Derek Schklar, a.k.a. the Devil.
I guess I can tolerate Odd Future as easily as the next old guy, but I'll always resent those young West Coast roustabouts for gentrifying satanism as a tourist attraction. These days you can't even swing a dead cat without hitting a pack of tattooed skate rats rolling around town with upside-down crosses and marks of the beast emblazoned on their coach jackets. But have these kids actually abandoned their souls to the One Who Brought Death Into the World? At press time, no.
Thankfully, this week I finally found the Devil, a.k.a. Derek Schklar. Derek is not a satanist. He's a shadowy Atlanta producer who just dropped a mixtape full of the most demoniac hardcore rap I've heard in a really, really long time. The challenging debut tape is called Harbinger, and while it's layered with the bloodcurdling screams and slasher-movie samples you expect to hear on horrorcore records, the Devil is so deadly serious with the project that he makes Tyler's occult field trip look a charity Easter egg hunt.
There are only a few real "songs" here, with the rest of the mixtape comprised of eerie skits and samples from Charles Manson, American Psycho, and Schklar's own warped mind. Add some guest performances from Future, Alley Boy, Big Bank Black, and the Real Rick Ross, and you've got one of the most fascinating and challenging mixtapes of the year, made by a highly sensitive soul who's extremely tapped into the suffering of others.
Unlike the majority of artists in the hip-hop world, Schklar isn't trying to be famous. It's difficult to find any concrete information on him, but the internet told me he used to manage some Atlanta street rappers, like Pill and Trouble. Now he's a filmmaker, photographer, artist, and musician, and he's using all of his talents on his current project—there are a handful of accompanying videos to go with Harbinger, his Instagram has a very well-developed aesthetic, and his website is absolutely astounding. I wanted to figure out who was behind all this stuff, so I dug him up and interviewed him. I came in with a set of questions, but realized immediately that Derek had other plans for the interview.
Before you read more, press that little orange button down there to listen to Harbinger.
VICE: So I've looked online and I can't really find too much information on you, except that your name is Derek and you used to manage rappers in Atlanta. Is that true?
Derek Schklar, a.k.a. the Devil: At birth I was born into a flaming pit of scum, forgotten by your so-called god. I come from violence. My city has it, and your city has it. It’s just our fate. Who is innocent? Are you innocent?
Um… I don't think so?
It's just murder man. All God's creatures do it in some form or another. You look in the forest, you can see some species killing other species. Our species killing all species, including the forest, and it's called industry, not murder. I do know a few people who deserve to die. A lot of people out there are already dead, they are just waiting to be put out of their misery.
Everybody's got the demon in here. The demon lives in here. It feeds on your hate—cuts, kills, rapes, and uses your weaknesses, your fears. Only the vicious survive here. After a while, you kind of become bad. Death kind of becomes what you are after hope turns black. Can you get rid of your shadow?
No, I don't think I can. It's sort of stuck to me forever I think. Unless it's an overcast day.
Have you ever seen a junkie burned with cigarettes for entertainment, by children raised by wolves?
There is an inextricable link between depression and creativity. Did you know that?
Our fascist, nazi government is going to try and kill me.
You feel like you're under attack?
Fuck all authority. Rattle every single jail cell. I want to see the sky set on fire. Send your hatred and send your drones. Law and religion are tools that they use to control and abuse. To manipulate the sheep at their fearful and their weakest. They go to the ghettos and they farm for slaves. Something is burning inside my chest.
I’m tormented because I’m extremely sensitive and I’ve lost hope. Still - in the shadow of hope's futility, I believe in art and I believe in love. Nothing else. The world has taught me these lessons. I have lost my wings. There is no one left to hear me scream. There is no one left to hear me scream. There is no one left to hear me scream.
Are you a Satanist?
No. The name has nothing to do with the metaphysical. I’m not a religious person at all. Outside of my distaste for religion altogether, there are a lot more layers and depths as to why I chose to use that name. It's actually a name I was given, and there are reasons as to why I use that. I related to the story of the Devil, who started out as an angel until the world showed him otherwise. I have my own value system that is seemingly in direct contradiction to mainstream society. When I see a fourteen-year-old running around my city with tattoos on their face, on Xanax, shooting up everything they see, I see some one who needs help. And somebody else may see that person and believe he deserves to die or go to jail. How many homeless people have you stepped over in your fucking Jordans? How many murders have you ignored wearing your Givenchy? How desensitized are you to tragedy? Or is it that you make a cognizant effort to ignore it because it disturbs your fucking dreams?
