Meet The Other Side Of Daniel Kelly: Deph Naught (Q&A)
“Hero Of Rhyme” (listen/download)
The world knows Daniel Kelly/Deph Naught as Owen Milligan, one of the former jocks/bad boys on the hit Canadian television series Degrassi. What they may not know however is that his true passion lies in Hip-Hop. And no he’s not just trying to follow in the footsteps of another Degrassi alumni. He’s been submerged in the world of Hip-Hop since the age of 11. He started off frequenting cyphers with his friends and his music pretty much developed from there. He’s outspoken, uncensored, passionate about the culture, and ready to show the world that he’s not just another actor turned artist. He’s very serious about his craft and he plans to prove it on the 30th of this month with his upcoming sophomore release Naught Again. The Illixer recently got the chance to chop it up with the budding talent and he held nothing back. Catch it all after the break.
The Illixer: Where did the stage name Deph Naught originate from?
Deph Naught: Well, long story short; when I was younger (around 13) I used to join cyphers repping the rap groups I was affiliated with in my area. We would go across the city and join them to get our buzz up. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 they would like laugh me out that b–ch before I even gave them a bar. The name Deph Naught came from one particular instance where I was in a cypher with a few of my boys, and when I went to spit (we held like an unplugged mic, it was hilarious), the guy who had rapped before me snatched it out of my hand and literally said “This lil’ white boy gone try and rhyme on me? Definitely not! If y’all wanna hear a real emcee spit let me hear y’all tell him ‘definitely not!’” So this jerk had the whole crowd yelling that s—t in my face and I got more heated then I had ever been, simply because I was so sick of being told I can’t do something just because I don’t look like I can. I started rapping and the coveted ‘holy s–t’ look washed over the crowd. I remember spitting a line just off the top that was pretty “meh” by my standards now but it was just so perfect in the moment. S–t was priceless.
TI: If someone asked you to share your background story, what would your response be?
DN: I would show them my first tape Ready or Naught. I feel like I could tell them all day until I’m blue in the damn face (because I’ve tried) that I’ve been at this since 11, my ups and downs, family problems, that I DON’T just rap because I was on a show that Drake was on, etc. But at the end of the day people only care about one thing …. the music. Even then it’s hard to get through to them, so if you figure out how to do it give me a call (haha)! But real s–t, yeah, the first mixtape does a great job I feel in introducing myself through Hip-Hop and Naught Again (my new tape) is set to take that to a whole new level.
TI: Given the nature of the show, do you feel like having been on Degrassi will hurt your credibility in the Hip-Hop world?
DN: Well I can tell you this; when I first got on the show it was a total stroke of luck/chance/some other mystical s–t because I never really pursued acting at all. I did a performance at a local festival when I was 14 and one of the judges asked to manage me. That being the first like “industry” nod I had ever gotten I jumped at it. Soon thereafter though she started like, pressuring me to try acting, to which I responded “suck my balls.” But eventually she convinced me that it would help me establish my face, brand myself, all that retarded s–t I hate thinking about. Three years later when I was 17, I got a phone call personally to go audition for a show called Degrassi. Now I had never watched it before and I was right in the middle of making a mixtape, but I figured “Hey, I remember that one lady telling me this is a good idea that one time, why the hell not?” So I went. I had actual lines of dialogue to remember first, then I spit a 16. Next thing I know I have to get an agent and pull my pants up to my waist because I’m on a television show. So I guess the point of what I’m saying is, I was planning on using the exposure to help my rap career, and figured I was set; until one day I went to the green room and a couple of my cast mates were playing “Best I Ever Had.” I had no idea who made the song and I really didn’t care because I hate the radio and I never know what the new cool thing is anyway. But when they told me it was by a guy named Aubrey I was like “Who the f–k is that?” and next thing I know I was smashing my head into a wall because I knew EXACTLY what this was going to mean for me and Hip-Hop. But to be honest, I kind of strive off of people underestimating me and brushing me off at first.
