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Colorado emo rapper Joshua Dean West’s rough childhood shaped his work, including his latest autobiographical single, “Old Self”.
“I know it sounds weird, but I’m so grateful for the lessons I learned early on,” says 21-year-old West. “If I weren’t living in shelters, being homeless here and there, just finding my way through all sorts of crazy things, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
On the melancholy “old self” West paints a strong picture, which is underlaid with dark lyrics, a melodic piano accompaniment and beats: “I am still struggling with my old self / … Childhood was a torture / I continue to refuse, the devil keeps calling. “The song juxtaposes hope and darkness and shows that he sleeps with one eye open:” Because the past has left scars that are far too deep. “Although he sees light at the end of the tunnel, the closer he stays the closer he comes running.
West says he was thinking about his past when he wrote the song. “When I was younger, I had so much aches and pains that I was sometimes afraid to go back to my ‘old self’ – someone who was ruthless and addicted to Adderall didn’t care, said some mean things People who were important to him and separated relationships into good relationships. “
Although West decides to expose his vulnerability in his music, he also fears that people will label him as damaged. “But I remember that everyone in a certain room is vulnerable.”
West was born in Denver and grew up in Grand Junction from the age of three. He recalls a good work upbringing with a fairly normal childhood up to the age of eight when his father had a serious accident after riding a mechanical bull on a local club horse. “He had leg surgery and pain medication, which eventually led to addiction to opioids.”
West recalls that his father’s health deteriorated due to the pain in his leg. “What used to take him five minutes or less to walk down a street now took thirty minutes. That and his addiction led him to quit his job, which was a real financial burden on our family.”
West’s mother became the only breadwinner in the family and worked at the CoorsTek factory in Grand Junction for the next several years. He says she eventually got into the habit of using his father’s drugs and had to quit her job. “It was going downhill. We turned to food stamps and moved to a Section 8 home in Fruita, Colorado. “
West, then 11, said the situation worsened when the new living quarters became an endless gathering place for parties for his parents and their friends. “People kept coming by. We lived in such a trap where there was always drugs and alcohol and people in the back of the house were using them. “He remembers eighteen people living in his parents’ three bedroom house at the same time.
Over the next several years, the unpredictable lifestyle took its toll on West, and at the age of fourteen he separated from his parents. “I realized that the people around me weren’t the best. I wanted a change – something that wasn’t that toxic. “He moved out, stayed with friends and slept on couches. He says he started doing things he shouldn’t, including skipping school and staying out until four in the morning. “I was in court and out of court for truancy.”
His saving grace in the midst of the chaos was music. West says he took inspiration from artists like Drake, 21 Savage, Post Malone, Lil Uzi Vert, Trippie Redd, XXXTentacion, and others. “I was referring to the lyrics of these artists and their stories. I did a lot of research on them and found that many had a similar upbringing to mine, which to me was powerful. I’ve seen them rise above tragic things like life in trap houses, shootings, toxic families, and drug addiction. ”
To make a difference, West moved back to Grand Junction, where he lived for six months at House, a local public animal shelter that offers short-term housing programs to homeless youth. He eventually moved to Buffalo, New York, in 2015 and shared an apartment with one of his best friends, Sierra Garcia, whom he met in Fruita. During this time he began to put his thoughts for song ideas on paper.
“In retrospect, I felt like visiting Buffalo would change my life,” says West. “And it did.”
When he was eighteen, West attended a concert by the late Juice Wrld, who died at the age of 21. At this show, West befriended up-and-coming Buffalonian rap / hip-hop artist HefeBossup backstage, which in turn fueled West’s desire for music even more. But during this creative chapter in his life, West’s prescribed drug for the treatment of his longstanding attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has been on addiction since he was five.
“I started taking Adderall five or six times a day, which really hurt me in social situations because I felt dead like I was a walking zombie,” he says. “I was checked out emotionally and would break up relationships.” . “He didn’t want to repeat his parents’ course and stopped taking the pills.
“It got to a point where I didn’t want to hurt anymore,” he recalls. “I said to myself,” I have to get my shit together or I’m going to die. “
West left Cold-Turkey without professional help and moved back to Grand Junction in 2019. A year later he signed with the local Job Corps, where he finally found stability. They flew him to Utah to do Certified Nursing Assist training at Davis Technical College. It was here that he made friends with like-minded creatives on and off campus, including Mac Lee, another talented emerging artist known by the name MacLeeMadelt. The two had chemistry and worked on the catchy rap song “4Score”, which is about “doing anything to make it in the music industry”.
West, who took the stage name JoshDeanSavage after a few college friends told him he was a “savage” to escape his troubled past, said “4Score” was easy using an open space, a Samsung Galaxy S8, a set built with connected headphones and a BandLab app – a popular platform for creating music.
“Mac and I recorded it in a gym when it was very quiet, either because it was like that or in our room, which is not easy when you have roommates.”
West received his CNA certification in March 2020, which marked a turning point in his life. “It was special,” he says. “I felt I was on the right track. And I was the first in my family to graduate from college in many, many years.”
As the demand for healthcare workers increased due to the widening pandemic, West returned to Grand Junction and started working at a local care facility where he could save money. During his downtime, he wrote songs.
A tough, unstable childhood influenced the work of emo rap artist JoshDeanSavage, including his latest single, “Old Self.
“I have 152 songs that I haven’t released yet.” He also made several trips to Denver to record some of his singles at Side 3 Studios, a state-of-the-art recording facility used by established artists such as Kanye West, Travis Barker, Ed Sheeran and Machine Gun Kelly.
Working with producer Ryan Alan, a sound engineer at Side 3 Studios who worked with Post Malone, Diplo and Charlie XCX, West released the singles “Stayed One”, “Make You Famous” and “Veto” Sucht. The latter became his most streamed single to date.
“I wrote this song and thought about how to make an addiction feel more like a person because people relate to people, not drugs,” says West, who has been sober for three years. His texts “She is right / I am wrong” refer to “you” as a drug and “I am wrong”, the addiction. “It’s really about how much you love this drug, but you don’t deserve what it does to your brain and body.”
With the help of Alan, who put the studio edition of West at the center, and the rapper’s ability to connect with listeners through his real-life lyrics about heart and struggle, West said he was pleasantly surprised to see the Had people reached out to him on social media to let him know that they were related to his songs.
“As intimidating as it is, I’m really happy to hear that people can see me for who I am as an artist,” says West. “I intend to keep posting material that fits my story.”
To learn more, visit JoshDeanSavage online.
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