Interview With Deep Reasoning

How did you first get into music?
I've always loved music from an early age and rap music in particular. Early on , I knew I liked rap the most simply cos of the rhythm created out of rhyming words; the very essence of it. I knew Tupac and a handful of others but I was too young really to know the artists/song names and playing football was more important to me at the time. But then things changed in my early teens when I learned about real hip hop music and it's difference to "rap" and in turn about hip hop as a wider culture and a movement and that's when it developed into a passion... I was about 14 or 15 and was listening to anything I could get my hands on. HMV had my pockets empty haha. In terms of writing my own lyrics, it wasn't until a few years down the road. On the back of Eminem 8 Mile buzz, with guys rap battling each other after a few cans for the craic, two guys from school decided to record some rough vocals on cassette. Knowing that I was into hip hop they gave it to me to check out and see what I thought. I thought it was refreshingly honest and I could relate to it for sure. they then asked me if I wanted to write a verse or two and collaborate and that's what I did. That group was The Line Up, who performed at The International with me last month. Big shout out to them cos that's where the journey started and here we are many years later still at it.

To expand on things thereafter, I was in my first year of college when I linked up with David Howard, a talented producer from Killiney. He set his standards very high, he wanted to be the best, and that rubbed off on me and we made our first demo CD in the space of two months. He utilised that sped up sample style adopted by Kanye at the time and put his own stamp on it to make some really cool beats which were great to write to. We called it "The Quintessential LP" haha. That was a major learning curve. We made some well polished tracks for a first effort in reflection. The time working with Dave proved very important in terms of development and in particular learning how to deliver powerful vocals. Initially my voice was too low in the booth and although I could rap, the vocals weren't quite there. After a lot of practice and feedback, I came out the other end of it, a more polished and stronger vocalist for sure. It was a lot of fun making those songs at the time when hip hop was finally being heard in Ireland despite the stigma attached to it. A lot of eye rolling ensued, but I couldn't have cared less cos I was enjoying it too much. It's still not quite the same as picking up a guitar but people are certainly less judgemental about it when they can see what you've got to say and that it's not materialistic styled rap.

Who were/are your inspirations? 

From the very start I would have to say Nas, his storytelling, his flow and the beats he got to use for Illmatic were second to none. He could’ve quit after his first two albums if he wanted. It Was Written is a classic too but often gets overshadowed by Illmatic, with it being arguably the greatest hip hop album of all time. After that, I became a huge fan of Mobb Deep. I loved the atmospheric beats and the dark lyrical content. That definitely sparked something in me to start writing. R.I.P. Prodigy; who was definitely one of my favourite lyricists.

After that: Tupac and DMX for their emotion. Rakim, Eminem and Pharoah Monch for their technical ability alone. Big L for his unique voice, double-time flow and brilliant punchlines. Big Pun for his amazing breath control and flow. Biggie and Jay-Z of course. Common. Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Oddisee; all serious lyricists who shaped me a lot and still do. You name it, I was listening to everything and studying it closely. The influences are endless.

That's why the album is called Student of the Game cos it's the culmination of years and years of studying the greats. Lyrics are fundamental to music, but flow is something I always want to hear, cos good lyrics that don't flow well just don't sound as impactful - it gives it its musicality, the rhythm, the voice as an Rakim who pioneered that style in the 80s and paved the way for what constitutes as flow.

You previously spent time working on your music in Boston. What sort of impact did that have?

That was a great experience. I'm still in touch with the contacts I made over there and it opened things up in terms of the potential impact my music could have internationally. Big shout out to Shaymin, who I met the day after I landed there; he introduced me to lots of people. He's a strong advocate of Irish hip hop and always does what he can for upcoming acts over here. When I was there, I remember someone commenting on my accent like “damn, can't wait to hear dude rap, his accent is so different". No one had heard a rapper from South Dublin before haha. I recall going to record at two different spots in my time there, one studio in Revere and the other in South Boston. I'm there recording vocals with Big Ace (of Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch) and Shaymin at like 1am at Aces place haha, when a few hours ago they were practically strangers. So that was really cool, it’s great to network and collaborate with talented artists like them. Both guys are very well respected emcees/actors in the Boston area too, so it's good when people like that are digging what you're doing. Unfortunately, that track never got mixed down, I’ve been hunting them for it ever since haha; although I have the unmixed copy.
In Revere, I met Oryn the Rebel, another very supportive dude who I'm still in touch with regularly to this day after that one encounter. I've done songs with him, appeared on a few United Front mix tapes, so it's great to be connected. Shout out to Shaymin, Big Ace and Oryn the Rebel and all the good folk at the United Front Company!

How did it effect your style? Delivery? and Writing? 

