West Charlotte-bred Deniro Farrar’s latest release is called “Mind of a Gemini II” and there may be no better example of the dichotomy of that particular astrological sign than Farrar himself.
An artist who speaks of the grim realities of young black men in a gravelly voice as deep and tough as his subject matter, he is also a father and avid reader who does yoga in Freedom Park and promotes healthy living on his Instagram feed, when not playing chess with his niece and two boys.
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Wednesday morning, he posted a video on Instagram reiterating the message of his 2014 track “Notice” – a shoutout to women who are balancing motherhood with work and school. On the flipside, his videos sometimes tell dark, violent tales of oppression, crime and circumstantial misfortune.
He’s been dividing his time between an apartment in Brooklyn and Charlotte, but spent much of the summer on tour. He plays the Rabbit Hole on Friday with other artists, including Indigo Joe and Duru tha King.
On May 21 he released the “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” EP, which he’d been working on since before his brother Anthonio was convicted of second-degree murder in August 2015.
“A lot of people don’t know about my little brother that’s incarcerated – I dropped it on his birthday,” Farrar says over tea at Nova’s Bakery on Central Avenue. Although Farrar finished the EP a while back, his label, Warner Bros., didn’t want to release it.
“They were telling me it didn’t have commercial appeal. I was telling them I don’t make music for commercial appeal. I can’t let somebody dictate how I express myself through music. This is the only freedom I have. This art I make is my real liberation, my real sense of freedom,” he says. So he released “Red Book” and put “G.U.P.I.” on hold until he could release it independently.
“I talk to him on the regular,” he says of Anthonio, who was 23 when convicted. Farrar can’t visit his brother in prison, he says, because of the felonies and misdemeanors he racked up in his early 20s.
“He’s a strong-minded guy. He reads a lot. I’m encouraging him to get into chess. Chess is a great escape. You travel to a world of infinite impossibilities looking at that board and that symbolizes the world and the endless possibilities of what you can do,” he says.
The episode with Warner was yet another signal that Farrar wasn’t in the right place, he says, and he’s in the process of parting ways with the label.
“They want to keep us rapping about partying and (b.s.) and drugs,” he says of the corporate side of the music industry. “They know music is powerful and we’ve got a big platform. If we say things to liberate the minds of the people, they do it. Future could say go read a book, and they’d do it. But Future wouldn’t be getting no check from saying that. They’re going to keep your pockets fed. I’m going against that.”
He thinks about his time: “The yoga, spending time with my babies – at the end of the day I don’t consume myself with music. You have entertainers where that’s all they do... Lil Wayne is like a big brand. When does he have time to turn off his phone? He can’t.”
And he thinks about the consequences and challenges of raising his two 4-year-old sons, with their respective mothers: “Being black ... seems like is getting more dangerous, but then raising emotionally stable, critical-thinking young black men at this time, at the height of the internet, police brutality, GMO food, chemical warfare, the state of the world, healthcare, politics: You got all those things stacked up against you.”
As with everything Gemini, there’s a balance to reconciling the negatives of what is with the way he wants them to be.
“Deniro Farrar is almost a vision board. He’s an extension of me. He is who I aspire to be. I’m Dante a lot of days. I can’t show the world too much of that. We should all aspire to be our higher selves. I have a choice and there’s enough darkness.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave.