Rapper Decora has been writing rhymes since he was 13 years old. The New York native started out as a spoken-word artist and member of ReadNex Poetry Squad, releasing his debut album, Bread and Oats, in 2015. Decora comes to Lincoln Center's David Rubenstein Atrium on February 16 to celebrate the release of his follow-up album, Beyond Belief. In advance of the show, the lyrical storyteller spoke to me about his relationship to hip-hop.

Steven J. Horowitz: I read somewhere that you first fell in love with hip-hop when you heard A Tribe Called Quest. Was it all of a sudden or was it a gradual infatuation?

Decora: It was definitely gradual. My first memorable introductions to hip-hop were as a young kid in Brownsville. Hip-hop was everywhere. It was blaring out of speakers everywhere, but A Tribe Called Quest caught me one day on Hot 97 and it was like, "Damn. This is really cool." Over time, I continuously listened. I didn't start writing until I was 13. I didn't perform until I was 18, in college.

SJH: What were some of the specific songs that you remember being inspired by, in terms of storytelling?

D: Interestingly enough, one that comes to mind is DMX's "Slippin'". DMX is an amazing poet. It's entertainment, so a lot of times in entertainment, people focus on the negative of a person and what they do, what they did, and what I like about "Slippin'" is that DMX himself goes so deep and so intimate that he points out all of his flaws himself instead of allowing someone else to fill in that space and tell a story, misinform the public by the way they tell the story. So "I'm slipping, I'm falling, I can't get up," it was super powerful for me. Another one would be Jay-Z, "Moment of Clarity." Really important one. Another one would be Eminem, probably "Stan"; I thought that was really amazing. Another one would be Kanye, "Big Brother."

“To me, hip-hop is a form of expression that was based out of the ghetto, people who were underserved, underappreciated, and forgotten about, and it became a way of communicating how they saw their environment.”


Decora Sandiford