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D-Tension is moving forward by looking back and respecting the past. In a few different ways.
The Lowell rapper and producer dropped a new track off this month’s The Violence of Zen LP, a throwback joint called “What Happened To That?” that features a guest drop from Akrobatik. Produced by Ben Hillman with cuts by DJ Emoh Betta, the song calls back to the golden era of hip-hop, as lyrically D-Tension reminisces about his introduction to rap in The Bronx of the late ’70s and early-’80s, while Akrobatik matches the vibe with his own verse about his start in the Boston scene.
Ironically, the banging new track comes during a conflicting present-day situation for D-Tension. The Violence of Zen hit digitally last week, self-released on iTunes and Google Play shortly after the January death of Dru Garrity, the CEO of Commonwealth Records. Garrity and D-Tension’s business dealings went back to the beginning, and suddenly, the record was left without a label base. “Dru was a vital part of my career in music,” D-Tension tells Vanyaland. “My first Boston gig. My first New York gig. My first record and many of the people I know in the hip-hop business.”
Literally hours after The Violence of Zen hit, D-Tension was able to link up with London-based label IBMC, which will boost the LP with distribution via CD, cassette, and vinyl physical products.
“IBMC is a miracle to me, like an angel sent to save this album,” D-Tension adds. “With a limited budget and a job, kids, etc., I wasn’t really going to be able to properly release this album, and I’m really proud of this record. When Dru passed so close to my release date, I figured I’d self release it digitally and let the chips fall. It’s remarkable that IBMC swooped within hours of my record’s release…. [IBMC] being a European label was huge for me because Europe has a loyal and rabid underground hip-hop fan base. They’ve really helped me elevate. At my age, elevating isn’t usually an option!”
And with this elevation, D-Tension is staying grounded back home. He’ll perform at the “Benefit show for the family of Dru Garrity,” February 18 at The Middle East in Cambridge, where many in the hip-hop community will gather to pay respects. From there, a European tour and a record release party in Lowell are on the agenda.
“Dru’s influence is on almost everything I’ve done,” says D-Tension. “It’s cliche to say, but he believed in me when no one else did.”
It serves as another throwback tale. Listen to “What Happened To That?” below.