There was a time when Toronto rapper D-Sisive felt people would want to hear goofy rhymes about sodomizing chickens more than about deeply personal issues, like the loss of his mother.
His shows included the chicken bit, a Colonel Sanders costume and a Remy Shand impersonator. That’s going back almost a decade before the man who won SOCAN’s 2009 Echo Songwriting Prize (along with co-writer Muneshine) started writing more seriously and poignantly, on such releases as 2008’s The B.O.O.K. and 2009’s Let The Children Die. He was signed to EMI Music Publishing Canada back then and landed on the cover of Toronto weekly Now magazine, which named him 2001’s Best Unsigned Artist.
“I was the court jester at the time,” says D-Sisive, whose real name is Derek Christoff. “[EMI] saw potential through the plush mascot costumes, but that’s who I was then. I was more interested in making people laugh or trying odd theatrics… Looking back now, I think it was the result of having nothing to say.”
Then his life took a tragic turn, leading to a seven-year creative drought. “It started when my father’s drinking took a turn for the worse,” he says. “It used to be beer only; it became hard liquor, no eating. It affected his health. I was the only person taking care of him. I had no interest in writing songs between trips to hospitals or drunken fights. Very draining.”
When his mother died, he was able to stay creative because he had his father to keep everything together. “When he died? I didn’t have anyone,” says D-Sisive. “I feel like I had to go through what I went through in order to evolve into the person and the songwriter I am now.”
His inspiration was restored one night after he returned to live in the Oakwood neighbourhood where he had grown up. Listening to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, he wrote the first verse to his song “Brian Wilson,” which would appear on his eventual comeback, The B.O.O.K.
“From there, I wrote ‘Knee Caps,’” says the twice-Juno-nominated rapper. “I just dove into the more personal side of writing, which was weird for me at first because I always felt that nobody would want to hear my story. Then once I started doing it, it was non-stop.
“Everything that I talk about in my songs is 100 percent truthful. I don’t exaggerate anything and I don’t hold anything back… I’m just grateful that I stumbled upon that style of writing because that’s what has separated me from the rest of the Canadian hip-hop scene.”
D-Sisive’s new album, Run With The Creeps, is out in November. One hundred percent truthful? He’s running with creeps? “Yes,” he laughs. “There are a bunch of creeps running a marathon.”
• D-Sisive has started a blog to document the creative process of his next album at runwiththecreeps.com
• A planned collaboration with Buck 65 called The Ricardo Christoff Apparatus “will happen”; the pair released “The Night Before Christmas” in December 2010
• His Hijack Series includes a mash-up of Deadmau5’ “A City In Florida” put to his “Graffitti Wall” and “If I Live To See Tomorrow” written to Sigur Ros’ “Festival.”