Dean Chatham. Rapper. Student at Wake Forest University. Bringing bandanas back. But they never left. Resides: Buffalo, NY. Newest Mixtape? Dean’s List 3. Lyrical physicist. Galileo Motherfuckers. Sprung before the birds could sing. Smooth vibes. Mad scientist flows. Beakers for your speakers. New beats. Classic beats. Favorite Dinosaur: baby dinosaur. Try and hate on a baby dinosaur. Sat down with us for an interview. It’s lit.
Do you see the Dean’s List projects as a trilogy? In other words, can we look forward to a Dean’s List 4?
Dean: Yes! DL4 will mark the end of the Dean’s List series as well as the end of my life as a college student. I’m a senior now, so you will see what I’m beginning to call my “final metamorphosis mixtape” prior to, or in, May 2017
Where did you record Dean’s List 3?
Dean: Where else but Roland Pro Sound located in Winston-Salem, NC, ran by the amazing David Roland and his awesome wife.
What is it like recording a mixtape while also being in classes and having to study and shit like that?
Dean: Studying? We talking about studying!? JK. When I realized how deeply in love I was with music, I immediately began to carve out as much time as I could for it. The first thing I did was drop my Physics major and pick up Communications so that I had more free time. As a result, I was pretty much able to work on music for the same amount of time that I was working on homework or was in class (I’d say an average of 3.5 hours for each per day).
What is your process like in the studio? Do you write? If so, how do you improve/work on that?
Dean: When creating a song, I usually begin by choosing an instrumental that fits my mood. From there, I come up with the hook for the song by simply free styling melodies in my head until one strikes me. After this, I put words to the melody and start to form the topic/direction of the song. The last step, and often the most time consuming, is writing the verses. Lyrics are, to me, one of the most important aspects of a great song so I make sure that I feel comfortable with not only the words themselves but the messages behind them as well. How do I improve? Practice, practice, research, practice, practice.
Where do you draw influences/ find things to write about?
Dean: Writing is very much a moody thing for me so what I tend to write about are lingering questions in my head or nagging frustrations that I am working out within myself. Music is a great tool for self-analysis so I use it like a diary to express different phases of my personal growth and my continued understanding of the world. I feel like this is super cliché but oh well ☺.
How did you get started rapping?
Dean: I was raised by young parents who were very hip to the 90’s hip-hop movement (no pun intended) and as a result I grew up being a hip-hop head. This naturally led me to be around other hip-hop heads who of course LOVED a good freestyle rap cypher. I didn’t realize until recently that I was rapping quite frequently with my friends and family for a few years. What really set my rap career in motion was this one instance at an off-campus party where I was free styling (high af) with some people and there was a producer listening who goes by the name of Miles Jordan. Legend has it that I spit fire for 20 minutes straight. Immediately after, Miles insisted that I write a song to one of his beats. Long story short, I feel in love with the songwriting process and especially the recording process so naturally I started to do more and more of this until BOOM! Here we are today.
What’s the rap culture like in Buffalo? Do you know other rappers, or have you found that you have largely had to go it alone?
Dean: The rap culture in Buffalo is definitely in a developmental phase. I was lucky enough to be sought out by a rap group called Black Sol when I first hit the scene and they really helped me get familiar with most of the Buffalo rappers. This definitely was a confidence boost for me and after the group broke up last year I was well equipped with the resources to pursue a solo career. I think more and more people are being exposed to the budding hip-hop community in Buffalo but there’s no real unity in it as of yet. The last major hip-hop act to come from the city was West Side Gun and I don’t believe he receives the attention he actually deserves.
Who are your favorite rappers/musical inspirations?
Dean: My favorite stuff to listen to is all the early stuff from Kendrick, Curren$y, Wiz and Jay-Z. As far as music inspirations, I think the list is too big. Sometimes, I find musical inspiration in things that don’t even make noise lol. It’s weird.
What do you do when you’re not rapping?
Dean: I have a relatively spontaneous lifestyle compared to many people so the number of things I do per day can vary
What’s next for Dean Chatham?
Dean: One thing that I noticed from the past 2 years was that I seriously can’t stop making music. Just the other day I was reflecting on the fact that I feel like complete shit when I go longer than 2 days without writing or working on some idea/scheme. Crazy right? So I guess I plan to continue my musical growth and build infrastructure around my talent so that I can continue this obsession of music without working a 9-5 ya know?