When I recall Tennessee and its hip-hop scene, memories of my first encounter with it arise – Project Pat and Three 6 Mafia from Memphis during my senior year in high school. Back then, southern hip-hop was gradually entering the mainstream with club-oriented beats and a lack of focus on lyrical excellence. However, that was more than two decades ago. Since then, a fresh wave of Memphis rappers has emerged. Among them, Dero seeks to challenge the prevailing notion of ignorance associated with southern rap. His EP, titled “A Lens Through My Eyes,” draws inspiration from the soulful vibes akin to Goodie Mob or the Justus League, rather than the horrorcore style of Three Six.
Dero stands out due to his departure from the spoken word rap often witnessed at local coffee shop open mic nights. He’s a multi-instrumentalist with a degree in music business, which I hope will serve him well if he delves into other facets of the music industry. The EP, comprising seven tracks, intentionally excludes guest appearances, and each track is crafted by a distinct producer.
The EP remains free of fillers, with each track, including the interlude, featuring rap verses. It kicks off with the initial track “Intro,” produced by J4K, featuring an airy and soulful sample. Dero displays his flow, skill in rhyming, and clever wordplay. “Reflections,” produced by GrownupKeelen, similarly samples soul music but with a faster tempo. Dero adopts a conventional southern flow, a blend of drawl and rapid delivery, ensuring alignment with the rhythm.
“Mr. Still Caint Quit” serves as an a cappella interlude, offering thought-provoking lines, while “What More?” elevates the EP. DB Beats integrates diverse samples, particularly focusing on horns, establishing a harmonious interplay between Dero and the production. “MATA,” fueled by a repeated piano sample from KlwnCat, aims to be a narrative track but somewhat lacks coherence. Embracing his southern heritage, “Way Back,” a track delving into Dero’s personal journey, merges 808 production with a decelerated sample provided by BYoungBeats. Despite delving into his life story, the hook leans more towards confident self-promotion.
Concluding the album, “Outro” features Dero sharing introspective lyrics over FlyingRoach’s production, reminiscent of Kanye West’s style during the College Dropout era. “A Lens Through My Eyes” showcases potential and promise. Amid a sea of southern emcees who share common traits, Dero emerges as a distinctive figure. If he enhances his lyrical finesse, his star is destined to shine even brighter.