For the last 20 years or more, veteran Detroit hip-hop artist Deidre Smith, also known as D.S. Sense, has been crafting lyrical poetry on Detroit’s east side, but as the pandemic shut down the city, it forced her, like many others, to look inside. In search of herself amidst solitude from others, Smith created her Quarantine Concert Series, which she also paired with her latest project “Cooper St. Chrysalis,” drawing inspiration from the street of her childhood home.
The three-part concert series, starting with the song “A Walk in the Park,” were created, Smith said, with the hopes that people would be reminded to get up and go outside, even if they were alone. She hoped it helped people see the silver-linings of the pandemic and find strength in their own vulnerability. One Detroit’s Will Glover catches up with D.S. Sense for a exploratory conversation around music, passion and perseverance.
Will Glover, Associate Producer, One Detroit: To give people a little bit of sense as to, you know, who you are, what you’ve been doing. How long have you been artist musician in Detroit?
Deidre “D. S. Sense” Smith: Close to 20 years, I would say. I started as a teenager in an open mic circuits, and I was essentially a vocalist: R&B, neo-soul so that that way was big then. But I had always been an emcee at heart. And oddly enough, I was nominated for a Detroit Music Award for Best R&B, and around that time I was really itching to step into the waters of hip-hop.
[D.S. Sense raps lyrics over instrumentation]
Deidre “D. S. Sense” Smith: I’m more comfortable as a hip hop artist, so for the last 20 years or so, I’ve been really pushing that hip-hop (inaudible).
Will Glover: Your latest release is “Cooper Street Chrysalis”. First of all, tell us about the name of that album, “Cooper Street Chrysalis”. What brought that about?
Deidre “D. S. Sense” Smith: Yeah, well, that’s my homestead. I’m a native Detroiter, an east side girl, and that’s where my family home is. Cooper Street is home to me. It always will be. My family was one of the first Black families to integrate into the neighborhood that was primarily Jewish and Italian at the time, and so my roots run deep on the east side of Detroit.
Will Glover: Artists are always open to a challenge, to something new, to something changing, whether it be good or bad. There’s a way for an artist to participate, to distill, to translate, and you did something recently with taking us through a walk in the park. So tell us a little bit about what that was and, you know, what got you to the point in wanting to put this out.
Deidre “D. S. Sense” Smith: So, much like the rest of the world, my world had gotten a little quieter, naturally reclusive, a bit introverted. And so, I really felt like this was the time to show the rest of the world how to operate in such quiet and stillness.
I think that if you change a perspective about what this time is about and search for the silver lining, if you have the guts to, you’ll find that this is an opportunity to reinvent yourselves— to tap into those facets of yourself that was your Plan B. And artists know all too well about Plan B and being told to consider your Plan B. Well, now Plan B’s are at the forefront. Being an artist, I got up with my ‘Plan B’ self and I show my audience how you can make lemonade out of lemons.
[D.S. Sense raps lyrics over instrumentation]
Deidre “D. S. Sense” Smith: Yeah, if you feel like you’re in a place of despair, what better way to get yourself out of that get to take in the artistry of nature? Look around at the colors. Listen to the sounds of that first and foremost, and within that, you’ll find something to draw on. You’ll reinvent yourself eventually or come back to yourself. Whatever you need to do with self, you will eventually do it if you get out in nature, and so those that were a little more reluctant to come out, I decided to come out. I decided to walk the streets. I decided to walk the park, those that are in a fear of isolation. I decide to show them what isolation looks like when you choose to change your perspective.
Isolation isn’t loneliness. It’s an opportunity to get to know yourself, and that’s all I was doing. I was taking folks on a ride with me as I got to know myself, I reinvented myself. They were familiar with my long locks, and I cut those and I cropped my hair. And I want to be just as naked and vulnerable as being a vocalist made me.
Will Glover, Associate Producer, One Detroit: What is one of the things that you’re looking forward to most?
Deidre “D. S. Sense” Smith: I’m looking forward to the alleviation of fear. I want to see those people that I’ve seen a certain amount of fear come over them, I want to see them free and certain again. I would put out little videos on Instagram, and I would say, ‘I can’t wait to see you on the other side of this’ just anybody who would view the videos. I would always end it with, ‘I can’t wait to see you on the other side of this. I look forward to seeing you on the other side of this,’ and so I want to see those that make it on the other side of this along with me. And you will. I want to see you smile again. I want to see you confident again. I want to see you hug again. I want to see you kiss again. I want to see all those things that make us human again.
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