Ryan interviews Damien "DMunzzz" Palacios, Hip-Hop artist and producer. Damien gives us an inside look at his fledging career, his creative process, and the challenges of the competitive music industry.
Where are you originally from?
I was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. At age 12, my family and I moved to Spanish Harlem on the Upper East Side. I'm a thoroughbred New Yorker.
When did you first start getting involved with hip hop?
Growing up with two older brothers during the early 90s, Hip hop was the culture in my house. I grew up mimicking the way my brothers dressed and talked. Their style was Hip hop to the max. I guess it's safe to say I was born into it.
Who were your biggest inspirations when you first started out?
I think what inspires me is the overall challenge of the art itself. Being able to communicate to people in rhythm and rhyme and to have people relate to my concepts. Growing up, I really liked Biggie Smalls, Ma$e, Method Man and Eminem. They were definitely the artists I studied and wanted to be like.
What was the club scene like growing up?
The club scene is a very interesting place. I've grown so much from when I first started going out. I would use it as an escape from all the hard work I was putting in at the studio; a place to unwind and not focus on my goals. Then I started to notice how important the club scene is In this field. Meeting and networking with Djs, label execs, and even other artists is crucial. So now I try to use it as a business breeding ground. Some people close deals on the golf course... some close them in the club.
When did it become a business for you?
In 2010, I started learning about networking and brushing shoulders with DJs and other industry heads. Landie Love, (my producer) is a master at networking and using events/venues to have an impromptu informal meeting with people. I've seen him close deals and book me shows while dancing in the club.
Was there a pivotal moment/person/experience that solidified that this is what you wanted to pursue as an artist?
I've been writing songs and lyrics since about the 4th or 5th grade, but I mostly kept it to myself. By 8th grade, I had gained more confidence in sharing my music. I became a little more popular and everyone in school knew who "D-Money" was. (D-Money was eventually shortened to DMunzzz) Even the faculty knew about my music, and I was actually asked to write and perform a song for a musical my school was putting together. It was my first real performance! I got to rap in front of my classmates, my parents, strangers, and even my principle. I've never felt more free and in control in my life. It's a high that I've been chasing ever since.
What do you feel you bring to the table that other artists may not?
I think I bring a lot of honesty. Alot of the stories or situations I mention in my music come from a real place. Whether it's pain or partying, it's something I've either dealt with or someone close to me has encountered.
I'm a private and quiet person around strangers so I look at my music as a way of opening up to people about who I am and what I perceive. I also feel that with alot of newer music and artists, there tends to be alot of facade. They want to be "cool" or they want to be "badass". I've never wanted to be an image. I've always just wanted to be me.
What is your process of creating?
It's a very unique process. Over the years I've collected a good amount of instrumentals/beats and have loaded my most recent favorites onto my phone. I also travel alot. So I write while traveling. I tend to write in bits and pieces. For example, I'll start writing one song/concept and only get a verse done or just a chorus and then when I feel the creative juices start to decrease, I'll just switch the beat to wake up my brain and start writing to that. It allows me to not feel the need to force anything while keeping me fully conscious of what I'm writing.
As for the concepts of songs, It usually comes from my experiences or what's happening around the world. Since I focus on being honest with my music, the themes and concepts come really easy but sometimes the subject matter is controversial. For example I did an Anti "Stop & Frisk" song. I wrote that because of my frustration with the NYPD and their prejudice.
Are there any certain themes or messages you really try to convey in your lyrics or rhymes?
Yeah, definitely. There are the party songs that I do and I make alot of that style of music because it's fun and it makes people dance. But I absolutely love making music with a progressive message behind it. I also like to write episodes of my life into the music. On my last release, Off-Campus Housing, I have a song called, "Broadcasting Live" which is really inspirational, positive, and progressive. Then you have "Last Words" on my upcoming LP, OCH 2: The Meal Plan. There's another song where I open up about losing friends. I try to convey real life emotions and scenarios. Just trying to stay reflective and honest. Those messages tend to be the best.
What is it about this genre of music that appealed to you most?