I don't think it changed my style or technique as such, but it most certainly taught me to believe more in what I'm doing and that its up to you to make people listen - own the microphone, go in with your best material, be heard and when live - move the crowd. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, an emcee is an emcee and I learned that I could spread my message internationally. It transcends language even, you can get respect from people who listen to the album that don't even speak English - cos that's the power of music itself. You certainly begin to see the worth in what you're doing when you get those supportive messages into your inbox out of left field. And you appreciate them all the more, cos Ireland is far from hip hop friendly even with the growing acceptance of it in the past decade.

Your debut album “Student of The Game” took 4 years to complete, why was that? 

Haha be honest a lot of reasons; waiting on beats, scheduling of studio sessions, artwork, development and of course life, the 9-to-5… procrastination, perfectionism…Detox, Chinese Democracy come to mind! I approached this project with the intent of this being the best thing I had or would ever put out and from the perspective that if I never made any music again that this was to be something that would matter and stand the test of time. Whether it would or not was an entirely different matter, but that was the thinking behind it and perhaps why it took so long to let go of it.

I was the sole driver of the project, the sourcer of beats, of engineers for recording, mixing, mastering, the distribution, the pressing up of the CDs, the artwork, etc… so many people don't know how much effort is actually involved when it’s just you steering the ship, but I had to learn that process...if I had a manager then things would be easier in theory at least. If you're in a band, each person has some pull for some action towards furthering the band or brand you're putting out there. When solo, it really is a different story. I'm fortunate to have worked with some seriously talent producers to date and without them there would be no tracks if I'm being honest cos it starts there.

What was the reason behind having 7 different producers on the album? 

I didn't set out with a diverse palate of production in mind, it kind of just panned out that way. I reached out to my connections and based on what I received back, I choose what I felt gelled together well. I think they all offer something very different and that allowed the direction of the record to switch up in its intensity. I feel track order matters so much and it can make or break an album sometimes. I'm an album head, I don't like just a few stand out tracks. I'm not a fan of filler, cos it shows you don't really care enough about what you're doing. For me, each track holds weight and tells a story. It depends on the band/artist of course, but that's most certainly where my perfectionism sets in, and often I need to pull away from it and be happy with say 80-90% of it (in my own mind of course) cos 100% just isn't reality and leads to no output at all. You'll always look back years later and think "oh no, what was I thinking?” but that's true for any artist, be it music, a drawing, or any form of creation. I take pride in what I do, otherwise I would not do it at all. Once I’m finished with it, let the public decide what it is or isn’t. 

Are there plans for a second album?

I've been working with a Berlin producer called NooBeats, who's provided me with the bulk of the beats for this next sophomore project. He produced the Weighing Scales track off SOTG; the one we did the video for on YouTube. NooBeats is great to work with. I love his production style, his range, his versatility; hip hop, Rnb, electronica, pop, he's got it all. I often hear something from him and get to writing instantly. That doesn't happen that often, unless shit is banging! 

When can it be expected? 

I want to say Mid 2018. I'll do my best to get my shit together and reach that target!

Who have you worked with on this one? 

NooBeats, Noize Thievery and Jamie McPeake. Might be another few yet. It's something more upbeat than Student of the Game, as that was quite dark and introspective in subject matter. But that was the vibe I wanted to display at the time. I think of albums like films. The reason for change is essentially to switch things up, move out of my comfort zone and develop the writing more. Would makes no sense making the same album twice unless there was more to say, like a part two for example. This one has a solid theme running throughout so far and it may take the feel of a concept album. 

You have recently hosted a hip hop night in The International Bar, how did that come about?

I've been writing songs a long time now and have worked hard on mastering my craft in terms of songwriting, vocal recording in the studio and learning the importance of beat selection amongst other things. The live side of things is something I'd neglected in truth, up until recently of course. I never truly explored it in the past because to be honest I didn't feel comfortable doing it back then. I did have the odd performance here and there, but I'm quite a reserved person so its not in my nature to want to be ‘in the spotlight’. With recording, you can work hard on something and give/play people the final product once you’re happy with it. I was happy just creating music and then putting it out. With live, it's a completely different animal, as it's all in the moment for every moment. However, this past year something clicked with me where I felt the need to jump up and put myself out there. I feel ready now, comfortable too, so I guess better late than never right haha. It's something I intend to keep moving with until I achieve what I have in mind.

With regard to our how it came about with The International, we thought "Why not I guess?" My friend Daire Palmer and I, we both put our heads together and thought - right, lets make something happen ourselves. Daire is into art design and photography; which are his passions. He designed the posters and also hosts the events so it's been a positive experience so far and it's a great way to bring people together. With the last event it was great to have The Line Up, CmX and Steo Skitz added into the mix. We had a sick cypher at the end with all of us on stage switching things up over classic hip hop beats which went down well with the crowd.

