The state of Missouri has become lost in the current of America. By being misplaced as the most northern of the slave states, the cultural history of Missouri does not adhere to the precedents set by its Midwestern neighbors. This combined with its complexity reduces Missouri to a “forgotten” status making the state’s moniker as the “Show-Me” more of a plea for visibility rather than a playful nickname.
Even when the state is thought of, the light is strongly focused on the city of St. Louis. However, nearly 250 miles away, on the opposite side of the state, is the populous metropolitan of Kansas City. Due to the intense highlight on St. Louis, Kansas City, and its culture is subjected to a cloud of confused darkness when mentioned.
Yet up and coming rapper, Dettsa, is on a trajectory to change this normality. Born Justin Martin, this Kansas City native is using his art and ability to bring Kansas City out of this abyss and into the forefront of Hip-Hop.
During an interview, Dettsa spoke with RESPECT.’s Country Grammar Series about his musical influences and life in one of the nation’s most culturally complex cities.
RESPECT.: “So, how did you start making music?”
Dettsa: “At first I started out doing it for fun. I made my first little project when I was like 17, which sucked, but my friends liked it or whatever. As I started to grow up my friends started dying and I just started making ‘real’ music and just kept going with it. Then after a while, I learned how to make music and not just songs.”
RESPECT.: “When you say you started to make actual music and not songs anymore, that’s a pretty complex statement, would you care to elaborate on that?”
Dettsa: “Music is more about your life. I’m not saying a person can’t make a song about their life, but it’s just deeper when you’re making music. There’s more passion. A song can be how you feel at the moment, it’s a hit or miss. People make songs every day.”
RESPECT.: “What made you want to start rapping? What influences you?”
Dettsa: “Well, like I said, at first I just did it out of fun. Then I got to a point of doing it to keep myself happy. Now I do it because I love it. My inspiration is to just keep going. My inspiration right now is just life.”
RESPECT.: “Are there any artists you look up to?”
Dettsa: “That’s kind of hard but I actually keep a list of my seven rappers of all time on me. It’s a weird list, but they’re the biggest influences of all time for me. They’re Jay-Z, Young Thug, Rick Ross, Vince Staples, Kid Cudi, Travis, and Kendrick.”
RESPECT.: “So currently, a lot is happening in Missouri’s Hip-Hop scene. Similar to the early 2000’s, the state seems to be on an upswing. But historically the focus has been on St. Louis. As an artist with a lot of attention who is from Kansas City, how would you describe the city’s music scene?”
Dettsa: “Right now, the Kansas City wave is very versatile. There isn’t just one sound. Nobody is trying to be like the next person, they all trying to make their own wave. So, I think doing that right now is going to help everybody get on. And I think we will get on, it just takes time until the support is there.”
RESPECT.: “So as far as Kansas City as a whole, just the city, how would you describe it? Aside from the music.”
Dettsa: “Aside from the music, it’s scary. Dangerous. But if you from here you’re used to it, just like anywhere else. When you’re from there, you’re just used to it.”
RESPECT.: “It seems like you touch on this danger a little in your song ‘Go Crazy’ when you rap: ‘hypocrite, I’m a hypo-Crip with a black mask.’ Has gang life had an impact on your existence in Kansas City and if so how?”
Dettsa: “Of course. Kansas City carries a different type of gang culture than the rest of the state. Through Mac Dre and them, these Cali n*ggas found a home in KC. They brought their music out here and we started showing love, but they brought all that other sh*t with them too. It shifted the whole city. So, yeah, that gang sh*t you’ll grow up and around it, but being the person I am, I stayed out of it. But, I have plenty of friends who are into that.”
RESPECT.: “You mention Mac Dre; can you speak on the unknown musical influence that the Bay Area has on Kansas City?”
Dettsa: “The best example I can think of, is not really a musical example, but speaks to the impact, is the Fat Tone/Mac Dre situation. A lot of people don’t know; Mac Dre was killed in Kansas City by Fat Tone. Growing up in the city you listen to both of them and look up to them as ‘gods.’ So, to be in 6th or 7th grade and hear that Tone killed Dre then a few weeks later he was killed just speaks to the connection we have with the Bay Area. It’s deeper than music. Like I said these Cali n*ggas found a home out here.”
RESPECT.: “Do you look at yourself as the one who will open up the door for Kansas City right now?”
Dettsa: “Kansas City means everything to me, but I have to push myself first. I got to open it up, then I’m bringing it back home. I have to get it right first.”
RESPECT.: “So if there is one thing you’d like people to take from your music, right now, what would it be?”
Dettsa: “Just ‘Go Crazy’ that’s really the vibe I’m giving off.”
Carrying the status as one of America’s 10 deadliest cities and a uniquely specific gang culture, Kansas City has been overlooked so long that the pot of the voiceless has overflowed into a steamy plight of violence. Dettsa’s beautifully dark artistry is reflective of the city in which it was cultivated. Yet with this talent, he is positioning himself in the rafters of American culture. Here, Dettsa will shift the lights of Hip-Hop on to the city of Kansas City, giving the region the attention it not only craves but needs.
Check out Dettsa’s new video for his single, “Go Crazy:”
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