Rapper Ray DeeZy is turning out to be as prolific as he is profound, having dropped yet another release this year— a collection of “lost tracks” called Holy City Horror Stories, that all come from a decidedly dark period in his life. This EP showcases DeeZy’s formidable rhetorical techniques, and has him delivering rhymes and driving beats that go deep, in terms of subject matter. We recently caught up with this Goose Creek native to discuss his Gullah roots, his hip-hop heroes, and the way he is always looking to music for healing.
City Paper: Last year’s When It All Boils Down examines the complicated origin stories behind some of the Lowcountry’s best-known cuisine. Is it important to you to honor the place you come from, in your art?
Ray DeeZy: Yeah. Being an artist from Charleston, I feel a certain responsibility for remaining knowledgeable and respectful of Gullah/Geechee culture so that I don’t forget where I came from, but more importantly so that younger generations will know about it, too, and be able to appreciate it, as well.
CP: Did moving away help you appreciate the area more?
RD: Definitely. I moved to Virginia Beach in 2013, and I was so homesick the entire time I was gone. I also sensed that something magical was about to happen with the music scene here in Charleston, so I decided to move back in 2018 to heavily pursue my career and start taking my branding more seriously.
CP: How did you go about positioning yourself upon your return?
RD: I’ve linked up with the fine folks at Rialto Row, and they’ve been the most awesome management team I could have ever asked for. I also have my fiance, Kimberly Bowman of Exquisite Enterprises Inc., watching out for me. Wolfgang Zimmerman is another example of what I am talking about. He’s an amazing producer, and since I’ve been back, he’s become my mentor as well as my new best friend, while helping me perfect my sound and live up to my potential.
CP: Let’s back up a little bit. Who were some of your key influences when you were first getting started?
RD: My musical influences, as far as my producing and sampling go, range from ’70s soul to ’90s R&B. My specifically hip-hop influences include Rakim, AZ, André 3000, Black Thought, Polo-era Kanye, Madlib, J Dilla, Jay Electronica, and Mos Def.
CP: There’s an underlying seriousness to your creative output. What can you tell us about the single “Good $leep,” that you released over the summer, and its accompanying video?
RD: That was me trying to cope with my daily anxiety and depression. I often wake up in the worst mood, causing everything around me to crash and burn. I’m in constant fear of never making it with my music, or somehow failing at life and disappointing my children. I’m not special though. A lot of other people out there in the world are dealing with more serious mental health issues and I wanted my video to let them know that they are not alone. It’s a very sensitive subject and you have to be very careful how you approach it so that you don’t trigger something in others. I deal with a lot of my own issues, and my therapy for all that is to be continually creating music.
CP: It’s amazing that you already have another batch of songs out, but why do you refer to the tracks that comprise the new EP as “Holy City Horror Stories?”
RD: Because I was going through a very scary change within myself during the time these songs were recorded, which was 2011-2015. I had been through a bad break up, I lost my grandmother, and in the end I was left emotionless. It wasn’t all bad, though, because some really good music came from it. In the songs I selected for this release, I’m able to tell the stories from the point of view I had back then.
CP: What comes next for you?
RD: Next up for me is a project with my brother D$. We are working on a joint album, with Wolfgang and myself handling the production duties. We’re putting a lot into it and we want it to be perfect, so we don’t have a specific release date yet. I can tell you that our plan is to release at least one track very soon.