While there hasn’t been a shortage of music to listen to during the pandemic, there’s not been much in the way of new performances. And while it’s not safe enough to go back out to one’s favorite music venue just yet, Detroit hip-hop artist and the founder of the On My Detroit Everything movement, Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith has taken it upon herself to provide not only audio, but visuals to keep people “dancing in their kitchens” or wherever they might find themselves during this time of quarantine. Calling it her Quarantine Concert Series, Smith has already released two parts of the series — “A WALK IN THE PARK” and “INTERMISSION” — that will “be a thing that continues until we all feel better.”
Part visual art, part poetry and part long-running narrative, Smith takes viewers and listeners on a mental “walk in the park” literally through one of her favorite parks in Detroit but also through her thoughts and emotions on the pandemic and shifting one’s perspective. A combination of both new and originally created material for her album “Cooper St. Chrysalis,” Smith made time just before the new year rolled around to fill Between The Lines in on the origins of this project, why it’s timelier than ever and why people can expect more content soon.
How did you pick the location for “A WALK IN THE PARK?”
This year has been pretty transformative for me. Everything from my state of mind to my aesthetic. My hair is shorter, I had locs before, and now I’m very cropped. And while this transition was happening globally and locally and internally and personally, I would go to [the] LaSalle Gardens [neighborhood park] to meditate. I had moved over to that side of town roughly around years ago, and I was on my way home from the market. And I came across this quaint little park. It was summertime and it was so pretty, but I was in a rush to get home so I didn’t stop and I didn’t take note of my surroundings. And for a while, I just thought me coming across it was some type of [sign] from the universe or something (laughs). It was just so pretty, but I couldn’t find it again and I knew it was close by. And, lo and behold, I was driving again and I just happened upon the park, hit a turn off of Linwood and there it was. And so, I decided to get out and I began to walk and meditate. And so what I did with “A WALK IN THE PARK” was I took those who were also going through transitional times and meditative states and I brought them on a walk with me. And I let them see inside of my day-to-day meditation and my place of solitude in solace.
What brought on this project during the pandemic?
A lot of people that I inform about the park, they aren’t aware that it’s there either. Only the neighbors appreciate it and they’ll come to walk their dogs. But Detroiters are used to going to Belle Isle and to the Riverwalk, and they’re not very familiar with that park. I just wanted to have a place where it kind of exemplified Detroit always having these gems. Like these hole-in-the-wall spots or these secluded areas that nobody else knows about and it becomes word-of-mouth unless you live there. So that’s what “A WALK IN THE PARK” is. It’s that secret place. That secret place inside of you. That secret place inside of my music. That secret place inside of my thoughts. I let the listeners come there with me and aside from them listening to “Cooper St. Chrysalis” [album]. I wanted them to have audio/visuals. I wanted to show them where I was at in this current state, where my frame of mind is. I feel so good and free and liberated. In a sense, I think it’s because the rest of the world gets to slow down and really live in the world of an artist.
How long did the process of creating this visual accompaniment take?
It took no amount of time at all. I love to conceptualize and come up with different things. And I literally rolled out of bed and decided, “I’m going to record a video today. I met up with a gentleman, Timothy Blackman. He’s a musician and drummer. I’d always appreciated his work, and I finally got a chance to meet up with him through a friend of mine. I ran the concept by Tim, and I asked him if he could show up. He was just as quick on his feet as I am. I told him, “Meet me at LaSalle Gardens. We’re just going to do a few songs, and I need just a half-hour of your time. Let’s let it be as organic as possible, as if no cameras are around.” And he did that. And we did that. We saw a tree at the same time and there was the spot for the first half of the video. I’m under a tree and I’m getting all this energy from the tree. I’m getting all this energy from the nature around me. I’m getting all this energy from the people passing by walking their dogs. I’m getting all this energy from Tim while he’s smiling while I’m performing these songs. It was just a good feel. From there we head over the bench that I sit at, and there was a tricycle there. And I love the fact that that tricycle was in the scene because I’m hooking onto this childlike creativity in order to do this. I mean, for goodness’ sake, I have a business degree, but I’d rather be rapping and singing and walking in the park. And that’s alright with me. And Tim was able to capture everything that I was able to conceptualize. It was spur-of-the-moment and organic.
So often projects like this get lost in translation. It’s great it was fully realized creatively for you.
I think it’s because I’m patient. And when I’m ready, I’m ready. I think that’s why I can think so quickly on my feet, because I sit with myself and conceptualize. And I can put things in the back of my mind and say, “Oh, that sounds like a great idea.” When time permits, when the right people [are around], I’ll go ahead and execute. So it comes out that way. You don’t force it. You just keep a mental note of things, and you allow for all of it to start to align. God does what He does — whatever you believe. The synchronicity of it all when it comes together for you — I’d like to say it’s serendipity, but it’s not. It’s the synchronization of all those different things playing and those intentions that you put out there. And, lo and behold, a person whose work I had admired, and he hadn’t been shooting for a very long time, but he was able to capture exactly what I was feeling.
Would you call this a more vulnerable project than normal? Or is that not fair to say regarding your other work?
I think it’s very fair to say. I think it’s very vulnerable. It has some songs that people are familiar with that I’ve been performing for years but hadn’t recorded. It wasn’t time. And I feel like it’s vulnerable, the way I appeared in it. It’s just very stripped own. I’m chillin’. Sweatshirt. Some of my favorite Nikes on. My hair just coiled like it wants to coil. My earrings just real all the way. Real hood. It’s what I like. And real easy. The intent was there, but there was nothing pretentious about it. It’s just flow. So, yes, very vulnerable.
You can sense the comfort in the video.
Thank you so much! That’s exactly it. I actually performed the songs live and we ended up having to sync music to it because the wind was a bit too loud, but I left the black and white video of the Biggie cover so I could get a feel of what we were up against. And you could see me throughout the video grabbing at my collar and trying to situate myself (laughs).
Can fans of the series expect more soon?
Absolutely. There’s going to be a succession of it. I’ve got “INTERMISSION” for you all. And then I’m going to do another one where I’ll go back to songs from some of my older projects. It’s going to be a thing that continues until we all feel better. I feel good, but I want everyone else to feel good too.
Keep up with Smith’s releases on her YouTube channel.