New York’s independent hip-hop scene has endured a multitude of changes over the years with the rise of trap-infused beats and sharp-edged vocals; this growth has spawned some of the mainstream titans that flow through our airwaves today. As listeners crave for the club ravaging and intensifying sounds of trap music one can argue that the raw lyricism, vivid storytelling and deep productions of New York hip-hop - which made the east coast so successful - has been put on the back-burner.
Yet, some of NY’s young and talented emcees continue adopt the traditional flows of east coast hip-hop alive with fresh new sounds and production, which altogether, has even attempted to move the trend needle forward: This is where Deem Spencer comes in.
The Queens-based rapper, overnight, has become one of the biggest talks on the scene and has impressed both his listeners and audiences with razor sharp lyricism, honest emotion and raspy-esque flows. His ambling vocalization and handsomely smooth compositions resembles the flows of Mos Def mixed with a hint of Tyler, The Creator.
Over a series of crispy bundled-up beats blended with an array of soft keys and complex strings, Deem’s rhymes are as complex as his stage presence: keeping audiences guessing and on their toes for what comes next next.
We came out to El Cortez in Brooklyn last Saturday to watch Deem Spencer’s performance of his latest EP, “We Think We Alone.” The show took place at El Cortez’s, The Safari Room, adjacent to the Tex-Mex bistro in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn (definitely recommended for some hearty bites and luscious margaritas). The faint aromas of Mary Jane, overnight IPA hops and cigarettes hovered in the air as audiences slowly poured in to catch a scent of some good old NY hip-hop.
Crimdella and Venture Klan opened the show for Deem as they kicked off the night with ferocious bars, brilliant production and ravaging beats that assailed audiences into that uptown sound that never disappoints.
Crimdella, aka Black Zeusx, provided a series of poetic rhymes and intense imagery that breathed heavily through pulverizing beats. Zeusx’ gripping charisma on the mic pierced through every chord, as the Harlem emcee broke into the crowd – getting us wiled up for an awesome night of hip-hop.
Venture Klan also offered a pulsating performance through their club-banging anthems filled with character, swag and humor. This three-piece act conquered the stage with their enduring styles; precision-like flows and energetic jibes that made The Safari Room crowd keep their hands in the air. They even gave us some free merch for us to make our friends hate us just a little more.
With his performance on “We Think We Alone,” Deem Spencer delivered an unforgettable performance that was rich, grieving and outright amusement that forced us to all “shake our a$$” while Deem performed the record in its entirety. Inspired by the death of his grandfather last winter, the Queens-based artists’ stage presence reflected a mellow and introverted persona, it was Deem’s precise melodies and intricate wordplay that helped keep audiences afloat – keened in on his heavy-hearted storytelling and brilliance.
Perfectionist, soft-spoken and meticulous, the Southside Jamaica emcee, poured his soul into every bar and mastered them beautifully behind a complex nebula of sensual synths, soulful chords and a mix of venomous beats that elicited a challenging sound of emotion and exasperation.
Deem opened with a killer freestyle on Saturday that showcased the indie-rapper at his lyrical best, along with an early 90’s-esque boom-bap and lulling keys. On “Soap” and “Eve’s T*****s,” we caught a glimpse of Deem’s vivid symbolism, strategic metaphors and illustrious productions with an instrumentation that’s unnerving with its precise strings. On these tracks, we got a sense of Deem’s patience and detailed flow that spoke assertively through his mic.
The night flowed on, and on tracks such as “Mother Earth” and “Moonflower,” we saw Deem with a more peevish and scrappier vocal with a high degree of synths and complex percussions. With “F***d Up Flowers,” Deem relieved himself of that conservative stage presence with a groovy chilled-out track that got him, Sly Cooper and the rest of crowd “shaking their a$$.” With a jazzed-out J-Pop sample, patient chords and complex percussion, Deems' vibed out track helped to bridge that relaxed demeanor with a stellar upbeat performance.
Deem Spencer’s nebulous sound, smoky aroma and artistic lyricism is blueprint for the future of indie hip-hop. It’s genuine & cunning, apologetically honest and deeply descriptive with grief & empathy. With raw emotion and petite aggression, Deem Spencer’s metaphoric scriptures are surely a trend ahead of today’s mainstream and independent hip-hop scenes. No doubt, Deem Spencer will be obtaining that recognition as his music persists.