Exclusive: Demrick explains his journey from unsigned artist to performing in front of thousands and details his latest vision for "Wings UP" with Polyester the Saint.
Each year, the Billboard charts are littered with one-hit wonders and artists who hoped to make their mark upon the music industry—some of which you never hear from again. Los Angeles emcee, Demrick (formerly known as Young De) is taking measures to ensure he’s not among the same crowd.
“Longevity is the shit, ‘cause you be out here in LA in the club, and all of a sudden you see that rapper that you knew from back in the day, and he’s just not the man that you thought he was going to be,” Demrick explained. “This game can take you down all kinds of paths. So I look to them, the way that they, how they present themselves and carry themselves, and I mirror myself after that.”
In this case, the “them” in question are veterans such as Kurupt, B-Real and Xzibit—artists that have grown their fan base while making repeated trips to the weekly SoundScan charts and helped Demrick develop as an artist. While talking with HipHopDX over the course of a few hours at Mulberry Studios, Demrick emphasized the importance of authenticity, how his unique background influences his music, as well as his non-musical interests.
As his latest project, Wings UP, produced entirely by Polyester The Saint, circulates around the Internet, all of the above find their way into his music. Connections Demrick has made over the course of his career while initially recording with B-Real have served him well, as his one of his projects found its way onto RollingStone.com. And while Demrick is clearly a person that enjoys his fair share of fun, his philosophy of benefitting from what he calls “all the wrong things,” in his experience, has proved to have been rewarding as he continues to make his mark upon the music industry.
Demrick Explains How His Background Influences His Sound
HipHopDX: What inspired you to pick up a microphone and start rapping, and who were your influences?
Demrick: Shit like my cousin doing it full time...trying to actively be an emcee. I kind of molded my first style after seeing him do it. I was like, “I want to do it.” And obviously the culture of being around where I was raised all played a part.
DX: You began taking your music career seriously when you were living in North Philadelphia, and before that you spent part of your upbringing in Washington State. How has living in these places helped develop you into the person and artist you are today?
Demrick: I was born in Spokane, Washington and raised in Philadelphia. Now I live out in [Los Angeles], so it’s Washington birthed me, Pennsylvania raised me, and Cali made me. My initial thing with all my family and all my stuff was a Northwest and small town type of vibe. And then, I was going to the big city and being thrown into living right in the heart of Philadelphia and seeing everything and coming up around that. That’s where I honed my craft, and I can say I initially got discovered there by Kurupt. I brought it over to Cali, and that’s what made me. I came over here and got the opportunity to go around the world. I seen how important that “W” is—throwing that up in different places, what that means and the symbolism behind that. You can go to different countries and it’s the weirdest shit. I’ve been to Japan, and they’re like, “Come here we have something special for you.” And they come and open the refrigerator and pull out a 40 ounce, like, “We got them imported in for you guys”. And we are looking like, “Damn that’s a Old English 40 ounce, right?” But to them the symbolism behind that means a lot. They had to get that imported in, ‘cause they can’t get things like that. Things that we talk about on records and the things that mean this coast and the lifestyle, I see how people really take that in and live that in different places.
DX: What do you think about the current state of Philadelphia’s Rap scene?
Demrick: Meek Mill is a spitter, so I appreciate that, and I feel like I’m in that class. I feel like I’m coming up right now. And he is like one of the people we see. It was BET Weekend, and I ran into Gillie Da Kid and told him when I was 16, 17 years old, he was a rapper I was looking up to.” Seeing him still out here doing his thing, grinding and all of that stuff is dope. I’m excited about the scene, man. Philly is crazy. Obviously The Roots—Black Thought is one of my top five emcees—and he has always been. I want to play the mothafuckin’ Roots Picnic, man. I’m trying to get to that level where I can get that phone call. It’s going to be a good moment when I get to go and hit that stage, man.
DX: True. But trying to make it in Philly is something very hard to do, and not many people come out of that. How was Tangled Thoughts able to make its mark on the Philadelphia Rap scene in order for a legend like Kurupt to notice?
