Commander of the pit, Denzel Himself is the new face of punk.
(LEFT) Hat GUCCI, top OH HEY GIRL, coat ALEXIS REYNA, trousers JAEHA
(RIGHT) Dress GUCCI
“I’ve been a straight-edge, hardcore punk for five years now,” says 22-year-old rapper from “south, south London”, Denzel Himself. It’s not what you’d expect from the softly-spoken (and intimidatingly articulate) artist, who’s stood before me in an ankle-skimming Little House on the Prairie style Gucci gown, that is, until you listen to his tracks.
Creating since he was 17, Denzel re-released archive songs this year through his own label, Set Count Worldwide. With the drop of “Thrasher” in February, previewed from April’s “Pleasure” EP, Denzel set the internet alight. “One of the main reasons why we’ve re-released it officially is because a lot of the songs on the EP, like ‘Thrasher’ and ‘Cherry’, I’ll most likely be performing 10 years from now,” he explains without an ounce of arrogance. Sparkling but menacing, with throat-burning squawks and a saxophone interlude, “Thrasher” encapsulates the bubbling anticipation and ecstatic adrenaline release of a pit. The video, directed by Denzel, puts that feeling into motion.
“I actually wasn’t going to do any videos for ‘Pleasure’. I knew that for the visual ideas that I wanted to present, I didn’t have the resources or budget… Then I was like, ‘No!’ I felt like ‘Thrasher’ was a very important song…” he explains of the clip for the 2013-penned track, in the video for which, he and a curated crew of fellow artists of colour spit, vomit and expel their pent up angst amidst a mosh on a basketball court.
“When I go to gigs,” he continues, “hardcore, post punk or punk gigs, I’m usually the only black person there… It’s usually white male dominated and I felt it was important for me to put forth that, in 2017, this is an aspect of hardcore punk… I feel as though it’s important for me to represent and encourage people of colour to delve deeper into their own individual self-expression, as opposed to fulfilling roles that society or the powers at be would like for us to fulfil.”
It’s easy to compare Denzel’s concoction of punk and rap to Tyler, The Creator, in fact, he mentions it himself, saying Tyler’s music, “made me feel like I could do it [too],” but Denzel’s own snarling breed of music stands alone. “I feel if you’re going to do anything as a career within the arts, it shouldn’t be interchangeable,” he explains. “It should be something that is valued in a sense where, if you didn’t exist, there would hypothetically be a void in the arts. I don’t like lateral movements.”
This individualism is something he respects the likes of provocative overlord, Marilyn Manson, for maintaining. “He was able to navigate himself to financial comfort in the mainstream eye whilst sticking to his guns and being true to himself.” Unlike many burgeoning artists who’re eager to avoid mention of their idols, Denzel readily admits he’s indebted to his. “They inspired me and assured me that I can achieve whatever it is that I want to achieve,” he enthuses wholeheartedly. “That’s been the best gift that I’ve received, because that’s why I’m here today… I knew that I could and would achieve anything I wanted to.” Promising more music and videos, 2017 belongs to Denzel.
Taken from the Summer 17 Issue of Wonderland; out now and available to buy here.
Dani Guinsberg at Carol Hayes Management using Bumble and Bumble and Smash Box
KIDS Adventure Playground Hackney