The rap veteran known as Dan-e-o owns a hallowed place in Canadian hip-hop history. It was back in 1996 when the Toronto-based artist delivered the hip-hop classic “Dear Hip Hop” off the Beat Factory label’s Rap Essentials Vol. One LP, a historic album that also featured soon-to-be big names such as Choclair and Kardinal Offishall. Dan-e-o would go on to proudly rep his Scarborough, Ontario roots with celebrated underground rap collective Monolith, along with his solo effort The Book of Daniel in 2000. Simply put, Dan-e-o (real name Daniel Faraldo) has been a fixture and influential part of the Canadian hip-hop landscape over the years.
Today, the rapper, actor, producer, and baseball aficionado has rededicated himself to the rap game — he’s currently one-half of hip-hop duo Perfeck Strangers and now has a brand new solo effort, Inevitable due out later this month.
URBAN/Intersection connected with Dan-e-o to chat about the new project, his place in Canadian hip-hop history, and where things go from here.
When did hip-hop start for you?
1987. I was on a camping trip with my Grade 4 class and suffered a major asthma attack the first night. I kept the entire cabin up coughing while someone summoned whoever it was who had my inhaler. They wouldn’t allow the kids to hold on to their medication and they stupidly had it all stored in another cabin. No one could sleep while I was hacking away so while I awaited the puffer, my teacher Mr. Nash decided to chill everyone out by playing some music. He popped in the Beastie Boys “Licensed To Ill” album and I was hooked from that point on. I survived the asthma attack and bought the tape the first chance I got.
How would you define your sound at this point in your career?
Dan-e-o is a grown up. Therefore, my music has grown up as well. I consider myself the sharpest I’ve ever been lyrically. I’m a lot more strategic with my songwriting and I always strive to expose my vocabulary and penchant for intelligent lyricism. But I’m also allowing for my other musical influences to shine through in my latest work. My three favourite artists of all time – Michael Jackson, Bob Marley and Sade – aren’t hip-hop artists. So me getting more comfortable as a singer is shining through on this new album. You can’t make the same records as a thirtysomething that you made as a teenager. I’ve experienced a lot in my life and I’m very honest about it in my music. You’ll hear a lot about pain but you’ll also hear a lot about how to overcome it. That’s where the concepts of “Immortal” and “Inevitable” come from. I never say die and I know that my destiny awaits me.
As an artist, how do you approach the creative process?
I have a variety of ways to approach my songwriting. It almost always starts with the music though. For “Immortal” and “Inevitable”, I worked solely with Charisma a.k.a. Skizzz, who is a Monolith co-founder and a friend for over 20 years. He’s insane talented and on the same wavelength as me musically. We love soul, funk, reggae, hip-hop and rhythm and blues so there’s doses of all that throughout each project. For the most part, he’d hit me with beats and I’d concoct a concept from them. Sometimes he’d hit me with the beat and the concept. In some cases, the lyrics came right away and in others, it took some time to craft. My approach, however, has always been to write from the heart. Be completely honest and the music will touch people emotionally. That’s what I set out to do anyways.
Talk about the album Inevitable and how it came about. What did you want to do differently with this project? Who did you work with and why?
The “Inevitable” album was originally entitled “Immortal”. I was really motivated by this “I will not die” attitude but felt that since a Michael Jackson compilation was released with the same name, I needed a new title. When the project grew into two projects (an EP and LP) I decided to go with the original title for the EP and change the name of the LP. As much as I felt underrated as an MC, Charisma felt unrecognized as a producer. So we decided to join forces to make a statement about that. I definitely knew that I wanted this record to have a more mature and soulful sound while not compromising on my affinity for lyricism. I worked with Red Rat (my cousin) because he’s fam and a world recognized talent and I wanted to show I could hold my own on a dancehall record. Chip Fu is also a legend in my eyes and I wanted to show I could go toe-to-toe with a double time king. I worked with SepTo and Rich Kidd as well as Conwell and Slick Mason (the duo L.I.U.) as they are among my favourite Toronto MCs from the younger generation. On “Inevitable” I show I can hang with both legends and the new breed.
What’s success for you? Any advice for indie Canadian artists looking for success in the music biz?
Success, for me, is living your dream. I’m thankful to say that for the past two to three years, I’ve been doing just that. My full time job (or jobs) exist within the world of entertainment. I write, record, perform and teach music on a regular basis. As well, I act in film and television. I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily the money that I’m earning doing all of this that determines my success but the fact that I wake up everyday knowing that I enjoy what it is I do.
I’d encourage any indie Canadian artist to take the necessary steps towards living their own dreams. And that takes A LOT of sacrifice. I’ve lost relationships both personal and professional, both romantic and platonic, because of my dedication to living my dream. I’ve spend more money, time and energy than most people pretend to have to live out my dream. I suggest that if you really want to take this business seriously, that you commit to being willing to sacrifice. Don’t go into business with your friends. Work with like-minded, truly passionate and dedicated individuals who are as hungry as you are to succeed.
What motivates you to keep striving in a tough Canadian music industry, particularly when it comes to a genre like hip hop?
God. When you have faith, I don’t think anything can deter you. I really believe that I was born to entertain. I’ve never pictured my life doing anything else. This is something I’ve apparently known since birth as my mother recently told me I used to sing in the crib. I don’t recall a time in my life when I’ve ever not wanted to be on stage with a mic in my hand. This is something I’ll do until death whether it pays me or not. Again, this why I’m on this “Immortal” and “Inevitable” tip. I’m inspired by what I believe is my God-given talent and my God-given “never give up” attitude.
How do you balance the artistic and business sides of managing your career? How do you stay focused? And is acting the next phase of your career?
I’m part of a strong team. EasParkPro, founded by my manager Chris “GotRocks” Jackson is all about “keeping it pro”. Proactive, Productive, Professional and so on. We’re diligent in getting the job done right. We’re diligent in networking, building relationships and getting our own balls rolling (insert as many punchlines as you can here!!). For example, we’ve been running #BIGTICKET, a monthly hip-hop event in Toronto for the past year and a half. It originally started as a way to help jump start a buzz for my group with Promise, Perfeck Strangers. It’s easier to stay focused when you align yourselves with those who have the same type of focus that you do. My eyes are never not on the prize. If I know what I want, I’m determined to get it. And that requires patience and a positive attitude. I take the same approach with my acting. Years of acting classes and studying have helped me develop into a better actor who is still aware that there is much to be learned. Nevertheless, I’ve landed numerous roles in a variety of projects including the show “Breakout Kings” and the movie “Anything Goes”. Acting isn’t necessarily the next phase of my career but it’s a part of the dream that I plan on fulfilling alongside my music career.
What can we expect from you in 2013-14?
With that said, the “Immortal” EP is out now. It dropped September 10th and features lyrical legends like Moka Only, Big Kish and Maestro Fresh Wes. It’s the appetizer to “Inevitable” which is the album that drops 11/12/13. Both projects are on URBNET Records. My next feature film “Tapped” is due to come out shortly as well. In it, I play my biggest role yet. I feel that I’m now finally reaching the prime of my career. And I know that the best is yet to come. It’s inevitable.