A crossroads in modern
Call it what you will, fate, poetic justice, whatever you want, but just as I sit down at my notes to organise my thoughts for the following article featuring Hip Hop artist Daniel ‘D Minor’ Harvey, Eminem surprise drops Kamikaze.
It’s 4 pm on a Friday and like its name suggests Kamikaze comes crashing out of nowhere. Suddenly I’m sitting in front of my interview notes with a blank word doc listening to Em say “I’m just going to write down my first thoughts and see where this takes me…” on The Ringer.
Kamikaze is a return to raw Slim Shady era Em, not afraid to name names he calls out everything from ‘lil mumblers’, triplet flows, lean and excessive use of ‘ouuuu’ ad-libs. I have to put Kamikaze on pause after The Ringer. I can’t focus on both at once but thanks to Kamikaze's opener I know which direction I’m taking the following article.
Local Sydney Hip Hop artist Daniel ‘D Minor’ Harvey stands at a crossroads in modern Hip Hop.
You may have seen him recently performing on ABC TV or featured as part of Pedestrian.TV's emerging Aussie artists to watch but for Western Sydney rapper and AIM student Daniel 'D Minor' Harvey a future in music didn't always look so certain...
A keen student of Eminem's music, D Minor understands that the fuel for Hip Hop has always been the trials and tribulations of the minority in urban inner-city life, a life both he and Em know all too well. Although aesthetics and cadences may change over time the essential ingredients of Hip Hop have stayed the same.
Its stories told by ‘the other’, it’s social commentary it’s unapologetically in your face.
However, as Hip Hop has matured into the world’s most popular genre it has become a space where your number of followers online can translate into physical album sales for an artist and give them an unchecked platform to voice their opinions without having to address them through their music. Lyricism and storytelling have given way to Reality TV levels of drama and glam rock pageantry which offer an enticingly quick road to mainstream success.
As part of the next generation of Australian MCs D Minor has the potential, lyricism and credentials to establish himself as a leading artist, it just remains to be seen what direction he takes.
Another child swallowed by the system
Emerging from a turbulent upbringing D Minor was homelessness by the age of 11, kicked out of regular schooling soon after that before being heartbreakingly separated from his twin brother at the age of 14 when they were placed in separate foster homes. This upbringing seems to be a part of his life that he prefers to address through his music rather than discuss openly with me.
From what I can work out it was during his time in and out of youth refuges that Daniel was introduced to a music program called ‘Heaps Decent’ which he credits with igniting his passion for music and while he didn’t know it at the time – his current career in music.
Daniel was initially drawn to music as he, “needed an outlet to express what I was going through, and so I latched onto music. Writing lyrics was like therapy for me”.
When not making music D Minor works part-time as a youth mentor running a music education program for a charity called ‘’ (MMAD) that works with disadvantaged kids to help and empower their lives.
His mentor work within the program consists of talking with kids about what they're going through on a daily basis and tying their trials and triumphs back into their music. With a view that nothing in life is ever a setback for your music. Life inspires music and whichever path you have taken just gives you more to write about.
'Concrete Pillow' is a personal story years in the making that gives a harrowing insight into D Minor's history with violence, the foster home system and homelessness.
When not working with MMAD you can usually find D Minor performing live anywhere and everywhere that will put him on in and around Australia as well as internationally. He never stops moving, always looking for opportunities to put his music in front of new audiences and facing tough competition in the current Australian scene D Minor believes "you really have to put your name out there and one of the best ways of doing that is by doing live gigs". However, having played in Los Angeles, D Minor also concedes that Australia just doesn’t have the same depth of Hip Hop venues or opportunities that encourage budding artists to get out there and have their music heard.
As an artist D Minor embodies a work ethic and maturity that belies his youth. To be honest with you, while researching him for this interview, I was working under the impression that he was at least 27 and was surprised to find out that at 23 years old he’s actually younger then I am.
His Instagram portrays a heavily tattooed, physically imposing man who, having heard his upbringing, you probably wouldn’t want to encounter in the cut. That, coupled with his impressive history of achievements, the sheer amount of content he’s put out over the past 3 years he’s been active indicates an artist who carries himself with an air of professionalism and an intense drive to succeed.
D Minor shares his views on the current state of Hip Hop during our recent 'Cypher Class of 2018' Q&A for AIM's 'Off the Record' Series.
From afros and flat-tops to coloured dreads and face tattoos
Having mentioned the challenges the new wave face and how hard it is to stand out from the crowd, our conversation turns to the culture shift affecting Hip Hop today.
Having developed from afros and flat-tops, to jheri curls and high fades Hip Hop has entered it’s ‘glam rock’ phase of coloured dreads and face tattoos. D Minor is entering the industry in an era where followers online can translate to physical sales and give artists a space to voice their opinions without having to address them through their music or lyricism.
“We’ve gotten away from the music and now it’s about what you look like. [Laughs] I don’t want to come out with a face tattoo or dye my hair some ridiculous colour. My plan all along was to put out some raw stuff about what I’ve been through - it’s about storytelling, not how many followers I have on the gram.” - D Minor
That said, D Minor grudgingly admits that in order to achieve success in the music business you need to have the full package – you need to be able to market yourself because “…at the end of the day, you can make great music but if you have no marketing or PR behind it no one will ever hear it.”
This trade-off between music and marketing is the crossroads that both Australian Hip Hop and D Minor are surely approaching. Look at the rise of Lil Pump and Tekashi 6ix9ine in the states. It seems questionable musical ability is no barrier to mainstream success when excellent marketing is involved (which is really nothing new). US rappers and management seem to have realised that contemporary Hip Hop is less focused on music having successfully tapped into the pageantry and drama of artists to the point that Hip Hop now resembles 80s glam rock or reality TV for music fans. If their success has taught us anything it's the importance of marketing and its ability to quickly elevate an inferior product.
A return to Hip Hops roots
However, when I look at D Minor, it becomes clear that he isn’t the type to take any shortcuts when it comes to his life and especially his music. His brilliantly raw lyricism and harrowing insight into life on the streets in 'Concrete Pillow' is a return to Hip Hops storytelling roots and testament to his ability to come out the other side of this experience a well rounded, self-made man and artist. Like his idol Eminem, D Minor understands that Hip Hop began in the streets as an in your face form of social commentary. 'Concrete Pillow' is dedicated to those still in the streets, to the 100 000 Australian's who experience homelessness on any given night with an aim to inspire anyone currently experiencing the struggle for themselves. Before we finished up our interview I asked him how he wants his listeners to walk away from 'Concrete Pillow':
"I guess I just want to remind people that there's support out there and show them that no matter what burden they're carrying that they can overcome that hardship, leave their Concrete Pillow behind and fulfil their potential"
D Minor is on the rise and is certainly one to watch. Adversity hasn't broken him, it's made him stronger, wiser and hungrier to succeed.
If you would like to support D Minor's project simply play/download 'Concrete Pillow' or visit MMAD to learn more about donations and other ways to fight youth homelessness through the power of music.