(Interview quotes have been edited for clarity and conciseness)
Cousin Deeky doesn’t sound like most rappers on SoundCloud. His lyrical style and old school flow are a stark contrast to the dark, melodic mumble rapping on the charts right now. His breakout track “April Showers,” off his debut mixtape, 2016’s Unsupervised, fused old-school flow with introspective lyrics and a lo-fi sound.
“Unsupervised was produced by these two dudes I went to high school with: my homies Rocha and Mike. We came up with the idea of having an old-school-type sound, with, like, lo-fi beats. Something that was different and unexpected. Instead of rapping over regular trap beats, we tried to expand and really use heavy vocal samples, things like that. They were just making beats and asking if I could work over them. That’s how it came together; the first project was more loose, it wasn’t really planned out, it was more just like chilling in the basement.”
On his most recent work, however, Deeky has opted for a more mainstream sound, flexing his lyrical dexterity over bouncy beats with booming bass. Not that Deeky is selling out, far from it. It’s simply a reflection of his personal growth and confidence:
“At first I was kinda timid. I didn’t really fit the “hip-hop/rapper persona,” people were like, “oh, what is he doing?” I’ve really grown as far as confidence. I really came into my own, I found myself. I know, what type of music I want to make. From when I had first started to now, I can really say that I’m more of a risk taker.”
And rapping isn’t just some fad that Deeky hopped on as a high schooler in New Jersey. He’s been doing it most of his life. It’s evident in his lyrics: precise and well focused, they demonstrate a level of experience far beyond hispeers. Not only that, he avoids the boring, repetitive lyrics about trapping, partying, andmoney that dominate the rap game right now. Each song he writes is personal and purposeful.
“I started rapping when I was like 11. It’s always been, like, a relaxing thing for me, it’s a way to clear my mind. It helps me focus more, like during the day, if I have a lot of things on my mind, I just pour it all down on a page, and I can think clearly for like the rest of the day or week or whatever.”
Not to imply that his music is purely cathartic, far from it. It simply reflects the realities of Deeky’s life, be they good or bad. Probably the best example of this is the dramatic shift he experienced in his youth: he was born in the city and attended public school, before his family moved to the suburbs, where he eventually attended and graduated from a private catholic high school. This has enabled Deeky to dabble in different elements of sounds and personas, musically replicating the duality of his life experience.
Since his music is so personal, Deeky obviously values realness. His idols, Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole, and Nas, to name a few, are all known for their authenticity. And whether it’s something he learned from them or just knew innately, it’s another thing that makes him different: in a genre rife with imitators, sell-outs, and fakers, Deeky stands out.
“Everyone that talks about their actual realities sticks around, and everybody who’s just faking is out in like a year or two. You look at people who really talk about what they’re going through, what they’re actually doing, those are the people who become the greatest of all time.”
“I’m trying to bring the realness. I feel like a lot of artists that are coming up now are just trying to portray things that they don’t even know about. They’re talking about, like having all these bands and drinking lean and all that stuff, and that’s not their actual reality. They’re following a trend. I’m just trying to give people my reality and show that you can be real and you can make real music and that people are going to gravitate to that.”
Deeky doesn’t just value realness in music, he values realness in life, too. He emphasizes the importance of being true to yourself and following your dreams, and says his goal is to embolden others to do the same.
“I’m trying to use my gift to inspire people to live the type of life they want to live, because we’re in a society where we’re kinda brainwashed to think that you have to follow this formulaic path, but there’s so many people who aren’t happy down that path, and I felt like I wouldn’t be happy down that path either. So I’m just trying to inspire people and show people you can live your dream and still be successful, and still be happy with your life. But instead of doing it straight through music, I try to do it by inspiring people, and showing them that I can follow the path that I’ve chosen, and if anybody has any other dream that they wanna do, there’s no limits, and nothing that can really hold you back except for yourself. So it’s just me making music, and me being successful with it, and me being happy with it, that’s really showing people that you can live out your dream.”
Deeky is also experimenting with different means of sharing his music: he has done two full-length mixtapes, an EP on SoundCloud, two songs on YouTube, and a YouTube series called “Dose of Deeky.”
“The idea for Dose of Deeky came from this video I saw. It was by this dude DeVonte Fields: he did this “Me in 44 bars” thing. And I liked how his studio was set up, and the camera work and all that. So I took the idea and kinda made it my own. I made it just like a little pocket of my talent; so people could get, like, just a little dose, you know? Instead of doing a full-length song, it’s just like a minute verse, that I can just give people.”
And in the second season of the series, which he began this month, Deeky plans to explore the concept and push it even further, and of course, make it more authentic and true to who he is.
“For season 2, I’m trying to make it real different. Instead of being cooped up in the studio, the videos are going to be me being out, and showing how I actually operate in my everyday life, but still giving you a couple of bars here and there. So I could be, like, at school, or at the mall, or something like that. I’m just gonna give somebody a little dose of Deeky.”
You can download Cousin Deeky’s mixtape Self Medicated on bandcamp, and his most recent EP, The Featurette, on soundcloud, along with his breakout hit, “April Showers.” His series “Dose of Deeky” is availible on youtube, as are his two newest songs. Follow him on soundcloud, youtube, bandcamp, datpiff, and twitter.