Demrick: I truly think that in Philly we had hit a rooftop. We hit a ceiling. We had a summer where it went on; started in the summer and went almost a year of a successful events on South street where we would pack it out every week. We were bringing in a hundred people, maybe 150 people every week. We were opening up the [Theater of the Living Arts], Electric Factory events, getting some radio love out there, but we still wasn’t finding our way to the next plateau. We wasn’t cracking the opportunities that we wanted to get over there in New York—which was to put out a record on a national level.
When we met Kurupt, that was big to get a stamp of approval of someone who was from Philly, number one, and a legend, number two. His whole thing was like, “If you want to do it, you got to come out to [Los Angeles], ‘cause that’s where it’s at.” We went out there, and we met Will Smith like the first week and a half we were out here. And he was like, “Yo, y’all out here from Philly?” and we was like, “Yeah.” Once he asked if we were staying out here, that was the first step in the right direction.
How B-Real & Xzibit Helped Demrick Launch A Solo Career
DX: Why was the decision made to break away from Tangled Thoughts to pursue a solo career?
Demrick: Well I think that it was just the natural progression of being out here. California and Los Angeles, is a make or break kind of place. Are you going to sink or swim out here? What do they say the statistics are? I might be wrong, but they say like 1,000 people move here a day, and like 2,000 people leave here a day, right? It’s something crazy like that. So it’s one of these places where you’ve got to really be ready. And I just think the state of the game and when we dropped our independent album...and it really didn’t do what we all envisioned it to do. It was just at that point. Then B-Real was like, “I want to work with you; I want to have you in the studio.” There was different stuff he was presenting and different opportunities for me to get in the studio to do that. The other dudes in my group—[Tek Nizzle] was always the producer, my boy [Casanova] was always the dude doing the graphic design and artwork and stuff—so they always had their hands in a couple places. I was like, “Let me do some solo music, ‘cause before then, I had never recorded a solo song ever in my entire life. That was never my M.O. I was always in a group, and that was just the way it was. I started to do some solo material, and it just seemed to work...to fit. Opportunities were there for that, so that’s how that real transition went.
DX: Is there a Tangled Thoughts reunion somewhere down the line after you all get settled into your individual careers?
Demrick: I would love to do some songs with them dudes. Those guys were my favorite emcees that I looked up to, and we got so much history and stuff. So I would love to do music with those guys again. I think we got fans. There are people that hit me up and ask about us. That was a particular time frame of my life, and yeah I would love to make music with those guys.
DX: As far as being an established soloist, what have your mentors like Kurupt, B-Real, and Xzibit told you about success as you continue to grow as an artist?
Demrick: I feel like they have dropped knowledge on me here and there about what it is, but I think that they showed me. They showed me through taking me out on the road...through taking me on the promo runs, releasing singles with me and giving me the different things I got to see. They showed me the do’s and the don’t’s. I just went on my first tour up in Washington, and I did shows out there knowing exactly how to be, how my ship needed to be ran, how I needed things to go and how I need to present myself in this game. I feel like not staying consistent with what your music and what your persona is, that’s the number one downfall of any artist to have. We are all creative, and we all want to do our thing. So I think through seeing them and hearing stories about this and that, like, “Oh, well this happened to me, and that happened to me.”
Xzibit, B-Real, Kurupt...they’ve been around for years upon years. So I learned by just watching them. Longevity is the shit, ‘cause you be out here in LA in the club and all of a sudden you see that rapper that you knew from back in the day and he’s just not the man that you thought he was going to be. This game can take out all kinds of paths. So I look to them, the way that they, and how they present themselves and carry themselves and I mirror myself after that.
DX: What did those guys see in you that the world should also recognize?
Demrick: Talent and hunger and drive. Just understanding the music, the game, and that this is my interpretation of Hip Hop. I’m Staying true to the form that I see and also putting my spin and my take on it. I think that they respect that about me.
DX: How did you get looped into the Soul Assassins circle?
