I’ve known Denzel (Phaze Music) for about 4 years. He featured on a couple songs for me and he and I have always appreciated each other’s artistry in the Hip-Hop world. When I heard that Denzel was releasing a new mixtape, I was excited and curious. Knowing that he was going through a lot of transition and entering into a new world of music that would challenge the very fiber of his integrity, I took great interest. When I saw on Twitter that he wanted to shed some light on the mixtape, I asked if I could have the exclusive…he agreed. So, with no further ado…
Q: Your new mixtape “OFF THE GRID” dropped last week. What has been the response so far?
Despite the usual compliments of progression that artists usually receive with every new project, the #1 response has been that it’s a bold mixtape, which of course, was intended. I believe that you need bold statements to jump start a bold cause. A cause that becomes easiest to identify when you get past the filler songs and to the meat of the mixtape.
Q: Why the title “OFF THE GRID”?
I’ve been in therapy for as long as I can remember, majored in political science, was a leader in church and on top of that… God gave me the gift/curse of being a musician. I needed a break, I was about to snap during the creation of my last mixtape, Collision. I wrote a song called, “I’ll be back” which had multiple underlying meanings. But, since I believe my music speaks for itself better than I ever could in person I’ll tell you a very summarized version. To sum it up, I departed from all of those polarized entities so that I could find a common ground between them all without being affected by each one’s biasses and progress forward with the purpose/message I discovered. A process that I referred to as being Off The Grid.
Q: You and I talked a lot about Hip-Hop as an industry. What are some of the realities you’ve faced as your fan base grows?
Medicine is good for sick people. But when we were kids our parents would disguise the bad taste with something sweet. Mainstream is something sweet for most listeners. The truth (being the medicine) is hard to swallow. So I’ve learned that you have to adapt and ease people in. That is the reason “Lifted” comes right before (If you downloaded the official mixtape) the deepest track on the mixtape, “War.” I’ve also learned that you CAN’T please everyone. No matter what kind of mixtape I released, there would be people on the opposing side. That’s why I make music for me, it just turned out that a lot of people related to the things I had to say on this mixtape.
Q: Previous to releasing “OFF THE GRID,” your music was sensitive to a Christian fan base. How has your new explicit lyricism effected your audience?
Honestly, my new use of explicit lyrics has captured a larger audience because I still have frequent use of creative lyricsm. People tell me they usually hate explicit lyrics because it takes away from the lyrical diversity in the song. My mixtape, on the other hand strives to put forth more complex lyrics. That way, when an explicit word is said, the audience takes it as me conveying an emotion rather than me making up for a lack of vocab. However, I do realize I have a better chance of getting across my message with music that everyone can easily listen to. That is why my manager and I have decided to put out *CLEAN* and *EXPLICIT* versions of my songs from this point forward.
Q: Have you abandoned much of your existing fan base to go mainstream?
EX: If someone were to lie once, does that make them a liar? Or does that just make them someone who lied? It’s the same concept with mainstream. I am not a mainstream artist. “War” “One Day” “All Lies” “Purpose Interlude” “I Am Hip Hop” “Music Is Reason” “Either Your or I” and even “You Don’t Wan’t It” prove that. I’m a lyricist at heart and I hide A LOT of subliminal messages in my songs. So if my old Christian fan base (Or anyone for that matter) takes some of the new content they hear such as “Lifted,” “Play My Song” and “My Day” at face value instead of listening for the true meaning then I am willing to abandon them to go “my stream” .. Not mainstream (You won’t here many rappers talk about what I talk about). I have an agenda I plan to accomplish through my music that hasn’t been done on a global scale yet, which will be discovered as my career unfolds. they can be a part of it or against it.
Q: Do you consider yourself a Christian?
I had a long talk with God before writing this mixtape. He knows I walked away but also told me if I go down the path that most of of the Christian fan base would claim I’m on, eventually something will happen that will cause/force me to crawl back to him (This was confirmed by 3 different men of God.) But believe it or not, this mixtape was a step in the direction towards him compared to where my mind state was at when I first left church. He told me to be truthful with this mixtape. I came public with A LOT of things that if it were up to me I never would have. Such as the deep poverty my family has been in throughout my life since my father’s purposeful death, my time spent in Martinez Psychiatric Ward due to suicidal tendencies, my meaning behind my goals in music, my bold claims in reference to the corruption of the government, etc. I don’t wan’t to call what I’m doing backsliding because I feel as if this is a necessary path to make people aware of what’s out there. One thing is for sure, my soul is a war zone and I feel an increasingly large burden for the troubled youth that may be influenced by some of my new material.
Q: What was the most challenging song for you to write?
“All Lies” was the most challenging song for me to write. Not because I had difficulty coming up with different forms of lies that are being sold to the population, there are too many of those to count. It was because of the realization that I’ve learned to believe some of them. “Peasent fighting for a throne intended for a higher power, even higher than Satan but we fight blind like cowards.” Is this not what hip hop is about? Isn’t that the reason I wrote the first verse of, “You Don’t Want It?” The last tracks on my mixtapes/EPs/albums usually lead up to my mindset of the next project. Collision did that with, “Just Venting.”
Q: What is your favorite lyric on the mixtape?
Hate to be the bearer of bad news but it would be unfair to myself to choose a favorite lyric. I’m deeply, emotionally connected with a lot of lyrics that went in to this mixtape. “War” is by far my favorite though. That song is an actual letter to the most insightful person I’ve ever met in my life. The song honestly speaks for itself.
Q: How has producing “OFF THE GRID” challenged and grown you as a person?
Off The Grid has taught me to see the bigger picture. I’m way more comfortable now when it comes to discussing deep issues that really never get talked about. I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was six and I have always thought I was weird or a loser for it. But the world is ready for something new, something deeper, and I believe the message that I push with my music is what that is. Off The Grid was only the beginning.
Q: Tell us what to expect in the next year from Phaze Music.
PERFORMANCES ALL DAY EVERYDAY… No really, my label already has my booking e-mail up: PhazeMusicSRENT@gmail.com as well as my DJ prepared to get any occassion started off right. Other than that, expect a solo EP from Phaze Music as early as March 2014. I will also more than likely be parting ways with SlappyRockENT and moving to labels more widely known throughout the industry. I appreciate the interview I hope it shines a tad bit more light on the story behind Phaze Music.
To download the new mixtape, “OFF THE GRID,” follow the link below.
Photo Credit: Jake Campbell Photography