You don't hear about many rappers coming out of Charlotte, North Carolina these days, and if you do, none of them sound like Deniro Farrar. Building his brand early on as a gritty storyteller with a pained delivery, Deniro became popular with projects like Kill or Be Killed alongside Main Attrakionz affiliate Shady Blaze in 2012, and Cliff of Death, an EP with underground producers Black Sky Blue Death. His voice has a haunting yet enchanting scratchiness that led to Freddie Gibbs comparisons, and he quickly began to amass a group of loyal fans.
In fact, his fans are so gung-ho for his music that he's began calling it "Cult Rap," and it's starting to catch on. Building on the success of his Patriarch 1 and 2 albums, Deniro recently signed to Warner Bros. Records through their popular imprint, Vice Records, home to Action Bronson as well. He has worked with everyone from JMSN and Ryan Hemsworth to Flosstradamus and Rich Kidd, but now he's gearing up to drop Cliff of Death 2 with BSBD. Deniro swung by the VIBE offices to talk about his hometown Charlotte, conspiracy theories, and his run-in with STDs. You don't want to miss this conversation. --Max Weinstein
VIBE: How did growing up in Charlotte, NC affect your music?
Deniro: If I didn’t grow up in Charlotte, in the circumstances I grew up in, I wouldn’t be the rapper I am today, so I got Charlotte to thank for that. We don’t have a big market for rap music because we don’t have anybody tangible, like a go-to rapper that we can name, like four hours away you got Atlanta, Gucci Mane, forty, fifty motherfuckers, but in Charlotte you got nobody. No famous rappers.
When people hear Charlotte, they think of North Carolina in general, like J. Cole, Petey Pablo, Little Brother, and they definitely put on for their sections of North Carolina, but Charlotte is different. We’re like the biggest city in North Carolina, so I’m just trying to be the face of that because we don’t have that yet.
Where’d you get the name Deniro Farrar from?
To keep it all the way one thousand, I swear to god I do not remember where the name Deniro came from. Farrar is my last name, so I ran with that, and really for search engine optimization purposes, a guy that used to manage me when I first got in the game told me there are so many Deniros, how are people gonna find you when they type your name in? You got Robert Deniro, all these Deniros. So he was throwing my last name on the end of the tracks and I didn’t like it at first, I was like “Why do you keep doin’ that shit?” And he was like because nobody else has that name with Farrar at the name, so I said fuck it, I’ll keep it.
I never really liked my last name until I started getting recognition for the rap, like hearing people say, “Oh you Deniro Farrar!” In my city, my family got a big name for owning clubs and promotion and shit. So To keep that name and build a legacy behind it is dope. I got a cousin in pro skateboarding named OJ Farrar. He’s dope.
Your first project was “Feel This” in 2010. What made you want to start rapping?
I could always rap. “Feel This” was the first time I went in the booth and recorded something seriously, but I could always rap. I was that nigga whose freestyle skills were crazy, I’d always get high and everyone would tell me to rap. Then my homeboys would tell me that I was hot, but they were my homeboys so they were gassing me. I just started doing it for anybody, and niggas was like, “Yo, you NICE”, so I thought, “Well, maybe I am nice”. Then I moved to Virginia for a bit and recorded two songs in a studio. Moved back to Charlotte but kept the CD. Played it for my boy and he was like, “Bruh, you got it. You’re dope, you’re gonna be the one” and I though that nigga was trippin’. You said I’m dope, that’s cool, but he said I’m gonna be the one. He called me today and said the same thing. He said I’m the new 2Pac and I feel that, because I feel that when I hear his music and when I hear my own. These niggas ain’t fucking with me, man.
How’d you hook up with Ryan Hemsworth, JMSN, and Felix Snow?
My old manager Constantine turned me onto Hemsworth. I first heard his work on a Main Attrakionz project and thought, “Damn, this nigga dope. If I can get some of his beats and put my shit on it, that’d be dope. So I hit him up and the shit that we make together is just…crazy. That “Big Tookie”? That’s a whole other level. Separate the beat from the lyrics and the beat is fuckin’ retarded. Give that beat to any other nigga in this industry and you would have never gotten “Big Tookie”. When it come together, we make some undeniable shit.
JMSN is dope, I heard him on some Ab-Soul shit and thought he was dope, so I wished he would fuck with me. And he reached out to me to do the “Somewhere” remix with me, so I was like what? My boy was already a fan of his before, so when I told him about it he was hyped. I hooked up with Felix Snow through the internet, because now I’m getting some recognition for rapping over some of these left-field beats so now all the left-field producers are flocking to me. It’s dope though because I take time to go through the beat submissions I get. If they’re dope, I’m fucking with it, and Felix sent me one that I was fucking with. My project was already done and I got that beat and had to do a song to it.
