An auteur in every sense of the world, London rapper Denzel Himself is a refreshing oddity among young British upstarts — neither a Stormzy clone or a carbon copy of Skepta, the 22-year-old is distinctly, as the name suggests, Himself. Discussing the release of his new video for “BANGIN’” — a four-minute mash-up of cinematic references, hardcore music videos and shots with the unmistakable bittersweet flavour of London — we caught up with Denzel, tipped by Noisey as a British alternative to Tyler, The Creator, to discuss his musical influences, personal style and the creative freedom that can arise when conforming to a sound or being a part of the scene aren’t an artist’s main concern.
Could you talk us a little through the video — about the aesthetic influences — and the way it seems to blend and contradict different expected tropes of various music genres?
Denzel Himself: Aesthetically, my inspirations and intent differs per scene and shot. There are various influences that I referenced in “BANGIN’,” from Flightless Records’ music video’s to early 2000 Nollywood (horror) movies. In regards to the deconstruction of genre standardisations, I believe that creativity is just intelligence having fun. I was a film student for two years so I know what I appreciate and dislike about many genre’s of film. I just have a bit of fun.
Is the DIY aspect of the project particularly important to you?
DH: I often feel that ‘DIY’ is made synonymous with amateur and undercooked. I do things myself because as an auteur, no one is going to understand and execute what’s in my head better than I do/will. If it were up to me, I would have a much larger budget for my videos but me and Anna Dobos (DOP and editor of BANGIN’) just make the best out of what we have. Having grown up around both the Krump and hardcore Punk culture, getting up and making shit happen is a part of my DNA. I like to embrace my unpolished and purposefully ‘unprofessional’ style, across all of my art mediums. This is to demonstrate that you don’t need a lot of money or a lot of ‘industry backing’ to get your ideas out and claim your space! Just drive and focus.
I destroy and rebuild who I think I am literally everyday.
With that in mind, given that you have so much ownership of your aesthetic, how would you define your personal style — in the more traditional sense of the word — with regard to creating a recognisable sense of Denzel Himself?
DH: I wouldn’t say that I could define my personal style because I don’t believe I have a consistent ‘aesthetic’ or look. I destroy and rebuild who I think I am literally everyday.
Your influences musically are hard to pine down — there’s a lot going on and a lot of things that don’t really seem to locate your work within any particular “scene.” Where do you see yourself?
DH: This question goes back to intelligence having fun — if me and you were to sit down together in a studio and make a song that has the songwriting reference of country music, the bass line texture of techno, the recording techniques of shoegaze and the drum pattern of reggae in 3/4 structure, what the fuck would that be? It’s all about what you reference and in which manner and context you reference it. Musical influences range from Jon Bap to Show Me The Body, blehh it’s a lot.
As a follow on from that, I’m also curious as per how you’d define your sound — if pushed to do so?
I wouldn’t choose to define my sound but I aim for it to be reactionary.