Daz Rinko is made of soul.
The Memphis-based rapper-singer makes music with that irresistible Southern groove, effortlessly tackling difficult topics like love, religion and being a young Black man in America, and he does it all through a distinguishing bright and floral lens. Daz’ bold aesthetic can be credited to his mother, whose CD collection soundtracked car trips and was built into the fabric of his upbringing. At age four, Daz was singing Anquette's "I Will Always Be There For You" word for word, nearly every day.
His family would remain a major support system in his formidable days as an artist, always listening to his music. “Before I was able to get people to listen, they would be the only ones really supporting the stuff I put out,” he explains gratefully. Daz also specifically cites his older brother, who was the first person to take him into the studio to record music.
Beyond his family, the other major influence on Daz is the city of Memphis itself. Daz attests that he could not imagine crafting his latest work without hailing from Bluff City. When asked where listeners can hear Memphis in his music, Daz replied: “Memphis is a tough city. It's a lot of struggle to make it out. I sometimes take certain things I've heard and I incorporate them into my lyrics or concepts.”
Daz laughs as he recalls those early memories, and the same lighthearted tone takes over when we discuss his early pursuits in music. “I would always rap in high school for fun," he tells me. "I was always good but didn't really see a future in it. I sort of thought the come-up stories were fake."
Ironically, it was that same theory that helped Daz preserve his love for the music, which explains why on every song he sounds appreciative and a student-turned-master of his city.
For Daz, the turning point came when he got to college and released a song entitled “RAN.” The record invariably sounds different from his current music: hungrier, wilder, and his delivery at the time was almost biting. “RAN” tapped into and projected a raw energy, which did not fall on deaf ears. Daz explains that the track “gained quite a bit of traction, which was all new to me.” After being contacted by several music industry reps who were impressed with his material, Daz says, for the first time, he believed that music could actually become a viable career path.
Following the success of “RAN,” in 2016, Daz dropped his first mixtape, LIFTED., which he says was a pressure-free experience. “I was just rapping over beats I found off SoundCloud. No concept, no original content.” The mixtape was a carefree expression of where, and who, he was at the time of recording.
14 months later, Daz has finally returned with a follow-up EP, entitled Black Boy Joy.
When describing the two projects side by side, he explains how meticulous his writing process had become: “When it came time for Black Boy Joy, I paid attention to every detail, like how many times I would say a word in a song and crazy shit like that. Almost drove myself crazy, actually.”
In general, Daz has a very methodical creative process. He tries “to tune music out completely,” fearful of drawing unnecessary influences from a catchy song. To fill that entertainment void, he has film and sports. “I've probably seen every movie released this year, too. I plan on getting into film one day after the music,” he says.
Daz also notes that LIFTED and Black Boy Joy are both fun projects. "I didn't really think much while recording LIFTED. Black Boy Joy is more polished, and shows more growth in my opinion—both in my delivery and overall sound.”
Daz, of course, is right.
Black Boy Joy is both a celebration of syrupy Southern aesthetics and an unabashed declaration of self. In 18 minutes, Daz captures and let's flourish the essence of jubilation. On the title track, Daz creatively conflicts with an enigmatic “they”—who don’t want him to pursue his passions—over plucky synths reminiscent of GoldLink and Kaytranada. He swaggers over the disco-inspired beat of “Blessings From Above,” all the while invoking his positive relationship with religion.
While the gripping spirit of his breakout single “RAN” is alive and well on the hustle anthem “Liam Gallagher,” songs like the lead single, “Boo-Boo Kisses,” showcase a unique approach to melody, layering emotive and animated guitar over a soul-bounce rhythm, all held together by Daz’ energetic delivery. Even on the moodier “Following Love,” where the soundscape is dampened to reflect the introspective nature of the track, Daz doesn’t miss a step keeping the ear engaged.
Looking at the scope of Memphis' current music scene, Daz is giddy about the talent bubbling up but also believes Black Boy Joy is “in a spot of its own.” He notes, “There's this whole ‘New Memphis’ movement going on, and I'm somewhat carving [out] my own lane separate from the scene.”
The optimism Daz brings to his six-track EP is unwavering but doesn’t come off as contrived. When asked if his joyful sense of self is a method of resistance given the current political climate, Daz agrees, adding, “I just don't see what we gain from hate. A lot of conflicts in this country and world are fueled from unnecessary hatred.” This level of positivity does come with a bit of work, though, as Daz reveals his mission is to always seek out the goodness in life.
“I like to look to the little things for positivity and happiness. I have negative thoughts at times, but I look past them eventually. I feel like the only way to move through those moments is with peace, love, and positivity. Making listeners feel good is one of the things that keeps me going.”
A big part of the energy listeners get comes from the excellent work done by Melbourne-based producer SPRILL. and Connecticut-based producer Donato, who handled most of the production on Black Boy Joy. “I wanted to find some producers I could build a relationship with and create stuff from scratch,” he says, adding, “Working with them was great. SPRILL. is super cool and extremely talented. Him being on the other side of the world made it all the more wild to me. Donato is the homie as well. I have more stuff coming with them both.”
Other collaborators on the project include theMIND, a frequent collaborator of most everyone from the recent Chicago rap renaissance—Mick Jenkins, Noname, Saba and Joey Purp, to name a few—who appears on the third track, “SOS.”
“I was finished with 'SOS,' but didn't like the way I sounded singing the chorus. A couple days later, my manager asks me did I wanna try and get theMIND to do it, and I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’ He ended up sending a new chorus that sounded amazing. Coincidentally, I got a chance to see him live at a show we played together a month later at Wesleyan University.”
When asked about what steps he plans to take following the release of Black Boy Joy, Daz' answer suggests uncertainty. “[Just] continue making the best music I can possibly make, and the universe will do the rest. I do feel a collaboration with Fergie and Chingy coming soon, though.”
He ends with a laugh, happily (and hopefully) speaking the Fergie collab into existence.
Daz Rinko's new EP, Black Boy Joy, is currently available for digital purchase and stream.