Last week, our editor Maddy Agers had the chance to sit down with rap artist Derek Minor at a coffeehouse in Nashville, Tennessee called The Well. The Well is a great atmosphere with great coffee, and an even better ministry. It’s a nonprofit coffeehouse seeking to make money through the sales of coffee and related products for the very purpose of giving it away. Read more about The Well here!
Derek was a pleasure to talk to, and one of the kindest people we’ve met. This guy is the real deal! The night before, he won his first Dove Award for producing Lecrae’s album “Anomaly”. Be sure to share this if you like it and congratulate him on the Dove win.
TDB: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Derek Minor: “My name is Derek Minor, and I am from Pontiac, Michigan. I actually grew up in a small town called Columbia, Tennessee. It’s right outside of Nashville, so I actually grew up in the area where the Doves are hosted. I grew up in a single parent home – my dad lived in Michigan, so it was just me, my mom, and my sister. My mom got married and then I had a step-dad. The crazy thing about my life growing up was that I had a crazy ‘best of both worlds’ situation where my mom was a devout Christian who loved the Lord, but then I grew up in this environment where my dad and step-dad were addicted to drugs. There was a lot of craziness, and for me life was a lot of good moments and a lot of bad moments, but it was dope.”
TDB: What made you want to be a rap artist, and did you have any rap inspirations early on that impacted you?
Derek Minor: “That’s a funny question! Growing up, my dad was a producer and an amazing jazz guitar player. He bought this keyboard called an ASR-10, and I remember this one summer – I think I was 12 years old – we were in the basement and he had this rapper. I think he was probably the worst rapper of all time, just horrible. Awful! He was free styling, and I was just like, ‘I think I can do this’ and just started rapping with these adult 26 year-old dudes and we just kept going back and forth free-styling. That’s what first ignited that passion for me. Every summer I would go back to Michigan and record songs with my dad – like two or three songs a day. That’s where I really kind of built my work ethic and just my passion for music.”
TDB: How did you get from being interested in rap to recording your first album?
Derek Minor: “I think at that moment when I was twelve, there was nothing else I wanted to do. So, for me it wasn’t ‘When will I make my first album’, it was ‘When will I get the resources to do that?’. I was running from studio to studio begging and borrowing, saying, ‘Can I get 35 dollars?’. Because back then, an hour in the studio was 35-40 dollars, so I really recorded my first album when I was probably 15. I recorded most of the beats off this little purple keyboard, and I was going from studio to studio. I made my first official album in 2009 though, because that first album was terribly whack. I hope there aren’t any demos of that anywhere. That was back in high school. There’s probably about three albums like that. Because when I was in high school, while everyone else was out doing the things normal teenagers do, I would be in my room. I had this little 8-track mixer, and I had this little purple keyboard, and I would just record song after song. And then, and this is so crazy, but back then when you burnt a CD you’d have to listen to the CD the whole way through to burn it – like a tape. So for days on end I would put a CD in and take a sticker I ran through my printer, stick it on the CD, and sell them in the hallways at school. All my friends would buy it and all the kids at school would buy it. I just was a little entrepreneur! I always looked up to people like Puff Daddy, Master P, and Rick Rueben and all those guys.”
TDB: Your first studio album, “The Blackout”. Do you feel like you learned a lot from that first release experience?
Derek Minor: “Absolutely. At that moment, I felt like I had honed my craft pretty well and I had got a lot of resources. They say it takes your whole life to put your first album out, and for me, yeah, I put out a lot of stuff I was experiencing at that moment into that album. The thing I learned the most is to focus in on my brand and focus in on my artistry, because for me it was just raw emotion. If you listen to my music, album after album is just raw emotion and you can just tell from who I am. But now kind of honing that in and making a solid brand, I think that’s one of the things now is now my fans know what to expect from me.”
TDB: Has your opinion on any aspects of rap changed from the time you first started recording music?
Derek Minor: “Rap is way different now. Rap is a lot more melodic now than it used to be. It used to be just more aggressive and more based on the poetry aspect of the lyrics. Now it’s more melodic, which I enjoy because my favorite bands that I’m listening to are X Ambassadors, Bastille, One Republic, and NEEDTOBREATHE. I just love the songwriting there, and I love the melodies there. So now that hip-hop has become more melodic, I feel like I can finally do some of the stuff I’ve always wanted to do, even early on – especially as being a producer.”
TDB: For a long time, you went by the moniker “PRo”, but what caused you to change it to Derek Minor?
Derek Minor: “The problem with ‘PRo’, especially with Christian hip-hop living on the internet, is that if you type in ‘PRo’, you’re going to get ‘Pro basketball’, ‘Pro bowling’, ‘Pro hockey’, and everything but rap there. So, I wanted a name that was more unique and a little bit easier to brand. That was a big thing, and then also my music was starting to go in a different direction and I was starting to mature more. I felt like again, with music becoming more melodic, I was starting to make more of those melodic songs. I wanted to stamp that with a new name, and ‘Derek Minor’ was that name.”
For the second installment of this interview, check back tomorrow! We are so grateful to Derek for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us, and we wish him well on his career. Tomorrow’s segment will feature the story of how Derek became a part of the 116 Clique, the story behind “Minorville”, and what makes someone a true man. You don’t want to miss it!