St. Paul rapper Joshua Evans — aka Dem Atlas — is a poet, a painter and a lover of Sarah McLachlan’s emotional music. Not exactly what you expect to hear when you sit down to interview the budding star of the Rhymesayers record label.
“A lot of hip-hop — which I dig — is really boisterous; talking about how cool they are and what they possess,” said Evans, 22. “But I’m of the belief that I’m going to talk about the other side of it — what’s inside.”
With a “grunge meets neo-punk” style, Evans shared his thoughts on his favorite Peanuts character, ripped jeans and the key to dapper hygiene — cocoa butter.
Claim to fame: I toured with Atmosphere and was selected to be on the Rhymesayers label out of dozens of talented acts. The “Charlie Brown” track on my first EP is my claim to fame. I live in St. Paul, and that’s where the whole Peanuts gang lives. Around town people started calling me Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown is this kid who is a depressing figure … he constantly tries to prove himself. He’s a nice guy who finishes last every single time.
Style inspiration? Kurt Cobain: He didn’t really care about looking pretty at an awards show. [Musician/artist] Jean-Michel Basquiat: He used to write on his clothes and his shoes. [And] there’s this homeless cat who wanders the streets in Minneapolis — he writes all over his jacket and lets people sign his walking stick. I also like Kanye West and Michael Jackson.
Favorite article of clothing at the moment: I’ve been into sneakers lately. It’s kind of contradictory, but I just bought a pair of Nike Airs. I say in the song “Charlie Brown,” “You’re too concerned with your Nike Airs.” And then I bought a pair of Nike Airs that clearly say Nike Air. I just laugh at that. I also have a long acid-wash trench coat that I like a lot.
Where do you shop? Goodwill, Buffalo Exchange and other thrift stores.
You’re going on vacation. What three things do you pack? My least-worn pair of sneakers [all-black Converse high tops from Mom], homemade soap and incense.
Favorite style trend from the past: The emergence of ripped jeans.
What’s something in your closet you have a lot of? Mismatched socks.
What’s your beauty secret? Cocoa butter is great. Otherwise my skin will be ashy, and that’s awkward. Cocoa butter is the key to happiness.
Musical influences: Everyone from Pharcyde and Nas to Minor Threat and Bad Brains to Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. And I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Sarah McLachlan.
Do you have any style advice? Be yourself and don’t be influenced too much by what others are wearing. I’m influenced, but I’m still my own person. That comes with being confident and being secure. Sometimes I still struggle with confidence. I’m not totally there yet, but I’m on my way.
When is your next show? Jan. 17, 7th Street Entry [sold out]. It will be my first headlining show.