Last winter, I sat in a class with a group of artists and we discussed the difference between truth and beauty while arguing whether one was more important than the other in regard to art.
Like any debate, there were people who felt strongly about both subjects, but what seemed most shocking was that most leaned toward the idea that beauty was more important than truth in art. Some emphasized the significance of packaging and marketing, claiming that art itself is the distortion of reality. Some also argued that art, for many, is an avenue of escape and people should not be burdened with “truth” when experiencing it. Others, like myself, perceived art to be a creative depiction of reality that magnifies truth instead of distorting it.
It offers a quality of direction in a world that is, for lack of better wording, all over the place. For example, hip-hop artists such as Tupac Shakur, Public Enemy, NWA, and Wu Tang Clan emphasize the conflicts of poverty, government corruption, and social injustice. They delivered grand truths, focusing on their positions in the world instead of the positions that they are in because of the money and popularity that they’ve generated. They make music for their communities, music that evokes emotion and action. That’s what makes them passionate and what makes other people passionate about them and their music. Likewise, mastermind manager, lyricist, and vocalist DaZay Burnett uses hip-hop to not only express himself, but to portray his experiences and their relationship with other people’s experiences.
DaZay Burnett grew up in Harlem, New York, home of the creative and performing arts where he immersed himself in both. He performed in musicals and talent shows at Beacon High School and attended weekend classes at The Harlem School of the Arts. He established The Vagabondz with his best friend Tyrone during their freshman year in high school. BrokeMc of The Deli Online Publication suggests that the collective sound authentically Westcoast; however, DaZay’s and his counterparts’,Tye’s and Zymoon’s complex, well informed yet, humble lyricism backed by synthetic instrumentals gives them a Wu Tang Clan texture and mien infused with their own organic aesthetic. What makes the group unique is the obvious gap between their age and wisdom. It is most evident in their debut album LESSONS.
DaZay states, "Yeah we definitely get the conscious rap label a lot, which I’m always kinda boosted by because if you peep our earlier tracks on soundcloud (Leopard Interior EP), it’s all sex, drugs, light and dark songs. But that’s just the life we were living at the time growing up in NYC, beefin with other public schools, turnin up at brooklyn free’s (frees= house parties), so the music is like a piece of that moment in time. I feel like we matured fast from that route though, especially with LESSONS, the subject matter is more focused on issues that a lot of people don’t know youth go through in this city, and just our day to day life lessons. Whether that be through songs talking about guns, not being able to afford college, police brutality, or even a lovey dovey song like “Come Tru."
Not only is DaZay a rapper, but he is also a dedicated student and business man. He attended the University of the Arts in Center City Philadelphia as a musical theater major, but has declared Music Business Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) as his major for his sophomore year to educate himself about the music industry in order to manage his collective to the best of his ability.
Though the Vagabondz members are scattered among different universities, they not only find ways to connect with each other, they also use their college experiences as networking opportunities to build their collective.
The current line-up of artists are the following: Vocalist, manager, and lyricist DaZay, rapper Tyrone and Zymoon, hype-men Young Choc and Simon, and producers Broccoli Rabe, DJ Sun, Helixzx, and DJ Fortunes.
Recently on July 22nd, they successfully hosted their second Beast Coast Bondz Bash, bringing in an audience upwards of 100 people. The Beast Coast Bondz Bash is a cultural event that chains upcoming hip-hop artists from different states and puts them on the same stage. The first event’s line-up consisted of local artist from Philly and UArts students. Beast Coast Bondz Bash II was curated of artists from Philly and Jersey.
While it is refreshing to have young artists commit to maintaining the politically and socially responsive nature of hip-hop culture, the glorification of violence, money, drugs, and casual sex are also facets of it. For some, it is a mask. For others, it is a part of life that should be exhibited in art like every other human experience. Growing up in Harlem, New York, there were moments when those things were aspects of Burnett’s existence and subsequently reflected in his earlier music, specifically his collective’s EP, Leopard Interior. DaZay; however, has chosen to use his music as a platform to depict a truth that not only resonates with him, but with other people.
He uses his voice to speak for those that cannot be heard, and he stated "I just write about how I perceive the world, and I’m inspired by life experiences and stories I hear from teens from Harlem who feel they don’t really have a voice in society just because where we are and how black youth are perceived. Regardless of how the media tries to make it seem, we’re not all the same and I feel like I have a duty to talk about what I see in my hood on the daily so I just tell my side of the story as honestly as I can. Not every song is pretty and light because it can’t be like that, that’s not how life is for us. We got the turn up songs too don’t get me wrong, but if you have a voice that people want to listen to why not let them know what’s going on out here? That’s just my take, I just want to unify everybody."
The Hook will be following DaZay, as well as The Vagabondz and their music. Stay tuned for this articles corresponding interview to learn more about The Vagabondz, The Beast Coast Bondz Bash, DaZay, and his perception of the role of women and drugs in music and student debt.
For more, check out the links below!
DaZay Burnett: Facebook // Soundcloud // Datpiff