Demrick: I met Mellow Man Ace, who is Sen Dog’s brother. He actually had a platinum song way back in the day. He introduced me to Sen Dog, and I got around him. They started bringing me around the studio. B-Real had a studio and I sat over there for maybe like three months. They didn’t even know I rapped, and B-Real was producing at the time. One time we were all at a restaurant grabbing some food, and somebody said, “Hey, I’m about to put some extras on, I’m about to tell B-Real that you spit.” So he told B-Real that I spit and that he thought that I was next as far as talent wise and could bring something to the table. B-Real looked at me like, “You?” basically because all he knew me as really was the guy who came to the studio and sat on the couch. We were always smoking weed, kicking it, laughing and joking and shit like that. A couple days later, we are in the studio together, and he made a beat and asked me what I had for it. I spit, and I didn’t stop spitting until he was like, “Take it in the booth!” I took it in the booth and recorded, and we been working on music ever since.
DX: How important is that kind of patience when we are in an age where cats are super thirsty to show their talents?
Demrick: I seen that the first time that I got a chance to hang around people that people do that all day. And I know, because I came from doing that. I was writing verses every day, waiting for my chance. At that time it was just about Rap. It was like, “This verse is going to get me out of this predicament that we are in.” So I was penning each verse as if I’m trying to change my whole life with this thing that I’m writing right now. I learned about just being patient and waiting for my opportunity, because I knew that I wanted it to work out right. I seen it through. I was like, “Man, when I get a chance to rap for B-Real he is going to love it, we are going to work on music,” and that’s exactly what happened.
DX: How hard was it to wait?
Demrick: I think that maybe because I was being asked to come around a lot, I knew that it was only a matter of time. I seen people not necessarily doing it the right way before. When Kurupt was bringing us around a lot of people, we were fresh out here and didn’t really know as much. So when we seen Snoop Dogg in the studio, and we seen this or that person in the studio, we were all over it. We were like, “Holy shit.” Kurupt showed us that it’s about timing, because you see an artist and don’t realize that the nigga just came in from doing interviews all day. He may be trying to get creative and relax, and you just don’t run up on him and be like, “Yo, check out what I got!” We come up like that. In Philly, it was like you see a nigga at Best Buy, and you going for broke, like “Oh, yo! Check out what we got,” and we spit until the mothafuckin’ wheels fall off. But it’s about timing, man. And you know, that’s how I feel too about this whole music thing. When fans get to see what I have to offer to music... I think some people have seen it, and that’s how I got the fans that I got, and I’m very appreciative to them. But I think that it’s only a matter of time and the right timing before everybody sees it.
Demrick On Mainstream Acceptance & Crossover Appeal
DX: Rolling Stone did an article on you for your song “Pray for Me.” How did that feature come about, since you are recording as an independent artist without a major record deal, and what has it done for your exposure as an artist?
Demrick: I think that it did a lot. Shout out to Billy Johnson for that, because he was somebody who has been around since B-Real dropped his Smoke & Mirrors project, and I got a chance to come around for that. We always said we were going to do something. He gave me a look on Yahoo! when I dropped my project Never Look Back with Scoop Deville, and he gave me a good look for that EP. So when it came time for this project, I was like, “I just wanted to send you All The Wrong Things 2. I want you to listen to it, and whatever you think you could do, just let me know.” He called me a couple days later, and was like, “I love this fucking shit, it’s not a mixtape it’s an album.” Mixtapes were just like rapping over other people’s beats, that’s the initial thing. So I don’t really do mixtapes, I do projects. Whether they are EPs or things where we just call them mixtapes. But he was right, it is an album. He listened, and he said, “I love this music,” and was like, “We have an article that crosses over from Yahoo! onto Rolling Stone, and you get to choose one artist. It is usually reserved for the [Kanye West’s], Jay Z’s, the Rihannas and those people. But we want to give that opportunity to you. I feel strongly about this, and I want to review a song.” I was like “What song do you want to review?” and he said “Pray For Me.” I thought it was crazy, because it wasn’t produced by like Jim Jonsin or Finatik and Zac or Current who are all noted people who done things in the game. It was produced by Mike One, who is my homeboy and makes beats in his room. It was just a story that I told on that, and I felt like it resonated with people, and it’s been a good look. A lot of people came to me after that and wanted to do interviews and talk about it, and I think it got people to talk about the project.
DX: Would you ever sign a major record deal, or do you enjoy working as an independent artist?
