Who: Charlotte, North Carolina's Deniro Farrar, 24, a blog-rap third-waver who's mixing eccentric, wobbly production from Internet heroes like Ryan Hemsworth and Blue Sky Black Death with the long tradition of dark, soulful gangsta rap. All the while, he's also exhibited eclectic, out-of-the-box taste (he remixed Grimes' "Oblivion," for example), and like so many young rappers right now, has largely bypassed the gamble that is reaching out for "street buzz," preferring the slower, steadier grind of online networking. "Before the Internet, you would have to catch buzz through the streets," he explains. "But that takes so long to spread, and the Internet brings the world to your music immediately — it's like having a record label promoting you." In awe of his reach, he still remembers the moment he discovered that people in places as disparate as Poland and South Africa were downloading his music.
Soft and Hard: "I'm really not one of those guys that's like, 'My beat has gotta boom bap like this,'" Farrar says dismissively. "For most people, it's about, 'This gonna make people's heads bob' or 'This is gonna turn the club up.' But for me, it's about what I can do to the beat." His ear tends toward the atmospheric, as a guide for his confessional, personal-is-political lyrics: "My lil' partner caught a body, now he's on the run / Looking at 30 years but he's only 20," he cries out on "Big Tookie," a Rick Ross-like cut backed by Hemsworth's pretty-young-thug production. It's an unsettling and unexpected fusion that finds the lonely-stoner ambiance of so-called "cloud rap" bent toward something with much higher stakes. Last year's solo album The Patriarch and 2012's Kill or Be Killed (a full-length team-up with fast-rapping Main Attrakionz cohort Shady Blaze) are excellent examples of his vision.
Straight Outta Charlotte: "Charlotte has a developing rap scene," Farrar says diplomatically of his hometown. "You've had a few people on the break or on the verge of doing something big, but it ended up not happening for whatever reason, so now I got the torch." That uncertain scene is what moved Deniro towards the freedom of the web, which really began to crack open in 2011, enabling his singular style. (To hear a contrast, more from 2010's more regional Feel This to 2012's spaced-out Destiny Altered). Still, he makes it clear that this was his vision from the start — it was just harder to garner interest in foggy, fluttering tough talk prior to 2011. But Farrar is also quick to celebrate his experiences in Charlotte — positive and negative — as the basis of his rhymes: "I tell people all the time that my life is my biggest musical influence. The things I see on a day-to-day basis in my city."
Tupac & Charles Mansion: Both controversial figures come up frequently in conversation with Farrar. He celebrates Tupac for "staying true to the craft" and for courting the sort of persona that allowed for "contradiction," which has bolstered his significance even after his death: "The shit that Tupac spits, I still haven't heard a rapper that makes music like his to this day, and the shit still has relevance, because the same things are still going on to this day." Meanwhile, on Farrar's Twitter, he calls himself "LEADER OF CULT RAP — his way of trumpeting the loyalty that arises out of Internet-rap culture, which he likens to a cult following. "Like how Charles Manson had this following because they thought he had the voice of God, but he was just a hobo with a backpack," he says. "And you know, I'm just a rapper — I don't got shit. All I got is a voice and these beats."