Camara Flame from Crown Jewel Mag reviews the Midnight on Cloud Nine EP by Damez in this thorough perspective. Check out the article and review below!
Take the World: Damez's Rise to Royalty
By: Camara Flame
Frequently, I now wonder; where is the real music? The honesty and believability of it all? The profundity? I’ve been feeling as if something is missing when I listen to the genre of hip-hop music that is being produced and supported these days. The messages behind the music have become negative, degrading, ignorant and offensive; they lack real substance, honesty and offer warp realities from the faces that are representing the songs. The music lacks compassion, stories and significance. Commonly, the artist display themselves distastefully and immorally. I listen to the radio presently and often find myself disgusted and humiliated at what I am hearing and constantly flipping through the stations, frustrated and confused. It’s all becoming one big blur to me and the feeling is very wretched. For an avid music lover like myself, it’s nearly become a disaster.
While expressing these feelings to my brother over a phone conversation, he referred me to an extended play that a good friend of ours, Damez had released. For as long as I have known Damez, nearly four years, I've always viewed him as being a person who was very poised, intellectual, reserved and had confidence written all over him. Through observing him endure horrific personal tragedies in his life; I always looked to him and wondered how he held his composure and sanity. Truthfully, it came as a total surprise to learn that he was an aspiring rapper and had released an entire EP. I had the opportunity to listen to his work of art, Midnight on Cloud Nine and immediately I felt an instant connection to it. While experiencing this mysterious and profound journey, I found myself remembering the lyrics and feeling as if I had found a diamond in the rough. This was not solely based on having a friendship with Damez; there was a pain his voice and his lyrics that was familiar to me. At last, I found the authenticity and originality of music that I could personally relate to; I felt as if he was literally expressing the emotions that I sheltered deep inside. The music to me was so pure and refreshing. As curiosity hit me in the face, I immediately reached out to him to speak more in depth about Midnight on Cloud Nine and how the pursuit to recording his own original music began.
Originally of Jackson, Mississippi, twenty-year old Damez was born Damien Henderson on April 27, 1994; the youngest of four boys. Damez described his childhood as being normal, healthy and a blissful time in his life, having moved to the metropolitan Atlanta area when he was six and settling in DeKalb County, Damez stated transitioning from Mississippi to Georgia was smooth and tranquil for him and his family. Musically, he fondly reminisced on his youth as he reflected on writing songs with his cousin Brandon and older brother Ryan as a child and stated that since he can remember music has always had a monumental effect on his life.
“Every kid always finds that thing that they cling to," he says. "My brother Ryan was into sports, he was always outside playing basketball. My other older brother was into video games and he would be channeled into that. I would always be around my boom box with my CD’s.” He acknowledges singer-songwriter and superstar entertainer Beyoncé as his first formal introduction to music with "Bills, Bills, Bills" by Destiny’s Child being one of the first songs he could remember hearing as a child. He confesses that he is into "dark" and "moody" music and some of his biggest musical influences include Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, Kid Cudi, Lana Del Rey, Eminem, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Empire of the Sun and fellow Mississippi native Big K.R.I.T.
Damez released his debut EP entitled Midnight to Cloud Nine on December 9, 2014 through SoundCloud and on his website. The extended play was originally titled Supreme (after one of the featured tracks), however shortly after it was changed to Midnight on Mount Olympus before he settled on the current title.
It features nine tracks in which Damez tells his life story and gives listeners intimate personal details of tragedies he endured. Damez vividly lays his raw emotions on a platform through his lyrics and how he overcame the pain of those different situations. The messages range in a variety of topics from his parents’ divorce during his sophomore year of high school to experiencing heartbreak to living his life and having fun with his friends. He specifically expresses how he faced a sequential spiral of hardships; he tragically lost his older brother Ryan Henderson III in March 2012, one month before his 18th birthday and high school graduation. During this time, one of his closest friends and a vital inspiration behind Midnight on Cloud Nine, Evan Harris, began to serve a ten-year incarceration sentence. Despite schedule conflictions with work and school and dealing with depression and personal insecurities, Damez began production for the project around late 2013. He gives credit to his older brother Ryan, close friend Evan Harris, family, friends and life scenarios as the motivation behind it all.
“There were just a lot of things I had to get off of my chest. I spent a lot of time doubting myself because I lacked the resources. Eventually I had to realize, 'if this is what I really wanted to do ever since I was little, I have to find a way to do it.' I had to find it in me.” Three of his favorite tracks on Midnight on Cloud Nine are "Supreme" (which features a recorded snippet of our dear friend Evan Harris, credited under the moniker "Blackboy"), "The Palisades" and "Take the World." My personal favorites include "Supreme," "Damier," "On the East" and "Sinner."
Beyond the dark, sophisticated beats and vulnerable lyrics, Damez is a very private and humble person, a hard worker and has always pushed himself beyond limits. He is an alumni of Redan High School’s graduating class of 2012. For the duration of his high school years he won many awards and received an impressive amount of recognition among his peers; he was the elected Prom Prince during his junior year, as well as Homecoming King, “Most Fashionable” and served as Editor of the yearbook during his senior year. Currently he attends Georgia Southern University and is pursuing a degree in Mass Communications & Broadcasting, highlighting that he is just a normal college kid that sleeps, eats, and records whenever he is free from classes, working and studying.
Damez credits his parents as being the people he looked up to the most. With passion and sincerity in his voice, he emphasized on his mother exclusively having the biggest influence on his life.
“I learned a lot about how pride feels from her. Not just knowing what the word means but actually experiencing the feeling of pride. She’s so strong….forget how successful she is. She’s really the epitome of a strong successful black woman. There’s nothing like seeing a black woman who is in a position of power and who is giving orders in America. It makes me so proud and it’s so deep; I really can’t even put it in words. I don’t think she will ever understand how I feel. I just know if she can do what she did, I just can’t be unsuccessful. She set the bar really high.”
What makes Damez different from other upcoming artist and musicians in Atlanta? From his perspective, the definition of ‘different’ can be flawed. He states, “Some people choose to not be who they really are but realistically, we’re all different. I just choose to embrace my individuality. I embrace every side of who I am, and it took me a while to do that. I’m still learning. I know I’m a work in progress and not all the way there, but you become more comfortable with who you are with time. From a musical aspect, I feel like I’m different because I don’t rap the normal cliché lyrics of a rapper from Atlanta. My story is my story and nobody has a story like mine.”
Overcoming difficult situations can be challenging, traumatizing and scary at times, but how you choose to deal with the emotions that surface makes up the dynamics of who you really are. It is how a person can organically and honestly face those painful realities and triumph above it all that speaks volumes about their character. I ask myself when dealing with difficult times, “Will it make you or break you? Will you sink or swim in this thing called life?” There are lyrics from the closing track on Midnight to Cloud Nine, "Take the World" which goes along the lines; “I can’t give up / it won’t get the best of me / I know I can take the world/ I know I can take the world.” It is very apparent that Damez believes in the lyrics he wrote as he indicated the best advice he’s ever received was not to give up on his dreams or his life.
“Don’t give up! It’s just that simple. It’s really easy to give up. Don’t give up because the rewards are worth it in the end when you push yourself!” he states. Conclusively, Damez symbolizes the progressive and consistent pursuit to growth, greatness, breaking stereotypes and embracing your identity. It is his resilience and tenacity that has carried him so far in the midst of adversity and enables him to rightfully redeem his crown as upcoming musical royalty. In my eyes, there is no uncertainty that Damez will soon be capturing the TV screens, music playlists and hearts of avid music lovers like myself from all walks of life and taking the world by storm.