“Honestly” is a word that pops up a lot when speaking to Deniro Farrar.
The 28-year-old Charlotte rapper chooses to be direct when he’s hit with a question – like what does he think of the Drake-Meek Mill beef that’s been the main story in the rap world these past few weeks? “Honestly, I really don’t have a comment on that,” he says, on the phone from Charlotte. “That’s none of my concern. I don’t get into stuff like that, honestly. I feel like their platform got really, really big. They can do something other than tear each other down. That’s my take on it.”
Farrar – whose real first name is Dange – goes for an authentic, to-the-point style whether he’s on the mike (often rapping about his less-than-positive surroundings) or on the phone (talking about raising his two little boys while he’s in town to support his younger brother Anthonio, who is currently awaiting trial on murder and attempted murder charges). So it’s understandable why he chooses not to associate himself with petty squabbles in the hip-hop community.
It also may be why he was chosen to headline this year’s DURM Hip Hop Summit in Durham, which happens this weekend. “They just reached out to me, basically,” he says. This will be his first time performing at the 3-year-old regional rap celebration, doing a Saturday afternoon set at Durham Central Park. He says he’s looking forward to the festivities. “I mean, it’s always amazing, especially being a fellow North Carolinian. So, I like being involved in stuff like that.”
Since hitting the Charlotte rap scene at the top of the decade, the self-described “leader of cult rap” has been focusing mostly on building his brand, steadily releasing albums and EPs and working with buzzworthy producers like Ryan Hemsworth and Blue Sky Black Death, with whom he collaborated on the “Cliff of Death” EP in 2012. But even though he released another “Cliff of Death” EP earlier this summer, don’t expect more of those on-the-fringe projects soon.
“It’s something that I started before being signed as an independent artist,” he says, also mentioning that he’s “moving forward right now with the new bodies of work. So, honestly, I wouldn’t be doing any more of those projects anytime soon.”
Yes, Farrar is now down with a major label. In 2013, he signed a joint venture deal with Warner Bros. and Vice Records, which resulted in an EP released the following year titled “The Rebirth.” (Farrar says he’s now exclusively signed to Warner Bros.) But even though he has major-label backing, he says he still will continue to lead the cult-rap charge.
“Nothing’s gonna change, honestly, with me being signed,” he says. “I mean, that’s something that I came into the game with before being signed. I haven’t been signed that long, so that’s something I continue to push. That’s what got me signed in the first place – the whole initiative that I bring as far as branding myself as the leader of cult rap, creating my whole name and genre of rap.”
But not only is he out to make a name for himself, he’s also trying to elevate the minds of his fans or followers. The dude even has his own book club on Instagram. (This month’s selection is James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” if you’re interested. His username is leaderofcultrap.) “I’m promoting education, because knowledge is power,” he says. “Being a black man, I understand that in the times we’re living in, for me to have knowledge of self, knowledge of law, knowledge of everything and its power – I want to encourage not only blacks but everybody to build their mind up, man.
“Whether it be via social media, on the mike or on the stage,” he adds, “however I can reach the people – honestly – that’s my thing,”
What: DURM Hip Hop Summit, with Deniro Farrar and others
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Durham Central Park, 501 Foster St.; Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave.; American Underground, 201 W. Main St.; Tooties Bar, 704 Rigsbee Ave., Durham