“Some artists become stars seemingly overnight, living out the dream that they’ve always wanted. Others are pushed to success by their circumstances and the people around them. Atlanta product Derez De’Shon is an example of the latter, opting to make music for his neighborhood to appreciate, only to find himself with a Billboard 100 hit and a gold plaque for his track ‘Hardaway.'” – XXL
It could be any struggling community in America. However, the deck remains traditionally stacked against the residents of Clayton County, Georgia. Marred by a crime rate 73% higher than the state’s other cities and towns, prospects for success rarely exist—especially the sort of success Derez De’Shon achieved on a quiet and organic come-up since his arrival in the game.
Little more than two years ago, he found himself homeless with his three children, bouncing between the floors of friends and family. By 2018, the rapper received a platinum certification for his Top 5 Urban Radio hit “Hardaway,” a gold certification for “Fed Up” (which also soundtracked a spot for Equalizer 2), and clocked 500 million-plus total streams for Pain: the mixtape that spawned both. He garnered the sought-after “Social Star Award” at the 2018 BMI Awards and appeared on Wild N Out and BET Music Awards 106 & Park Special, making his television debut. He credits that success to a sense of resolution only earned through the toughest of trials and tribulations.
“I didn’t have shit, but my kids were with me,” he sighs. “We were staying in different houses of my partners and family, moving around. Belief got low. Where I’m from, you die really young. When things get hard, you do all kinds of shit to make sure you’ve taken care of your family, especially when you’ve got children. One day, I was just like, ‘Fuck this shit. I’ve got to do this for my kids. This is all I’ve got. I can’t do anything else. I’m going to give it one more shot’. I believe I’m coming from a place that is common within all of us, whether rich, poor, homeless, or you got a big ass house. I was speaking from a place nobody speaks from…trying to keep faith in God, but you’re living in hell. That’s where I came from.”
He delivered this message on Pain with a one-two punch of catchy and confessional melodies and hard-hitting rhymes punctuated by cinematic storytelling and knockout bars. A fervent fanbase embraced these transmissions from the gutter and Derez leveled up. He joined forces with Commission Music in a high-profile joint venture and went about assembling his next project, Pain 2: Beat The Odds.
Like any sequel worth its salt, the second installment built on the predecessor, while forging ahead.
“Pain was just about pain,” he continues. “Pain 2 is Beat The Odds. It’s going against everything, standing up for something, believing in what you believe in, and not backing down at all. It’s a continuation of Pain, but from a different perspective of beating the odds. I didn’t have money the first time. Now, I’m dealing with the love and betrayal that comes from money.”
He teased out the project by way of the street anthem “Beat The Odds” [feat. YFN Lucci]. Meanwhile, the first single “Whattup Doe” [feat. Mozzy & G-Eazy] hinges on a club-ready beat as it cruises ahead on the fuel of Derez’s bulletproof verses. Everything culminates on a hypnotic refrain that’s downright impossible to shake.
“That’s a good one to kind of show where I’m at,” he says. “I wanted to do something melodic. I got the best guests on it. Mozzy is on some real shit too, so I had to do some real shit with him.”
Elsewhere, “No Love” [feat. Dreezy & YFN Lucci] unites three of the game’s hottest voices on a laidback and lush lovelorn moment of introspection.
“You do everything that you think you can for a person, and this person just doesn’t accept it,” he explains. “They’re somewhere else. Everybody really showed up on it. It bangs.”
The same could be said for the rest of Pain 2: Beat The Odds and everything Derez does. He survived the unbeatable and unbelievable, and now he’s sharing his story and strength.
“When you hear me, I hope you take away power, strength, faith, hope, wisdom, knowledge, and overall understanding you ain’t the only one,” he leaves off. “Everybody went through this shit. Everybody is going through this shit. Don’t give up. If I could make it, you can too.”—Rick Florino, September 2018