THERE’s a newbie in town. Grasp the term ‘newbie’ with a pinch of salt; Philadelphia’s Defcon Lawless is no stranger to lyrical craftsmanship.
There’s an unwritten rule that hip-hop artists and the like tend to lead poor lifestyles – lifestyles that many would say poison the youth of today. However, imagine an artist that leads two separate lives. You’re right, that’s not so alien. To a certain extent no idea is unique in the modern day.
So, what sets Defcon apart from the rest?
By day, a loving husband and father of one… by night? The Lawless Collective comes alive, abiding by the rules of no man and unleashing a ravel of talent and crowd-enticing vibes.
Let us find out, dig into the depths of what makes Defcon tick…
TC: So… tell us a little about yourself and who you are.
Defcon: Well, my name is Defcon Lawless. I am a sonic explorer if you will – I like to experiment, music producer, occasional multi-instrumentalist and just an all-round experimental artist I suppose! You know what I mean?
Been living in England for about seven-and-a-half years now, come from Philly; right outside of Philly to be specific. A place called Norristown, so, still support the Eagles though eitherway way. Know what I’m saying? Phill-birds and all that.
Um, yeah, I’ve been rhyming for a while. I’ve been really into all genres of music my whole life; everywhere from new-wave, alternative, grunge… erm, punk, hip-hop obviously, jazz – I don’t discriminate against any sound if it sounds good.
I don’t now man, I’m not really used to… I’m Defcon I suppose.
TC: Did your music stem back from when you were in Philly? Like, were you in a group of friends that influenced you, or was it something you just grew up with?
Defcon: Well, skateboarding is a major part of my life. So, it’s been a combination – it’s kinda like a, almost like a patchwork of influences. Growing up, I come from a long line of musicians and artists in my family – I’ve always been surrounded by people who have amazing taste in music from my Mother who listened to Duran Duran ‘n’ Joy Division. You know what I mean – Prince and Michael Jackson – every decade there’s been a new influence. So, when I was younger it was my family, as I got a little older it was my surroundings – people in my hood were really getting into hip-hop.
Music to me is therapy, right? It’s what evens me out.
My Uncles were DJs as well, DJ Disco Pete and Easy Mike back in the day – so I’ve always been surrounded by turntables. As I got older, say teenage years I really got into skateboarding – which really opened up Pandora’s Box for me. Because, when I was 14 I started watching skate videos that would introduce you to sound you wouldn’t usually listen to.
So, in the ’90s it was very much hip hop ‘n’ flow, you know what I mean. You might get some ill shit like Gang Starr, Camp Lo, you know, Biggie – the obvious stuff that I was already familiar with – but then it opened my eyes to punk and hardcore. Erm, indie and alternative; it all kinda comes together. So, I even to this day can’t listen to the same genre of music for more than 15 minutes at a time.
So, the main influence especially right now is – a lot of it stems from skateboarding. One of my favourite bands of all time is “At the Drive-In”, you know, like I was telling you earlier man, some days I bump Wu-Tang most of the day, or some East Coast fly shit. But, today I was listening to Cheryl Crow, Tears for Fears, and playing Pokemon! It’s just what it comes down to, depends on my mood I suppose. Yeah bro.
TC: I know you’ve just spoken on skateboarding, but is there an aspect not so much within the industry but the culture behind it, that attracted you to get involved? Or is it purely your love for music?
Defcon: Yeah! Actually it’s a bit of both, that’s a great question.
I’ve been skating for what, fucking 17 years now? It’s a very DIY approach, it’s very hap-hazardous, like, you look at the world differently. You go out on the street you see a bench – people sit on it, skateboarders? They wanna shred that shit.
If I hear some fly shit from a different genre of music, I don’t think about it as the end game…
Defcon: Yes buddy?
Voice: *I’m thirsty.*
Defcon: Alright one second! (Laughs) He never stops man, never stops.
We then took conversation outside and delved deeper into Defcon’s inspirations and true influences when it comes to his lyrics.
