Born Danny Chung and raised in Philadelphia, Decipher experienced more ups and downs in his youth than many go through in a life time. Despite the tumultuous drama and turmoil, Decipher was able to find the one thing that remained steady in his life. Even when starting off as a battle MC, it was immediately apparent that he possessed undeniable raw talent. Decipher not only had the requisite wit and charisma, but more importantly he had the heart to turn ordinary words into a powerful message. We explore the mind of yet another music artist in this episode of the Creative Spotlight. Read below for the full Q&A…
I heard you were introduced to hip-hip through your Uncle. Were you exposed to East Coast rappers near your area growing up or was it influences from other coasts?
Decipher: I was aware of the rappers from Philly (Major Figgaz, Phillys Most Wanted, etc.) and I messed with them but they weren’t who I was really into growing up. I was also too young to be really into Will Smith like that. Of course I was into East Coast New York rap because that’s what was popping but for some reason I really gravitated towards Tupac. He was poetic and had a deeper message behind his music than speed boats and Versace shirts (No shots).
So lets talk hypothetical. Let’s say you grew up in the suburbs and everything was peachy growing up. Do you feel you would have the same hunger today?
Decipher: The thing is I did grow up in the suburbs. A big part of my life I grew up in the burbs. I actually went back and forth from the hood a few times. So I know what it’s like going from rags to riches and than back which is an interesting journey, I guess. And I wouldn’t say I had a bad childhood. The family I had around me did what they could to raise me with values that would make a good man and I keep those values to this day. That hunger you ask about really depends on what kind of person you are. You could come from a filthy rich background and still have hunger because you have that standard set so high for you all your life you wouldn’t want to go backwards. Or that same upbringing could just make you lazy and complacent. It all depends on your own will. Personally, I think I would have a hunger for more no matter what.
I heard your verse on Kanye’s Devil in a New Dress. It seemed easy for you to lay down verses and adapt to other artists’ beats. Why haven’t you released more videos similar to this?
Decipher: Other artists’ beat selection inspire me all the time. I have written to other artists’ tracks here and there but for me, I don’t want to follow another persons path even to pass them on it. I’d rather blaze my own trail. Devil in a New Dress evoked a certain emotion and vibe from me that I couldn’t really see myself getting from something else, so that was an exception. Also, what it was was Rick Ross’ verse on that. He was so damn poetic with his words on that that I wanted to paint pictures with a verse like that. Ross inspired that song, for sure.
In turn, I would imagine a lot of rapper call you out or want to battle if you are freestyling or laying down verses on other peoples song thinking they can do better. Have you been experiencing any friction from other artists?
Decipher: Eh, can’t say that I have. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. I welcome that though. Honestly, kind of bored of all this getting along.
You do a lot of touring on college campuses. That must be like performing at a big party. What kind of strategy do you have as an artist performing for campuses?
Decipher: It was definitely more of a party when the college shows first came around. Now I try to be more professional. I don’t have to go to every after party. I made it a point to earlier on but now it’s probably smarter of me to pass. College is a unique time in anyone’s life and it’s usually when people really find out who they are. What kind of food, people, clothes, and of course, music they like. It’s a more open minded time than high school and your 30s. That short window of late teens and 20 somethings is when you’re more free to trying out new things so the people that show up at these shows might end up being lifelong supporters so I treat them with a lot of care and love.
What are some of your favorite Asian films? Or do you get down with anime?
Decipher: I’m into Chan Wook Park’s films of course. Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance to name a couple. The stories and cinematography is always ill with him. I was never huge into anime. I even stopped watching regular cartoons earlier than most. Not sure what that’s about really. I liked Dragonball though. Honestly, I got into it pretty late. Me and a few friends would always get high after high school and turn on Cartoon Network. It was always perfect timing. Get home from school, smoke a blunt, and a couple back to back episodes of Dragonball would be on.
Let’s talk a bit about ‘You Don’t Care’. What was the creative process like recording that record and did you have a hand in the videos concept?
Decipher: I just wanted to make a song about cool chicks because it seems like they’re becoming a little harder to come by. I’ve done cheesy tracks about the perfect girl or whatever but where the hell do you come across a perfect girl, really? This song was a bit more real and praises those women that may not be perfect angels but they know it, embrace it, and are empowered. I had a lot to do with the conceptualizing of the video. Shout out to Furis and Ken Nana who shot the video for me. Those guys put in a lot of work.
Going through your discography I came across ‘The Effect’ and really dug it. The guest appearances make up predominately Asian artists. How important is it to feature and put on people of your own race? Is it just a case of you making music with your friends or is it supporting your community of artists?
Decipher: It’s not that important to me to put on people of my own race. I just wanted to showcase talented friends of mine. I feel like collaborating with only Asian artists pretty much hinders me because it’s almost like preaching to the choir.
With the release of a new song this summer, do you have a new album coming out soon? If so, how are you attacking it this time around?
Decipher: I’m battling with that right now. I have an album that’s almost done. But looking back at it I’m not sure if I’m happy with it. The newest songs I’ve written are so much better than the material I have for the album, I feel. WIth that said, I don’t know if I just want to go back to the drawing board and just perfect this next album or just put out this older stuff that I’m cool with but not 100% happy about. We’ll see what happens.
Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone trying to gain exposure as an artist?
Decipher: I’m not the best person to ask that question because I’m trying to figure out all that myself but if I could say anything it would be focus on the music. Learn to create and not recreate.
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