Respect The Neighbors • Deem Spencer
Deem Spencer is growing and glowing. The New York rapper is spreading roots with singles and an EP that blooms with vibrant sound. His vibe is one of dust moving through light beams in the air, smoke curling, carpet under foot. His new project Sunflower is richly textured, showcases Deem's gifts as a compelling lyricist, and plants the seeds for an extremely promising new artist.
The Queens native found hip-hop at age 16 through Kendrick Lamar's Section 80. A casual listener before, the mixtape connected with Deem on a deeper level. At this same time, Joey Bada$$ was on the verge of releasing 1999, electrifying the youth of NYC, who previously felt distance between their history as hip-hop capital. The kids now had a kindred spirit they could watch make it in real time, while paying homage to the greats. With these two events, the wave hit Deem Spencer hard. He dove into hip-hop classics, and the resurgence of boom-bap had Deem and his friends endlessly free-styling, with the competitive edge that makes rap unique. But regardless of the local flavor, finding hip-hop later in the game helped Deem Spencer pursue a sound that was different.
Deem Spencer rides the line between singing and rapping, not in a conventional 2017 auto-tune way, closer to singing & rapping & talking. His art is conversational, which means his music has patience. The down sections are the heat, the journey is the destination, and Deem Spencer could just as easily be described as a sing-songwriter. His music slowly burns into something more than it's parts, abstract and ambient.
Nowhere was this more demonstrated than by his October 2016 EP, Sunflower. Sunflowers are heliotropes, plants that bask in it's light until maturation, at which point they move aside. It's an evolution that runs parallel to the sonic voyage of his EP. Flowers are common to all his music, representing a multi-purpose existence, bearing emotional relevance in times of joy, sadness and everywhere in between. A connection with the emotional range of color ties in as well, used by Deem Spencer to tell his story in music.
Sunflower is washed out in shades of yellow, riding subtle emotional wavelengths that stem from a warm optimism. For Deem Spencer, yellow is hopeful, but life is never so simple as to be limited to one frequency, and Sunflower has a similar vibe - a bright beginning that slowly turns around as the EP progresses, finding threads of sonic sorrow to pull on and unravel. "Soap" features what would be a bright synth as the bones of the track, but strums mournful strings on top, flipping the song on itself. This effect is completed by the project's last song, "Chamomile", finding the heavier side of Sunflower then letting the sun break through anyways, reaching up towards the light with grounded optimism. Deem Spencer's visuals for the project (which you can find above), are also incredibly impressive, and add yet another dimension to his work's greater story.
As for Deem Spencer's story, it's only the beginning, but listen to Sunflower and walk away with a little sunshine in your pocket.