Q&A With New Mexico’s Underground Hip Hop Staple Def-i

Yo Def-i We really appreciate you rocking with UGHHBLOG for well over 2+ years now! You’re definitely a true stand out artist out of New Mexico for 2021. Please tell us how many years you’ve been making music? For those unfamiliar, please shed some light on your background in the Hip Hop game. Please detail.

I appreciate your platform and been folllowing for some time now. I’ve been producing music for about 10 years and toured quite frequently throughout the decade. I got started in the game alongside my best bro Wake Self aka Andrew Martinez at a young age. We both joined an Indigenous Hip-Hop crew known as Foundations of Freedom and emerged from the indy rap and battle rap circuit. As a New Mexican, I was fortunate enough to be able to grow up around many B-Boys, B-Girls, Dancers, Writers, and DJs. I helped co-host NM’s longest running Hip-Hop weekly known as ‘Vinyl & Verses’ for years & began touring early on.

We noticed you rep your Native American roots heavy. Please shine some light on that, along with incorporating Hip Hop to spread awareness to the history behind it.

I am proud to be Indigenous and a tribal member of the Diné Nation (Navajo) & also part Mexican, too. As an adolescent youth, I fell in love with the culture of Hip-Hop and discovered similarities between it and my own traditional culture. Since I wasn’t raised in a strictly traditional way of life, Hip-Hop also helped me feel reconnected to my roots through music and provided a way to be a voice for our people who are very underrepresented.

Your career has had a strong second wind over the past few years. Do you find most of your fanbase familiar with you from your old projects, or do you feel that you’ve been discovered in recent years more so on the merit of your music. Please detail.

I feel there’s been a recent surge of new supporters partially due to the amount of new work that I’ve put out with various producers and artists. I think the quality of my music has evolved and improved over each project that has been released. I’m honored to have been featured on larger platforms such as UGHHBLOG and had the opportunity to tour with legendary Hip-Hop artists throughout the years. This also I have to credit for being able to reach larger audiences who appreciate lyrics.

When compared to other artists that you’ve collaborated with, what is it about Def-i that stands out and makes you unique from the pack. Please detail.

I feel Def-i stands out lyrically and is compatible to many styles of Hip-Hop & rap. I strive to write & perform verses/songs that I can really take pride in whether it’s for others or for my own projects.

Wow, your latest album “Drzltn” is a true BANGER is our books, your delivery & style is truly out of this world!  Tell us the story behind your recent project, And a little about the album cover concept!

My new album DRZLTN is also one of my favorites. Smoke M2D6 of Oldominion did most of the beats & One Be Lo of Binary Star also produced one of the songs. The album features Myka 9, Illmaculate, and Sleep of Oldominion to name a few and was mixed/mastered by Ariano. The album & cover was inspired by what people who grew up on the reservation refer to as “rez life” and the classic movie ‘Tron: Legacy’. In the movie, the word “derezzed” is used and it basically means ‘deresolution’ or when a program is shutdown from their grid system. I juxtaposed the ideas of our people who live “off-grid” on a rez with the futuristic non-fictional based concept of living on grid. I just wanted to convey the theme of being deprogrammed and essentially being able to leave the rez itself henceforth the cover art showing an indigenized grid system and Def-i walking out of a futuristic metropolis w/ Shiprock, NM in the background. I asked my crewmate Randy L. Barton to design the cover from these ideas and I really think he delivered what I wanted in the cover artwork.

What’s your favorite track off your latest album, and why? And please reference your favorite bar from this song that highlights your elite level lyricism.

One of my favorites from my latest album is ‘Napcatcher feat. A. Billi Free & Liv The Artist & I enjoy these bars, “Stare into a wishing well ’til you’re appearing in it/ Who’s the fairest of them all… mirror image/”

For this new year 2021, what do we have to look forward to when it comes to new Def-i music?  Please reference your forthcoming projects that you’re at liberty to speak of.

For 2021, I am proud to announce that my band’s album ‘Born In An Odd Time’ is being produced by 2x Grammy Winner John Lindemann. I’m part of a fusion based quartet known as D’DAT & we have a lot of upcoming projects such as a musical titled ‘Nataanii’ based around on the concept album itself. For my solo endeavors, I have another album ready to release & the project is produced entirely by Smoke M2D6 of Oldominion featuring a plethora of artists. I’m also working with Ariano on a few other upcoming projects, too.

Due to the pandemic, how are you pivoting with making music around this whole Covid 19 situation?

The COVID-19 pandemic really halted my regular tour schedule, but alternatively opened up more time to work on music from home. I recently hosted a virtual album release party for DRZLTN & participated in several online engagements that helped me sustain as an artist.

We have to ask, with all this social discourse and revolt, protesting and rioting, exposed police brutality toward blacks and BLM, how do you guys feel about this? We would love your perspective on the climate we are living in right now?

I feel we as a whole stand in solidarity with the BLM Movement and share goals such as wanting equality, police reform, land back, and much more. We share experiences of being subjugated to oppression, racism, colonial capitalism and other atrocities that were set forth by the U.S. government in the past. I feel that so many of us have been viewed as inferior or criminal by nature. Even our tribe (Diné) is popularly known as “Navajo” which translates to “thieves” which we are not, but this is how we were popularly referred to back then by oppressors & now people today. I love Hip-Hop so much because the culture brings us all together in a way & unites us all through modern ceremonial practices (cyphers, jams, music, dance, painting, song, etc.).

Our most popular question!!  What is your definition of “underground Hip Hop”?

I feel underground Hip-Hop is where the essence of the culture lives and still thrives today. You can find true practitioners of the culture living underground whether it be MCs, Style Writers, DJs, Dancers, and more. I tend to think of the underground Hip-Hop scene as a solid foundation. As a student of the culture, the underground aesthetic of Hip-Hop is raw and pure. The sound of underground Hip-Hop reminds me of how it could have felt to be in NYC before commercial entities were introduced to the culture itself. I gotta give credit to the Hip-Hop pioneers for paving the way.

Where can people find you on the web? Drop all the vital links.

Here are my social media links:

Subscribe To Our Weekly NewsletterStay Updated With Exclusive Content, News, & Events Straight To Your Inbox!


Senior Publisher for @UGHHBLOG // Been an Underground Hip Hop fan all my life and I'm dedicated to keeping the culture alive on a daily basis. Working hard every day and staying positive is what LIFE is all about.

Related Articles