Defcon: Carrying on man, I take background from everything. I’m very perceptive in my surroundings, I always absorb. So, it depends on what I’m directly around – for instance I’ve even done a drum’n’bass track, I’d have never done that back in America. I’m in the UK, I’m getting ready to do a couple of grime tracks with some homies from around here – I never would have touched grime. I like to adapt, so that’s why skateboarding directly affects it. It’s about adaptability, it’s about being a sonic chameleon; you know what I mean? Like, being true to it.
The day that it’s not fun anymore, is the day that Imma quit doing it.
Music to me is therapy, right? It’s what evens me out. I feel like I’m a vessel, like, I couldn’t give a fuck about the music industry. I couldn’t give a shit, in the same way that I don’t care about what clothes I put on, I really don’t care about earthbound stuff. I prefer an existential approach, so, I just love the fact that I’m able to express myself. You know, that’s why I keep throwing skateboarding around – anything that allows me to just throw it out there without having to answer questions, is exactly why my stage surname is Lawless. I don’t give a shit. I love that, I love being able to be like, “hey, I’m in the mood to do…”. I got R’n’B tracks downstairs, I got tracks that are rock orientated – I just happen to put out more tracks that are hip-hop style tracks right now. But, I love the freedom that comes with it, that’s my main thing. I don’t give a fuck about the industry, but it would be nice to get paid for this shit.
TC: (Laughs) So, at the moment it’s fun but it would be nice to then reek the benefits of that?
Defcon: The day that it’s not fun anymore, is the day that I’mma quit doing it. Because, I have a full-time job, you know what I mean. You heard my little boy come down the stairs, I will never sacrifice the bread and butter ‘cos I gotta take care of my kid. But, but I’m doing this strictly for fun – I may as well be playing Sega Megadrive when I’m down playing. Like, I’m playing around and I decide to present it to the world to see how people receive it. But the psychology behind people supporting it, makes me happy. That’s what fuels me. So, it’s kinda just like… right… I’m just gunna throw this out there, it’s like a social experiment, let me see what happens. Then the recession has been so positive, that, it has nothing to do with my ego or who I am, but more about the people who’re willing to receive it. Does that make any sense?
TC: Who’d you say have been the most influential characters when it comes to your style? Is anyone kind of base yourself on, or is it as you said earlier, you just do what you enjoy?
Defcon: I think it would be unwise to say that I am not influenced by anybody in particular, but since I take information in non-discrimatively, because I take information from all aspects, it’s hard to say. My wife said to me before, ‘you can tell you’re influenced by Pusha T when you freestyle sometimes’. Well that makes sense. I wasn’t intending on sounding like Pusha T; but I love Pusha T.
It’s funny though — the things that influence me more rather than individual MCs, is actually completely different genres. So, when I was on stage the other day I took a lot of energy from a Texas band called At The Drive In. A post hardcore band that I’ve been fuckin’ in love with since I was about 14; so, I love that type of energy. I mean, so, I think the thing is it’s not an individual influence and it never will be. My own thoughts right now will be different in 15 minutes.
One thing you must know about Defcon, is that his lyrics will never seemingly correlate with anything you’d expect to hear in a verse. We’re talking anime, cartoons, the lot. Don’t forget who’s behind the mic.
Defcon: If you talked up the subject when you were like 15, 16 and it would stoke you out. Are you actually keeping it real? Like, I have Megazords in my house. And Dragonzord. One of the most talked about lines that I performed the other day was a comparison to a Rapidash from Pokemon. You know why? Because I fuckin’ play Pokemon! I don’t carry guns, I’m a father. I am a 31 year old dad, and I want y’all to know it. I want people to know that it’s okay to have a duality.
The person I present to you guys, in this country — I have a whole different image back home. Even back home I got dualities, multiple dualities. Another big deal for influences, non-musically is comic books. You know, Defcon Lawless is my alter ego. Aaron is Peter Parker, Defcon Lawless is Spiderman m. All I’m saying, I get on the stage and rock it, but then I come home and I give my kid a juice box as you’ve just seen. That’s real gangster shit to me. That’s how I feel.
Defcon Lawless is bringing the fun back to Britain’s hip-hop scene; re-introducing the Philly flare we saw in JazzyJeff, Freeway and The Roots. Old school hip-hop is back, and this time there’s a new face on the box.
Photography: Rachael Sanchious