Brandon DaZ recalls playing beats and singing by the time he was barely one-year-old. As the son of legendary Bloomington-Normal DJ Joe Beck, who has also been a drummer for a number of central Illinois bands over the last three decades, it's not surprising the apple fell close to his father's tree.
"From my Dad practicing with his bands and me going to his gigs, it was always music," said DaZ
DaZ said his first musical love was Michael Jackson. And he said he fell hard.
"Thriller was the very first CD I ever got ... on my seventh birthday, my Dad got if for me," said DaZ, who began to chuckle when he flashed back 20 years. "I carried it around with me like it was a toy. All day."
DaZ says most of the lyrics from his latest album "Black Unicorn" are from his perspective, but from multiple angles, often envisioning friends and family when bouncing ideas off himself. "Youth" is a song that hints at early life troubles:
Trapped in a cell with no bail/What a tiny room/I was seventeen it happened the first time/I was 'bout three when something hurt my mind.
DaZ said the word "seventeen" refers to his first brush with the law, while the reference to "three was a little more innocent.
"If you recall the chorus, it says 'detrimental to my youth/I remember the time my pops chipped my tooth.' Even the subtlest things affect our lives. I said 'oh oh oh I'm never trusting you again' with that particular thing because I just chipped my tooth. So that was the first time my confidence was let down I guess," said DaZ.
"Michael Phelps" is probably "Back Unicorn's" breakout track. DaZ says he identifies with the multiple Olympic gold medal winning swimmer, as he considers Phelps to be the black sheep of the swimming world.
"I've always been drawn to pop culture. I think even as much as I like music, popular things like the Beatles or Michael Jackson, they have a mystique to them, they're in a league of their own. I always tried to reference those kinds of things and compared myself because I've always been told I do things differently. And I've always been really good at a lot of things," said DaZ.
The lyrics on the "Black Unicorn" album frequently return to the idea of struggle and being doubted. That sentiment often extends to others, where he implores listeners to believe in their own dreams.
"Cause we're all black unicorns at the end of the day," said DaZ. "And that's the point of this whole story. So many times people hold others on a pedestal. And nobody takes the time, or listens when people tell them 'hey, you can do this too' by focusing on the positive."
He says the self-affirmation in his music is more about self-preservation than about puffing himself up.
"You have to," said DaZ, and sort of laughed when he offered "When you're in a world that is constantly telling you 'you aren't anything' you at least have to pretend like you are to make it through the day."
And according to Daz's recollection, he's been talking about making music and making it big in the music business since he was was a toddler.
"I joke with my brother (rap artist Futuristic) who's a millionaire now, and they thought we were just talking kiddie talk when we were little," laughed DaZ. "And we were literally sitting there being little masterminds."