a

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean commodo ligula eget.

242 Wythe Ave #4, Brooklyn, NY 11249
1-090-1197-9528
office@ourbusiness.com

The 99% Episode #5 with Vito Depierro

Hip-hop artist Vito Depierro should be named as one of most inspirational artists that pride through the streets of Philadelphia. Vito has a collection of tracks characterized by his passion and life. He co-founded the Blessed and Appreciative– a foundation that is ‘committed to making a positive impact in the community’ and for the less fortunate. As one of the first Steereo beta artists, he has landed in the Weekly Top Ten numerous times, and we can see why. Find out as well by listening and reading along to his interview featured on the 99% Podcast.

Listen To Vito Depierro 99 Percent Podcast Interview Below:

Sean:
What’s going on guys, you’re tuning into another 99% podcast with Steereo where we tell stories of independent artists, creating their own rules in an ever-changing music landscape. I’m your host Sean McKenzie, and for today’s episode were here with hip-hop artist and representative Depierro. Vito was one of our first artists to sign onto Steereo during our Beta period. His song Livin My Life made our top ten songs list for a couple weeks in a row, peaking at number 5. Vito’s music speaks unyielding positivism in the face of life’s complex and darker forces. His sense of community, developing the hip-hop scene in his hometown, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is a reminder that music moves in all corners with the right people pushing the boundaries. Vito, thanks for joining us.

Vito Depierro:

Thank you guys, I appreciate that intro. That was love right there.

Sean:
Did you grow up in Harrisburg? Take us through your upbringing.

Vito Depierro:

I was actually born and raised in Southwest Philadelphia. It was the hood, and I was the only kid of my skin tone in the area, really. It was that way until about 5th grade. My grandma was raising me out there and my dad moved to Harrisburg to pursue a better life. He wanted to get me out of those conditions and give me a better opportunity. In about sixth grade, I was moving out to Harrisburg and I’ve been here ever since. It was a wild upbringing, a wild family life, I’ve got tons of stories. It was crazy but I wouldn’t take back anything because it all led me to this point.

Sean:
You grew up on one side of town and then moved. Take us through how this transition period propelled your life forward; having those different experiences in the places you’ve lived.

Vito Depierro:

I got to bring the city perspective to a suburban area. Harrisburg is also a city, but in comparison to Philly, Harrisburg is like a suburb. I was not really fitting in, which put me through some adversary in grade school. I was called different names. I wasn’t your standard white guy, which didn’t go over well in this transition. I was good at sports and never had a problem getting women, and I was the new guy in school so the girls liked me, but the guys were hating on me but the athletes liked me because I was good at sports. I was always standing out. It all transitioned hard when I got bullied by this guy twice my size. He came up behind me and pushed me when I was getting a drink of water at the water fountain and I punched him right in his mouth. That was a few months into my new school in Harrisburg, and from there I was the man. A fifth-grade moment to look back on is crazy. It made me feel as though I had the power to do something.

Sean:
You’re going to face challenges and bullies in the world, and knowing you have the power to control whether or not the bullies have power over you is a good lesson.

Vito Depierro:

That was a big lesson in my life. You have me thinking about all these emotions. As of late, when I’m recording, I tap into these emotions and that’s the power of music. It’s a powerful thing to release that stuff.

Sean:
I think everyone has a memory of when they first fell in love with music, so I want to know your first music memory. What type of music were you listening to, what kind of artists were you following?

Vito Depierro:

The first song I knew the words to was Biggie’s Big Poppa. I fell in love with that track. The delivery, the beat, the sound, the feeling it gave you. From then on, I was hooked on hip hop. My older brothers were into hip-hop and that style growing up, and I looked up to my older brothers so I got into it and really took to hip-hop

Sean:
What were you passionate about entering your teenage years and early adulthood? Where were your passions taking you at this point?