Demrick: I think obviously the best thing that suits me is whoever is the most excited about what I’m doing. But right now, my focus isn’t on any label or nothing like that. My focus is on the fans. It’s just about putting music out there for them and cultivating my audience—my people that get me. My next step is getting out there to play more shows for them, ‘cause they’re out there. They asking for me everyday, like, “When you going to come here? When you going to come back here?” So I’m ust getting out there and playing shows for them so they can get the full experience. When you listen to it on your CD player, your MP3s, your phone or your car, that’s only a portion of the experience. The other part is me right in front of you, delivering the message straight to my fans. So that’s my focus more than anything.
DX: What is your favorite part of performing?
Demrick: Just seeing the reaction and the tour lifestyle. I’ve gotten the opportunity to be in front of 80,000 people before playing big festivals with Cypress. And I’ve done 50 to 60,000 with Xzibit. It’s just singing my songs, which they allow me to sing in their set for everybody, and it’s just my dream. I think now, it’s just getting that message, and it don’t matter if it’s just a hundred people—I just want to get that. It’s just that experience of sharing the connection that comes from the live show.
DX: What was the most memorable part of being on tour with him traveling the world?
Demrick: There are memorable moments for different reasons. We’ve gone to places that nobody from America has ever been. And being like, “Damn Hip Hop has gotten that big, that we are going to places in Russia that don’t nobody go..not even on tourism or whatever.” You’re never going there. So to see that they know about Xzibit out there, and to see how his star power shines that bright, that they want to see it there was amazing. And this is way up in Russia next to Mongolia, right where don’t nobody go. To go there and everybody knows every word to the songs, and they are like, “Demrick, yes....we love your music.” That’s crazy. Then there are times like the first time I ever crowd surfed, the first time I ever climbed the rafters and the first time Xzibit ever brought me on the road.
I went somewhere with B-Real, and the song we had called “Figure it Out” was doing good; it was killing online. And he was like “Yo, I need you to come with me and do this West Fest thing.” It was Amsterdam and Paris. And it was like Xzibit, Dogg Pound, Ice Cube, E-40, and DJ Muggs who was spinning all the things and in-betweens. So to be able to go on that and do just those two shows and go to Amsterdam—which, you know all of us who like to smoke, we know that’s a place you definitely want to go and experience. But I’m also going there with people that I’ve looked up to, getting treated on the same level and getting the light put on me like, “Here’s Young De!” All this is happening while Muggs, who produced it, is sitting on the side of the stage. Then Ice Cube is watching on the side of the stage, and E-40 is right on the side of the stage while we killing it in front of 25,000 people at the Melkweg in Amsterdam. That’s crazy. So those moments are special to me.
How “All The Wrong Things 2” Showcased Demrick’s Growth
DX: You recently worked with producer Jim Jonsin on All The Wrong Things 2. Jim Jonsin has produced material a little different from your normal sound, how was it working with him and how does his sound mesh with your own?
Demrick: He let me pick the beats. So that’s definitely a direction I’ve been going in. Me and Current worked on a lot of these records. He helped me write, formulate choruses and things like that. I felt like it was a side of me that I been wanting to get a chance to show people, and it started really with my first All the Wrong Things. Runway Star, who did the “Teach Me How To Dougie” song. She and her and her production partner, Nigel Star, are called “The Makers,” and they got with me and did a project. I thought that was like the first stage of that music.
From there, I really got to do it with Jim Jonsin and his whole team, in Florida. It was a whole different atmosphere, because I was in the house, and when they wake a nigga up, you don’t know who is coming through there. It could easily be like, “Hey, get up! Usher is downstairs.” That’s a regular occurrence at that studio. So to be around that in the game, and actually be like, “Damn, I’m invited into these rooms.” It’s like I’m here, because those are visions and things that you think about happening. You say, “Yeah, when I get in that situation, I’m going to kill it,” and I went into that situation and did my thing. So All The Wrong Things 2 is just a representation of that time period.
DX: You also stated that the purpose of that mixtape was to focus on what people say you shouldn’t do, because that makes you who you are. Can you elaborate on what you meant?
Demrick: Everything that people said that you’re not supposed to do or all the doubts that other people have with the decisions you make really, in my opinion, create the character of who you are. You have got to be your own man and stand up for yourself. People say that you are always doing all the wrong things, so I wanted to talk about those on a record.
