Photo by Anna Letson
Sitting in Washington Square Park with a cigarette in his hand and a blue-dyed braid extending from his head to the top of his neck tattoo, 25-year-old hip-hop artist Jez Dior exudes the rebellious persona of a modern day punk rapper. But Dior is more than just a stereotype.
“For me, music is an emotional release,” Dior said to WSN in an interview. “It’s what I’ve always used to get my feelings out. So everything I make songs about is pretty true to myself — not just about partying and girls.”
According to Dior, today’s hip-hop and rap music scene is heavily saturated with songs that focus on creating the mood of a party rather than paying attention to content. But when he entered the music scene in 2013 with his mixtape “Scarlett Sage,” Dior did anything but compromise the artistic value of his music.
Songs like “Candles,” “Hide” and “Blue” solidified his style of melting together gritty rock ‘n’ roll and grunge rap while exuding emotion through his confessional lyrics. He has more than half a million monthly listeners on Spotify, with New York City as his fifth most popular market.
Although parallels could be drawn between Dior and today’s rappers such as Travis Scott, Bryson Tiller and 21 Savage, his fusion of alternative grunge with smooth hip-hop produces music more reminiscent of artists like Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison.
That is not a coincidence; Dior is the son of legendary punk rock guitarist Steve Dior, of the Sex Pistols. Although his father left the house when he was 11, Dior says he was key in developing his current music taste.
“He always loved hip-hop and introduced me to that,” Dior said. “He really embraced it, would play ‘The Documentary’ by The Game in our house. He was open with everything and respected my taste too.”
Born and raised in Thousand Oaks, California — a neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles — Dior was surrounded by music from the moment he was born. It was when Dior was 12, with just him and his mother in the house, that he seriously began experimenting with music.
“There was nothing else to do; we would just play soccer, make music, get into trouble,” Dior said of his upbringing, smirking as he took a drag of his cigarette. “My life there was great.”
Dior attributes the environment of Thousand Oaks to the success of many artists and bands from the area. According to Dior, having nothing to do in his hometown forced him to combat his boredom with creativity.
Dior’s biggest musical influences include Eminem, Liam Gallagher from Oasis, Mick Jagger, 50 Cent and Jim Morrison. In many ways, these artists gained recognition for stretching the boundaries of their musical genres, and Dior aims to reach their ranks.
“You always got to evolve because the music industry is what you make of it,” Dior said. “Now, artists keep more of their artistic integrity and are able to do what they want. It’s awesome for me; I’ve been keep being able to do what I do.”
In 2017, Dior released his singles “No More Tears” and “Sober,” songs that contain emotionally raw lyrics about struggles he has encountered in his life.
In the next 10 years, Dior’s biggest goal is to inspire children with his music the same way his rap idol, Eminem, influenced him.
“I want to do this for kids what he did for me,” Dior said. “To be able to be that person for them would mean a lot to me.”
Additional reporting by Anna Letson. Email Ankita Bhanot at [email protected]