Much of the conversation around what it means to be an original artist centres around being “yourself”— being genuine and authentic without attempting to be someone you’re not. Deshawn Visionz, a hip-hop artist based in California, is unafraid to speak the truth with his songs. He has the confidence to vocalise his own feelings, and his music manages to carry emotional heft for the listeners. Looking at Deshawn’s repertoire and his latest release, Time, one can be reassured that his music will only get better as he matures as an artist.
While today’s hip-hop branched out and took on various interpretations and forms, many accomplished their own originality. There is no denial that Deshawn represents hip-hop, nevertheless, he is not shy of admitting that his style “touches” the neo-soul genre as well. What I like about the artist’s music videos is that he aims for potent storytelling rather than reliance on visual escapades. Even through the visuals, the lyrics are still accessible to whoever is listening, and this gives the song writing a front and centre spotlight usually unheard of in music videos.
But who is Deshawn? Was music his first career choice? We recently caught up with Deshawn and talked about music, the role of an artist and plans for the future.
Image © BOOSHAY
There are countless artists out there who have their own story to tell about why they were drawn to the profession of a singer/rapper. What initially attracted you to music and to becoming an artist, and how has that interest evolved?
I’ve always had an interest in music and listening to different types of music from every genre like country, EDM, alternative, hip hop, and etc. I didn’t have an interest in creating until one day I was trying to motivate a friend to start making music. I ended up going to a Saba concert and it felt like I was the one on stage performing… and that was when I realised music was my destiny.
You collaborated with LesTheGenius on your latest release called Time and with Moriah Carter on Don’t Worry back in 2019 – two very different songs when it comes to arrangements. What was that experience like for you? Were there any artistic differences between you and the artists during the recording process?
Two completely different experiences but both super dope. The collab with Moriah was an in person collab vs the one with Les where we were just sending vocals back and forth with each other. I can say most people don’t really know, but I wrote the chorus for Moriah, so it was more so me just needing her vocals to match the soul of the track and she definitely blessed that. Les is a little more experienced than me, so working with him was dope as well and I’m grateful for that opportunity. He bodied that.
Image © Kayla De Guzman
Although your music is categorised as hip-hop, how would you describe your music style and what kind of approach do you use to write your lyrics?
I would describe my music style as more of an alternative hip-hop style. Lots of influences from all over the place, especially the neo-soul genre. When I write my lyrics, I try to hum an idea first then come up with an overall theme and go from there.
Looking at your life, to what extent do you think your surroundings shaped you, creatively speaking, and in what way?
I feel they definitely shaped the way I process things because music is easiest when I can talk about my life and experiences. I also feel that listening to different music expanded my mind to being open to trying new sounds as well.
You officially released five songs: Don’t Worry, The Recipe, Mona Lisa, Eden and Time. All make an impact thanks to their lyrical honesty. In addition, the songs are carrying emotional heft for the listeners. Having said that, are there any concepts, or certain music styles that you would like to try out with your future releases?
I actually have more music, but those are the ones I have visuals for. I definitely feel like those are some of my strongest tracks. As far as future styles, I honestly want to try whatever comes to me as I hear the beats. I think when people aren’t afraid to try different styles, they are super fire.
Image © Chris Tan
Would you say the music that inspires your work matches what you listen to when you are a part of an audience? Or are you a fan of other genres other than your own?
Yeah, I definitely feel like Isaiah Rashad and Saba have the biggest influence on me, but I can listen to every genre. I believe there are gems in all of them.
The role of an artist is always subject to change. What’s your view on the tasks of artists today, and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I feel like no matter which time period you are in, the main role is to motivate whoever’s listening as well as show others we are all human so we share the same experiences. I try to meet those things by being authentic in what I’m saying even if it’s too emotional at times. Lyrics can save lives and you never know what you say that can do that for someone.
Improvisation is a large part of the creative process for many artists. How strictly do you separate improvising and composing in your work?
I try to stay composed for the most part by always being strategic but, at the same time, I feel like you learn how to read the room over time and it becomes easier to go with your gut.
Image © Jay Shaun Monteiro
Is there anything you would like to change in the music industry that might help emerging artists get bigger exposure in domestic and foreign markets?
I would advise more artists to not be afraid to try different things. It’s okay to take influences from other genres because it expands your creativity.
What are your upcoming plans? Are there any other projects that you have planned for the future?
Right now, I’m working on expanding my audience and promoting my current singles, but I possibly might have an EP out by the end of this year or the beginning of next year if everything goes well.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Featured photo © Kayla De Guzman
Music Video © Courtesy of Deshawn Visionz
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