From the classroom to the studio, renowned artist D Smoke continues to educate and inspire those around him. The road to becoming an artist was inevitable as he grew up in a family who lived and breathed music all day every day. His mother, brother, uncle, all played and made music that filled the young D Smoke’s soul with fire and song. His latest album Wars & Wonders is the product of lockdown fever where he found much inspiration. D Smoke does it all and we’re excited for you to keep getting to know him below and make sure to follow him on his journey to success!
D Smoke On…
Surround yourself with like minded people. Your friends are a reflection of you.
Family is a blessing but sometimes the family you choose plays a bigger role in you living out your purpose.
Everything is evidence of a higher power if we open our eyes. Hardships can only be one of two things: tests or distractions. Neither of which negate our inherent connection to a loving source.
On GENDER EQUALITY
I believe that people should be treated fairly, compensated based on their competency, and respected as a human regardless of their gender.
On SOCIAL MEDIA
Don’t let the cyber world distract you from what’s real. We’re in a world where we suffer from overstimulation from “fast food” technology. We have to ground ourselves daily.
On CLIMATE CHANGE
There’s not enough accountability measures on the large corporations that overproduce and ultimately destroy our environment.Technology and resources should all be aimed at preserving the earth.
On IMPORTANCE OF POLITICS
Politics can be trash, but to ignore it is to leave politicians in the hands of people who only seek to serve their own interests so we still have to participate.
Technology is like food. Some of it is junk and has detrimental consequences on your health, and others are helpful and healthy. We just have to balance our diet.
On IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAL STYLE
Be you. That’s when it looks Be-you-tiful.
On CULTURAL DIVERSITY
We all have a unique fingerprint to contribute to the world and our respective regions, religions, and families have given us so much to share. The better we facilitate cross-cultural exchanges, the more wealthy we will be.
Share with us the process of writing your latest album, War & Wonders. What was that roller coaster like?
War and Wonders was initially born out of the frustration of having to stay at home amidst the biggest break of my professional career as an independent artist. Black Habits was receiving worldwide acclaim and people around the world were anticipating a tour…that never happened. For so many reasons, I was at war with myself, the world around me, and what I believed my purpose to be at this time. But just like other hard times I’ve faced, there was a silver lining–a light at the end of the tunnel. Many creative songs were derived from that sense of isolation. Between then and now, I’ve lost loved ones, got married, explored the landscape of digital concerts, traveled abroad and made music that will forever grow my legacy as a creative. War & Wonders wasn’t the first name we had in mind, but it was certainly the most fitting.
What aspects of the creative process came from the heart and those from the brain? Are you more on the emotions or radical thinking side when you create?
I always aim to strike a balance between my heart and my brain when creating. I’ve always wanted to make music that’s needed, not just put out whatever “works”. I come from a place where people don’t think enough, but it’s also a place where it requires a great deal of heart and courage to make it out and to believe in yourself despite your bleak surroundings. So when I think of matters of the heart, I don’t initially imagine romantic love. I imagine courage, inner strength and a great sense of purpose that drives a person. In that sense, my music is full of heart. Ironically, there are songs that very directly address love, relationships and family and those who are very close to home. This album has a great balance, but I think it takes a lot of radical thinking to close out a project in a very specific way. At the beginning you can create with all heart and passion, but to make it palatable, it takes thought, planning and design.
Tell us more about your musical upbringing and how it influenced your decision to become an artist.
Similar to any other kid, my passion for music came from exposure. If I grew up in a family of chefs, I would probably want to open a restaurant (even though I love to cook anyway). If my father was a firefighter, I’d more than likely strongly consider that as an option for myself, considering that he did so with the same passion and excitement that I witnessed my mom exhibit when she was singing in church. When I watched my mother sing while playing the piano in front of over a thousand people, I knew that I’d do something musical. Then I’d go to my uncle Andrew’s house and watch him create a beat in his at-home studio that looked like a space station. He went on to be the musical director for Chaka Khan, Prince and many more. As far as I was concerned, I had big shoes to fill and I was up for the challenge.