TI: I read in your PR materials that Eminem is one of your biggest influences. What is it about him and his music that resonates with you?
DN: His attitude. As much as it fluctuates depending on how he’s feeling or what he’s talking about, one thing stays consistent; he will say EXACTLY what’s on his mind. And not you, me, or Hova himself will change that. That idea is quite far reaching when you think about the type of person, or the values you have to have to be consistent in that. I truly admire it. Beyond that, as I’ve said since I was 12, he’s the best rapper (from a technical and creative standpoint) that has ever walked the earth.
TI: How would you describe your sound and style for someone who’s never heard your music before?
DN: Real & Raw. As if that s–t isn’t a cliché. Regardless, that’s just how it comes out of my brain. Straight up. I don’t refine the thoughts that I put on paper (beyond the technical aspect of making them rhyme and flow to my desire). A lot of people (especially other emcees) that listen to my music say “Damn, your lyricism is crazy, but I don’t know if people will UNDERSTAND what you’re trying to say, simplify it for them.” I usually respond with, “f–k off.”
TI: How have you grown as an artist since the release of your debut mixtape, Ready or Naught?
DN: Well for one, I’ve gotten a whole lot better at the engineering aspect of the music. Still have work to do, and I can only do so much on lower end equipment, but to hear it from when its recorded to when I’m done mixing is like night and day. Apart from that, I think I’ve really been able to still my mind and create a clearer picture of what I want to capture emotionally before I start writing so it just flows out of my mind better; which has led to less scatterbrained songs. Lyrically, I have stepped it up pretty significantly as well, I think that will stand out big time.
TI: What do people have to look forward to from your upcoming project, Naught Again?
DN: They can definitely look forward to the same raw energy they got on the first tape, but in this instance, it will be a lot more directed. As with anything I put out, it offers a glimpse into my brain and the things that are constantly on my mind. They can expect witty, unapologetic lyricism, coupled with an insatiable hunger that is undeniable. As always they can expect a pretty damn awesome and emotional story, copy & pasted from my life to the page. Plus a few more surprises along the way.
TI: Share a little bit about what went into the creative process for the tape?
DN: As far as the writing process goes, it’s the same as everything I do. I stare at a blank page for an indeterminate amount of time, get the first line right, then I speed-write the whole song. The beats though on this one are all original, some of them I have had since I was 14-15 but I never recorded because I didn’t want to waste such a dope beat on a crappy mic, or a one off song. The project itself though, is the aftermath of Ready or Naught, and where the whole experience put my mind state. It’s also a story of growth and overcoming your own fears or reservations. I’m basically convincing myself to follow my own advice and bring the god damn flames to these bastards; it’s an extremely interesting and introspective journey.
TI: If people could only hear one track off of the tape, which song would you suggest to them and why?
DN: That is one of the hardest questions you could have asked me (haha). Apart from which arm would I rather keep, left or right, I don’t think I’ll ever have the right answer for this. I give people everything I have, I don’t keep anything off of the table when it comes to what I’m willing to show you about my life. With that said if you could promise me Ke$ha would never sing again should I answer this question properly, I would say really take in “Naught Know,” which will be track nine. But don’t get it twisted, if you really want to appreciate any song on the tape, you have to know where it came from. I would HIGHLY recommend listening to the tape start to finish.
TI: What are some of the things you have lined up once Naught Again has officially dropped?
DN: I wish I could get into that, I really do, but unfortunately we’ll just have to wait and see.
TI: When all is said and done, what is it that you ultimately hope to have accomplished through your music?
DN: To prove them all wrong. Sounds cliché, totally, but (<–pretty cliché too) it’s been the truth since day one. On top of my undying love for the art of Hip-Hop, my motivation is showing all these hating, nay saying, underestimating, overlooking, sons of b–ches that I can do this s–t. And do it REAL good.