Bellingham’s Deadly D has been sharing their unique style of hip-hop infused with funk, soul, rock and blues since 2011. Their award-winning, feel-good music with a message has appeared at more than 300 shows, at festivals and has toured in 13 states and provinces. While sharing the stage with the some of the greatest including Nappy Roots and Paul Wall, they’ve been compared to The Roots, Kendrick Lamar and others. But who are Deadly D? I sat down with lead emcee and Deadly D founder, “Stevey B” Borden to really get to know the band’s history, talents and ambitions.
Visitors will feel like Deadly D is an old friend when they plan their next visit and attend a show.
History Informs The Art
Borden began writing rap lyrics around the age of 14 while attending high school in Blaine, WA. In 1998, he’d been listening to DMX, Nas, and Ice Cube. Borden admired their rhyming skill, creativity and metaphors but his mother was not a fan. She would make the CD’s disappear when Borden was at school but that only sparked Borden’s rebellious side. He became even more devoted to the genre, filling notebooks with song lyrics. With the technology of the time, Borden recorded his raps on cassette tapes and then transferred them to CD on a boom box, handing them out at school. It started as a creative outlet to make his friends laugh, like passing notes between classes.
Borden went to local house parties with his older brother where he experimented with freestyle rap. This eventually led to rap battling with older established artists often beating them. These experiences helped Borden discover and hone his talent and build the confidence to battle rap in Vancouver, B.C. clubs.
In his junior year, Borden met Michael ‘Pancake’ Pianki. They became best friends and eventually formed The Deadly Duo, which was shortened to Deadly D.
After high school, around 2008 Borden attended Stylus College of Music and Sound Technology in B.C. to study hip-hop music production while Pianki went off to college in Florida. That allowed Borden to up the quality of his recordings, which previously had to be recorded live in a single take. Borden eventually joined Pianki in Florida and Borden dedicated himself to the music in earnest.
With help from Florida friends, Deadly D eventually booked their first show at a tiki lounge in Lake Worth, Florida, Havana Hideout. They maxed out credit cards to buy their first sound system to play the gig.
In 2011 Borden and Pianki moved back to Whatcom County and began playing in area clubs. While working side jobs in Semiahmoo, Borden met Deadly D vocalist Lydia Davis and percussionist Tommy “Church” Mutchler. The group’s hype man, Matthew “Titty” Chistion started as a mixer and has since become an emcee who gets the audience out of their seats. Over several years, the group has grown, playing shows near home with bassist Sean McKee, silky smooth trumpet and didgeridoo Ray Cooney and DJ Gary “Birdman” Bird. They often tour with a lighter crew using recorded tracks.
In late 2014 Pianki left the group to focus on his young family. Borden says that Pianki’s influence and tradition still remain in every show.
In competition, they’ve made a name for themselves throughout the Pacific Northwest. Scoring second place in 2015’s Seattle Hard Rock Rising: Global Battle of the Bands competition, they bested more than 300 acts. They also won the 2013 Hip-Hop Duo of the Year at the International Music and Entertainment Awards (IMEAs), where the title track of their mixtape Light Side of the Moon was nominated for Hip-Hop Song of the Year.
With more and more successful bookings under their belt, Borden eventually moved away from battle rapping because it was an art form based in negativity and ridicule. Borden wanted to share the positive messages of his music.
Til’ the Fight’s Finished
Deadly D will release its next full-length album, Til’ the Fight’s Finished, in Spring 2018.
“The vibe of this album parallels where we are as a band and where we’ve been,” explains Borden. “Life’s been a battle. Loved ones gone, friendships dissipated, dreams crushed. But one thing remains the same. The dedication to our passion and desire to succeed not only remain but burn brighter than they ever have. Still growing. Still fighting. There’s no turning back now. We’ll keep swinging until we can’t swing anymore.”
The album title was originally a song Borden and Pianki wrote back when the band first formed. But Borden and Pianki have carried the motto, Til the Fight’s Finished, or TTFF, with them since high school. The losses Borden’s referring to include losing his younger brother and two classmates at the age of 18, and the death of his best friend since 4th grade, Tony Hancock, in February 2017. Borden has channeled that energy to create something positive and celebrate life in their honor.
The first single Fire Inside is available on iTunes now. Borden completed a 5-week tour in Spring 2017 sharing many of the songs with new audiences.
In response to the controversy surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s recent protest of racial injustice in America, Borden recorded Gone Wrong and made a video in just one week to express his passionate feelings about the response to Kaepernick’s form of protest.
“I couldn’t sit quiet any longer. To do so would be taking the easy route,” explains Borden. “I love this country but in my eyes, we are not achieving what this country claims to stand for. The beauty of being American is your right to choose. I felt the need to say something and try to help make some progress. My intention is not to draw lines in the sand or divide us, but rather spark a dialogue and provide a chance to see things in a different light.”
Video by Jesse Schooler of Action Videography.
Borden dedicated the video to the active duty and veteran service men and women whose sacrifices have ensured our freedom—a freedom that allows him the opportunity to speak out on this controversial topic.
“We need to come together and work through our differences if we intend to move forward as a Nation. We can strive to be better. That requires change and change starts inside each and every one of us. We must open our hearts and minds to do so. We have some difficult work ahead of us but I know we are up for the challenge.”