Material: Def.sound emerged as an emcee in South Central Los Angeles in 2007. Instead of conforming to the highly influential culture of gangsta rap, he went against the grain with a diverse brand of alternative hip-hop and an unconventional sense of fashion. Today, music by def.sound also encompasses elements of jazz rap, alternative R&B, neo-soul and indie- rock. His rap delivery recalls a lyrical style once utilized by artists such as Kanye West and Souls of Mischief, while the wide-ranging variety of his live shows makes his artistry comparable to musicians like Saul Williams. The conscious hip-hop song “12th Ave. & Jefferson” recounts the hardships at the core of def.sound’s origin story.
Musicianship: Nearly half of the tracks from def.sound’s recent studio album trilogy were produced by his Music Director and primary collaborator, Neon Phoenix. In addition to playing the keyboard and bass guitar during def.sound’s live shows, Neon Phoenix is also responsible for the emcee’s vocal FX processors. The other musician in def.sound’s live band is multitalented neo-soul and R&B percussionist Branden Akinyele. Together, these two instrumentalists help their frontman achieve a diverse live sound that captures the essence of his showmanship and insightful lyrics.
Performance: Def.sound’s live show at Que Sera featured 12 songs from his recent episodic trilogy. The jazz-rap song “Fine Lines” was a groove that set the tone early for a night of dancing on stage and spirited leaps into the crowd. The Los Angeles native also challenged his listeners to view society from his perspective with a socially conscious hip-hop song called “Black Mirrors.” As the solo artist spun his body around, the flashing lights from the venue’s multicolor projector often seemed to drown the image of his silhouette. This visual provided an insightful glimpse into the colorful imagination of this artist while he performed his genre-bending set.
Summary: Not only was def.sound’s show a cinematic demonstration of his inner rage, it also revealed his inner peace and playfulness. He rapped and sang about love, peace, unity, anger, social awareness and treating women better. The emcee also used his set time to engage his audience with several teaching moments about the meaning of his songs. Def. sound frequently emphasized words during his performance, repeating a specific lyric twice, so that his spectators could understand the reasoning behind his rhymes. Overall, the powerful sentiment of def.sound’s live show displayed his potential to transcend his loyal fan base.