I dunno man. So do you feel completely sensitized to violence then? Totally sensitive?
I'm extremely sensitive to violence. Like I said, I'm tormented because I am extremely sensitive. The things that I've seen, most people in the environments where it exists are desensitized to it. And when it comes down to it the people who are not in those environments, they play like it doesn’t fucking exist because it makes them uncomfortable. So - it is my job to fucking knock them out of their precious little comfort zone. Fuck them. They can't even smell their own shit while they're standing on their knees. They poison their children with lies to camouflage our scars and I see it every single fucking day.
So how did you start working on this project?
I don’t know what it is, it's illusory - I'm an abstraction. That project was given birth by a lifetime of experience and a unique combination of brain chemicals. That was given birth to by my autobiographical experience. In terms of Harbinger, it is a part of my experience. There were times in it where I am a direct player and there are times where I am just an omniscient narrator of things I have seen and felt. It is extremely intimate and personal. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s a reflection. Its not just a collection of music. That shit for me was something very different.
How much of a musical project is this? It seems more multimedia. Are you a musician, or a filmmaker, or what?
I don’t consider myself anything other than an artist. I make art in a multitude of different mediums. I make music. I am a filmmaker. I am a photographer. I am a writer. I am a speaker. I am a sculptor. I am a mixed media painter. I am an artist and I don’t want to limit my creativity, which is the only thing I believe in. For me, I went through a very, very dark period in my life in the past year. My art as The Devil kept me from becoming a serial killer. You heard about the guy who jumped off of a sky-scraper?
No. What are you talking about?
On his way down, past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: so far, so good. So far, so good. So far, so good.
How does that relate to what we're talking about?
The corporate swine are buying and selling fear. They jack off to poverty porn while the rest are on their knees swallowing the corporate cum, anointed in the blood of innocence - killing and dying for lies and worshiping propaganda. In seeking their solace they vote and they pray their way to a seemingly clear conscience in the face of broad-daylight genocide. And I’m sensitive to all this. I’m sensitive to all this. It is rare that you have such a sensitive person that keeps feeling the pits of hell in the city. But nothing metaphysical. Nothing about it is metaphysical, and Im not in a cult. I don’t give a shit about none of that shit. Not Christianity. Not Judaism. Not Islam. Not Satanism. All this shit is from looking right outside my fucking window. The sheep are marching straight into slaughter.
How does your film work relate to the project?
There is creative synergy because, thus far, they are part of the same thoughts and feelings. You can watch "Hollywood" to see how I feel about the industry of it all. Just because I make film or music doesn’t mean that I am a part of it - yet. And simultaneously, just because I’m sensitive to all this hypocrisy and all of this death and all this tragedy doesn’t mean that I am virtuous. And by no means do I consider myself virtuous. I am a capitalist piece of shit. I want money. I need money. But am I ever willing to do what the fucking scum on this earth are willing to do for it… no. Do I recognize my own hypocrisy? Absolutely. Like I said before, when I look inside myself I see all. I see everything - all my contradictions, all my folly. Everyone’s got someone or something to blame because they don’t want to look inside themselves.
What drew you to rap music to express this stuff?
Like I said, fuck all authority. Rattle every jail cell. Riot. Set the sky on fire. That’s how I feel. These days they are worried about their fucking Reebok endorsement. They are on their knees swallowing the corporate cum. That's where I come in. I'm not a rapper, or a hip hop guy. You can tell from my project, this is not just rap and hip hop. Although there is mostly rap music on there, you can see that there are other influences. Creativity is my only direction. But when it comes to rap and hip hop for me… I wasn’t born with enough middle fingers. I’m sitting here sweating because there is something burning inside my chest bruh. And I cannot let it just sit anymore. The only thing I believe in is art and because of that, that is how I’m going to manifest these feelings. You know what kills the demon? Love. Only love kills the demon.