Deniro Farrar Wants to Start a Revolution With ‘Red Book Vol. 1′
North Carolina's Deniro Farrar is ready for an uprising. The Charlotte-bred rapper, known for his gruff, calculated cadence, finished up 2016 strong by dropping a six-track EP titled Red Book Vol. 1 in December. With so much going wrong in the world these days, Deniro says the short and sweet project, a follow-up to June's Mind of a Gemini, is meant to serve as the soundtrack to a social revolution. And trust us, he's done his homework on the subject.
The EP's title is based off literature used by the Black Panther Party and inspired by the current state of chaos going on in America. From gentrification to cops killing kids to misleading images in the media, Deniro adds his socially conscious two cents to it all.
"I feel like we are lacking a lot of the fundamental tools we need in order to revolutionize," Farrar tells XXL of the EP's release. "I just want to liberate the minds of the people so that we can come together as one and rise up against the crooked government, all evil and oppression."
Beyond music, Deniro is definitely a man of action. In the last few years, the 29-year-old leader of "cult rap" started eating clean, has learned farming techniques, founded his own non-profit to help young men and started a book. Educated and enlightened, Deniro stopped by XXL during the week of his Red Book Vol. 1 release. Behind dark shades and an omniscient smile, the gravel-voiced spitter broke down the role of music in starting a revolution, his top literary picks for young minds and his plans for 2017.
XXL: We’re here for Red Book Vol. 1 EP. Congrats on releasing the new project.
Deniro: Thank you.
Can you give the readers a more in-depth explanation of the Red Book EP? Six tracks, no features. Why drop it now?
Well, honestly, my label decided to drop it now. I did it about eight months ago and me and my team decided to drop it this time. A lot of people honestly wasn’t dropping in the fourth quarter. It’s considered to be a dead period in terms of music.
Why’d you decide to break the songs up into chapters?
Because I consider this Red Book EP to be like a revolutionary… I’m comparing it to the real red book [Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung]. It was written by that guy Mao Tse Tung. The red book was the text that the Black Panthers used to use. So it was written by him and they would always use it as their kind of blueprint. I would always see it in their documentaries and I always wondered what that book was.
So then I got it from Revolutionary Books in Harlem when I was living there so I was like, Damn this is crazy. I wonder if people really understand what a revolution really is, you know? You hear people say it all the time, like, "Let’s start a revolution. Blah, blah, blah," but do they really understand what that means? So I decided to name my project the Red Book because I feel like it’s a revolution body of work when you really break it down.
Is that the main feeling you want people to take away from listening to it?
Of course! They got to. There’s so much nonsense out here in the world, you know? In terms of music, I really don’t understand how we got so—and it’s not really for me to understand because that’s not the music I’m making—but like… I got a boys group back in Charlotte and I see how lost they are because they really swear by the music and it’s crazy. I’m like, y’all are 13, 14 listening to another 18-year-old whose ideology on life is going to change in a few years because he’s going to realize how he’s living now is not the way to live. But by that time it’s too late because they already murdered off or addicted to codeine and all kinda crazy shit.
Why did you want to break it up into two parts? Volume 1 and 2.
They really didn’t want me to put it out all at one time. The label was like a standard EP is six tracks. I recorded like 20. So they just broke it down into two bodies of work.
And why do you only have one feature on the two of these projects?
Trinidad James. That wasn’t even on some feature shit though, that’s just the homie. It wasn’t like I got him on there to be like let me get an artist in the game on my track. We just linked in the studio, we locked in and the record turned out dope. I don’t want to build my brand based around features. I see that so much. It's like the world recognizes an artist for a feature he’s done with another artist and he’s not as strong anymore without that artist. Now it’s like so common with rappers and I want to build my foundation on my own on my own two feet, you know what I’m saying? That’s what I’m doing.
What was your favorite song on the project to make?
“Gentrification" because I played it for my homeboy—and he’s street, he in the street heavy—so I recorded “Gentrification” almost a year ago in Cali and I sent it to him. He’s like, “Bruh, you know I ain’t even ever heard the word gentrification, but listening to the song, man, I see that shit all around me but I ain’t know what it was.” So that’s crazy. We just breaking down everything. Even things like “food desert,” I’m telling people you ain’t even know but you in a food desert. It’s about the education.
Other than music, you started a book club last year. That's pretty dope.
I did. I did it because I advocate reading. I dropped outta school at 15 and I understand that education in America is systematic. When I was in high school, I dropped out in ninth grade, I understood that the education I was receiving was not really for me. They didn’t care how I learned. I’m hands-on, like, show me how to do it, I can do it, and that wasn’t the way they were teaching.
They were unconcerned so I was just like, I can teach myself. I learned a lot on the streets but I learned a lot reading books as well. So I tell my little brother all the time—he’s in high school—like I tell him, "Education don’t stop when school out. You gotta start reading shit based on what you interested in. Liberate your mind in terms of where you want to go in life and not where school’s gonna take you. You can have that education and also self-taught education." So I definitely advocate book club and reading. In school they not reading the things I’d recommend them to read; Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis, The New Jim Crow, The Alchemist, The Four Agreements, just the shit people really need to read.
I’m reading a book now called Knowledge Itself by Doctor Supreme Wisdom. It’s a really insightful book. I like to learn, but I’m more into knowledge itself at this point because what good is knowing all this shit and you’re a fucked up individual, you know? You’re book smart but then spiritually you’re like, Ahh, damn. I’m also reading Destruction of the Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams. I’m kind of reading both at the same time.
And you’ve got a non-profit. When and why did you start that?
2014, 2015? So I started it a little over a year ago, but we was always active in the community. Honestly I didn’t really know much about the non-profit world and I met a guy over a year-and-a-half ago and he really put me on. He had me in a school and he had me come talk to the kids and he’s like, "Yo, how come you don’t have a non-profit? Like, you coming out of pocket for a lot of your stuff when you could be doing it for free." I’m like, "How?"
He told me all these different things. And he just helped me start it so now we movin’. 'Cause on paper to the average man I’m not as smart or blah, blah, blah but I think more than anything, these kids need to learn character-building skills. Most of these kids don’t even know how to tie a necktie, and that’s not something we necessarily teach, but I felt like that helped build my character as a 13, 14-year-old. I took pride in that so it’s just about to these kids. So we named it the trust circle because it’s like if these kids don’t trust you, they ain’t goin’ let you in their circle.
You've talked about the youth being mislead by rappers these days. Who are some of the younger rappers that you say you stand behind?
I like Isaiah Rashad, man. I been bumpin’ the hell out of that mixtape. I fuck with Isaiah Rashad. There’s this guy named 6LACK now, this chick put me on…I heard this music, I thought it was Chance The Rapper but he a little street though. I like him. As far as young, Denzel [Curry]…he dope. He in his own lane, you feel what I’m saying? And he ain’t afraid to admit it. When we was on tour, he was buying nun-chucks and swords and shit [laughs].
I didn’t know him in the beginning, but as I got to know him I’m like, that’s who he is. Like when I heard his break down “Ultimate” on Genius, I was like this is amazing because he ain’t faking. That’s the thing, a lot of these kids are faking.
See New Music Releases for February 2017