Vito Depierro:

At that time, it was baseball. I played baseball, basketball and a little bit of football. As I got toward the end of high school it was baseball and basketball, baseball being my main focus. Baseball ended up being the reason I went to college. At that point, I could have an impact on people but I didn’t know how to use it. I was one of the popular kids and I wanted to play sports, go to college, and become a major league baseball player. I ended up hurting my arm in my senior year, and the schools that were interested in me kind of backed off. My dad ended up going behind my back while I was working, and sent in letters and called admission offices and helped me get into college and play baseball there. Baseball was still the dream, up until sophomore or junior year when chasing women and being the man on campus and trying to find ways to make money took over. Baseball got put on the back burner. The passion started to fall off. Prior to all that, to tie to music, I’ve been freestyling and rapping with my friends since the age of 12 or 13 years old. I never thought I was going to be a rapper, but if we were smoking a blunt and the cipher starts, I knew I was going to kick some shit. That was happening all throughout college. It was actually a group with a song out with Wiz. It was a while ago that they did a track with Wiz, and the group was called The Finest. They were from my college and were basketball players. They asked me to be on a track and I should’ve done it, but I thought I was too cool at the time. Looking back, I should have taken advantage of that opportunity. Nevertheless, life went on and I graduated college and got my degree in speech communications.

Vito Depierro via Facebook

Sean:
I think it’s cool that you switched gears. What were your emotions surrounding baseball, the main part of your life? Now you’re living it up, so what were those emotions through the transition of becoming a young man and letting this primary dream of yours go, for other things?

Vito Depierro:

It was tough. I was just trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do. I started to think about what I was good at. Good at talking to people, dealing with people, and making others comfortable. Some people who knew me growing up would have never thought I would have graduated from college, so that was crazy in itself. I had a .7 GPA my sophomore year. That’s pretty bad. I ended up bouncing back somehow and saying to myself that baseball wasn’t giving me the happiness and joy. I don’t think I’m going to make it to the league anymore, so now I actually have to graduate from college and I didn’t know how I was going to do it. So I put myself in the library for about an hour a night. That’s it. I caught up on whatever I had to catch up on. Just to get in there and do some research on something. I forced myself to do that and ended up graduating with a 3.2! It was crazy. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I could do what I wanted.

Sean:
I feel like we have similar stories. It’s interesting when someone is gifted socially and you’re a people person because sometimes academics come secondarily. You’re more equipped for real-world interactions rather than book interactions. It’s cool to see how you committing yourself like that allowed you to blow it out of the water. Sometimes it takes a little pressure to make diamonds.

Vito Depierro:

I look at those moments and think that when your back is against the wall, that’s what defines what you are and what you’re about. I showed myself that I can say I’m going to do something and then did it. Even though I still didn’t know what I was going to do, it gave me that confidence.

Sean:
Now you’ve graduated college, you let the baseball dream go, and you’re out of school. What was the situation, what was the setting?

Vito Depierro:

At this point, I’m trying to figure out what to do. I’m doing odd jobs. I got my degree, but no one is knocking my door down to give me a job. It’s not like that. I worked for the family business and I got to see my Pops go from being broke to accumulating rental properties and continuing that, and by the time I was back from college, the way he was living was completely different from how he was living when I was in grade school. I got to see that transition and that hard work. When I’m out of school, of course, he opened an opportunity to work for him in these rental properties, fixing them up and doing the labor and learning the business. One day I got into an argument with him, and we were on a roof doing a roofing job, and he was talking so much smack which pissed me off. It made me think that I got my degree, so I wanted to take the dirty clothes off and make use of this degree. After that day when I left that roof, I put in applications to local banks and ended up getting hired at one of them. I was a teller there for about seven months before I applied for a position in the corporate office. I had to get special approval from my manager just to apply for the job in the corporate office. When I read the description for the job, it was in charge of community events, sponsorships, community aid, donations. I thought that it didn’t even sound like work and that I would kill it in this job. Once or twice a month I had to deliver speeches to all the branch managers, and we had 52 branches, so I would let them know what was going on on the marketing end. I was also in charge of grand openings. It was an awesome position. Like many people, I ended up getting caught in the political bull shit. I was in this job, in the corporate office, for a total of six years. Three or four years in, a guy got hired that flipped my world around as far as the office. I was going into work wanting to punch this dude in the mouth every day. I was able to adapt to the corporate world because I was excelling and climbing the ladder. Everyone liked me and named me Youth Ambassador so I got to deliver even more speeches in front of crowds. I realized this is where my degree was paying off because I was able to put speeches together, pretty effectively, and it basically came to a boiling point with this dude. I finally told him I was not going to tolerate the disrespect, and the next day I got fired. I’ve been independent ever since, just making it work.

