At age 27 with his fourth studio album, New York resident deem spencer reflects on the love that’s shaped his latest project adultSW!M, what he wants from the future, and conspiracy theories that hit too close to home.
Death and rap have overlapped too many times in the music industry. Where violence is shed, grief is often capitalized off into materializing art for an endlessly starving audience of vultures. As death is either idolized or commodified, deem spencer enters the mix to explore the emotional impact of grief and violence while creating a very tangible impact on the world around him.
Spencer's style is often portrayed as low-key, from a more sincere and DIY space in Hip Hop. His previous album, 2021’s Deem’s Tape portrayed topics in a much more altruistic light, even comical. Songs like “Houseplant” and “Wife Wife” demonstrated an uncomfortably relatable and dry side of Hip Hop. Where this album is spencer portraying his current state, adultSW!M is the rapper taking a more assertive means to shape his future. Two years after Deem’s Tape, losing his abuelo and living a lot of life, the Queens rapper marks a new era of his adult life.
AdultSW!M is arguably one of spencer’s best projects, if not his best project to date due to the attention to detail in all areas. In areas where spencer felt criticism saw the most attention in its development.
“I had a mixer and an engineer present with me every step of the process”, he said. Beyond the mixing quality, every aspect of the project shines and exudes confidence. From the nostalgia-soaked instrumentals to the layered sections of orchestrations present in songs like “Baby Boy”, each layer of the album is handled and executed with care. “I really wanted to challenge myself to enter an intangible quality that my favorite stars have, that star quality, but I wanted to develop more of that into my work”, he stated.
“If anything that was the biggest influence; I was trying to achieve a star quality”
I wanted you to make sure you can hear what I was saying. That was a big critique of mine. Competitively I wanted my music to hold up and I always felt it did artistically, but there's certain qualities, sound mixing, people being able to hear what you're saying, it goes a long way”, he said.
The biggest influence that can be felt throughout the project comes from the name itself, adultSW!M. The project title goes a little deeper than at first glance. On the surface, it comes off as just a concept or a potential nod to the Cartoon Network adult slot, but adultSW!M is the perfect encapsulation of the themes layered throughout the project and more. “Originally the album was titled ‘My Wife and Kids’. I wanted to make something that spoke to what I'm doing this all for. I wanted to make something that covers my intentions, my life, my career, something that was a real statement piece. But throughout the creative process, it started to feel like ‘i wasn’t there yet”, he shared.
“The title made so much sense because we already had the album cover”.
“The album cover was made by a very talented painter named Beatrice Whitehill. I spoke to her last January I believe- she created this beautiful painting over what we spoke about”, he said.
Spencer shared an anecdote on how the title came from a friend while working on an online promotional video, “the themes of the album is me figuring out my future, getting my shit together, piecing together a future where my shit is together like damn we’re already here and we’re grown”, he hammered on.
Where theories such as the “27 Club” were referenced on the album, the biggest connection to a larger theory is hidden in the album cover itself, the painting referencing the theory that New York will one day be completely submerged underwater. “By the time I have my wife and kids, New York will be underwater. That's why adult swim made so much sense, there was already so much water built into it”, he shared.
Despite not being named after the titular programming block, adultSW!M is still thematic in enjoyable ways such as the presence of an audience clapping towards the end of the album intro “yon”.
“Playing that applause lets me know I know I killed it”.
A confident statement carries the sentiment to the end of the album.
“The first song I was popular for was a song called “Soap” where I come in rapping. It was a heavier vibe compared to the type of stuff I like to make, but for the intro for this, I wanted to do it for the people who were begging for me to give that type of feel again”.
Death is beyond a concept explored on adultSW!M with songs such as “27” exploring spencer’s grief with a family passing or “Deli Man” touching on the topic of gun violence in New York.
But where death is so prevalent, so is love. Love played a significant role in shaping the album's identity with spencer finding more positives and places of joy in his own personal life.
Besides being genuine comrades with every collaborator on the project, most of the songs were written and produced through the support of his loved ones. Spencer shared how a highlight on the album, “Baby Boy”, was his first piece of music that he let his mother listen to. “I sent the file to my cousin and asked ‘you think my mom would like this?’ and he responded with ‘I know she’s gonna love this.
"Being in love inspired me to think deeply and feel that it fueled this trip down a subject matter".
"When you're in love you really think you can see the future sometimes”.
As the exploration of grief and adulthood, the final track plays. The chorus plays over a beautiful harp that signals the closure is near.
“Sun singing, I want to sing with em, but I’m rushing. Im headin to the city for a function, I'm headin to the city for a function”.
The album closer brings the loose ends of the album together and paints a scene of our protagonist deem spencer moving on with his routine. After the losses, the highs, and the day-to-day, the sun continues to sing a song that we’ll hopefully find the chance to hear. “When I wrote that I was imagining the sun singing a lively, beautiful song and I didn’t have time to sing with it. It’s a shame how we have to live nowadays. The sun is always singing something beautiful, but we don't always have time to appreciate it”, he shares.
AdultSW!M is a culmination of everything deem spencer has learned entering his late 20s. It’s a staple piece that captures a human trying their best to live their dreams through adversary while finding the lessons in life.
It’s the moments of his present captured through sound while depicting his future.
“Life is so much bigger than rap, but I look forward to the fact that my mark is going to be left no matters what happens to New York".
"Whatever happens to New York I will always be a part of New York, I am New York”.
Deem spencer embodies the themes of this album and conceptualizes the cover into the distant future. After dropping a project, it’s easy to consider the question: what comes next? For deem, it’s potentially screenwriting, but with his wife and kids, a rap career that’s left a mark on the history of New York, and a city entirely underwater, deem spencer is singing and will sing the suns song.
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