Sene & Denitia – (Brooklyn, New York) – Hip-Hop/Ambient Pop
“You don’t have to be glued to one side of your identity. Do different shit. Live every side of your identity.”
In the Brooklyn, New York borough of Sheepshead Bay, right off of Nostrand Avenue, lies the residence where twenty-seven year old Brian Marc, or as most know him today as, Sene, was first introduced to the diverse array of world music that would later become the very fabric of his eventual journey as an artist, musician and individual. Growing up in a household where his mother, father, uncle and grandmother all individually regarded music as an essential ingredient in the recipe of life, the proverbial soundtrack to Sene’s maturation was inevitably guided by those distinct genres that were steadily present throughout his adolescence. Whether it was his mother’s preference of Salsa and Merengue, his grandma’s affinity for Spanish and Disco music, his uncle’s fondness for Classical music in the form of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Mozart, or simply just re-watching an old VHS of Woodstock while listening to his father play a Les Paul guitar in unison with the festival’s legends, Sene was born into and entrenched in an atmosphere permeated with sounds and memories that would leave him no option but to allow those familiar melodies and recollections to shape his consequent direction. In speaking about those specific memories, Sene conveyed to me, “Those are the only ones I like to keep. I mean, I had a lot of other negative things going on around me when I was little, so now that I think about it, those memories are what I was living for. I loved those moments.”
As Sene got into his teenage years, his appreciation for all forms of music was prevalent, but in 1998 on a road trip from Brooklyn to Pennsylvania for a family gathering, is when he established his initial familiarization with the true art and sound of hip-hop that would eventually lay the ground work for the specific style of music that he would pursue as an artist a handful of years later. His older brother, who was a music enthusiast and DJ’ed house parties while away at college, was home for the weekend and along for the family’s travels to Pennsylvania. While in the back seat talking about and exchanging music that they were both currently listening to, Sene’s brother tossed him both the classic Gang Starr album, Moment Of Truth, along with Common’s One Day It’ll All Make Sense. After spending the whole weekend with those two albums on repeat in the headphones, Sene had officially commenced his eternal endearment with hip-hop and the feeling it formulated within him. He never looked back.
Getting his feet wet in the music industry around sixteen years old, Sene initially started off buying instrumental albums, writing over them and then paying for studio time in friend’s apartments to record and cut demos. In assessing the quality of the first music he was creating back then, Sene playfully confessed to me that “Looking back on it now, I would never, ever, ever wish on someone having to hear that shit.” While half-heartedly seeing music as more of a vehicle to stay busy and out of the streets and trouble, than as an actual passion and long-term vision, Sene quickly became wrapped up in the party and social scene that came along with the rap culture. After aimlessly engaging in a lifestyle that he knew was unhealthy and counterproductive, and in an attempt to adjust his surroundings, shortly after graduating high school Sene hopped on a flight to California without much of a plan other than applying for college, getting a job and placing himself in a refreshing new environment. But not too long after arriving in the West coast and getting settled into his new apartment in Santa Barbara, Sene learned that some of the trouble he got into back home in Brooklyn, would follow him on the trip out West, and eventually be the main reason he would get denied student loans and financial aid. He conveyed his feelings during that time by telling me “Now I’m out in California, with no job, and I couldn’t afford school. After coming out here expecting to do better things with myself, it was like a big kick in the stomach.” In an attempt to stay on his feet, he got a job at a local coffee shop and stayed afloat for a couple of months. Simply just going through the motions at the time, little did he know that the apartment building he was coming home to every day was filled with like-minded artists in the same boat as him, that by certain acts of coincidence would eventually re-introduce him to his love for music.
