Leeds-based Denmarc Creary is one of the city’s most lyrically-conscious artists. A spoken word poet as well as an self-produced MC, Denmarc adeptly incorporates his poeticism as well as influences from grime, roots and American trap beats into his own style of UK hip hop.
Boasting a lyrics tab on his website, illustrating the man’s
lyrical-confidence as well as his consciousness, and having opened for the likes of
Saul Williams and Little Simz, Jamaican-born Creary started 2017 prolifically with
two releases, Rollin’ EP and The Ting EP. Back in February, just before the release
of the latter, I was able to catch up with Creary to talk about Rollin’, his poeticism and
what is next for one of Leeds’s top talents.
OT: So, Denmarc, you just came off of performing at a Super Friendz event along with President T and Paigey Cakes. Sounds like a good day out. How was it?
DC: Yeah it really was. All the Leeds-based artists really represented. I didn’t get a chance to see President T because I had to head to another show. It was really good though. All the Leeds artists really represented.
OT: It seemed like a big get-together for a lot of Leeds-based artists. Of course, one of the guys on the line-up was Dialect…
DC: Yeah, I actually brought him up on-stage with me.
OT: I was going to ask if you did, what with Dialect featuring on the remix of the title-track of your EP Rollin’. How did that go down, bringing him on-stage?
DC: Yeah, it was really good. Basically I got him on-stage for the remix of ‘Rollin’’ for him to perform his verse and then straight after I got Graft on-stage and all 3 of us did a cypher, a 5-minute cypher sort of thing. Got the crowd absolutely gassed.
OT: ‘Rollin’’ and the remix, if I can talk about them adjacently for a minute, appears to be you just standing back and taking stock of what has changed and what has stayed the same in music from the perspective of a Leeds-centric artist who has been making music for a while. You talk about Leeds in the track and Dialect, who features on the remix, is in many ways Leeds-grime. It seems to be a very Leeds experience, especially on the remix.
DC: Yeah, definitely! At the time I just wanted to make something that represented where we are at this moment in time, taking into account the American-influenced beats and all of that. I kind of just wanted to make something to show how we’re all still creative in Leeds and we can still make the type of music we originated also.
OT: You’re very conscious of American influence in ‘Rollin’’, making reference to trap beats and how loads of producers are making trap beats these days. You also have a trap influence on this EP, especially in the title track. Rollin’ sees you move away from your earlier grime-influenced work on The Sudden Change and your earlier music. Is that a fair assertion?
DC: Kind of. In the song I say something like “everybody’s making trap no one makes songs like this”, even though I mention later that the beat I’m talking about is the kind of beat that I’m on. It’s kind of ironic because I know I can’t totally separate myself from the American stuff and say that I don’t listen to that music because I grew up on all of that.
OT: You make music but you’re also a spoken word poet. How does the latter facet of your artistry affect your music?
DC: Well, for the past few months I’ve actually been trying not to write. Songs like ‘Rollin’’ are kind of just recording what thoughts come into my head. I got to a point where I had to bring the fun back into my music. Poetry means a lot to me and is how I express myself. When I think about my music, it’s just poetry on beats. I used to perform all my songs without the beats and that was my poetry. I’ll write the song but as I’m writing I’m thinking of things that could work as poetry. I started doing spoken word before my music. It was always the originator. It was always the go-to thing because it was easier to just write what was on my mind and not try and fit it to a beat, just trying to write without any limitations and then giving myself the limitations to make music.
OT: In areas like Chicago they’ve got guys like Mick Jenkins and Noname coming out with hip-hop that incorporates elements of spoken word. As well as yourself, is there anyone you’d like to mention who is coming out with spoken word-influenced music in Leeds?
DC: One of my favourite artists is Lewis Brown. He’s lyrically ridiculous. He’s poetic without trying. He writes what’s on his mind and it turns out to be this amazing music. Obviously NorthaZe. If people listen to their lyrics and what they say, a lot of the time it’s really really deep stuff. I know that they stem from the poetry background as well. You heard of Leeds Young Authors? It used to be a youth group/poetry session that a lot of people used to go to.
OT: Poeticism means a lot of different things to different people. I just want to spend a minute talking about what I find to be your most poetic track, ‘Purple Trees’. ‘Bare With Me’ off of Rollin’ is very ‘spoken word’ in how you perform a different characterisation of yourself, but for me, lyrically at least, ‘Purple Trees’ is your most poetic track. You leave so much room for interpretation and it’s refreshingly opaque so, without eliminating any room for interpretation, what does ‘Purple Trees’ mean to you?
DC: I definitely created it with the intent of people taking away what they want from it. It’s a very Leeds-centric message, again; being at the point I just wanted to uplift people. I was just hearing a lot of moaning at the time to be honest, if that makes sense? I’m really grateful for the position I’m in. Whether that be where I want to be or not, I’m really grateful for where I am. It’s kind of a celebration of that and trying to get people to see that we’re all amazing and whether you can see or can’t see the future, we’re all amazing.
OT: What’s next for you, Denmarc? Recording? Gigging?
DC: I’m recording at the moment, working on my next EP, ‘The Ting EP’, which is coming out very soon. It’s a kind of a conceptual thing, talking about a kind of relationship thing that I just went through. The EP was kind of me taking some time away and dealing with it; putting it in a body of work. It’s just getting mixed at the moment and should be coming out really soon.