Editor’s Note: “The Reel Black List” is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity on a daily basis. For the next 29 days, you will be able to celebrate wonderful human beings, like Joshua Turner with us.
American Hip Hop artist Joshua Turner, better known as deM atlaS, will release his new EP titled Redemption in March on https://www.dematlast.com, as well as streaming platforms Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, Tidal, and Bandcamp.
Turner composes emotionally complex music aimed at listeners who are in need of some sonic solace of their own. His previous release titled Bad Actress represents the culmination of the twisting creative path the artist has patiently followed since his teens.
He was a poet, a painter, and the front man for a rock band before he found his space in Minneapolis’ prolific rap scene. Turner’s soulful singing voice, and his ability to navigate from acidic funk to acoustic balladry to minimalist gospel, make it clear that he is a rising star on the rap music scene.
What’s your origin story?
Hello, my name is Joshua Turner. I got into art when I was really young. I used to be obsessed with drawing maps and imaginary cities until I found music. When I was 15, I formed a band with my friends in high school and after that fizzled out, I started performing on my own and creating my own music as, deM atlaS. It’s been a trip. I was born in Akron, Ohio and I was raised in the Twin Cities.
How did you get into Hip Hop?
When I was 20-years-old, I signed with an indie Hip Hop label based out of Minneapolis called, Rhymesayers and that pretty much put me on the map. At the time, I thought it was a dream come true.
Because of that opportunity, I had the chance to go on tour and see the world a bit. I learned a lot about the music business through that experience and it taught me that I really enjoy my personal freedom. Today, I’m an independent artist just doing my own thing.
I work on my music and my art every day and I just keep going on the path. It’s been a hard, yet beautiful journey
Who Were your mentors?
I would say my mentor was my oldest brother, Andrew. Apart from being my brother, he was kind of like a father figure since I didn’t really have one growing up. I looked up to him and before I knew myself, I wanted to be like him. He is an extremely driven and charismatic person. The epitome of cool.
Joshua, while there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
I think my biggest achievement was probably going on tour and traveling the world several times over. I have met some extraordinary people, and I made some wonderful memories. I loved being on the road and traveling to places I otherwise, never would’ve been.
How about your biggest disappointment?
From traveling on the road and from the extra baggage I had during childhood, I picked up some bad habits that I still struggle with sometimes. For one thing, when you’re on tour, every night is a party and if you’re not careful, you can become stuck in that mentality.
I was drinking and smoking and just partying too much and not being mindful of the company I kept. Before I knew it, a couple of years passed, I woke up alone and seemingly without any real friends and it was terrifying.
I had to step back and re-evaluate somethings in my life, because how I was living before was not the way. I am learning to love myself and live in my truth. It’s easy to get lost out there.
How has having the superpower of your Blackness helped you?
Every time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded of my ancestors and what they had to overcome for me to be here and for me to be able to have the freedom to do what I love.
The hardships, the struggle, the trauma and the glory live inside of me. I’m honored to be here. I’ve inherited that same strength and that tenacity and because of that, I’m reminded to never give up, no matter how hard it gets.
If Black culture is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?
I think we all have that voice in our head that tries to beat us down and relentlessly tells us lies about ourselves. I wrestle with that voice and somedays, I feel like I wrestle with the world. People’s opinions, their judgements, their perceptions and their lies can penetrate the body like a sword through flesh and disrupt your peace, if you let it. Not giving it your time or your energy, is key.
Joshua, how did last year’s BLM movements affect you personally?
I lived a few blocks from where George Floyd was murdered. Cup Foods was less than a mile away from my old apartment. Minneapolis is my home, my community. The city went up in flames and I felt the sheer anguish and pain rip apart the streets I used to walk on.
The images I saw, I will never forget. Words can’t even begin to describe the pain, the anger and the fear that I felt when I first saw the tape of what those cops did to George Floyd. I felt isolated and alone. Apart from everything, yet a part of everything. It was magnificent to see everyone march all over the world in solidarity for BLM.
That was inspiring to see, because moments like that, you never forget. They live forever in your heart.
What can the industry do better to promote true inclusion?
I think they should hire more people of color and of different backgrounds, genders and orientations in positions of influence. There needs to be a wider array of perspectives and people from different walks of life in order to enact true and proper change, I think.
If you’re Batman, who’s Robin?
Can I be Batman and Robin?
What drives you to create?
I’ve always been pretty sensitive. I feel things deeply and I just need to express it. I’d go mad if I didn’t have music or some sort of way to express what I feel inside. Life is the greatest teacher of them all and I make music as a sort of conduit to talk about all that I’ve experienced and walked through in this life. I want to reach people and I want to be a force for good in this world. I hope my music touches peoples’ lives so that they feel less alone.