‘From Compton with Love’
iamDES serves up a bowl of hip-hop nostalgia
Think back to your favorite Saturday morning routine as a kid. Imagine it to the very last detail: your favorite pajamas and your sugar-laden cereal of choice, complete with your favorite cartoon (for me, it’s a tossup between “Doug” and “Recess”). DaVonte Suarez, aka iamDES, has a new project, Saturday Morning Cartoons & a Box of Cereal, Vol 1, which evokes fond childhood memories like these.
This 10-track LP of engineered nostalgia details the life experiences that formed Suarez into the man and artist he is today. The album, which was released Sept. 22, took three years to complete. Suarez plans on releasing volumes two and three in the future.
I was fortunate enough to attend Suarez’s album release party at the home of 105.3 KJamz host Ali Shaw. As I entered, my senses were flooded with old school tunes and blissful aromas emanating from the kitchen. In front of me was a wall covered in cereal boxes where guests were encouraged to take photos. Shaw was to my right, lounging in a recliner as she cradled rapper Earl Hazard’s newborn baby girl. Rapper and chef Bezel365 served up a pot of his homemade gumbo and made rounds with a pitcher of a peachy libation that was dangerously tasty.
Tulsa area rappers, producers, family, and friends gathered around to hear Suarez speak in between tracks, Shaw’s TV running silent clips of old cartoons in the background. Suarez answered questions from guests and reflected on his evolution as an artist, happiness and humility springing from him. “God and life had to chip away a lot of my ego to get the blessing I feel like I should have now: one being my wife, one being good people around [me], and one being success—whatever that might be.”
Later that night, Suarez asked me what my favorite cereal was. “Rice Krispies Treats,” I replied. “But I’m pretty sure they don’t make it anymore.” That next day we had our interview. When I walked into his home there was a bowl, two kinds of milk, and a box of Frosted Krispies sitting on the table. (It was the closest thing he could find.) I poured myself a bowl and we chatted about his body of work, his upbringing, and artistic partnership with his wife Krisheena Suarez,
a musical theater major and opera-trained singer whose hypnotic voice is heard throughout the album.
DaVonte Suarez’s formative years were spent in Compton being raised by his mother and step-father. Suarez doesn’t like to refer to his biological father as his “real dad,” because to him his step-father fulfills that role. “My last memory of my [biological] dad is watching my step-dad kicking his ass in front of my grandma’s house,” he said.
Suarez was exposed to the hardships of Compton in the 80s and 90s. “We grew up hard, and I got to see their trials and tribulations. I grew up during the LA riots. I saw somebody get raped. It was hard during the riots,” Suarez said.
Suarez grew up during a time in Compton where a lot of young men were being pressured to join gangs. However, Suarez was more interested in watching ThunderCats and listening to conscious rap from the east coast. “I was the kid who liked the comic books. I didn’t like west coast music. I couldn’t identify with being a gangster,” Suarez said. “I’d hear the bullets shooting but was like, ‘Ah man, Martin is coming on!”
The song “From Compton with Love” details Suarez’s complex love for Compton: “I can tell you about a story of a rose that grow from concrete / The chip cracks on the building and pavement represent the chip on my shoulder.” The song includes vocals from Krisheena and a feature from Tulsa poet and good friend, Written Quincey.
Saturday Morning Cartoons & a Box of Cereal, Vol 1 includes audio clips from his nine-year-old son, his mother, and his kid brother throughout. The voice of Suarez’s mother is heard on the song “5.24.84” (Suarez’s birthdate) where she describes the pride she has for the man, father, and husband Suarez has become. She recounts the evening she brought him home from the hospital: “I took you in the backyard. It was night. It was a full moon. I held you up to heavens just like I saw Kunta Kinte’s dad do in ‘Roots.’ I saw that movie when I was a kid, and I thought all black people did that to their children, to their babies when they were born . . . you are just the way that I pictured you when I would talk to you when I was pregnant.”
Saturday Morning Cartoons & a Box of Cereal, Vol 1 is currently streaming on all music platforms