By Jose Mujica
March 4, 2020
Deniro Farrar recently dropped his latest project, Sole Food, the first offering from the Charlotte rapper since his Re-Up EP, released last year. Farrar combines hard-hitting trap production, catchy soulful southern melodies and illuminating lyrics into an easily digestible and enjoyable platter; cheffing up food for thought as well as food for the soul. While it may be tempting to describe the infectious grooves of the album as intoxifying, Farrar goes extra lengths to ensure it’s the exact opposite. Not masking the unpleasant realities of life by drowning in a muddled psychedelic mix of party bangers, Farrar instead highlights the struggles of everyday people.
The first voice heard on the opening track “King” isn’t Deniro, but that of his protege, Trent the Hooligan, a frequent guest on Farrar’s work. After delivering an animated feature setting the tone for the track, Trent’s squeaky voice gives way to Deniro’s distinctive, gravelly vocals where he wastes no time: “Extra veggies don’t put cheese on my panini / Only time I fuck with meat is when I’m beefin’.” While other rappers are busy name-dropping designer brands and car models, Farrar shines a spotlight on his veganism and a health-focused lifestyle. Later in the opening track, Farrar criticizes those who don’t use the platform or knowledge they wield in a responsible way, “Got all that knowledge but ain’t practice what you preaching. How you your brothers keeper but ain’t never there when they need ya?” These aren’t your typical boastful bars emphasizing hardened street warrior life, but rather lyrics critical of that zero-sum dog-eat-dog mentality that is prevalent in hip hop.
The second track “Sins” uses a similar sample as Future’s megahit “Mask Off,” juxtaposing the billboard-topping drug ballad to spread a message of self-awareness and power. The song begins with a soul-stirring chorus chanting: “Born black into this world, made it hard for me to breathe. Worshipping false gods had me down on my knees. ‘Til I found liberation, now a n***a finally free.” Farrar then goes on to describe the experience of being black in America, the oppressive treatment suffered at the hands of a government and society that seems to follow members of the Black nation as if it were an original sin: “They say I got no rights because I’m black, or do I? / Original man, b*tch, I’m as strong as Kunta / Illuminati want my soul and my body, took the shackles off my brain and loaded up my shotty.” While the mainstream media typically uses the boogeymen of drug-dealing and young black men as the face of danger in our society, Farrar flips this on its head, promoting the necessity of being educated, conscious and militant.
The lesson continues in the third track, “Prison Systems,” as a chain-gang choir harmoniously sings “Slave to our tables, no, we don’t know why. Yeah we’re listening to the devil, no, we don’t know why.” Farrar’s ode to prison abolition explains how our current era of mass incarceration is simply in a new form of slavery: “Federal conviction 98 percent. Meaning they can take your life with none of the evidence…Lynching with no rope, that’s what you call that. Our prisons obsolete, I just wanna ask yall that.” As if he’s condensed Michelle Alexander’s best-selling book, The New Jim Crow, into a catchy jingle, Farrar’s unyielding focus on examining systemic causes of racial disparity in his music elevates him to a level of intellectual that few other artists are even able to compete with.
The rest of the EP follows the same clear-eyed, incisive and unapologetically black perspective with Farrar seeming to rouse out of a slumber with every bit of fire in his belly that he’s shown before. A standout track would have to be “Gon’ Be,” featuring Charlotte greats, Elevator Jay and Lute, making it a verified Charlotte anthem. Farrar also vents his frustrations with his previous record label on the track, which provides some insight on his progression over the last few years. With renewed vigor and an excellent project to remind listeners that he’s never left, Farrar seems to have put those hard-learned lessons to good use. Whether it’s on Instagram, detailing his journey with veganism and spirituality, or in his music, encouraging his audience and rivals alike to raise their content to ever higher levels, Farrar’s genuine drive for improvement is refreshing and nourishing.
Always aiming to improve artistically, emotionally, and individually in order to improve conditions for his surroundings, Farrar’s music is uniquely inspirational and resonant in stark contrast to the ever-increasing waves of clout chasers using hip hop to cash a quick check. Keep those fast food raps for the kids meals, Deniro Farrar is making sure Charlotte is serving up Sole Food.
Listen to the EP Sole Food by Deniro Farrar.