Def-I’s not only one of the most talented rappers I’ve ever seen, and not only does he make beats to match his verbal dexterity, and he’s not only an impresario to beat the band… he’s also one of the most sincere performers in town. It’s rare you find that combination of talent, ambition, and humility in one person, and here he is, the full package.
Def-I’s a local boy. He grew up in a rough part of town (now known affectionately as the International District), and cut his teeth in local bars. With the release of Shields for Raining Arrows, his latest album, he’s been touring around the US, leaving a trail of dropped jaws.
We first worked together at the El Rey theater in downtown Albuquerque last year, when he opened for archetypal Dub act Sly and Robbie. (The best shot from that night made its way onto Shields for Raining Arrows, literally, later that year. He also hired me to shoot the painting by Randy L Barton that would be used on the cover.) We liked the look of that space so much agreed to explore the same pallet in a headshot session at my home studio.
As I shot, he told me about growing up in Albuquerque, his years in the local hip hop scene, and his hopes for his new album. It’s rare such talent comes in such a confident, humble person.
Def-I has since used images from that shoot all over, from an article in The Alibi, our local alternative weekly to his Bandcamp page.
In January of 2016 I shot the release party for Shields, at Sister Bar. It was a huge, rawkus night, a full celebration.