Sean:
I think creatives, entrepreneurs, independent artists, have this thing with authority. It takes a special person to fit into a corporate structure. Obviously, you have to find the right environment and the right people, and sometimes it’s difficult for kindred spirits. How was that moment a milestone in your quest for independence?

Vito Depierro:

Inevitably, it was divine intervention because I was so smooth in that job. I was making good money, wearing my suit, driving a car, able to pay my bills, things were on cruise control. I never liked desk work and details and spreadsheets. Even in college, I didn’t take notes. I got through college by interacting in the classroom and giving speeches. A lot of people didn’t want to get in front of the class, but I saw it as an opportunity and privilege to share my opinion with people that don’t really have to listen. It was eating me up inside because I didn’t want to go to work anymore. My position was to impact, but I had anger building up because of all the bull shit that was going on. If you’re familiar with politics in the corporate world, it’s a lot of biting your tongue and faking it, which I was never good at. I don’t know that I ever will be, but I’m working on it.

Watch “Floatin” by Vito Depierro:

Sean:
You have to be wherever you can be yourself. If you can’t be yourself there, that’s where you shouldn’t be.

Vito Depierro:

Because that happened, I’ve tried a lot of different things as an entrepreneur. Some have worked better than others, and here I am today after trying a few different business ventures. Living in L.A. as a manager of artists; one, in particular, brought me out here. I wouldn’t take back any of it because it came to a point where I wanted to release this and do it over a beat.

Sean:
Your entry into music came from arts management moving out to L.A., so take us through that time where you left this other job and you were out here doing your own thing. Now you’re managing artists across the country, so how did that work out?

Vito Depierro:

When I left my other job, one of the main things that came into my life that has been driving me ever since and will continue to drive me is the nonprofit organization I created with a friend of mine, my best friend Matt McPherson. It’s called Blessed and Appreciative. If you see any of my posts, I’m always talking about it. We started to do little events to give back in all types of ways. Sometimes you have things that you make money from, and other times you have the things that give you happiness and joy. This was the thing giving me happiness and joy. It’s crazy going back in my head through this journey. Blessed and Appreciative started being impactful, we were doing all types of different stuff, you can check that out online. I’m doing that and it’s giving me satisfaction but I needed to make money so I started a business called Rep My City, which was selling sports apparel. I would take different logos all tied into one, for one city. Shoutout to Ryan Bridge. The shirts started selling like crazy. Then we did a Pittsburgh logo and the company was growing. I called a lawyer right away to cover my ass. We were using these logos that we didn’t own. We weren’t using full logos and meshing them into parts of others to represent a whole city. I spent $10,000 with this lawyer and it didn’t do much because the teams started to come after me with letters, cease and desists, so I’m thinking the company was about to blow up and then it all came crashing down. Then I started Fresh Tee’s a new company. People were loving it so when I started to look into other costs such as distribution, I realized I didn’t have that type of brand. That started to fizzle out. I was doing all types of shit. I was making jewelry. Then I had health issues which had me on medication that had my mind going crazy. To make up for it I started to make jewelry which was relaxing. I’m doing all this all the while trying to help local artists. This was when I first got into management. I’ve always been a fan of hip-hop, and a couple local guys were good at it. This was my first time diving in. I was never a manager before that with any experience, but I did have business experience. When I was 23 I wanted to get a house. The bank wouldn’t give me a loan, but I wanted to get my first rental property. My friends and peers always looked at me like I was making power moves from a young age. Seeing the way I was living, I made them want to ask me about management. They were approaching me, so I thought why not? I’d give it a try. That ended up not working.

