Look, don’t ever question your destiny // I know there’s somebody up there blessing me // cause I don’t know these psalms by heart // but sure read these words in the dark so carefully. — DeLorean, “I’m Me”
Sunday evening, July 1, 2012: That’s the moment that things first began to really feel like they were moving in the right direction.
After spending the better part of two years building up his name in the city, DeLorean, a southern rap underground dynamo who has built up a devout fan base by displaying an almost unreal ability to turn trivial moments into profound examinations, was waiting backstage at Warehouse Live in Houston. Among the nest of other backstagers alongside him was Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Big Sant, Big K.R.I.T., more, so on, etc. Out front, several hundred people were crammed into the room, sweating and swaying and grinding their way through the opening acts. And they were all there — everyone, all of them, the people and the famous rappers — to see him. His head was spinning. And then the show started. And then his head rolled right-the-fuck off his shoulders.
“When Bun B came out and introduced me,” he says, sitting in a seafood restaurant in Houston picking at a lunchtime sampler platter priced like it’s dinnertime, “I was like…” — he opens his eyes extra big and lets his mouth fall open. Then he laughs.
“A lot of people think that was planned. It wasn’t. I was as surprised as everyone else. I grew up here. For Bun to introduce you at a rap show … like, I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
He stops for a moment to tend to his two-year-old daughter, sitting next to him, eating macaroni and cheese in maybe the most adorable manner that anyone has ever eaten macaroni and cheese. Eighteen inches from her face is a younger version of it, tattooed on DeLorean’s right shoulder/bicep.
“I was rapping in high school just for fun,” he recalls. “I had all of these people telling me and my dad how good I was. ‘Aw, man. By the time you’re a senior you’re gonna be famous!’ Everyone was saying that. I thought that’s how it was gonna happen. That was a long time ago. That concert — I’ll always remember it. It was crazy.”
The show was magnanimous. DeLorean, so amped at the fruition, performed with such fury and tenacity that by the end of the show he sat folded over on the ledge of the stage, rendered immovable by exhaustion, surrounded by people offering praise. It was the DeLorean moment his high school peers had promised him.
A year later, DeLorean released his most recent tape, Grace, and things are for certain moving in the right direction.
The tape is a confident, fully-vetted project that advances country rap past its glorious trappings. It takes the music that has long simmered just below the prototypical (stereotypical?) “Houston sound” and works it into a contemporary version of itself. It is new era struggle and hustle, grit and anger and self-awareness packaged as success within itself.
And somehow, for the gasps of air that manifest themselves on the album (“I’m in prayers for the moment, no one cares when I’m on it,” he raps on “Breathe”), and for the grasps at the acclaim he’s without (“Pay homage whenever you see my mama, don’t tell it took forever, she been thought I was shining” he raps on “Young Legend”), the end feeling is pure and easily decipherable: Adulation. Adoration. Joy.
An obvious joy for the process, a begrudging joy for the slow burn, an authentic joy for the growth, and an indirect joy for a view of the earth broad enough to understand that being artistic can be as peremptory as being an artist.
“I think [music is] an everyday process. That’s not to say I wouldn’t love it if a song of mine took off and I became overnight famous,” he says with a laugh. “But I want people to fall back in love with projects. It’s big.”
Then a slight pause.
He has a large piece of loose-leaf notebook paper tattooed on his left arm. Tattooed on the paper are old song lyrics, pieces of his music that he says people have mentioned to him as being particularly impactful.
“I wanna be a mogul, I want a brand, I wanna find artists and build artists,” he admits. “Music comes with a message.
Then another slight pause.
“Music is bigger than the moment.”
His pre-show moment last year, big as it was at the time, is just that now: a single moment. And it’ll likely eventually be swallowed up by others as his music. But that’s of no concern to DeLorean. He never questions his destiny. He just reads the words in the dark so carefully.