Toronto, ON – After disappearing under the radar for the last few years, D-Sisive is back. His almost ten-year absence from music has those who watched him rise wondering where he went. Back in 1995 he began his career by rapping at open mics.
Over the years, D-Sisive otherwise known as Derek Christoff made a name for himself by freestyling and battling throughout Toronto. With his unique talents he gained quick success as an elusive, and creative musician. But just as it seemed he was taking over the Toronto hip-hop scene, he suddenly slipped away. Last year he resurfaced momentarily with the EP The Book, giving a peek into his musically reclusive life. Now, he returns once again with his first full-length album Let The Children Die.
This album has been in high rotation for the last month and if you listen closely many questions can be answered for listeners through this highly anticipated album. Where did D-Sisive go? Why did he leave? Did he leave? And most importantly, why he’s back. On Let The Children Die, D-Sisive reaches out to his audience by opening up to listeners through his music. This makes him much more than just the spin of the month-he’s the link between the real emotions that we feel and hip-hop music.
“…I felt there was nothing out there. So I had to continue because they were so bad not because I was so good. And I’m still not so good. But they’re still very bad”– High School Cool, D-Sisive, Let The Children Die, 2009
HipHopCanada: You just released your new album, Let The Children Die what is the title about?
D-Sisive: It’s kind of funny because this is always the first question asked and, I can see it bothering yourself and other writers. I’m sure it would be the obvious question to ask, but when I decided to name the album that I kind of made [pause] I guess a pact with myself to not really tell anybody what the title means. So this is kind of my way to make the listeners of the record put on their thinking caps and try and figure it out for themselves. A lot of my music is very straightforward and to the point, and you know, there are certain things that I’d rather not spoon-feed.
HipHopCanada: So would you say then that the album title reflects something personal?
D-Sisive: There’s definitely a more personal meaning to it. There is an actual title track on the album, Let the Children Die which the concept seems very defined within that song. But it’s important to let it be known that the actual song on the album has nothing to do with the title of the album, which makes things very confusing for readers and writers.
HipHopCanada: Do you think it would be less confusing to a listener if they took on their own ideas of what the album means?
D-Sisive: Anyone who tends to be abstract with their art usually wants whoever is taking in the art to create their own interpretation. It’s important to do that when creating anything, to leave things open for interpretation. In a world where everything is so obvious and so right in front of people’s faces, why not give them something to think about? So yeah, it’s cool. I mean, I have my own interpretation, I’m sure other people have their own. One thing I will say it has nothing to do with the literal sense of children dying. That one I’ll put out there. [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: I heard this took a long time to put together and that you were doing other things while you were working on this project?
D-Sisive: I’ve been making music since ‘95 and you know I’ve never really put out a full length album so you know this is technically, yes . . . the album that has taken me THAT many years to put out. But it’s not like I’ve been working on this particular piece of music over the last ten years. Like around 2001 a lot was going on for me and, it all kind of fell apart. So I took a bit of a break and I wasn’t creating that much. You know I was doing the odd thing on the side but never really sat down to put together a full project. Until I put out The Book which came out last year. Since I put out The Book this is the album I’ve been working on since then. So when people hear about the ten-year hiatus that I took they automatically assume that I’ve been working on this particular piece of music over the course of ten years. It’s not like that. It’s not Guns N Roses, Chinese Democracy stuff.
HipHopCanada: The stuff that you were working on over the ten years, what is the difference between that and what you have decided to put out as an LP release?
D-Sisive: What I was working on didn’t really stick with me. I was going through a lot of personal problems and so you could say that I attempted to work on things. Like with the exception of some things that I did for a DJ Format record that came out in the UK and in Europe. Those were more up-tempo songs that I really wouldn’t do now. But when I actually started to work on D-Sisive material my mind was so flooded with everything that was going on around me that it was kind of hard to stick to a certain concept. So, I would attempt to write songs and I’d have a ton of beats from producers that I know, but nothing would ever go past a verse. Which if you listen to the song, “The Stars” on Let The Children Die that song was actually written in 2006, hence the line where I say, ‘“I’m twenty-six and penniless,”’ you know that’s where I was in 2006. And you know how I say ‘I haven’t written one verse since ‘High’’. That was a song I put out in 2005 where people are like, “Okay, D-Sisive is coming back,” and nothing really happened after that. I just think it was important even though it was an older verse to put it on the full length [album] now because you know that’s just where I was. There really wasn’t anything to talk about as far as what I was working on. I would always attempt and then something would happen, and put a stop on my creativity. So the difference between what I was working on then and what I working on now, is I actually finish things now. And I’m happy with what I’m working on.
HipHopCanada: When you are not doing music, what are you doing?
D-Sisive: Doing music. That’s all that I do.
HipHopCanada: Since you began making music, how do you think you have changed goal-wise?
D-Sisive: My goals are totally different. I think that has to do with I guess the growing up factor, the evolution process. When I was sixteen-seventeen years old all I cared about was open mics and freestyling and battling and that’s how I got my name known in the city, through battling and my freestyling. So back then that’s all I cared about I had no interest in writing songs, at all. So I didn’t pay much attention to it. And then as years passed I got more into songwriting. But then, I got into an area where I was very gimmicky with my music with the singles that I’d put out around like 2000, 2001. Then you know, I guess you take the gimmick approach when you have no experience or have nothing to write about. That’s all I really had. But then things went down with my life, and I just kind of experienced life. Now finally I have things to write about. So you go through those stages. And you know it has taken me almost fifteen years to find my voice. Sometimes it takes a very long time but I’m glad I found it and everything is going well now. And I’m glad I never put out an album in 2001. [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: What experiences have helped you find your voice?