Sene vividly recalls a moment where he was on his porch listening to some Big L and Mobb Deep at max volume, and subsequently having his neighbor, John Kim, from down the hall come knock on his door and express his excitement for the music and the fact that someone was simply just repping East Coast hip-hop out in the West Coast. After quickly vibing with John and learning that his roommate was a DJ (Strangelove) for a radio show at UCSB, Sene, who was strictly only freestyling at that time, ended up being encouraged by his new acquaintances to come and freestyle on the radio show one night. One successful appearance turned into six straight weeks of him freestyling on air, in which he was getting considerable positive feedback from listeners. At that point, Strangelove advocated that Sene start taking his obvious skills with world play and focus in on actually writing and recording music. Sene explained to me, “I thought I was possibly done with music when I moved out West. So to go from the idea of never making music again, to being where I was at that time? It was crazy, man.” Between Strangelove taking him out to Calabasas to record in a friend’s state of the art studio, then creating a group with Strangelove called Soul Speak, and John interning with the label Sound In Color where he linked Sene up with the highly coveted and flourishing West Coast emcee Blu, Sene was now rooted in a world of creative happenings and individuals who all had their sights set on turning that rolling ball of innovative energy into a daily reality. As Sene simply puts it, “It really all just came full circle.” After having Blu produce his debut album, A Day Late & A Dollar Short, and receiving some well deserved buzz, Sene decided that while California was essential in launching his now momentous path in music, his heart was still in Brooklyn and that being back home would add the necessary substance to the music he wanted to devise. In asking him what was the most important thing he learned about himself while out West that he would bring back to Brooklyn with him, he confidently explained, “I realized that I have my own brand of talent. I understood that I was my own brand, and it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. I wasn’t going to change for anyone, and I knew that even if I didn’t have it all figured it out, that I was going to do what I was good at and not worry about anything else.”.
After arriving back in Brooklyn, Sene said it just felt right being home. He touched on why being back in Brooklyn was so important, describing it as, “The unique thing about Brooklyn, is that It’s like the cultural capital of the world. You have everything here. No matter if you’re rich, poor, famous or a nobody, everyday you touch these streets. No matter what your status is or what you define yourself as, you’re still walking in the same streets that everyone else is. If you keep your eyes and ears open in a place like this, you can soak up so much knowledge and inspiration.”
While being back in the City he was so very familiar with, and constantly rubbing elbows with countless inspired individuals in the music industry, Sene ended up hooking up with Plug Research in 2012 to release his most anticipated hip-hop album, Brooklyknight. A collection of tracks structured with precisely developed production and thought-provoking ideology, Brooklyknight perfectly pairs Sene’s ability to effortlessly paint a picture of his surroundings with words, while allowing his gratitude and ear for all of the genres that opened doors before him to shine through in the choice of instrumentation and track progressions. From a hip-hop perspective, Brooklyn is quickly becoming one of the most alluring pockets of the country, with a handful of artists, some who we have featured here recently (ScienZe and Tanya Morgan) constantly pumping out some of the most insightful lyrics over pristine soulful inspired production. Brooklyn is a melting pot of musical influence combined with youthfulness, and it shines through in the style of music and hip-hop that is being radiated out of it. Everything from the album concepts, the lyrical content and quality of music videos, to the individuals who are at the forefront of it, the current sounds and styles of Brooklyn’s music scene are as unique and engaging as anywhere in the country, and it seems to be nothing short of contagious among the artists who reside there.
In sticking with that uniqueness that Brooklyn has cultivated, while Sene’s fans were buzzing off of the hip-hop album he just released, he wasn’t necessarily sold on the idea that hip-hop was the only style of music he had to be constrained to. Being raised on all of the different genres that were mentioned earlier, Sene had always seen himself as more of multifaceted musician, than just as an emcee. As he explained to me, “Since I was eighteen years old, I had been writing songs based on all of the influences throughout my life. But whenever I went that way with a project, or sang a hook on a track, people would always say, ‘What are you doing? You’re a hip-hop artist.'” While the desire to branch out of that box and take his musical approach and style down a different path was always present, the opportunity never really presented itself throughout his musical efforts. That all changed a couple of years ago at a party thrown by The Clubhouse in New York. Finding himself among some of Brooklyn’s most creative artists and individuals, he was specifically captivated by a certain female who was performing on stage backed by an acoustic guitar. That female being, Denitia Odigie, a Texas native who carried with her an angelic voice and inviting presence. After introducing themselves, and talking about potentially working on some music together, Denitia was at the forefront of Sene’s thoughts as he prepared for a trip to Switzerland. Before he left, he reached out to her and sent her a track, Holyday, that he had written for his album, but was still missing an essential element to it. After having a few people try their turn at singing the hook on the track, Sene still felt no one had perfectly completed it to the point where he was satisfied. The missing element was Denitia. She recorded and mixed her vocals on the track, sent it back to him while he was overseas, and instantly upon opening the track and clicking play, Sene knew that it was a perfect marriage. He had discovered the radiant paintbrush to the foreign pallete of music that he had always envisioned.
