When producer and rapper Tieran Cline was 16, a stranger assaulted him at a Lancaster skate park, punching him in the face so forcefully that it dislodged multiple teeth. In the immediate aftermath, Cline experienced a mix of fear, anger and confusion, unsure of what sparked the attack. He also struggled with lingering feelings of displacement, owing to a gnawing sense that a place that had long served as a retreat for the youngster was no longer a welcoming space.
“The skate park didn't feel like my home anymore, you know what I mean? So I was angry all the time,” said Cline, who was introduced to hip-hop via his early passion for skateboarding. “And anger is depression in men, usually. … Looking back I can see, ‘Oh, that's what you were actually dealing with.'”
These emotions are captured in the earliest tracks on Cline's new full-length, Deep End, surfacing in songs such as “Fuck What You Thought” and “Sick,” which bounce between rage and confusion. As the album progresses, the MC begins to sort these feelings, exploring their underlying causes, including family history (“Mental illness is in my pedigree,” he offers on one song) and a continued tendency to mask his depression and anxiety either through seclusion or behind a veneer of humor. By the record's end, he's addressing his mental struggles more openly — “I'm managing/That was a lie, I'm panicking,” he offers on “Need to Know” — and preparing to take the next steps in his personal evolution.
“The idea was to piece everything together and show [that growth] from 16 to 26,” said Cline, now 27, who will host a release party for Deep End at Wild Goose Creative on Saturday, Sept. 29. “But even though I understand these feelings now, it doesn't mean that they've gone away.”
Cline labored over the musically eclectic album, which swings from piano-driven confessionals to harder, trap-influenced bangers, for more than five years, initially aiming for perfection. Early on, this meant waiting on his lyrical ability to catch up with his production talents. “The music was there, but the lyrics and rapping weren't quite there, and I didn't want to waste this production,” said Cline, who has produced tracks for locals like Senseless and Sarob, among others.
More recently, however, the rapper has learned to let go of some of these perfectionist tendencies, embracing some of these sonic imperfections as part of his larger story.
“I never thought about, ‘Oh, that little bit of static in the mic is because you're doing it at your fucking house on a microphone you bought in college with all the pennies you had.' I think there's a beauty to that, and I didn't appreciate that as a kid; I just wanted the clearest, best thing,” Cline said. “That's the nice thing about that project: I get to hear so much progression throughout it. … For me, it's cool to be like, ‘Damn, you lived in Dayton during that song and you were going through a super big depressive episode and in your first job out of college, which sucked, and you were in a trash relationship. I've experienced so much in that time, and it's all there. It's all in the record.”