Vito Depierro via Facebook

Sometimes it’s hard to get on the same page with grown men. They thought they wanted to know what you thought was best for them, but it’s hard to get on the same page. It happens. Toward the end of my time managing those guys, I ran into another guy who was an artist making moves. He had a nice following online. He approached me to be a manager and I had the guy move in with me and we just started grinding. I’m booking tattoo appointments for him, selling artwork, booking shows, doing everything I think a manager should be doing. We started traveling at that point. People started liking him and his work, so we ended up making a trip down to Miami. That was basically when I left Harrisburg. I realized I didn’t have much that was solid there except the rental property and the nonprofit organization that I could run from anywhere. Blessed and Appreciative was about appreciating your own life and sharing your blessings with others, which I could do from anywhere. So I decided to leave, but it wasn’t easy because my family was there. But this guy was moving and I was his manager so I had to be there to make sure everything was happening correctly. He didn’t have the same skill as far as dealing with people and communicating and we were a good team because of that; he didn’t have what I had. So we go to Miami and making things happen down there. Then we started to travel across the country, which we named a tour. There were no tour dates and nothing was lined up, but I was on Instagram and emailing venues and managers and owners in different states. I was lining venues up in a rental car as we’re traveling across the country. To the world, it looked like things were good, but behind the curtains, there were definitely moments where the money was down, and we had to figure out ways to make it work. We worked our way to Vegas where we stayed for about a month, and I’m doing the same thing there. I tried to get venues to let him sing there, or paint, or paint and sing at the same time. That’s something I had him do because no one was painting and singing at the same time. I was getting gigs booked, and then we were in L.A. just couchsurfing. We were still calling people, booking things, managing orders for him to paint Timbs, custom canvases, jackets, and then celebrities started wanting his artwork. That was keeping us afloat while we were chasing the music and entertainment dream. We ended up getting booked for Wild n Out, so we were with them for about a week and we met a lot of people doing that. We made a lot of headway out there. It’s a crazy pace of life out there, but there was a lack of authenticity and of love that I was feeling. Maybe if you had family and friends and you’re from there, you can feel some of that love. For me, coming into the business, it’s hard to find those genuine folks. As dope as it was staying out there, I was developing a hole inside of me because of the lack of genuine people. It was cool, but it wasn’t real. Anyone would step on your neck for a dime at any moment. That was paired with a fallout with my main artist Jon when we stopped seeing eye to eye. Anytime you start working with someone and your efforts begin to become underappreciated, it always causes friction. Time has passed since then, and I wish the best for him and hope he becomes everything he wants to, but as far as us and our relationship, it had to end. I knew I’d be happier in my hometown, around realness and doing things that I loved. In those moments, in the last two months, I was in L.A., it wasn’t until then that I started writing raps in my phone.

Sean:
You were transitioning out of L.A. and out of management. What inspired you to start writing yourself, after being a manager?

Vito Depierro:

