OKP Premiere: Denaun Porter Breathes New Life As dEnAuN In "God Laughs" [Official Video]
If laughter is good for soul then it’s not such a stretch to think–as the new video from Denaun Porter (formerly KonArtis of D12) declares–that “God Laughs.” Laughter can also be life-saving armor in times of civil unrest — from McKinney to Kalief Browder all in one weekend! — and self reflection often becomes a way to process mental and emotional strife. It’s with all this in mind that OKP is proud to premiere the video for Denaun’s (stylized as dEnAuN for those true to the artistry) thought-provoking track:
“They say this generation of kids are stuck and they don’t wanna think,” Denaun told us earlier today, on the heels of the weekend’s heartbreaking events. “They are wrong,” he continued, adding: “I am only scratching the surface of ideas and things I want to share musically, so the thought that people can connect the dots of a song like ‘God Laughs’ lets me know they are ready for thought-provoking content.”
When the WAR Media artist stopped by our offices a few weeks back to give us an early preview of sTuFf In My BaCkPaCk, — a six-song EP of original music the producer/MC wrote and executed as a solo artist — he wore his now-signature God Laughs t-shirt. As he explained to us then: “God laughs. And so should you.” During the hour-plus conversation we had with him that day, we talked hip-hop, life lessons, and rebirth.
Already known in industry circles for his work as a founding member of D12, touring the globe with Eminem, and for being a Grammy award-winning producer (you know him as Mr. Porter in that realm), he’s worked with everyone from Pharoahe Monch to 50 Cent, and from Snoop Dogg to Busta Rhymes. After a personal tragedy and two years of self-reflection, the MC decided it was time to step into his own spotlight. The end result is a solid start-to-finish collection that’s — rightfully — been getting proper attention.
“I don’t wanna call it Tribe-era…” says the Denaun of his project…but. We’d be remiss not to acknowledge how skillfully the compilation harkens to what many of us reminisce over as the golden age of hip-hop. A fully self-produced project, The EP contains appearances from notables such as Royce Da 5’9″, Phonte, Pharoahe Monch, and Rapsody — all friends he says were specifically chosen to provide a sound that gives fans the connection he feels with those artists. His clever wordplay combined with his signature melodic beats and drums reveal that Mr. Porter is still very much present. To meet his new incarnation dEnAuN,watch the OKP premiere of his new video for “God Laughs” and then read on to experience his wisdom and insight via a quick Q&A:
OKP: Why is your name stylized that way?
DENAUN: It represents the ups and downs of my life. I was shot at age 15 by a friend of mine – what I thought was a friend. I had a bullet in my leg for a week and horrible insurance. They sent me home. Then the bullet moved and they basically told me ‘you’re dying.’
OKP: That’s a lot for a 15-year-old to process. And that’s when things changed for you — when you focused on music? What about now? What led to dEnAuN the solo artist?
D: I went through a bad time. I didn’t know who I was, being in the group [D12]. When Proof passed away, there was two years of not wanting to do anything. From 2008 – 2010, I was in the studio, but just protecting everything I had. ”
OKP: And the end result is the very telling–the Stuff in My Backpack EP–which you released as a free download. At a time when artists are trying to make money, why did someone with your background offer it for free?
D: I’m not gonna ask somebody for something that I haven’t earned. That’s not how I want to start my introduction to people. It’s on all the platforms — iTunes, Bandcamp, all of it. I didn’t want to limit myself. I want to give people every opportunity to get familiar with me.
OKP: What’s the difference between being Mr. Porter the producer and being dEnAuN the artist? Do you have a preference?
D: All of it equally makes me happy. When I’m producing, I’m not thinking like an artist. When I’m doing a song, I have to go to a whole different place.
OKP: How would you describe your production aesthetic — where did it start for you?
D: I learned how to make a small set up sound like a big studio. Started out making beats by hand, taping them live. I didn’t have a sequencer — it was all done manually. I remember when Dilla first heard my music he said ‘who the fuck is that?’ Dre said ‘how is it off and on at the same time?’
GUY (WAR Media head): “We send Denaun records he didn’t even produce just to make ‘em right!”
OKP: You’ve worked with and alongside some of hip-hop’s greatest on your journey to become this version of yourself. Any wisdom learned to share?
D: People abort so many great ideas for you. Don’t do it to yourself. Eventually, you’ll end up in a box when you leave here. I’m not living in one now.