The next time you overhear somebody say, “What the hell happened to rap?,” show them Dylan Owen. You rarely find rappers as laser-focused on lyricism like the 26-year-old Valley native, now pursuing his music career in NYC, and the depth and delivery of his music stands to impress the most skeptical of rap cynics. His muse is typically the intricacies of growing up, and as intelligent and insightful as his verses can get, there’s a considerable source of emotion saturating every song.
Owen recently released an eloquently vivid tribute to his grandfather, titled Mourn, but his single, Break Some Ice released earlier this summer, stands out as one of the rapper’s most soul-shifting works to-date, with a gripping music video to boot. Both tracks will appear on his forthcoming album, set to release in early fall. Keep on reading to get an inside look.
You’re from Orange County, right? What town?
We first lived in Middletown, then we lived in Circleville, and then Goshen is where I went to high school.
Has growing up in this area influenced your music in any way?
It’s definitely a nostalgic place for me, especially now that I’m living in New York for about a year and a half. I think the Hudson Valley area is very peaceful calm area where I feel like I’ve always been able to reflect, and I didn’t really grow up involved in any one music scene there so I think it encouraged me to be more of an introspective kind of writer and thinker. I think it’s definitely been a big source of inspiration for the writing.
Where do you feel your brand of rap and lyricism fits into today’s musical landscape?
I would say it’s a bit more of an underground sound, I could see it fitting in with people like Atmosphere, or Grieves, or your more lyrical kind of storytelling stuff. But a lot of that is from the Midwest and the Northwest of the US, so I feel like there’s not too much of it over here on the East Coast, and I feel like that’s a positive and a negative. I think it sets me apart, but it’s also hard to find the group that I fit in with so naturally.
Your most recent video for “Break Some Ice” almost takes shape as a short film more than a music video. Is this a format you plan to continue exploring?
Definitely, I’d say I’d love to continue down that path. I think what I want to achieve with it is to illustrate to people that I am trying to communicate something that is deep and it’s this whole other world that I create. It’s my imaginary world in my writing and my music and there are characters in that world and storylines. I want them to understand that it’s more than a music video of me performing and rapping into the camera, but it’s a whole kind of artistic universe that I’m trying to create.
Who did you work with to make the video?
The director is named Brian Petchers. He’s from Connecticut originally, but he’s New York City based. He did a couple of my older videos, too, which were all shot in Goshen, at least parts of them. We did Break Some Ice up in Goshen too, the beach scenes and stuff.
Who’s on your playlists these days that might be influencing the sound you’re putting out?
I actually listen to a lot of singer-songwriter music. Bright Eyes is one of my favorite bands and I love the main guy’s solo music, Conor Oberst, so I’m always listening to him. And then I just recently got into this underground rapper spoken word dude called Guante, from Minneapolis, just this past week and now I’m on that obsessive kick of going back and checking out all of his stuff. So, I’d say those two, and then there’s kind of an obscure singer-songwriter named Damien Jurado that I like a lot.
Really just anyone who’s telling a good story and has good lyrics man, that’s what draws me in.
Any other up-and-coming rappers from the Hudson Valley we should know of?
I know he’s been featured in Hudson Valley Mag already, but Decora is someone who’s been around, he is the spoken word scene and I used to follow his stuff when I was in high school because he was with his group the Red Necks and they were doing spoken word stuff.
What in your life would you say influences you and your music the most?
I would say the overall concept is always growing up and having to become an adult. I’m letting go of things from my childhood, whether they’re unsolved romances with girlfriends or just unsolved things I wanted to accomplish and never got to, or family issues and relationships.
I always think of that as I’m getting older and I have to cope with these various things and I think they’re all very regular ordinary coming of age experiences, but I feel like I don’t hear them talked about too much in very lyrical music so that’s kind of what I set out to do.
Are there any upcoming projects of yours we should be on the lookout for?
Break Some Ice is going to be track one on the full-length album, it’s kind of the overture to the whole album. The album will probably ready by [early fall], we’re just working on mixing now so it’s very close.
It’s definitely my dream to plan a tour after that based on wherever the fans are most supportive, I’m going to do my best to try to get out there. I do have a name, it’s going to be called Holes in Our Stories.