Dante is a man of many talents and versatility is key to his game. Bringing something undeniably fresh to Hip-Hop, he is also a seasoned actor, an illustrator, a graphic designer, a video editor, and a music producer. The Bronx native has an enviable online presence and his stage swagger is gaining him a whole lot of notice too. Dante recently dropped the We Get Money single on YouTube, from his Lights, Camera, Action EP, perfectly demonstrating his innovative production and lyrical ability. Yo! Raps talked to Dante about his style, his multiple skills, and his career aspirations.
First off, where did the name Dante come from?
The name Dante was the name of the role I was given in the movie, Baby Mama, by Universal Pictures. The reason it stuck with me was because that was the first big movie I’d ever done, pretty much my break, after doing loads of background work and trying to get better roles. So whenever I think of the name, it reminds me to never give up on my dream, as long as I keep pushing, my big break will eventually come!
You’re from the Bronx, the home of Hip-Hop. Do you feel the weight of that legacy?
A bit. I mean, when most people think of a Hip-Hop artist from the Bronx, or even NY for that matter, they’re expecting highly lyrical rappers; usually rapping about hardcore topics or even conscious music. I, on the other hand, differ from most of what I’ve seen from Bronx rappers, in the sense that I’m not rapping about the street, drugs, or guns. That’s not what I grew up in and it would be wack for me to try and portray that when that’s not what I’m about. But being from the home of Hip-Hop does make me feel like I have to elevate my lyrics and go hard on every track I touch.
Who are some of your main musical influences, and why have they been so important to you?
I listen to a wide spectrum of music. My main influences are Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Linkin Park, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and Usher. Eminem for his ability to break down syllables to a beat and his out-of-the-box metaphors and similes, Busta for his energy and the creativeness in his music videos and performances, Linkin Park for their subject matter and how they’ve incorporated rap into rock, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for how they layer their instruments in a modern stylized way, and Usher for his song breakdowns and his consistency. These are all things that I try to put into my music.
Can you describe your musical style for people who haven’t heard it yet?
Versatile, I’d say. I’m sure if I were to be signed to a label they would want me to choose a lane and stick to it. I wouldn’t have a problem with that because I’m adaptable but until then I’m enjoying myself just making good music! I have party songs, I have money songs, I have conscious songs, and I have songs that deal with my life. At the end of the day, I think I’m reaching more people because they have more selections to choose from as far as topics and themes go in my music.
You’ve described yourself as a new strain of Hip-Hop. Could you say a bit more about what you mean by that?
Sure, like I said, I’m versatile. You’re not just getting another NY rapper rapping about drugs and hoes; I’m offering different topics in different ways. I’m not afraid to try new or different things with my music and I think that that for the most part sets me apart from the general crowd.
You’ve got a lot of strings to your bow -- as well as being a rapper you’re an illustrator, graphic designer, video editor, actor and music producer. Where does the urge come from to diversify so much?
The desire to succeed… to live a life where I’m financially comfortable. I’ve taught myself so many skills that I can be an asset to anyone at any time, a valuable asset at that. Also to be self-sufficient - I don’t have to wait on anyone but I to get a project completed.
You’ve also forged an acting career, starring in 2008’s Baby Mama as well as VH1 and MTV commercials. What is it that appeals to you about acting?
It’s never the same day as yesterday. You’re always doing something new and you get to experience life through the eyes of someone else. It’s a great experience, one that I enjoy the most. It’s definitely a job that I love doing so much I don’t consider it work.
Do any of your specialism and interests override the others? Do you see yourself as a rapper first and an actor second?
I wouldn’t say that one overrides the other; I would say that one becomes more prevalent than the next when the time calls for it. For example, if things are slow on the acting side then there would be more of a push on the music side. If I had a choice, I would be an actor above all. Doesn’t mean that I would stop making music, because it is a passion of mine, but I would do it where and when I can around that schedule of being a working actor.
Your single, We Get Money, from the Lights, Camera, Action EP, has done really well on YouTube and features really fresh-sounding production. What was the concept for the track?
I really wanted to go with an old school sounding flow, something different from what’s out there right now but reminiscent of Run DMC, or Kool Moe Dee even. I created a catchy beat, with a catchy hook, and took it as far as I could at the time. And for the video, I just wanted to have fun but make it professional. The video cost me about $12-13,000 to film and produce, my first time directing and setting up my own video and I think I did a great job!
Are you inspired just as much to produce as you are to write lyrics?
Not as much, although I do produce tracks, I do it sparingly or by request. Being that I don’t have much free time in my day-to-day, I do what I can when I’m able to.
I’ve heard you have a really confident stage presence and your lyrical style is really bold and clever. Do you think attitude and swagger are important features of being a rap artist?
Definitely, you gotta be able to command the audience’s attention when you get up on stage. You’re putting on a show, so you gotta show some emotion when you’re up there and if you’re feeling your track while you’re performing it, I feel others will too.
Which artists do you see yourself collaborating with in the future and why?
Anybody really, but if I had to choose, I’d say anyone of my influences. Outside of that, Diggy Simmons, Lil Wayne, Drake, and Chad Kroeger would be the next few names I’d seek to work with.
What projects are coming next?
Currently working on my LP, hasn’t been announced or titled yet but I’m looking to have it out later this year. It will feature most of the songs from the EP as well as some new ones. I think everyone’s gonna enjoy it, there’s gonna be a lot to like on there.
What’s the ultimate goal for 2012?
My ultimate goal for 2012 is mainly to increase more fan attendance at my shows. I feel I have a great internet presence, now I just have to start getting more faces to come out and show support. Other than that, I’m looking to just generate more buzz, get more videos out, and start planning a tour for 2013.
In the end, let the people know where they can find you online.
Y’all can find me on my main site: www.ThisIsDante.com, on Twitter @DrewCity, on www.Facebook.com/TeamDante, and on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/ThisRealDante.
- By Fiona Guest