Brampton rapper, Derin Falana is working. He’s very transparent about that. Despite the digital buzz and various comprehensive lists that have consistently hailed him as one of the next artists up out of the city of Toronto, the rising lyricist isn’t satisfied with hype. He’s looking for legacy.
It’s a sunny June afternoon in the city when Derin strolls up to our interview in between meetings. As a full-time Canadian artist, he’s in the process of piecing together what exactly that entails in order to reach his full potential in a city steeping with creativity. But with a project in the works and a performance slot at Manifesto 11 Live at Echo Beach, he seems to be headed in the right direction.
Tell me about the first time you ever picked up a pen and a mic.
I started at like 18-years-old. I was kind of late compared to everybody else, but my boy just had a mic. Everybody tries it, right? After school, we went to his house and he said just try it and I did. And it turned out dope. They said, “let’s put this out” and I was like “nah, just leave it” or whatever. But, we ended up putting it out although we didn’t end up saying who it was. Three people guessed it was me and from there it came out and everybody was like, “Derin, you rap?” So, I just kept putting music out.
You were in high school then?
Yeah. And this was back when Facebook was popping. So, we put it on Facebook and the timeline was going crazy. From there, I think I put out a remix every week and that turned into a fanbase. Then I put out a project and it escalated.
What did that transition feel like for you at the time?
It was dope. At first, I found it stereotypical. Like, everyone’s a rapper. But the feedback I was getting was amazing. And the support too. It was a good feeling to transition and just be a rapper.
You ended up switching names entirely too. What was that important to your evolution as an artist?
The Flan was a young boy name. In the beginning, it sounds fun and cool and gimmicky but when you get older, I grew out of the name and I just wanted to show people that this is me. My music and the name didn’t match. My music is introspective and serious at times. It’s still fun but it’s more real.
How has your writing process evolved as you’ve taken yourself more seriously?
It actually changed. I used sit down with a beat and pen my verses. Now, it’s more like, I do things on the spot, because there’s more melody to my music now. Before, I was just a straight spitter, so now there’s more melody and I’ll do things on the spot. I’ll start with a melody and fill it in. It’s more of the songwriting side. I want to make songs now. Songs have structure. And it also depends on the beat too.
Speaking of beats, you work with some of the best producers out of the city. Sevn Thomas, Jordon Manswell, etc. How would you describe the sound of Toronto right now?
Our drums slap, for sure. Beats from producers here, they make you feel something. Toronto has this stereotype of having the dark sound but for me, there are so many different textures and colours and sounds when you hear beats from Toronto producers.
You just put out your song ‘Cruising’ not too long ago celebrating the fact that you left your job and are now a fulltime artist. What does that look like for you now to be a fulltime creative in a place like Toronto where a lot of people don’t believe that’s sustainable?
It’s getting busier and I like it. I’ll wake up and have a shoot. All my artwork is done in house so if we have a record coming out, we’ve got to do a shoot for a song. I just shot a video yesterday for a new song that’s not out yet. I’m recording frequently. I’m always doing something and before it was work, work, work and I just did what I could. It’s easier to plan out my life now and it’s good.
You’ve been tapped by many global media sites as someone with the potential to be next up out of the city. Why you?
I don’t know man, to be honest. From what people tell me, and what I notice about myself is, I make it a point to annunciate every word and I like my songs to have clear concepts and I don’t like to just rap about nothing. I have messages in my music and even when there’s no real conscious message, there is still the message to enjoy yourself and have fun. My voice is unique too. I still get comparisons but I feel like my voice is something that stands out, for sure.
What do you want your impact to be on a global?
First and foremost, I just want people to feel good when they hear it. I had this one dude that hit me a while back. I had a song called ‘Stay Freestyle’ and he hit me and said, “Yo, this song gave me the courage to write a poem to this girl I liked. She doesn’t even live in the same state as me, but I’m going to do it anyway.” That was crazy. And I get that all the time, like people who say, “your music is helping me through this time.” That stuff is why I do it. That stuff is the thing that keeps me going. I get fans hitting up my Snapchat and in my DMs and I respond to them, because it’s so important.
How do you describe the creative place you’re in right now?
I feel really creative. I’m working on a project. So, I’m in record mode. Everyone around me is just super inspired, especially with Manifesto coming up. And recently, people have been reaching out. I’m super inspired.
I had this idea that I wanted to put out projects, but in between projects, I wanted to put out songs. A project will tell my life, or a point of my life or where I’m at and then the second project will be a continuation. But in between there will be this gap, where no one knows what’s happening. So, I wanted the audio journal to be the in between. I update people so people can follow.
What is the biggest struggle for you as an independent artist in Toronto?
Just being a starving artist. I have so many ideas but you need money. There’s a grant system in Toronto that I haven’t really been fortunate enough to get it. I’ve applied at least eight or nine times. You have to fund things and pay video guys. I’m lucky to have an in-house team so I save so much costs, because we all have the same vision. I save so much money just having an in-house team, but there’s so many things I need it for, like mixing and mastering or paying a video guy or to get merch done. It’s frustrating when you know you have the talent and you have the vision and potential.
Potential is a great word. When you see the future and you living up to that, what does that look like?
One of the biggest artists out of Canada. I daydream about setting up shows in stadiums. I see The Weeknd and Drake sell out the ACC and have their own festivals. I see stadiums and platinum albums and I see the respect of people knowing that this is a great artist. I want to be one of the best.
What is the city teaching you right now?
Patience. Humility. Just not to be entitled. You need to build your resume, you need to put content out and you need to establish certain things before people can say you’re great. Some artists will get a cosign or a look from someone and they’ll think they’re on. That’s not how it works. You need to get back to work and do it again and again. I’m here for longevity.
Derin is set to perform at Manifesto 11 Live at Echo Beach on Saturday June 10. Get tickets here.