Everybody would always say, “Damn, you just going to just move?” Different things I did in my life, like running away because I never really lived at home anymore after the age of 14. I went and lived in New York for a while. And I went and moved all around. After that I wasn’t at home. I was staying at different places. [People said], “Oh, you want to go to Philly full-time to chase your dream? Oh, you want to be a rapper? You fuckin’ around in the streets? You need to leave that alone.” Or “You going out to Cali? You want to work with Kurupt? What are you doing over there? You in a group. Why are you working with B-Real?”
Demrick Shares Details On “Wings UP” & Bloodbath Clothing Deal
DX: Along with music, you have also made your way into the fashion industry with your new line Bloodbath Clothing. What is the idea behind Bloodbath, and how far do you want to expand upon it to further your stamp in the fashion industry?
Demrick: I been rocking with those guys for a minute. I actually did the first collaboration that I ever did with them was on “Streets Don’t Love You Back.” We did a duffle bag and a crew neck sweatshirt, and we did a video for that. B-Real was on that record, so those have been people that I been working with for a long time. I just wanted to actually sit down and design some stuff with them, and I had a conversation with Nick from True Studios. I told him, “What I want to do is just really get in touch with the Los Angeles lifestyle and work with some new people that people never really seen me work with before.” Down at True Studios, everybody goes hard, and Polyester the Saint is like a staple down there. So Nick was like, “Why don’t you get with Polyester the Saint?” He played me a couple records, and I was blown away by the production, him as an artist and just his energy. We started creating the music, and we created the clothes to go with the music and visuals that’s going to come with it. We went out and got Thurz on the record. Scoop Deville is a part of the project. Chuck English is a part of the project. Skeme, Clyde Carson, Diz Gibran...different people. My home girl Brevi, and Bianca Chacon, who is a dope singer are also on there. I just went and got people that I felt like I wanted to work with. I’m a fan of Diz Gibran, he spits. I want to do a record with him. With Thurz, we’re always seeing each other out here, but we never did no songs together. Me and a lot of these people is the same way. People see me working with specific people all the time, so they don’t think that I will do a record with Chuck English. So I can’t wait for people to hear that. That fashion that comes with that is inspired by the music.
DX: There’s also Wings UP, which is produced entirely by Polyester the Saint. Can you speak on that project, its concept, and what it was like working with Polyester the Saint?
Demrick: It’s called Wings UP, its going to drop July 30th. I’m excited. True Studios, Bloodbath. It’s just a collection of music, art and songs just to really embody. Like I said off camera earlier, I just want people to say its fun music, in 2013 that was in the playlist for how you spent your summer. I want to be a part of the second half of your summer musically with something that I feel like fits the scenarios that I’ve been in.
DX: What was it like working with Polyester the Saint?
Demrick: It was crazy, man, because that dude is wild with it. He is fun to be in the studio with; he drinks wine, and he just want to go up all the time. Everything is real organic with the creation of the music, and it was where ever the vibe was taking us that day. He just has them senses that’s just really West Coast but fresh. The 808s, basslines and the drums were always hitting hard, and he’s always got crazy melodies for chorus ideas. I kind of let him produce me on this project, so I’m excited. I can’t wait for people to hear the music. It’s fun, and it’s summertime Los Angeles.
DX: When can we expect a full-length album?
Demrick: I’m working on it now. I’m already recording it. I feel like everything is leading up to this project that I am working on right now. I been in the studio a lot with Current, somebody who is that long time collaborator who I’ve been working with. We just going in to put together an album. It’s something that is cohesive from the first song to the last. Hopefully don’t nobody wont skip nothing, and it’s one message...omething special.
DX: How do you differentiate yourself from telling your story without being like some of these other rappers who promote their hardships?
Demrick: The weird thing to say it is that I never enjoyed what I did. Looking at that timeframe, I was like, “I’m going to do this,” but I never wanted to do it. I always wanted to be doing [music]. So I talk about the things that I’ve done, because that’s what I had to do to just get by to do music. So I don’t glorify it. Some niggas want to be Tony Montana. There are different aspirations for every person. So I think for me, I can talk about what I went through to get what I want right now. And none of this shit has been easy.