We know most bands or artists by the sound of their lead vocalist. It’s an inherent bias we’ll never be able to shake, no matter what genre of music we listen to. Rap particularly. If you like hip hop, you’d know a Kendrick Lamar song from his signature nasal rasp, a Quavo track from the superfluous ad libs. But what most people don’t pay as much attention to is just as recognizable (and equally important): the instrumental. While rappers bask in the limelight, it’s mostly the magic of beatmakers like David Pryor, a.k.a. The Deli, that keeps listeners enthralled throughout a song. Young, ambitious and with a soft spot for jazz, Pryor has created a brand of music uniquely his own. On his records Just The Remixes, Bumps Tape, Vibes (1-3) and most recently 2017’s Encounters, he sweeps you off your feet and into a dreamy, pulsing world of piano riffs and drum kits. It’s sort of A Tribe Called Quest meets Charlie Parker. I had the pleasure of talking with David about his entry into producing, his growing fan base, and his future plans.
THE DELI INTERVIEW
PETER (HIGHLARK): So how did you get into producing? I love your stuff, you’ve got such a chill sound.
THE DELI (DAVID PRYOR): Thank you so much! I got into beatmaking in late 2012ish, maybe 2013. I initially wanted to rap in the early days of The Deli and I kind of just stopped and gravitated towards beatmaking. Finding out what sampling was helped too. This was right after I graduated high school.
PETER: When did you figure out that you wanted to do music full time?
THE DELI: Well I kind of do it full time right now but I also have a day job. But yeah, [producing] is a job now since last year, when I released a record with Cold Busted Records called Vibes 3. Seeing the amount of attention it got on Spotify — I didn’t even realize that I was put on Spotify until my sister told me — I got really serious with music after that point.
PETER: Yeah your Spotify has really been blowing up. You went from having tens of thousands of listeners last year to now having hundreds of thousands. How does that feel?
THE DELI: Yeah it’s insane, it’s really just humbled me.
PETER: You’ve done a bunch of shows locally in Austin. Are you planning on touring outside of Texas?
THE DELI: I’ve been actually wanting to go on tour for a while. One of the guys in my beat collective, emune, just did a debut show in L.A. We’ve been talking about going on tour and maybe just doing a Texas tour and seeing how that goes, maybe expanding after that. He gets asked to play in L.A. a lot and people have emailed and asked me when I’m going to go to L.A., so it would be very cool to actually do a West Coast tour.
PETER: Being signed to Cold Busted, which is based in L.A., probably helps with that.
THE DELI: Well I’m not technically signed to them but I’m affiliated with them. They found my music through SoundCloud, but I am going to do future releases with them. So I guess I’m part of the team.
PETER: Who are your influences? What kinds of artists and beatmakers have inspired you?
THE DELI: One of my main influences is jazz. Growing up, my grandpa introduced me to tons of jazz: Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Coltrane, and that stuff. And that has really been a huge influence for my beats. As far as hip hop producers and beatmakers that I look up to, J Dilla is probably my main one. I also like Pete Rock, FlyLo, Mndsgn, people like that.
PETER: And how did you get the name The Deli? It’s pretty funky.
THE DELI: So in high school, before I got into beats I wanted to rap as I mentioned. It was me and a couple of my buddies who wanted to rap. The name The Deli — we were thinking of a name at lunch and there was an a la carte line at my old high school and above it in all caps it just said ‘THE DELI.’ My friend Mark was like “we can go by The Deli,” which was actually the name of our group originally. When they didn’t want to rap anymore, I just kind of kept the name.
PETER: Why don’t you rap yourself?
THE DELI: Honestly it’s because I hate my voice, man. I haven’t gotten over hearing myself recorded on the mic.
PETER: Well that’s a bummer. And finally, since you live in Texas, I’ve got to ask you: What’s your favorite Texas BBQ joint?
THE DELI: Actually I don’t eat meat anymore! I’m a vegetarian but I’m a big pizza guy. Any kind of pizza, cheese pizza, pizza from anywhere — even Domino’s. I really don’t care.