In speaking on the idea of him and Denitia making music together on a larger scale, Sene explained “I definitely wanted to write an EP and just let her do her thing over it. But she said she wouldn’t do it without my name on it. I was still a little uncomfortable switching lanes. I just had the desire to write, produce, work on that end of the music and never be in the spotlight. But she was adamant about me sharing it with her. To be honest, I give her all the credit. I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t for her. I would probably still be in the mixtape game. She brought me in dragging and kicking. I was always being put in this box by others, and she was the first person to not see me that way. It was life-changing more than anything so far in my musical path.” In what is a perfect matrimony of eclectic ambient pop and impassioned soulful vocals, Sene and Denitia have established a sound and style that carries no boundaries. In talking to both of them about what the other’s best qualities are that allow them to create that unexplored sound so effortlessly, Sene said about Denitia, “She is always coming from an honest place, at all times. We have so many different and similar musical tastes that it’s a perfect creative situation. If we like something, we just run with it.” In returning the compliment to Sene, Denitia said,“He is very tenacious. He grabs a hold of what he is doing and really goes after it. He’s a very high energy individual which I think keeps him engaged and present in the world.” In touching on the obstacles that come along with creating a new sound and style and being able to endure any hurdles along the way, they were both insistent on the only obstacles that are even within comprehension, are themselves. Sene explained it by saying “People can complain and blame the music industry and say that it’s fucked up or whatever, but what we are doing proves that it doesn’t matter. You just can’t get in your own way. That applies to anyone with any kind of talent, too. Do want you want and do it right. You yourself are your only obstacle.”
As we expanded on those obstacles and the idea of what success means to them, we ended the interview in talking about what they would ideally want listeners to gain and take from their music after hearing it. While they both spoke separately, their responses provided such an obvious base as to why their relationship and vibe, both personally and musically is so extraordinary. Denitia passionately responded, “I want to channel peace and truth in my music. I want to carry an intangible feeling of realness in everything I’m involved in. I want people to feel absolutely themselves, who they are, who they want to be, and what their dreams and desires are. And in listening, in experiencing [my music], all of those things to become one.” In almost perfect unison, Sene explained that his purpose as a musician is right in line with those same core ideals. He expressed it by saying “I just want people to take out of my music that they can be themselves and it will be alright. You don’t have to look for approval from everyone. If you do you’ll never get anywhere. If it’s really within you, you can do it. You don’t have to be glued to one side of your identity. Do different shit. Live every side of your identity. I have plans to do everything, but I don’t have plans to do anything. My only real plan is to be creative and execute all of my ideas.” As Sene and I both tried to come up with comparisons to the style and sound they are diving headfirst into, we both struggled to come up with any specific artists or groups that were extremely relatable, which I can only assume is what all artists and musicians strive for. A unique sound that transcends its own borders.
In both coming from different spectrums and upbringings, and both having multiple musical endeavors before converging as one, Sene and Denitia had both unknowingly been preparing for this specific moment in time for years. Their pasts, their influences, their strengths and even their weaknesses, all perfectly aligned as if they were destined to be musical soul mates. With a similar appreciation for the simplicity around them, the idea of what true success is, and the same integrity they want their music to behold, no matter what the future brings, they will forever be bind by leaving their combined imprint on a style of music that really has never been done quite like a way they succeed at.
One specific lyric off of the track, Music Man, from Sene’s album Brooklyknight, perfectly sums up the purpose and humbleness that both Sene and Denintia embody. A purpose that resonates far beyond music and is applicable to any human being in any walk of life. As Sene emphasized in many ways throughout the conversation, be kind and open-minded, know your weaknesses, and capitalize on your strengths.
“I’m no Mister perfect. Just a Mister that’s a merchant. Selling dreams to people’s hurting self-esteems.” – Sene
Sene & Denitia currently have an album out titled, His & Hers. Sene currently has three solo albums out, Brooklyknight (2012), exit.us (2011) and A Day Late & A Dollar Short (2009). Find all information on them on their personal website HERE. Follow Sene on Twitter HERE. Follow Denitia on Twitter HERE.
breathe. scream. dream. (His & Hers)
She’s Not The Only One (His & Hers)
Music Man (Brooklyknight)
Writer- [Michael Blair]