We had many studio sessions and writing sessions, listening to beats, and I was giving input from time to time, telling them what I thought might work. I was sitting in on sessions here and there. I was always getting lyrics in my head as these things were going on. Towards the end of it, the producer that was part of the team came out to L.A. I did get us enough bookings to secure a spot of our own in downtown L.A. with a dope view, a great building, and it felt like we were in a movie. Keys needed somewhere to stay so he was crashing with us. He was the beat maker, so he would get up in the morning and start making beats. I heard the beats and all types of shit if flowing through my head. I thought about moving back east; I didn’t know what I wanted to do. While I didn’t’ know what to do, I had Keys making me fire beats and these lyrics started coming up. I just started rapping with Keys playing a beat, and I ended up spitting something that I had written earlier. I made a couple of remarks toward Jon in the track, and he was right there the whole time, but I was getting shit off my chest about how I felt. I still was not planning on becoming a rapper at that time; I just wanted to get shit off my chest. I ended up deciding to come back east. It’s what my heart was telling me to do. Then I felt the itch to make a real song, and I made my first song called Like a Vacay. It was about living life like a vacay. You have to appreciate what you’re doing every day regardless of what it is. Through the lyrics, I just wanted to get across that people should appreciate life in whatever they’re doing because if they’re doing that, then life can be like a vacay. That was my very first track. That ended up being pretty big for me because when you make your first track, people don’t know you as a rapper. They knew me as a lot of things, a corporate dude, a manager, I left that, and now I’m rapping. I could see people were talking shit, but it was tough to dive in and overcome my fear. I didn’t want to regret not trying it. When I made that track, it started to resonate with people. I went to Hawaii two weeks after making that track, and I shot the track to a DJ out there I met at a pool. She loved it and wanted me to go to the club where she played it twice. It was a moment that made me think I should make another track. With every track I’d make, something small would happen where someone would say that they could relate to it, or they took something from it. Those little things turned into me making a mixtape. It’s like 17 tracks that I assembled in 6 months.

Sean:
It’s cool that you took your basic skills and your sense of curiosity and fearlessness, and you led this exciting life where you landed opportunities you weren’t afraid to take. You’re back home, as an artist, what are your thoughts about being an independent artist? Especially in a town that you’re trying to make a name for yourself in, not being in a city.

Vito Depierro:

It’s hard. It’s not easy because of what led up to this. People that know me to know me to do different things. They don’t know me as an artist that makes my own music. I feel like when you’re from a smaller city or town, it’s harder for people that know you, to want to become your fan. They know who you are, they’ve seen you or they know who you’ve dated. It’s harder to become a fan when you know that person. The majority of my success up to this point and the opportunities I’ve been given have come from people that didn’t know me from anything. They just listened to the music for whatever they took it for. That’s crazy to me. I have gained a ton of support from my hometown, but I can’t say I don’t feel the hate and the people that think it’s a joke and want to see me fail. I can feel that, and every day we have to overcome the thought of what people think of us. I want the people here to support me and love me and get the music I want to spread because I’ve realized that all I care about is the impact. I know how impact music is and I know the messages I want to portray, so if I can share those messages through music, which gives me all the satisfaction and joy I need.

Sean:
People get so caught up in the perception of success. At the end of the day, we should create from a pure place. We should love what we create because amortization inflates our ego.

Vito Depierro:

In my experience, when I started to appreciate the more important things in life, like having one or two people that might love you or having one or two solid friends, having your health, shit we overlook. Once you start to appreciate it more each day, it’s crazy how you put less emphasis on financial gain, but it still comes.

Sean:
I try to express gratitude through my thoughts because anywhere in the world, someone would die for the opportunity you have. Even if things aren’t going well, there are always good things in our lives that we are blessed to have. A lot of people are focused on what they don’t have instead of what they should be grateful for.

Vito Depierro:

You said it perfectly. Appreciation is one of the most powerful tools in the world. People from my hometown did end up embracing me, but after they saw me excelling and being embraced in other parts of the world. Each time I’d come back home, there was more love. Eventually, it’ll be all of it, but you can never make everyone happy and make everyone love it. If anyone wants to listen to what I’m talking about, my main goal is to give somebody something they can take with them. Music today is dope. My stuff isn’t for the club. It’s for listening, relating to it, and taking something from it. Those are my main goals for whoever is listening to what I have to say.

Sean:
We need music for all different moments in life. Thinking about independence and location, technology is extremely polarizing for music distribution. What’s your opinion on the state of music technology today, and how much gets out there and is changing the landscape?

Vito Depierro:

The technology gives independent artist opportunities. What I’m not so much a fan of is the negative impact some music can have on people and the false sense of success that is spreading among our youth because of the technology these days. It’s a double-edged sword because it gives us more opportunity, but we have to be careful of what exactly is being spread. It might not be beneficial for the world.

