Rapper's new EP exists in an imagined night club but is still based in day-to-day realities
Sonically, AfterhOurz, the long-in-the-works new EP from rapper Dom Deshawn, suggests a modern update on a Prohibition-era speakeasy, the musician dropping his verses atop a smoky musical backdrop steeped in vintage jazz and soul.
The recording's late-night feel is partially fueled by the hours Deshawn, an admitted night owl, logs while working second shift at a warehouse. The musician's typical workday runs from 2:30 p.m. until 11 p.m., meaning it's not unusual for him to order his first round at the bar when most are cashing out and heading home. The shadowy vibe was further shaped by Deshawn's fondness for classic Hollywood films such as “Casablanca,” the likes of which formed the basis for a since-scrapped recording dubbed The Noir EP that he started in earnest in 2014.
While Deshawn never finished the planned EP, some of its themes and sonic details surface on AfterhOurz, a loose concept record centered on the action at a fictional Columbus night club.
“I thought of [AfterhOurz] as an actual place, and I wanted [the music] to have that feel to it,” said Deshawn, 27, who will perform an album release show at Two Truths on Friday, Dec. 29. “With everything from the [album] artwork to the release event, I wanted to build on that concept.”
The rapper's lyrics, however, are based in day-to-day realities rather than imagined hot spots, with Deshawn detailing the struggles of working a blue-collar job and inviting listeners along for low-key bar hangs centered on observation and introspection rather than splashing the club in Cristal.
A handful of verses also touch on relationships and love, subjects as timeless as the musical guideposts that form the backbone of the EP — “You can listen to a song from 1960 or '70 talking about love and still completely relate to it,” Deshawn said — and long a staple in the rapper's down-to-Earth lyrical approach.
“When I sit down to write a song, I can't write about shit I'm not going through or that I can't relate to,” Deshawn said. “A lot of the artists I really love, and the music I really love from them, is from before they made it, where they're living a regular life and speaking on those subjects. I know sometimes we love living vicariously through artists … but, for me, the ones I really relate to are the ones who are talking about what I go through on a daily basis. I try to keep a focus on my life to a point where it's almost a verbal journal. I can listen to old projects and know exactly where I was in that moment.”
In recent years, this has meant a lot of hours logged in the warehouse, which informs the working man blues of “Second Shift Struggle,” and, in a sense, the entirety of AfterhOurz, a bulk of which Deshawn composed while on the clock.
“We're allowed to listen to music at work, so if there's a song I'm working on, I'll have my headphones in and I'll have the beat playing, and I'll build,” said Deshawn, who estimated he does 80 percent of his writing in this manner. “There are little to no distractions at work. There are no TVs, and I'm not allowed to be on my cellphone. Being shut off from the world helps me focus.”