Blog: My First Fucking Album Is Out

I’ve been trying for the past few days to think of another time in my life where I can remember feeling this proud of myself.

I thought about when I was six years old and had just moved to Georgia with my family and had finally learned how ride a bike by myself that summer. I thought about the award ceremonies that my elementary schools would have every semester and the academic recognition I would receive consistently. I thought about when I was 11 years old in early 2006, and I had just did my first professional photoshoot. I thought about summer 2010, when I recorded my first verse on a song. I thought about April and October 2011, when I won Prom Prince and Homecoming King back during my high school years. And of course I thought about May 2012, when I graduated from high school.

I even thought about how far I’ve come in my college career, to being less than three months away from obtaining my bachelor’s degree — but none of these moments, at least to me, amount to the pride and excitement that I feel right now, after the release of my first album.

I had been listening to, writing, and literally obsessed with music since I can remember. It was always a dream of mine to create a body of work and to put it out into the universe — something that could never be taken away from it.

I did that, in December 2014 when I released my first ever collection of music, Midnight on Cloud Nine, an EP consisting of nine songs that I released for free via SoundCloud. The dark and moody EP, in my opinion, achieved its goals: sonic cohesion, honesty and vivid autobiography. I wanted it to be an in-depth introduction to me, to “Damez” as an artist and to the world. So I worked on it for about a year, tapping into my influences and sampling artists from Nancy Sinatra to Lil’ Troy to contemporary pianist Brian Crain to tell my story. I even documented the whole process and released a documentary short film along with it. Do not get me wrong, I’m still very proud of it.

After it was released, I was an artist now, officially. It was no longer a far-fetched dream, backed with excuses and broken promises. It was a real, audible thing. That no one could take away from the universe. And since then, I’ve traveled to a plethora of cities including Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Houston, Los Angeles, Detroit, Columbia and Miami. In the midst of all of this, I moved to Dallas, Texas for about 6 months and took a semester off from school. All of these different trips and experiences played a major role in the inspiration behind the music.

But there is something much different this time around than how it felt with my first project. The feeling is far more triumphant. I had to set different goals for my next project. I set a goal to create an LP this time, a full-length studio album that featured original production and that showcased my musicality in ways that I weren’t able to express previously. I set a goal to be more hands-on with the production as well as the intricate mixing of every track. I set a goal to further showcase my eclectic musical influences, to bend genre margins and be more trusting in myself vocally, lyrically and creatively. I set a goal to release this album globally, in digital stores and on all major streaming platforms to increase accessibility as well as the professionalism behind my brand. I had set a goal to create visuals to accompany the album that would compliment the music and allow me to be more expressive. I started working on the project right after the release of my last one, and it feels damn good to be able to say that, after 2 long years, I’ve accomplished all of those goals.

“The Art of  Extravagance” was released independently on February 6, 2017 on digital stores including iTunesAmazon and Google Play, and on all major streaming platforms such as SpotifyApple MusicTidalGroove, and more. While predominantly alternative hip-hop/rap, the album taps into different genres including R&B, alternative, and pop. It is a collection of sixteen tracks, with artistic contributions from Cartier, Kassim Hariri, Averette, and Quin Price and production from Deko (Migos, K. Camp), LilJuMadeDaBeat (Gucci Made, 21 Savage), Lee Roundtree, Jake Engel, Kevin Fortune, and LA Chase.

It also features voicemails left by my grandmother, an excerpt from an interview with Nina Simone, and a chilling monologue excerpt from activist Staceyann Chin. The intimate subject material on the album features consistent themes such as love, family, drugs, sex, travel, and heartbreak, as well as sociopolitical themes such as intersectionality, racial affairs, homophobia, black on black crime and police brutality. I literally poured my heart and soul into this album, paying close attention to strategically layering my vocals and transitioning the songs in a way that flowed cohesively. The biggest inspiration behind it, simply, was life.

I constantly update my website, I try to keep my portfolio updated, and I have also released two music videos (and behind the scenes videos of those videos, too) to accompany the album as well, with more visuals on the way. The best part about being independent is being able to do everything my way. While it does get overwhelming at times wearing so many hats, I know that no one can successfully achieve my vision like I can. No one is in control of my brand, my music, nor my presentation but myself. And I am very proud of that.

As you can probably tell by now,  I work hard. It’s not always easy being an artist: songwriter, tapping into production and audio engineering, a webmaster, manager, label exec, video director, choreographer, model, dancer, and full-time student, all by yourself. But I do the best I can, and I’m not complaining. I enjoy every second of it.

I wanted to be as transparent, honest and expressive as I could possibly be on this record, tapping deeply into my mind and heart for these songs that will now be in the universe for an eternity. It wasn’t easy. Some of these songs are uncomfortably personal. I struggled a lot with how personal and intimate I wanted to be, and I sat with a lot of songs for over a year and a half to ensure the quality and longevity in them as individual tracks. It took me two long years to finally get this out into the world, but I am extremely proud of myself and probably will be spazzing out for quite some time.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible. Read the CREDITS, LYRICS, and THANK YOU NOTES here.

Damien HendersonComment