D-Sisive: Well you just have to listen to my music to find that out, I put it pretty much out there. I just decided to take a more personal approach with my songwriting. You know the death of my parents, and just certain things that I have been through like dealing with depression, I just found that would be more interesting to write about rather than how better of a rapper I am over other artists. That shit is just boring to me now.
HipHopCanada: Do you think that being personal in your music makes you vulnerable in the hip-hop industry? Are people still taking you seriously?
D-Sisive: People are taking me more seriously. In the grand scheme of things nobody really gives a fuck about the gimmicks and the bullshit. You know me deciding to be more personal with my music is the best step I could of ever made. I want to get to a point where I can make timeless music where years from now people are still listening and paying attention. The majority of music that is coming out now, nobody is going to give a fuck about it in six months, as opposed to ten years from now. So it’s definitely a wiser decision.
HipHopCanada: I want to ask you about the ostrich. Orville Knoblich, is he your alter ego?
D-Sisive: You could say that. It’s basically the title of my ostrich concept. You know you can think it is sort of an alter ego, but I think calling anything an alter ego is pretty lame. It’s a lot for me to go into. It’s the name of my ostrich, my pet ostrich. [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: What message do you think Orville helps you get across in your music?
D-Sisive: My ostrich helps me a lot. He gives me the confidence to go out there and just feel comfortable about myself, to just not be afraid to put it all out there. He speaks English to me. He knows how to talk. It took me awhile to teach him how to talk.
HipHopCanada: In that case, is he more of someone who sits on your shoulder to guide you than an alter ego?
D-Sisive: Sits on my shoulder. He’s more of an inspiration.
HipHopCanada: You seem to be described by the media as a different, obscure artist. Do you see as yourself as an artist who is different or obscure?
D-Sisive: No, I don’t see myself like that. But I also find it corny when a person will come out and label themselves as ‘different and obscure’. It’s like the guy who comes out and says, “I’m so eccentric! I’m so different!” and everyone says, “No you’re not you’re just a douche bag”. You know people are going to label me whatever, I make my music and I guess people put it that way because the majority of artists aren’t making music like I am, as far as the mainstream is concerned. I don’t see myself as different and obscure, that’s up to other people to judge. I just do what I do. I put out a record, and that’s that.
HipHopCanada: What do you think is different about your music than other music?
D-Sisive: It’s not trying to be anything but myself. It’s like a cliché attack on the same old shit that everyone keeps making over and over again. It’s become a stereotype because it does exist. If only anybody would try something remotely experimental with their music you’d see a bit of a better payoff. It’s just unfortunate. I’m not trying to be like a father who says, “Oh, music isn’t the same as what it used to be,” but music IS just generally shit right now. That’s my opinion and I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion that’s just me. I guess people are attracted to the record because it’s not the same old shit, not the same old ‘put your hands in the air’. Maybe I’d make more money if I made songs like that, but I’m pretty good where I’m at.
HipHopCanada: Where do you think there is room for more experimental music like yours?
D-Sisive: It’s the whole revolution state of mind. The reason that the radio isn’t changing is because artists aren’t changing. But that’s because of artists doing what they think needs to be done. Now its just like with anything you can feel a certain way about a certain cause, not just music it can be anything, but if you don’t have the balls to step up and do something about it-then you’re just going to fall back in with everybody else. Everyone wants to attack the corporations, no one ever attacks the artists, but it is the artist’s fault too. It’s everybody’s fault. People just need to grow some balls and try something. And then again if listeners are being forced only a certain type of music, that’s all they know. In a certain way I don’t blame artists for not stepping up but it’s just an evil circle that will continue to happen forever, I don’t think it will ever change.
HipHopCanada: Who do you listen to?
D-Sisive: I listen to David Bowie. Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. Anything modern. I’m a huge Jack White fan. I listen to Rufus Wainwright. I listen to Ron Sexsmith. I listen to Outkast. You know people who make interesting shit. But at the same time, I love 50 Cent-I can listen to that for a bit. [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: Almost like a guilty pleasure?
D-Sisive: Not even a guilty pleasure. Because it’s not that I’m embarrassed that I listen to it, I mean I love 50 Cent. [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: I heard you are a big Brian Wilson fan, what is it about his music that you like so much?
D-Sisive: Everything like the harmonies . . . the production. For me to get into an artist I really need to be attracted to his or her story. Just knowing the history behind him and what he went through as a human being and how he put that into his music, it’s just brilliant. It’s a captivating story all around. So I love everything, the entire package all around him.
HipHopCanada: Do you think of yourself as kind of like a Brian Wilson then, as someone who puts themselves into their music?
D-Sisive: Well I put myself into my music but I’d never make that comparison. He’s a genius. I’m just a rapper from Toronto. If anyone else wants to compare, I won’t hold that against them. But, no I could never put myself on that level. I would like to be maybe in another thirty years. That would be a goal to achieve but not right now I’m just getting started.
HipHopCanada: What do you think would measure your success as an artist?
D-Sisive: I don’t really know to be honest. I just hope that 30 years from now I can still be creating music that people are listening to. I’m happy and overwhelmed with the response that I’m getting now so if I can still continue this for another five years, let alone 30 years-things will be great.
HipHopCanada: What would be the one thing that you would tell someone who didn’t know your music?
D-Sisive: It’s pretty heavy. I have a lot of people who tell me that they enjoy the record but it’s not something they can sit down and take in during one listen. It’s not like background cleaning your apartment music. It’s pretty heavy material. Be careful, you might cry a little bit.
HipHopCanada: It people want to hear more D-Sisive where can they listen?
D-Sisive: Buy the record at HMV or on my MySpace and iTunes.
Editor’s note: For more information on D-Sisive check out http://www.myspace.com/dsisive.
Written by Jeunesse Montgomery-Spencer for HipHopCanada