So from “Feel This” to “Destiny Altered” and more releases, how did you feel your music developing?
For one, I’m maturing as a man, so the life experiences that I’m going through. I didn’t have children on any of those projects until Patriarch II, and now I have two kids so the shit I’m going through now is totally different. The lyrical content, the social commentary is growing, and my raps are getting better every day because everything I spit is life experience, so the more I live, the better my raps get.
I hear in The Patriarch II a little bit of a pop, electronic sound in the beats and hooks. Is that deliberate or just naturally what you want to do as an artist?
That’s just the music I like to make. I’m never making something with the thought of appealing to wider masses in my mind. Hood niggas ride around palying that shit in my city, so it’s music that’s gonna make different types of people adapt to it. Some people gonna draw towards the beats, some niggas gonna draw towards the lyrical content, but when I put ‘em all together, I’m gonna be able to reach everybody, some through the beats, some through the words, but it’s all there. I definitely pick those beats because I like them and they’re universal. It ain’t no local shit, no trap shit, 808, typical rap shit. If I did that, I wouldn’t be here right now, because there would be 30 other niggas just like me on the same block.
Did you ever feel like you were taking a risk and maybe it’d be safer to do something that’s similar?
I tried that. “Feel This” was an experiment, that’s all it was. “Destiny Altered” was more like a transformation of what I’m becoming. That was when I started getting into the eerie beats and molding myself, that’s why there are so many songs, because I was just perfecting the songwriting. After “Feel This”, I learned about melodies and how to structure choruses, so I found myself.
A lot of these rappers, they don’t listen to their own shit. They listen to everybody else’s shit when they’re not making the bullshit they make. They ask me what I’m listening to and I just listen to my own shit, in terms of rap. Half the shit I’m listening to isn’t even rap, but when I’m listening to rap, that’s my shit or somebody that’s really talking about some shit.
What kind of non-rap music are you listening to?
Shit like Javelin, it’s like a singing group and they make beats. Like Child Actor, they all over my Patriarch II, they dope. I fuck with Adele the long way man. I didn’t even know she was white man, until I bought the album 21 and I’m like, “Who the fuck is this?” But that’s cool. I’m listening to 21 and 19 still. I like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo. All that old shit.
These new niggas wack. Either they’re good with rap and they lack the personality, or they have an OK personality and they can’t rap for shit. I feel like the new age rappers have buzzes that are bigger than them and their skill sets don’t match their buzz. I watched the BET awards and I was disappointed in every cipher I saw except for Kendrick’s. That’s it.
How’s your brother Tune doing? (Tune is currently incarcerated)
He’s good man, I haven’t talked to him in a little bit. I missed two of his calls, he’s probably mad at me, but one time I was sleeping and one time my ringer wasn’t on, so he probably mad at me, he ain’t call me in a few days. But he’ll never be trippin,' he’s so laid back. I told him when we turned him into jail: “Bruh, I’ma go get this shit and when they let you out, I’ma put you where you need to be.” So he understands, he ain’t trippin’. I just get so caught up with all this, and I keep in contact with him but I’m on the go a lot too now. But I know he understands. I’m gonna go visit him this Sunday.
He’s been in there since January. They got him for some bullshit, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder. It’s like that. I rep him everywhere I go, I’ve got him on the front of my phone. Whenever I talk to him, I’m telling him about what I’m doing out here. They don’t have any internet in there, but everyone’s telling him how I’m killing it and I’ve got the city on my back. So I just tell him to keep his mind strong because it’s all about mind elevation, everywhere. Some niggas break down mentally and he’s never been to jail in his life, first time being incarcerated is for attempted murder, and that’s my younger brother. So anytime I talk to him I try and stay positive, even if I’m down on some shit, I don’t bring that to his attention because I want him to stay up. I ain’t worried about him though, he’s gonna come home. I put it out in the universe like a thousand times, and anything you put out there you’ll get back.
Tell me about the line you have on Patriarch II where you said, “Got burnt twice cuz I was thirsty for the ass”. What’s that story?
