Creativity is linked inexorably to identity. One’s idea of self shapes the form and content of expression across almost every medium. Much like self-realization, creativity takes time, and the process of bringing the two together as a coherent whole is anything but immediate.
As we all know, it can be hard for anyone to answer “Who am I?” — particularly when that question is intertwined with creative expression.
Identity is a major theme in Baltimore rapper Dyyo Faccina’s debut album People Are Scared.. The album is a complex balance of dark, heavy beats, melodic choruses and subtle rhythms. At times it feels soulful and, at others, it can be pure mosh-pit pounding.
Listening to People Are Scared.., one can hear that Dyyo has truly embodied himself in his music. Both the lyrics and Dyyo’s own production feel as though they are him — exactly what he wants to say and what he wants the listener to hear. Yet while Dyyo has been a musician for more than five years, he has not always been the same artist.
Before last year, Dyyo went by NeroScream!, a name under which he performed from 2012 to 2016. As NeroScream!, he began making music in 2012, joining some of his close friends with whom he would eventually form the aptly named anti-group Not a Collective. Dyyo is also a visual artist, painting and dabbling in videography.
Not a Collective formed out of a desire to bring together each artist’s individual fanbases, which were largely centered in their respective high schools in Silver Spring, Md.
The group tried to broaden its base by incorporating not just music but also other artistic mediums. In an interview with The News-Letter, Dyyo discussed the motivation behind this.
“In the scene that we entered in — in the Silver Spring/D.C. area — we were kind of the only ‘collective’ group that had musical artists and visual artists,” he said.
Around three years ago, Dyyo, who still performed as NeroScream! at the time, moved to Baltimore to attend the University of Baltimore. He was excited about the change and quickly found a place for himself in the city.
“I ended up liking it way more than I liked the D.C. scene because it was so much more open-minded,” Dyyo said.
Following his relocation, Dyyo put out several more tapes and singles, the last of which (his mixtape, Spade) was released in 2016. That 2016 tape was Dyyo’s final project as NeroScream! and included a feature from JPEGMAFIA, with whom Dyyo had become friends after the two met at The Bell Foundry.
Dyyo also featured on JPEG’s song “FREE TEANNA” and the latter produced the track “Fight or Flight?” on People Are Scared..
But after his 2016 NeroScream tape, Dyyo realized that he was feeling a bit restricted by his assumed name. He felt that the word “NeroScream,” with its overtly dark and brooding implications, somewhat framed both his approach to music and how it was received. So he began using his own given name instead of a pseudonym.
As Dyyo, the artist feels he can be a more honest version of himself.
“I don’t have to make NeroScream-esque music,” he said.
It was during this shift that People Are Scared.. was created. While Dyyo had been working on the album for some time — he said he wrote “Mostly Ok with Mostly Everything Most of the Time,” the third track, in 2015 — the album is intertwined with the name change.
Dyyo said that People Are Scared.. was originally intended to describe the generally insane state of the world, but his friend Nigel Frank — also a musician and former member of Not a Collective — encouraged Dyyo to dive into his own personal fears.
“So I started looking at it like, ‘What am I afraid of and how can I confront those fears through music?’” Dyyo said.
This introspection led to songs like “Givenchy on Sale,” “People Are Scared..” and “Do You Young One..” Not coincidentally, when one takes the first letter from each word in “Do You Young One,” they spell Dyyo.
In creating the album, Dyyo also drew upon his Nigerian-American heritage. The artist said that on People Are Scared.. much of the production was inspired by the music of iconic Nigerian and African artists like Fela Kuti.
One can hear this clearly in some songs, particularly in the polyrhythms of the iBO-produced track, “Whachuwanna?”
iBO, who alternatively goes by Obi and once worked as Bluseph, is a friend of Dyyo’s and a Not a Collective alum. People Are Scared.. also features production from kazmi, another Not a Collective member.
As a visual artist, Dyyo was conscious of the aesthetic of the album. Consequently, the cover of People Are Scared.. is art in itself. It shows Dyyo in black and white, set against a paint-splattered white background that he himself painted. Dyyo said that the picture came from a photo shoot with a friend and fellow artist who paints her subjects — literally applying paint to their bodies — to reflect her feelings.
All these elements made People Are Scared.. a particularly strong debut. Based on his co-signs from musicians like Micah E. Wood and JPEG, it seems clear that Dyyo’s apparent realization of his artistic identity is helping his career evolve.
In the future, Dyyo will be releasing a joint EP with Micah, as well as more visuals for People Are Scared..and physical copies of the album. Additionally, Dyyo is developing a clothing line with a friend. Suffice to say, things are looking good.
“I’m very optimistic. Honestly, I should be more optimistic,” he said.