Local music: Debonair

  • Photo by Alysia Burton
By Columbus Alive
From the June 21, 2012 edition

A decade is a long time to rap before releasing an official album, but it’s not like Debonair hasn’t been busy.

“I’m what they would classify as a mixtape rapper,” Debonair said.

Since debuting in 2002, the performer born Lee Debro has kicked out nine mixtapes that show his skills over industry beats. He’s opened for the likes of Drake, Rick Ross, Slum Village, Clipse, Chiddy Bang and Jay Electronica. He just never put together a collection of verses over original beats until now.

The result is “I’m Proud of Me,” which he’ll unveil Saturday with a ComFest afterparty at Circus featuring DJ Giovanny, Themidas Touch, Keilyn, Trek, The Kid Blaze and Willie Max. (The album drops online July 4.)

If “I’m Proud of Me” sounds like the kind of title Drake would cook up, the album-opening title track follows suit with a pretty blatant replication of Drizzy’s melancholic ego tripping. Debonair survives in that context, but he thrives as things open up from there, the cavalcade of beats and rhymes blossoming into something like Wale’s “The Mixtape About Nothing” or Lupe Fiasco’s early stuff, before those guys devolved into caricatures.

It’s not revolutionary music, but the beats bang, and Debonair’s steady stream of pop culture references, boasts and philosophical musings is a step above much of what passes for official rap releases. Although he’s rhyming over original productions by the likes of T-Phil and Abots, “I’m Proud of Me” has the free-flowing feel of a mixtape.

Up next is a series of shows around the Midwest and a video for single “OH10,” set for release the last week of June. Then it’s back to the studio in the continued pursuit of that big breakthrough.

“Usually by now somebody would go back to school and become a nurse’s aide or something,” Debonair said. “It’s been a long road.”