In a society where even children seem to be wildly aware of their “personal brand” it has become remarkably refreshing when you meet someone who is genuinely what they say they are. Refreshing is probably an understatement, “shocked” is a more apt description of the feeling I had upon first meeting Deniro Farrar.
Despite knowing that the hip hop artist from North Carolina was in our office to promote a book club he had started with his fans, I still did a double take upon seeing Farrar with his nose buried deep within Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Before our interview even began I knew that there would be no bullshit with Farrar.
His reputation wasn’t a façade built with the sole purpose of standing out from the crowd; instead it was just Farrar’s passion for bettering himself bleeding through into his public life. All that Farrar is now can be traced to a simple book recommendation.
“My girlfriend gave me The Alchemist and that just opened me back up,” Farrar explains. “When I started to read about personal legend I realized that I was pursuing my personal legend and had been for a while. A lot of people pursue rap because it’s the in thing to do right now, and they may look cool and they may even be able to make words rhyme but that doesn’t mean it’s your calling.
“I gravitate towards insightful books, books that are building the mind,” Farrar continues. “It’s fun to get the knowledge and I feel like I’m the person to deliver a lot of this information to the masses.”
Much of our conversation would revolve around Farrar’s desire (bordering on obsession) to make sure that he leaves a positive mark on this world. As he gains more knowledge and looks inwardly on his personality, Farrar can’t help but notice the effect that he has on the world. Whether he is fretting over using too many Ubers while in LA, how polite he is to fans or the environmental impact that will stem from his discarded Starbucks cup it appears as if Farrar has become completely self aware.
“I like to think that I’m on the observation deck at this point in my life,” Farrar says. “My whole mission with life is to spread knowledge, love and compassion.”
Those three qualities were often lacking in the environment Farrar grew up in, and he saw that toll that it took on the personalities of himself and those around him. Six years after garnering some success in music and leaving that life Farrar knows that he would never want to return to that life, which is the same story you hear from many who have escaped a rough upbringing. The difference in this story is that Farrar is doing everything he can to make sure that he can pull as many people out with him—from family members and his children to strangers who know nothing of him but his lyrics.
By taking the lessons that he is leaning throughout his journey of self-discovery and putting them into his music Farrar is sharing what he’s learned from books like Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe with people who have never heard of the author.
“It’s up to me to absorb the knowledge and break that down into baby food to take back to the ghetto to let them eat it. You can’t feed a baby steak,” Farrar explains. “You’ll have a lot of people that won’t read but they’ll listen. Alright, I’ll put it in the music—whatever is going to make you receive what I’m trying to give I’ll do it.
“You don’t even realize that you are learning,” Farrar continues. “That’s what happens when you listen to Deniro Farrar, you come away with some thoughts that you didn’t even realize you were having. I want to just make people more aware of their actions that they are putting out into the world.”
At this point in his life, Farrar’s main concern is building a solid foundation. If everything he does is based off of substance built on knowledge and introspection then it is his belief that he’ll never fail. His head was not always on so straight, and his tattoos help point to those crazier days of youth.
“There was this local dude that had built up a really big name for tattooing underage people,” Farrar laughs as he recalls getting his first tattoo at 15. “I was just real rebellious and wild, I was the only person in my freshman class sitting there with neck tattoos. My first tattoo was on my neck! I went straight to the neck, don’t know why.”
Those first tattoos on his neck have been joined by many, many more all over the rest of his body. This includes the tattoos that eventually covered up the first work he had done. Farrar has been tattooed for a while and doesn’t have all that much more skin to spare, so he’s been focusing on having a friend of his tighten up all of his current ink. His latest addition is a pair of cherubs—each one represents one of Farrar’s sons.
In a way, you can see a correlation between his tattoo history and his personal legend. Early on Farrar was guided by impulsive decisions with little regard to the end result, like heading to a scratcher to get a jobstopper as his very first piece of ink. But as he has grown more thought is put into each action. Past decisions, and tattoos, have been improved upon through more careful work. And only the most important things in life—his children—are worthy of being inked, much in the way that he is hoping that he will be remembered chiefly for the positive things he has brought into the world through his music.
In addition to the pseudo-subliminal ways that Farrar tries to educate his fans there is the aforementioned book club. Utilizing social media the hip hop star is able to share his reading list with the world. The club allows fans to interact with Farrar as they read the literature that has shaped the rapper’s worldview. The next book that the club will be taking on isAre Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis.
Observing he passion that overtakes Farrar’s entire body as he speaks about books has an infectious effect, one can’t help but want to throw themselves all in after hearing him speak for 30 seconds. And that’s exactly what he wants, to make you think a little bit harder, even if it is just for an instant.
“I’m dedicating the rest of my life to this,” Farrar says about his mission to spread knowledge. “I found something that I would really die for. Before I could have died for no reason back where I came from, now I got this reason. Can’t nobody take me away from that.”