, and they told me they look up to me… and I’m younger than them. But it’s because I’m doing something I want to do. I was livin’ the way they was livin’, but I took it and did something positive. I’m afraid for them niggas because I can’t help them.
DX: And now you’ve just gotten off stage in Portland.
Deniro Farrar: I’m in fuckin Oregon right now! Niggas where I’m from will never see Oregon. I can’t even describe to them what it’s like. I woke up this morning and walked across the street to the park and I sat there for 3 or 4 hours and just looked off. Niggas where I’m from don’t make it out of that shit alive. I was explaining to them, you know, I feel so bad because I know I wont be able to help everybody and there will be niggas I lose on the way to become successful. It’s a whole cycle. That’s why it’s called organized crime. It’s organized to be that way… it’s really crazy
DX: You’re covered in tattoos. Do they all mean something?
Deniro Farrar: Yeah they all mean something. This side is good and this side is evil and in the middle: John 3:16.
DX: Do you carry a Bible with you while you’re on tour?
Deniro Farrar: Nah, I don’t even read the Bible. But I believe in this scripture he gave to the world. It’s real… like what the fuck. It’s all-real, man. On my back I have this Banksy “No Future” piece. I came from a place where there’s no future for a lot of them niggas. When I don’t wear a shirt and I walk off stage, that’s the last thing people see. It’s a constant reminder that I wasn’t supposed to have a future.
Deniro Farrar On Being Compared To Tupac
DX: You know, someone compared you to Tupac today?
Deniro Farrar: You know what? That’s the only nigga I listen up to and admire from a human standpoint that raps. ‘Cuz he was the realest! I had this thing where I always wanted people to think I was gangster as fuck ‘cuz I wanted people to fear me. But having people fear you isn’t always good because they’ll kill you if they fear you. I wanted to be perceived as a gangster or a thug for some reason.
That was Tupac’s problem. His words were so powerful, man. He spoke about his own death. It’s like he wanted it to happen. He got a lot of thugs thinking a lot of different shit, man! He was a revolutionary, man!
DX: Are you a revolutionary?
Deniro Farrar: I’m a modern day revolutionary.
DX: How do you change lives?
Deniro Farrar: The music. I listen to my music! Most people don’t listen to their own music. They’ll make it, put it out, they get paid, and they listen to other niggas. Me? I make it and then I bump it.
DX: What would you say if someone called that egotistical?
Deniro Farrar: I don’t give a fuck. It’s the message in the music. I don’t need anything to stroke my ego. If you can, listen to it yourself. Most people can’t even look at themselves in the mirror. Most people can’t even listen to their music. It’s not authentic. It doesn’t come from a real place. It’s bullshit I can listen to all of my shit and remember how I felt when I was writing it and going through it!
I’m waiting to release this song called “Nations.” When people hear it, they’re going to be like, Fuck!