“Life had its ups and downs, my mother did her best and we lived from day to day, trying to make ends meet, but it made us stronger,” Dean reminisces.
Growing up in the Geneva area of San Francisco’s Brookdale/Sunnydale neighborhood where some parts can get rough at times, he waxes philosophical that “every city has good and bad parts, but as long as food was always on the table and we always had a roof over our heads, what more can I ask for?” He credits the hard life with giving him the motivation to push express himself verbally. That may have been partly why he has had a passion for music and poetry since the age of 10.
The road to hip hop started when he was growing up in the 1980s; his parents listened to Earth, Wind & Fire, Maryjane and Blue Magic, “whose music seemed to have the same vibe as hip hop but with more of a kick,” so he fell in love instantly with the rhythm.
Personally, his style and music were influenced by hip hop greats like Tupac Shakur, Rakim, KrsOne and Nas. But when composing his own work he simply states, “I go where the music takes me.”
Although he did not study music formally, he was in the band during high school and played the bass and snare, traveling with his class to perform. Learning what went on in recording studios helped him get started on doing his own music. After studying computer technology, he learned to do graphic designs, shoot and edit video recordings and create a few websites –- skills that help him manage his own productions.
He was showing great potential when he was discovered at 18 by his former entertainment manager, Theresa Anderson, who introduced him to major record producers and artists with whom he credits his musical development. She knew and worked with the likes of Oakland rapper Mistah Fab, battle rapper J-Dogg, DJ/Producer DJ Daryl who worked with the late rapper Tupac, rapper Mac Dre and R&B musician Keisha Cole.
At 19, Dean was signed by Anderson to record under her own label, Dandell Records. However, although he recorded a lot of singles and did countless of shows, he did not feel he was achieving what he was looking for. So he took the next two years to learn more about the music industry before taking off on his own to return to school and study computer technology. He eventually purchased his own camera and studio equipment, then built his own company “DmA Productions” with his wife of 16 years, Arellys, a Nicaraguan teacher who also appears at times in his videos.
The husband and wife team produces not only videos together but also books live performances, and to top that they run a custom shoe/clothing line business. This helps him indulge in his passion for photography-video editing. Financing his own productions also gives him full autonomy to shoot videos, create his own graphic designs, engineer his own sound and juggle hip hop and rhythm & blues work with fatherhood.
Balancing family life with the entertainment industry has its challenges. “I'm trying to figure that out myself, although I surprise myself at times. But it's always been family first and that's what my wife and I agreed upon. No matter how busy we get, we always have time for our family. We even have family movie and game nights at least once or twice a week,” Dean shares his secret for a happy family life.
When asked if any of his kids are following in his footsteps, he muses: “My kids – what can I say about them other than them being great kids? My daughter, Paris, from the age of five to seven modeled. She did a lot of photo shoots and catwalks, but we chose to take her out of modeling so she can concentrate on her studies. She just graduated from hip hop class and we have also played around in my studio and recorded her singing and rapping. She has a pretty good grasp of what I do. But as of now, I say study, study, study!”
“As for my son, Jonathan, he's currently enrolled in Leadership Academy and has plans to be a veterinarian or video game designer, and Bella … she's still just a baby.”
He thanks Theresa Anderson who introduced him to the industry where he found his niche. “I learned a lot from her and wouldn't be the person I am now without her, so to her I give my thanks,” says Dean.
He is currently signed to a major hip hop record label "THIZZ LATIN" and has headlined over 20 shows, shot videos and engineered for the hottest artists. He is also now working on his own two albums, one of which was released last February 17, called "Stars The Limit," as his introduction to his becoming a part of Thizz Entertainment. (Dean shares a track “Shine” from Stars the Limit in a video below.)
The other album which he plans to release in October is called “Track Star.” This will be Dean’s official album to be released in stores worldwide including online sites.
“It's about my life's struggles and success, having to deal with ups and downs of life and is a way to express myself – from club tracks to anthems to straight stories on how I was raised – there's something for everyone to enjoy,” Dean describes this album.
Thizz Entertainment, a San Francisco company known for starting the Bay Area Rap & Hyphy movement, was founded by the late rapper Mac Dre. The company sells its recordings via local distribution, which can also be found in iTunes, Amazon, Yahoo and other streaming sites. With all the controversies associated with this recording company, it still remains a key player in the hip hop industry especially for the Bay Area. What makes it significant to the Filipino American community is that Dean Dario is the only Filipino signed to this label.
Asked if he has plans to bring his performances to the Philippines, Dean replies, “I would love to; it's been a long time coming, hopefully one day. I have made plans to do that and am just waiting for the right moment.”
His message to aspiring musicians: “Believe in yourself because your dream is out there waiting for you to grasp it. So reach for the stars and never give up.”
Video Track from “Stars the Limit” – with permission from Dean Dario
Music & Lyrics by Dean Dario
Manzel Delacruz is a freelance writer living in San Francisco.
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