I was born into it. I grew up in the New York City Public Housing system with two brothers that used to graffiti, break dance, and rhyme, so it was all around me. Hip Hop is probably the most competitive genre. In Hip Hop, other artist will call you out if you're not being genuine. You'll never see Garth Brooks make a song about Taylor Swift, and that's fine. But what appeals to me is the overall competitive spirit of the genre. I love it.
Where did #offcampushousing originate from?
My producer, Landie Love, and I sat down to brainstorm a bunch of terms that can relate to the music and could also be a double/triple entendre. #OffCampusHousing was my favorite out of our list because it was able to inspire scenery in itself. When you hear "OffCampusHousing", it conjures up images of college parties and that type of stuff. That's the party side of my music. Then on the flip side, off-campus housing can embody the feeling of being off campus and in the real world. Out of school and trying to figure out the next move. This represents my more serious and reflective music.
Any interesting stories from your live performances?
Nothing too too crazy yet! But I have an interesting story. There was a time in Boston where I was supposed to perform about 30 mins at this venue. When we get there, we learned that no one had tested the equipment in years. The microphones barely worked, too. Since we had already traveled so fa,r we weren't leaving without rocking a crowd. So we took the risk of just playing the original songs and having me lip sync it. I just put the microphone really close to my face and over-acted each lyric. It worked like a charm! Probably because everyone at the bar was hammered drunk...
You've had an EP out for a while now. What was it called? What was it like recording that album? Any interesting stories?
Yeah I released my 2nd solo project called, Off-Campus Housing: The Legend of DMunzz. It's a fun process because although you have an idea of where you want to take the album, you never get exactly what you originally pictured. For example, with this new album I'm releasing, I finished recording all of the music in November. But since I've continued to write and record, while I've been able to add newer songs in and alter the overall identity of the project.
It's been really interesting to me when I check my social media sometimes and see people I've never met comment about my music. I have fans in both Oklahoma and Alaska. I've never even been to those states! But that's the beauty of the internet.
You take on many roles within your own career, something an up-and-coming artist often has to do. What jobs do you enjoy most in this sense?
Yeah I definitely take on a lot of roles. From writer, marketing, video organization, video production, promotion, bookings. I do as much as I have to. I would say I like doing interviews the most. It's a time I get to reflect and open up and just speak my mind more calmly than I would on a record.
What, in your opinion, defines success in your artistic pursuits?
Well, there are a couple of goals I have in mind when it comes to my career. One thing is of course the accolades and the recognition. I'd really love to win a Grammy one day. That would be a nice one for me on the success belt. The other goal is remaining true to my art form and believing in my process and my vision. I've been successful so far with creating quality material. I'd like to stay conscious of the message I'm sharing.
What is the new LP you are working on? Any themes or new styles you are attempting with this one?
Yes and no. The title is, Off-Campus Housing 2: The Meal Plan. So there is still the off campus theme. You will still get some club music and some thought-provoking music. I've added some faster lyrical flows on a couple of songs. But this is also "the meal plan", meaning this is what I've been digesting. This is what I've been eating that's helped me grow. So it'll be slightly more introspective.
What do you think has been the biggest change in the music industry in the past decade or so?
The internet. Without a doubt. It's changed so much from illegal downloads to global marketing. So many YouTube sensations and so many amazing stories from talent found on the internet. If I'm not mistaken, I think Justin Bieber was found online. Look how that turned out.
What is next for the LP?
Right now I'm at an interesting crossroads. I have all my music recorded and I'm in the process of filming the videos for the singles. Also gathering all emails and websites that I plan to bombard with promo. So this is where I actually stop being an artist and transform to the business/managerial side that I take on.
Any gigs coming up?
Yeah there's always little gigs here and there that pop up. January 17th at Karma Lounge in NYC, I'll be doing a short 30 minute set. I've been lucky enough to know the right people at the right venues. In March, I plan on putting together my 2nd annual "Night Off-Campus" concert where I'll most likely do an hour of live performance. Last year was a super success so I'm really looking forward on riding the momentum!
Where can we find out more about your projects?
www.DamienPalace.com is the official website. It has my vlog, upcoming show dates, music, and more. But of course we are Currently renovating the site so in the mean time, talk to Google. Google and I have a pretty good friendship. So type in Damien DMunzzz Palace and I'll pop up.