The Power of Storytelling: Conversation with Demi Amparan

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My time with Demi Amparan was filled with good vibes and good energy only. From the beginning, it was very prevalent that community was very important to him and did all he can do to make sure to keep it that way. His love for the youth and the city can be seen through his work as one of the talented directors at Young Chicago Authors (YCA), the organization that runs the largest youth slam poetry festival in the world Louder Than A Bomb. Demi sat down with me and discussed the importance of being true to you and letting everyone know that their experiences are valid.

How was growing up in Chicago?

– Growing up in Chicago was really weird man… It was weird for a lot of reasons. First of all I grew up in about like 15 different places as a kid. My Parents and I moved around a whole lot, so I learned the value of what it meant to stay together as a family at a very young age. So I had that a lot and I think that protected me, but also because of that I’m biracial. I’m an African American and Hispanic male who was a traveling introvert in the most segregated cities in the world. It was really, really crazy and I saw a lot things you know? Being from Chicago though, it’s about always knowing that’s something is different about you and finding the beauty or struggle in that, and I think that what Chicago does.

What was that specific moment when you realized that you were biracial?

– Yea man, I was always cognoscente. My Dad’s Puerto Rican and Mexican, but he is really really light, so he looks white to a lot of people. I remembered whenever my Dad and I would go to places, people would always look at me weird and I always wondered why. One time actually, we were walking around and one guy literally thought he kidnapped me just because we looked so different. He called my Dad a “white motherfucker”, haha and I remember my Dad got so mad. Calling him any other race other than his own made him so angry, and that catered to me. But yea man I recognized it at a young age, from the fucked up experienced with racist teachers to the fucking Chucky E Cheese mouse not giving me a hug just because I was black while everyone else was white, it was some crazy stuff man.

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When I listen to your music and even in this conversation, there is an emphasis on storytelling. What is the importance of storytelling in your music?

– I feel like I have a responsibility to tell these stories. Actually it’s not even a responsibility cause these stories aren’t just like the basic cliché stories. You heard my tape (Porchside), they’re raw stories; they’re weird stories. In order to get to know somebody, you first have to understand their stories and then be able joke with them, chop it up, eat with them, break bread with them. Also something I always wanted when I was kid was to understand myself more, and it wasn’t until I started listening to Nas, Tupac, and even Eminem, that I got the courage to be comfortable with my own (story).

You’ve mentioned your upcoming project Porchside, what kind of stories can we expect?

– I started writing this project two and a half years ago, right after my attempt of a first album, but I see Porchside actually as my debut album. Porchside was inspired by the crazy ass stories you see on the porch. Whenever you got in trouble in the hood during the summertime, your mom would be like “you’re not leaving this porch”. So I got all these weird, crazy, and unique views from seeing arguments, to gang/territorial wars, and more just from the porchside.

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Being a well-known poet from Chicago, how was the transition becoming a musician?

– It was fucking hard man… I’ve always considered myself a rapper; I wrote my first song when I was eight years old man. If I sat here for five minutes I’d remember it, it was so cold haha. I called myself “D-Money” back then haha. Being a poet making the transition into rap, anytime I rapped on stage people would be conflicted because I would give vocal inflictions like a poet but doing it in a rap and it took me a while to be comfortable. In rap, it’s a sea of mugs that maybe try to be over-masculine, over sexualizing women, and telling all these weird stories and I never really fit into that.

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When I listened to your tape, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of vulnerability and transparency within your music. Why is that important in music today?

– When you listen to Nas, Pac, Kanye, and Eminem, they were most successful when they were very vulnerable about themselves. I tried that braggadocious rap and I can do those very well, but it never came out true. It’s about being secure with who you are and being honest. Honesty is really important to me and I think people appreciate that.

What impact would you want Porchside to have in your community?

– I want Porchside to be the ultimate relatability piece. When you look at College Dropout (Kanye West), that nigga was talking about the streets that I’ve walked, places I’ve been, things that I’ve seen, and it literally changed my life. I want Porchside to be the streets that they’ve walked, things that they’ve seen, and the things they’ve experienced. I want that to be the foundation not only for my career but also for the little shorty’s that are listening to me.

Check out Demi Amparan’s Music Video “GHOST” and his CHICAGO UNPLUGGED episode. Porchside is scheduled to be released early 2016.

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