In less than a single whirlwind year – from summer 2020 to spring 2021 - DICI has evolved from a quarantined 17-year-old freestyling rhymes and mastering the Pro Tools rig in his bedroom to emerging rap star with thousands of worldwide followers, a popular critically acclaimed indie EP on his own label (DICI Records, LLC) and an explosive new album on the way. Since dropping his self-titled debut in January, the multi-talented Italian born, Milan and Miami raised artist has earned massive press hits, over 600,000 Spotify streams in 100 countries and more than 1,100,000 views of his professionally directed and produced videos on YouTube.
The focal track “305-INTERLUDE” alone has scored over 100K streams on Spotify – where it was blew up after being included on the taste making “Chill Rap Vibes 2021” playlist - and over 525K views on YouTube. The hard hitting videos for “305-INTERLUDE,” “Bar for Bar,” “Vector” and “4Door” were directed by Associated Press and Emmy winning director and cinematographer Brian Bayerl of Greendoor East Productions, and promoted by The Syndicate. DICI and Bareyrl’s most recent “Shibuya” – an homage to the rapper’s half Japanese heritage on his Mom’s side – was shot at the state of the art Robot Studios, with DICI surrounded by fast moving images of Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo created on an LED wall called the Volume – a technology used in the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.”
While working diligently on his developing creative aesthetic, ever maturing and insightful narrative flow and composing and production skills to create the tracks for his upcoming debut album, DICI often posted short video snippets on Instagram to keep his eager fan base in the loop about what he was working on. He called these posts “DICI Doses,” and felt that “DOSES” was the perfect title for his upcoming 7-track debut album, due to drop in the fall of 2021. It’s also a play on the Spanish word for two.
While a year of COVID-19 and its resulting quarantine kept many established artists off the road and in ongoing career shuffle mode, the down time from school gave DICI – free from his extracurricular lacrosse and weightlifting schedule – a chance to focus on his true passion. Along the way, as he learned how to create beats and sonic textures and record his raps over those, he became an ultra-prolific writer.
While DOSES includes “E to S” and “Move Out The Way” from his sessions before the release of the EP, it also includes five from a batch of 15 the artist has penned since January 2021. In a single week when he was caught up with his school work, he went on a tear and wrote and produced four of the tracks that will be on the album – “Flip,” “Art of War” and the two tracks on deck to become the album’s upcoming lead singles, the infectious pop/hip-hop oriented “Five Rings” and “I’ve Been Dreaming.”
“Over these past months, I’ve learned that I can generally write tracks quickly when don’t have anything else on my mind and can focus all of my attention on the music,” says DICI. “After this spurt of 15 songs, I vowed to take a break until after I finish high school, and now that I’m graduating in May, I’m committed to doing this full time. When it came to putting the tracks for DOSES together, there was no single concept driving me. I just went through the new material and the songs I liked from before that didn’t make it onto the EP. There’s also some great stuff I’ve saved for future releases.”
As for his process, the rapper adds that for his more melodic songs like ‘Five Rings’ and ‘I’ve Been Dreaming,’ he creates the beat first and then develops the song around that groove. He finds it easier to write when he has an idea of what he’s going to be talking about in the song upfront. DICI has done quite a bit of traveling for someone his age – including traveling to Japan countless times and even going to school for a time in Tokyo – and these experiences have inspired songs like “Shibuya.”
“Still, because I’m young and often isolated working in my bedroom,” he says, “I sometimes draw ideas from books I’ve read rather than daily life experiences. So ‘Five Rings’ for example comes from ‘The Book of Five Rings,’ a text on kejutsu and the martial arts written by 17th Century Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Likewise, when I was in Italy with my family two years ago, I read Freud’s ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ and I had ideas from that book in the back of my head when I wrote ‘I’ve Been Dreaming,’ which naturally has a very dreamy vibe to it.”
Whether consciously or not, DICI has developed a powerful way with phrasings that can be interpreted personally/literally or as larger metaphors about life. So on “Five Rings,” when he sings the hook “Five rings, five rings/I sing, I sing/I’m in the sky/I fly away” and lines like “I’m in the wind, the sky/I’m here to win, survive,” we can interpret it as purely whimsical, in the moment poetry or larger commentaries on the human instinct for survival and a desire to transcend one’s circumstances.
Or, as the rapper comments, “The book is all about working hard and sticking to one’s training, but to me ‘Five Rings’ could also be referring to the fact that my debut EP had five songs and those were my initial ‘rings’ that everyone could hear. For the hook, I was sitting on the balcony late at night, exhausted, just listening to some beats on repeat. I was a bit zoned out and the hook just hit me out of nowhere.”
Considering this, and the fact that DICI is so artfully blending powerhouse beats and a soulful, melodic, sometimes hypnotic synth generated flow, it’s perhaps best to paint our understanding of his tracks in broad strokes. So maybe ‘I’ve Been Dreaming’ is about questioning whether life is a dream or reality, or maybe just a young man’s hope to just stay in bed and not face the world that day. DICI says “E to S” grew out of his dad suggesting he write a song about breaking out of his room – but some may identify in his lyrics their own need to set themselves free from troubling life choices, circumstances or addictions.
The other tracks on DOSES will be “Flip,” an insanely hooky “pump up” song inspired by the way people so quickly change their minds (like one minute saying DICI won’t get anywhere, the next praising his amazing success); “Gardening,” a short intro tune which he started by acknowledging nothing was happening that day and then somehow segueing into a reflection on plants that may need to be burned; and “Art of War,” a militaristic, percussive joint inspired by battle oriented video game “Call of Duty” and another legendary book he’s read called “The Art of War” by 5th Century B.C. Chinese general Sun Tzu.
Though officially he cites his rap influences as Eminem, Denzel Curry, Action Bronson and Mayhem Lauren – the latter two whom he discovered watching Bronson’s show “Fuck That’s Delicious” on Viceland – DICI says it was a YouTube video by renowned producer Kenny Beats that fired him up and sparked the intense dedication that fueled the first EP and launched what is fast becoming a burgeoning career as an indie rap artist. The previous November he had gone to a friend’s house and learned how to make beats and about the production side of making records. Everything screeched to a halt when COVID hit, and though he had loads of free time, he just chilled out for months.
“By the end of July, I was starting to feel restless,” DICI says. “Going through YouTube one day, I found the Kenny video. He was talking about how before he was famous, he had locked himself in a room and worked all day long. Everything was about work ethic. It hit me that I’d wasted half the summer. After I watched that clip, I literally dedicated 12 hours plus every day to music – waking up, doing music, going to sleep, on repeat. I made a lot of progress on the tech front, too. The first project was me saying ‘Hello, I’m here,’ and now the plan is to put out a couple of singles with this fresh melodic sound to build momentum for DOSES this fall.”