Outside of that, my brothers and I were groomed to be professional musicians. My mother used to stand us around the piano and give us regular lessons on music theory, teaching us concepts of pitch, chords and scales, harmonizing and even runs. This at-home tutelage began when I was only 5 years old and continued up until my teenage years. At that time our passions expanded to writing, producing and becoming executives of our own company. We almost didn’t have a choice.
Do you and your brother, SiR, work together on songs? How does your musical styling differ?
My brother SiR and I have been doing music together for our entire lives. As adults, we both found our own styles and continued to explore them. Now we both have respect for each other’s creative approach because we admire one another’s commitment to our art and respect the mastery in what we do. Nowadays, we just take each other’s lead. If he has a song that he’d like me to be a part of, he’s usually already fleshed out a verse and a hook and wants me to add my sauce to it. That’s how it happened with “Common Sense”, but in the reverse. I had already had a verse and a hook and wanted him to jump in and do his thing, and he didn’t disappoint.
What pushed you to learn Spanish? How does rapping in Spanish differ from English?
I went to a predominantly Latino middle school and all of my friends spoke Spanish. At the time, I felt left out and I committed to learning no matter how long it took. So when I got the opportunity to take a Spanish class at Inglewood High School, I was one of the only students who was actually there to pick up the language. I got a solid foundation there and continued at UCLA where I eventually changed my major to Spanish Literature. That was one of the best decisions in my life. Even though it didn’t sound impressive like Molecular Cell Development Biology or Engineering, it was something that changed my life and expanded what had already become a unique identity for myself.
I slowly started incorporating rap into my lyrics just because I could, but when I performed at Whiskey Agogo in 2011, opening up for Kendrick Lamar in front of a crowd of only about 800 people, I discovered that it was the very thing that would change my career and distinguish me from others. When the band dropped out and I began rapping in Spanish, a crowd that was already captivated by our performance (Myself, SiR, Tiffany Gouche, and Davion Farris, my other brother) went into an uproar! For the following bars, I could barely hear myself. Everyone’s hands were in the air and you could feel the crowd bouncing to every kick and snare.
Rapping in Spanish is actually quite easy because the language is so poeting and it begins to rhyme even when you’re just speaking. So now it feels natural and enjoyable.
You also love to box. Share with us a time you were going through it and how boxing helped.
I was a late bloomer in Rap in particular, but I’ve been fighting all my life. I believe it’s a beautiful metaphor for summoning the necessary will to overcome obstacles. Naturally I also look to boxing in hard times. In 2011, I lost my best friend Chiz to Lymphoma cancer after a three year battle. At that time, I threw myself into the sport, taking on matches against far more experienced fighters. I quickly developed my skill set and won 3 amateur matches in a year’s time. I had plans to turn pro but circumstances didn’t allow me to do so, thankfully.
You were a teacher and still continue to work with kids. What do you hope to bring to them?
Teaching was my true training ground. I believe the world is witnessing more of a teacher than they are a traditional rapper; I just happen to occupy rapper spaces. But the true work of a teacher is to inspire, and the best way to do so is to challenge the paradigms of the students in order to get them to see themselves in a higher light. I’m excited to continue to do this work in other capacities. I’ve invested in Broadway Boxing Gym and look forward to developing this space so that it can serve as a hub for the youth, the community and the boxing world.
What do you believe your purpose is?
My purpose is to introduce people to the divinity within them. Once people connect to their source, then they will spread light everywhere they go. They will inspire, they will teach, they will show love. Music has the power to do that.
If you could give one message to our readers right now, what would it be?
We are created by God like God. So when things are difficult, search for the meaning in it and use hurt as fuel to make it count. Spread love and fight for what you believe in.
Talent D SMOKE @dsmoke7
Photographer ERIC LAROKK @ericlarokk
Styling & Creative Director AMBIKA “B” SANJANA @styledbyambika
Videographer PHILLIP LEWIS @phlipisme Videographer
KIEFER ANDREW @kiefer_andrew
Styling Assistant BRIANNA JENNINGS @thehaiirqueen
Grooming COLLEEN DOMINIQUE @colleendominique
Interview ALEXANDRA BONNET @alexbonnetwrites
Location FD STUDIOS @fdphotostudio
Production @bellomediagroup x @maisonpriveepr_la x @alexbonnetwrites