Locals: Dom Deshawn makes music for the movies in his mind

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Dom Deshawn approaches music like a film director working behind the camera, visualizing entire scenes unfolding in his songs every time he touches pen to paper.

"Almost any time I work on music I get some type of visual from it," said the rapper, born Dominique Mattox 24 years ago, who celebrates the release of his latest mixtape, Moods & Interludes. "Sometimes I'll even add sound effects … to help capture that [scene] for the listener."

Witness "Cruise Control," which opens with the sounds of footsteps and a car engine firing before Deshawn launches into the first verse: "Cruising downtown looking for the nearest exit…"

Rather than crafting some Michael Bay-esque, widescreen blockbuster, however, the MC's latest plays like an independent relationship drama, with Deshawn breezing through an assortment of rich, soulful songs borne of heartache, confusion, jealousy and lust. At times the album mimics a tumultuous romantic split, with the rapper wavering between resentment ("How You Feel?" could alternately be titled "I Know You Regret Leaving Me") and acceptance (the sweet, swooning "Far Side (Remix)") over the course of a dozen deeply felt cuts.

"When it comes to music, the most personal stuff, and the stuff you really need to get off your mind, leads to the best songs," said Deshawn, who grew up in Reynoldsburg with a father who worked for a delivery company and a mother employed in the pharmaceutical industry. "When I was 21 I had a situation with a girl, but instead of being depressed I said, 'You know what? I'm going to start recording.' And my whole first mixtape was me trying to get [that relationship] off my chest."

While Moods & Interludes is similarly rooted in romantic dissolution (Deshawn said a bulk of the songs were written about one woman, who remains a friend), the rapper directs more of his ire inward this time around. On songs like "The Transition," he struggles with questions of identity and self, and a consistent refrain throughout is "What type of person do I want to become?"

"I was looking at different angles of my life and putting myself in the mindset of 'When I get to where I want to be, am I going to be the type of person who changes completely? Or will I keep to my roots?'" said Deshawn, who was inspired to take up music after being exposed to the likes of Nas, J Dilla and Slum Village as a teenager. "I'm generally a shy person, but when it comes to my music for some reason I like putting all of my life out there. It's something I can't really explain; it's like an out of body experience. I'm the quiet type, but I always have a lot going on in my mind."

Photo by Meghan Ralston

Listen to Moods & Interludes at soundcloud.com/domdeshawn starting Friday, Dec. 19.