Do you have another one planned? 

Yes. Might be another few months away yet.

Is event management an area you would like to get into in the future? 

Enjoying the event management side of things so far, who knows what shape it could take in the future. At the moment, we're just having fun with it.

Are there any plans to go on tour? 
Yes absolutely, it's just “the how” really. I'm working on a few things at the moment, so I don't want to say too much but I'm actively looking to take it there. 

What is your writing process? In general how quickly will a song come to you? 

I write a lot of rhymes! Some people enjoy doing puzzles, crosswords or sudoku. Me? I write verses. On the bus. In the park. Anywhere that the moment hits. So much will never see the light of day, simply cos there's too much, some good, some bad but that's the rites of passage with writing, just actively writing when inspired and dissecting it later on, that's what works best for me. If it flows well, I just keep going with it like it were a freestyle rap. Then I might look at it the next day like "what was that about?” or “okay this might lead somewhere good”.

Do you work on beats or lyrics first? 

When I think of a professional track that I know will make the cut, that is a beat I have that I love, then I will listen to that beat on loop and write the track in my head, break it down and then put it to paper. I'll typically spend a week after that refining it until every bar lands how I want it. I'm very much into the technical side of emceeing. On the flip side of that coin, I often write as I feel it and there's no beat used. This in a way forces you to examine your lyrics closer under the microscope too and hopefully leads to something of more substance, than say something that just sounds cool on or with the beat. 

What Irish artist do you currently enjoy? 
I would say Costello right now. I've been listening to him for years now since he came on the scene; great flow, great lyrics, and over brilliant boom bap production by GI and Gerryboy - two wizards on the boards.

It's interesting in terms of Dublin hip hop, in that it's predominantly coming from the north side. There are very few rappers from the south side of Dublin. I like the hip hop here and I listen to a lot of it, it's gritty, beats are hard hitting and to a high standard for the most part. The bar has certainly been raised in the last decade for sure and people are taking notice of that, whether they want to or not. 

Who is/was your favourite Irish hip hop artist? 

I've been following Irish hip hop since 2004-2005 maybe, and for me it was Messiah J & The Expert that piqued my interest at the start, then The Infomatics and of course Urban Intelligence. I've been listening to it since then and all those guys have inspired me. It helps to be able to relate to your fellow countryman, than say an American rapper, which is what I was into exclusively at the time.

Right now I like Costello, Jambo and Lethal Dialect in terms of consistently putting out great material over the last few years that can be revisited. Danny Rhymes and Rebel Phoenix are sick too. Steo Skitz is quality, as is CmX as both an emcee and a producer, and The Line Up who have an interesting alternative style mixing between singing and rapping. I like what Mango and Mathman are doing, something a bit different is refreshing. I like Rejjie Snow, it's closer to the US sound but it works for him. I'm gonna end up leaving people out, but there are so many to be honest. And that's a good thing. Some are more active than others at the moment.

What has been the highlight of your musical career? 

For me, early on, it was great to have my song “In Dublin” reach number five in the Irish compilation charts. It was on a DCFE college CD release and I remember going into the old Tower Records on Wicklow street at the time and buying the cd off the shelf at number 5, and my name there on the back. That was a special feeling, mainly cos physical music is dying out with the advent of the Internet and streaming etc but that was cool for sure.

Another highlight was doing a direct swap of my CD, emcee to emcee, with Thes One of LA based crew People Under The Stairs. He respected that I didn't give it to him for free, that I traded it for theirs to show my self-value. Nobody respects what they get for free and that concept is easily lost in this digital age we live in where music is expected to just be free. 

What was the first album you bought?

One of the first was the Marshall Mathers LP. I overlooked it initially as pop but then I heard The Way I Am and checked it out in full and it all kicked off from there. I began to hone in on the multi-syllabic style, the dark complexity of the rhymes and it definitely set things off, as it did for many fans back then - where white rap was new, unsafe ground.

I love listening to lots of kinds of music, but I'm a hip hop head at heart. I'm happy being a fan but I just happen to love creating it too. So it's not about ego in the sense of "oh I have to be the best at this or that" or "make it" or "get signed". I just try to put out something that will stand the test of time. I want to reach as many people as possible and travel with it too because that's what's organic and will matter to me in the long run. I think so many rappers want fame and instant gratification and only do it to be cool or something. Each to their own, but that's certainly not my reason. Would I like success with it? Absolutely, but on my own terms...if I can help it haha

Check out Deep Reasoning's video for Weighing Scales:


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