West Coast Emcee Defari Returns With New LP, We Catch Up For An Interview
Los Angeles born, Santa Monica, California, bred, Likwit Crew Junkie, Duane ‘Defari‘ Johnson, Jr., dropped his “official” Alchemist laced premiere single, “Bionic,” taken from his Tommy Boy/Warner Bros. Records’ debut solo outing, Focused Daily, nearly two long decades ago.
Parlé Magazine recently spoke with the former Inglewood High School world history and geography teacher – he holds a bachelor’s from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York City – on the eve of the release of his exceptional fourth studio selection, SOUNDCHECK.
Parlé Mag: Let’s hop right into this long overdue new single / video, “West Up”. Tell me about this particular composition? How did it actually come to fruition?
Defari: Evidence and I got in the studio and just started recording. We feel so blessed to have so many loyal fans for so many years, that we wanted to do something new and wavy yet still aim right at the core of what my fans have been waiting for and what they want and expect from Defari. Hence you have “West Up!!” The first impression off of my forthcoming album, SOUNDCHECK, produced by Evidence.
Parlé Mag: Sonically, how does “West Up” measure up to other Defari offerings?
Defari: I love it!! It sounds new and crispy, yet with a touch of that classic Defari / Evidence shit, ya know! This is our initial impression… lead off batter if you will and, we are aiming straight at the real. We got a ton of heat.
Parlé Mag: You titled the record SOUNDCHECK — Conceptually, what does that title represent both to and for you?
Defari: I called it SOUNDCHECK because the entire album is built for the stage, and the process of the album was very creative with a lot of freedom as if we would get ready for a show, you know. So then, it has the double meaning because sound has permeated my life and provided experiences, trips, money, a way of life… I developed from sound being the pulse of my existence.
Parlé Mag: How does the new material either differ and/or compare to your previous efforts?
Defari: It’s a brand new wave!! Yet it’s built on the combo package everybody’s been wanting for too long…finally… a Defari album EP’d and produced by Evidence.
Parlé Mag: “West Up” also signifies your “official” comeback, considering it’s your first new full length project since 2006’s Street Music — That said, what all have you been up to, both personally and professionally speaking, during this nearly ten year musical hiatus?
Defari: Well, that’s not quite factual because I had Local Like The West Of Them: The Lost Tapes Of Ruby D in 2013, a 22 song mixtape LP, which featured the single “Puro,” produced by Madlib… but my day job is a show mixer for daily television.
Parlé Mag: What was it – specifically about now in 2016 that prompted you to return to form [music]?
Defari: I’ve always kept one foot in the game. It was never about a year, rather a moment.
Parlé Mag: With that being said, how has not only the industry itself, but even more-so YOU, either changed and/or evolved since your whole inception into music?
Defari: I’ve personally lived the entire technological metamorphosis of the music game. I lived the vinyl era to tape to CD to digital… pressed records back in the day. I’ve watched the big studios go to house studios, yet throughout every nuance I’ve seen, the constant is the music and the beauty is no matter what era, artists still create and the people still respond.
Parlé Mag: Reflecting, how did you first discover your musical talent?
Defari: I had talent, but didn’t discover my sound til “Bionic.”
Parlé Mag: Who have been your greatest inspirations musically and why?
Defari: Unfair question, there’s too many! Stevie and Maurice White start my list though.
Parlé Mag: How then would you describe and/or define the style of music that you create and perform?
Defari: Upper echelon Hip Hop. Top Shelf Hip Hop.
Parlé Mag: Longevity, what do you attribute yours to?
Defari: Well, I toured for 10 years and, I’ve always done what we do best and what the people have vouched on me to do, ya dig!
Parlé Mag: What do you feel you offer the music industry that we don’t already have in other performers?
Defari: Authenticity and a flat out better and more creative vernacular, especially today.
Parlé Mag: What do you want people to get from your music?
Defari: I just want my true fans to eat and eat merry with the songs on SOUNDCHECK.
Parlé Mag: On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop? And, even more specifically, where exactly do you “fit in” when it comes to today’s current/trending sound-scape?
Defari: I love music and I’m not a relic, so I always respeckonize the latest waves, etcetera and bump whatever is new and knockin’.
Parlé Mag: What has been your greatest achievement(s) so far?
Defari: The Dr. Dre Chronic 2001 plaque I have, and the 2 Emmy’s I’ve been fortunate to be recognized for.
Parlé Mag: If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Defari: I mean, come on… I’d have to have Mike on a hook and give him some runs, too, after the second verse… hahaha! KILLER!!! Defari featuring Michael Jackson!!… whatttt!!!!
Parlé Mag: If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Defari: I love Red Rocks… but, I would choose Dodger Stadium.
Parlé Mag: One track of yours that you think defines you and why?
Defari: My new single, “West Up!!!!”
Watch The Official Video For “West Up” Below:
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