Five years since building a Soundcloud profile, local rapper Deaundre has taken a unique approach to making music. Seeking inspiration in films like “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” Deaundre strings together narratives of isolation, confusion, and discovery over guitar-laced trap beats in every song. Just like the films he is inspired by, Deaundre works to achieve a thought-provoking and haunting exploration of the self through his modern style of rap and raw storytelling.
WOD: How do you feel when you look back at your early tracks?
Deaundre: I think about it a lot. I listened to my old tracks and it makes me proud of myself. It also humbles me, because I think to myself, “Wow, some of this is kind of trash”. It’s crazy to me that I ever thought it sounded good. Maybe I didn’t, and I just was hyping myself up, but I’m proud of the stuff we’re making now and the journey it took to get here.
WOD: What does the writing process look like for you?
Deaundre: It’s either very singular or very sporadic. Right now I’m in the final stages of writing my next album, and this has been much more consistent in the approach as opposed to previous projects. Before, I’d just write the rough concept in a couple of lines, and then we’d randomly decide to record and I wouldn’t have the song done so I had to improvise a little bit on the songs. This time around, we [my producers and I] really wanted to take our time. I had all the beats beforehand, for quite some time really, so I would have a better idea of my options. For me, this helps me focus my sound, so I’ve just been writing non-stop.
WOD: What is the importance of the stories you tell in your music?
Deaundre: I always try to tell a broader narrative, and I think that’s just the film student in me. I think it’s really important to make sure it all feels like it belongs together. I think definitely more in the past I took story-telling in a literal sense. Songs and transitions would have these story beats happen at particular points, and then something happens next in the story at this point, and so on. Very much in line with that classic exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution formula. Very cinematic.
I think at this point my writing is more of a contemporary narrative of self-growth in terms of what I’m trying to achieve. To push the feeling of being in a really dark place. By the end of that kind of project, you’re more self-reflective and you realize that you handle yourself in a better way. Not necessarily an ABC story, but instead something more human.
WOD: Is everything you write auto-biographical?
Deaundre: I think in the past, I very much took an approach like Tyler, the Creator. I’d come up with someone who is going through a lot, and I would focus on how they are dealing with that. Experiences that I’ve either felt at some point in my life or people around me have felt. Now I’m at a point where I’m inspired by my everyday life. A lot of what I’m doing now is personal, like the real me, my experience from the past couple of years.
WOD: What are the films that inspire your stories?
Deaundre: It’s a lot of older films honestly. Movies like “The Graduate” have characters that are disconnected and cold while feeling planted in reality. On the other end are movies like “Nosferatu” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” that heavily inspire the classic horror vibe I try to put into my sound. The movie that probably sticks with me the most though is “The Bicycle Thief”, where the actors in the film are normal people.
WOD: What is the difference between finding venues in Phoenix vs. Tempe?
Deaundre: In Tempe, you’re more often performing at venues like Aura or some other club whereas in downtown you’re at like the Van Buren or some other established venue. Not to discredit the venues in Tempe, but when I meet with a promoter in Phoenix everything seems much more legit. Like one of the things people don’t like are physical tickets, because unless you’re selling those tickets to someone who knows you super well it just seems shady. That is something you don’t have to deal with when you’re at the more established Phoenix venues.