Photo courtesy of DLRN.
Helping us celebrate the launch of Hyphen's Issue 24 -- The Survival Issue -- is hip hop group DLRN. The group, based in Sacramento, CA, is comprised of two fresh artists, Sean LaMarr and Jon Reyes. LaMarr and Reyes were kind enough answer some questions for us on surviving the ups and downs of the music industry.
Being as this was our survival issue, what does “survival” mean to you as an artist?
JR: As much as folks would like you to think otherwise, a lot of talented artists don't get paid very well. Because of that, it's hard to be creative and strive as an artist when you got a day job, bills piling up, et cetera. So in this context I think survival is really being able to get in that creative space while also dealing with the practicalities of reality that everyone else goes through.
SL: Especially right now, survival is like everything. It takes a great deal of persistence and failure to be a good artist. It makes good art when people are struggling and there’s craziness going on, to make good music happen.
What has been your most rewarding moment doing what you're doing?
JR: It's rewarding when folks tell you how much your music has inspired them, whether to make music themselves or just on some life shit.
What is the toughest part about what you do as an artist?
SL: [laughs] Failure. Right now, music is so accessible, that it’s almost become a limitation. We’ve been really successful with what we’ve done, but as an artist, I want more. As a person, I want more. We want to extend our fanbase, reach more people. With so much music on the Internet, it’s hard to stand out. But with persistence and failures, we’re trying new avenues to be heard.
JR: Relating back to the first question, the toughest part of being a blue collar musician is just being able to stay a musician. Accepting that you chose a different lifestyle/career path from most folks.
Do you see yourself as a leader/activist? How?
SL: I feel like I’m a leader. I was born a leader, in a lot of ways. Raised in Sacramento. But personally, I’m not into spreading my politics around like some other people do. I’m into being myself, trying to be a better artist and a better person. If people can relate to my life and my experiences, then that’s great.
What is one thing you know now about your career that you wish you had known in college?
JR: I wish I would've started making music a little earlier. I didn't really start until the end of college.
SL: Gosh. There’s a couple things. I wish I had made music sooner! I just love music so much, I was not confident enough to be an artist for a long, long time. I had loved music so much, I couldn’t imagine myself up there as an artist. But I wish I had started earlier -- I could have been at this for a long time! I hear about my friends who started rapping at 12, 13, and I’m like what?! [Laughs] I feel like I’m behind the learning curve. I started writing at 17 or 18, didn’t start performing until I was about 20.
Aside from what you're known for in the entertainment industry, what other impacts have you made in the community (Asian American or not)?
JR: Growing up, I was always pretty active in the community, particularly in the Filipino American community, volunteering for different community organizations. Through college I served as a youth mentor for Fil Am high school students and worked as a tutor for Fil Am elementary school children.
SL: Yeah. I work with youth a lot, mainly in music and in sports. I’ve always been interested in working with kids, helping coach their basketball or football teams. I also worked in the mental health industry for years. It’s a funny story -- I was working in a sandwich shop, and one of my co-workers randomly asked me if I would be interested in being an orderly at a mental health place. I worked the graveyard shift for 6 months with no knowledge at all about anything I was doing. So I took courses. Learned a lot. And now I’ve been there 8 years. It was just this weird happenstance situation when I was 18.
Describe yourself in three words.
SL: Passionate. Thoughtful. Sincere.
JR: Polymath. Producer. Friend.
"Survival" Issue Release Party is on Saturday, February 4 from 9:00 pm to 2:00
am at 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA. Get