Sean:
Livin My Life peaked at number 3 on our top 10 list.

Vito Depierro:

That was a big accolade for me, so I appreciate your data telling me that.

Sean: Speaking of the song, it’s upbeat with a strong narrative about how you feel about life and your family. What was the creative process behind that song?

Vito Depierro:

I have to shout out my engineer, Shane Garland, he engineered that song. Dennis Jenkins, he did tracks with Justin Bieber and Arianna Grande, and he’s from Harrisburg. When I started rapping it wasn’t easy for me to reach out to the dopest producers right away and ask if they wanted to work with me. I felt like I wasn’t there yet. After I shot a couple videos, made more music and put more of it out, Agony shot me a message asking if I was ever going to hit him up and I didn’t think that was going to happen. We ended up coming to an agreement, and he shared a folder of beats with me. I started going through these beats and I found the Livin My Life beat. I had never made a song with that type of beat, but I remember thinking to myself that it sounded like the radio. It sounded like a hit. I started writing to it, and as I’m writing, that was the first song I had written that I was crying as I was writing the second verse. That’s when I knew I wanted all my songs to pull something out of me like that one did. I didn’t just want to rhyme words or work on my flow anymore. I hadn’t gotten to music touching my emotions until that point. I was crying writing that second verse, and I ended up spitting it to a couple friends who thought it was real. I only had the verses written, and I went into the studio and Shane Garland helps a lot with ideas for hooks and melodies so he helped me. He would just hum the way it should sound and I would insert the words. From there, we just tweaked it, mixed it, and tried to make it sound right. That just ended up being one of the songs I picked to put on Steereo when the opportunity came across my Facebook.

Sean:
Thinking about music, what artists are you currently listening to and who are you inspired by, both past and present?

Vito Depierro:

I listen to a lot of Joe Budden, Nas, Jay-Z, older Eminem, everyone really. When I was growing up, I’d listen to Big, I just liked what they were all saying and how they were saying it. I love when they slide in inspirational messages. That’s my main inspiration. Current rap, I like J Cole’s older stuff, it’s tough. Frank Sinatra, I mix him in on Pandora sometimes.

Sean:
When someone hears your music for the very first time, what would you like them to feel?

Vito Depierro:

I want them to be able to relate to something I’m saying. I want to evoke happiness and inspiration into their veins. I want them to hear what I’m saying and know they can believe in whatever they love doing, and that it can work.

Sean:
Music to me is…

Vito Depierro:

Therapy. The last track I made, while I was writing it, tears were running down my eyes the whole time. As I’m recording it I’m crying. I could try to spit the lyrics right now and I will probably cry and not be able to get through it. The things I said on this track are the things I want to tell my loved ones. As good of a communicator as I am, what I said in this song would be difficult for me to say a right to them. That’s where the therapy kicks in for me because I didn’t even realize I had all this to get out. It was built up. Every time I run through it, it gives me that therapy session I need to get through this burden.

Sean:
All creativity is in a sense, therapy. Creativity gives us.

Vito Depierro:

This track isn’t even done. I’m going into the studio tonight to work on it. But it’s the first time I made a track and didn’t care how it’s taken because it’s already a victory and it makes me feel so good. Moving forward, I want to make more music where I feel that lack of a need to be accepted by people.

Sean:
The win comes from doing.

Vito Depierro:

Damn, that’s a quote!

Sean:
We’re all littered with unfulfilled ideas. But we shouldn’t be worried about the result and what people think. It’s whether or not you’re willing to put in the work to get it done.

Listen to ‘Left Hollywood’ by Vito Depierro:

FOLLOW STEEREOWEBSITE // FACEBOOK // INSTAGRAM // TWITTER

FOLLOW VITO DEPIERROFACEBOOK // INSTAGRAM // TWITTER

LISTEN VITO DEPIERROSOUNDCLOUD // YOUTUBE

 

Editor In Chief of The Pulse; A creative gal living in the City of Angels conquering the world with inspired writing about music.