Oh shit [laughs]. You know it’s crazy right. A broad who I was on the phone with the other day said, “I just watched your ‘Everything’s Okay’ video, and it was dope, but did you get burnt?” Everything I say in my music is one thousand, so I would never say anything I didn’t mean or didn’t do. A bitch gave me crabs one time. I was young in high school and it was around prom. My homeboy had these girls from an HBCU about an hour away, and there was two of ‘em, so her friend came and he invited me over. His dick wouldn’t get hard for some reason, so he ended up leaving the room for whatever reason and they locked the door and both ended up fuckin’ me. One of ‘em had crabs, so I had to straighten that out. Then I actually got burnt by a bitch, some bitch gave me an STD so I had to straighten that out too, and ever since then I’ve known that bitches are scandalous man. They do wild shit. I definitely gotta protect my dick now. I mean I got two babies now so that definitely wasn’t from being protected, but I ain’t got no wild shit. It’s brutally honest music.
You have to let the audience know about the risks you’re exposed to. I’m exposed to the same things as everyone else. Rappers are not invincible. I stick my dick in a bitch and get her pregnant just like you. I can catch somethin’ just like you. I’m mortal, nigga. I’m not on no superhuman shit. 2Pac was the best with admitting contradictions in himself. He could make “Dear Mama” and then turn around and make “Hit ‘Em Up”. He’s talking about fuck your wife, fuck your kids, my four-four make all your kids grow. This was the nigga who was just saying it feels good to put money in the mailbox for his mama!
These rappers want to do one thing, like, “I’m a dope dealer and nothing else”. I think Drake is the new nigga, no one else’s music is brutally honest. Like when 2 Chainz got robbed, he acted like it wasn’t him. If some niggas robbed me man, I’d tell people, “Yeah, they robbed me. I was scared as hell!” When people shake my hand after the show, it ain’t on some, “Yo, your music is wavy, I fuck with your beats”. It’s on some, “I respect you, bruh”. Because I’m a one man band. I remember talking to Big K.R.I.T. before the whole country wave, he told me about his first show in NY and how they booed him. So I’m like shit, I hope they don’t boo me. But it wasn’t like that at all. Nothing but respect. They fucked with me. Boiler Room for example, they ahd no idea who I was. They booked me on some humbug shit and the lady was like, “Oh, I’m so sorry we could only get you for one song.” I was like, that’s all I need. After she came up to me and told me next year, I can get as much time as I want.
What’s up next for you?
Cliff Of Death 2 with Black Sky Blue Death. That’s coming up next for Vice. We’re working on that right now. Mixed and mastered by Young Guru.
Are there any other rappers you’d want to work with?
I fuck with Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs. I like Denzel Curry. My dude Du Ru The King out of Charlotte is the truth, I keep trying to tell niggas, but people will find out. He’s nicer than 90% of niggas in the rap game. He bout to drop “Indoor Plus”, he’s just finishing that up. Once I get established, I’m gonna make sure he’s got his lanes. I don’t listen to too many new rap dudes though. The quicker you’re here, the harder you fall, that’s what Wiz said. That’s why I’m glad I’m not blowing up overnight. I wanna venture our and do other shit. Some niggas just wanna rap for 20 years. I wanna find other artists, like experimental R&B shit. I just don’t want to be a fucking rapper.
What do you want your music to accomplish?
I want people to wake the fuck up. I make good music and I still got my own issues that I’m dealing with, but I feel like I can still uplift and inspire people with my music and let ‘em know. That’s why I put in my song, “Just cuz you walk away don’t mean you pussy or a ho, though”. Cuz niggas make it seem so uncool to walk away, but so many young kids lose a life or take a life because of ego and stupid people that you hang with. Just because you come from a certain situation, you can overcome that shit. Don’t let your circumstances determine your outcome or your life. Everybody is given a same chance. Opportunities might not be the same, but everyone got the same chance to make it out.
I’ma start rolling with the Muslims. That’s who Michael Jackson was rolling with. Go back and look at the court dates, see who Michael was rolling with. They don’t give a fuck about nothing, no police. They don’t play no fucking games. Everywhere he went, they were there. That’s why they had to get somebody that close to Michael Jackson to kill him. They wouldn’t allow nobody around Michael Jackson, not even his mama. The doctor was the only one who would administer the medicine to put him to sleep. He was so scared for his life that they had to put him down. He became socially conscious and he knew what was really going on. He tried to warn people.
Look at celebrities right before they die, they become aware of what’s going on in the world and they try to go and warn the masses but always end up dying. Look at Whitney Houston. I watched an interview with her where they had tried to drown her. She showed up, her hair was wet as fuck. It’s on Youtube. It’s Clive Davis, Brandy, and Monica all in one room. And Whitney walked in and handed Brandy a letter, didn’t even look at her. And Whitney was Brandy’s godmother. Anybody that has that voice that can reach the people and change the masses. They not worried about niggas like Jay-Z, he too busy rapping about money and shit niggas will never have. Even the interviews with Kanye. Kanye is aware of what they’re doing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took Kanye out the game.