Demone Carter is an emcee with an encyclopedic understanding of hip-hop’s history and cultural influence. His lyrics are punchy, candid bits of verse that often abandon figurative language in favor of something more instructive and direct. Learning this craft began for him as a middle schooler. He took apart a pair of headphones and fed the wire through his sleeve so he could palm the tiny speaker, press it to his ear, and listen to Public Enemy and KRS-One in the classroom—and not be discovered. The lesson he took from that music is very much alive in his work today. He examines the American dream and includes the baggage that comes with it. His upcoming album, Woke Enough to Dream, explores the injustice that pervades American history. For Carter, this subject matter necessitates a style of rap that goes beyond its roots as party music.
“There’s definitely rap for rap’s sake, where it’s really just about putting colorful words together. I love to listen to that type of rap, but I’ve never been good at it. I’m most effective when I’m figuring out how to convey a concept and make it rhyme. Conscious rap approaches rap as lecture—and the end result is like a mousetrap. You know the mechanics of the trap, how all the pieces work together, and if everything works out, it snaps at the right time. It’s this clarity of thought through the rhyming.”
This article originally appeared in Issue 9.5 “Profiles”
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