When Utah hip-hop duo Def Letter — Dumb Luck and Linus Stubbs — released their debut album, “Social Introduction,” earlier this year, they got a surprise. “Social Introduction,” with more than 20 tracks detailing family issues, relationship problems and good times, all with a unique Utah perspective and old-school samples and hooks, was ranked in the Top 10 on the country’s hip-hop college radio charts for five consecutive weeks.
In an email interview, Salt Lake City M.C. Dumb Luck, 23, talked about his creative relationship with 32-year-old Ogden producer Stubbs, how they have achieved an enviable level of success, and what “head over heels” really means.
How did you start making and performing music with Linus?
When I first got into the scene, a good friend of mine, Phil Maggio, told me that Linus was one of the best producers in Utah. A couple years after that, my friend Task Rok released an album with him, and I loved the classic boom-bap, sample-based sound that Linus had. I met Linus in the end of 2009 and we talked a little about working together. A couple months later, we went snowboarding together and I asked him if he wanted to make a project together. It was cool for me, ’cause I had been building my name for a couple years before that, but had yet to release a project because most of the material I had up until then wasn’t where I wanted it to be. After snowboarding, I picked out a couple beats, wrote the first track a couple days after that, and we went from there.
How do you describe the creative relationship in the duo?
Long distance. We live a couple cities away from each other, so every now and then Linus will email me a beat or two, or I’ll go out to Ogden and he’ll show me the beats he has available. I’ll pick a couple and spend a couple weeks writing to them. We both let the other do their thing to the fullest without trying to change the way of each other’s creative input.
What inspires you — or rather, what does not inspire you?
It’s all about timing. Sometimes I won’t be inspired by anything for a little while, and I’ll just forget about it. And then out of nowhere, something silly inspires me to do something. Just the other day I saw a commercial on TV and the background music was a piano and it inspired me to make a beat. Other times, I’ll be inspired by struggle, or sadness, or skating. I’d say the thing that inspires me the least is being content and happy, which is kind of twisted. I just feel happy songs are empty and bland — unless they’re done very well. When I’m going through something heavy, or I’m struggling to pay my bills or something, I feel like there’s 10 times the amount of passion and fuel behind every track that I make.
What is the best song you have ever written, and why?
It’s hard to pick the best song ’cause there’s so many different reasons for why one would be better than the other or vice versa. If I had to pick, though, I’d say it’s a tossup between “Social Introduction,” the title track off the album, or a song I wrote more recently about my brother who passed away in February of this year. I feel like I expressed myself as accurately as possible on both songs, and they were both so pure, so in-depth and vulnerable. Every time I play the one about my brother at a show, someone ends up crying and saying how deeply it touched them. I’m pretty proud of that.
What are your most memorable musical experiences?
Definitely when I first started making music, when it was so fresh and new to me. I was awestruck by the pure love for it. The Alive + Well tour [a 2010 regional tour featuring some of Utah’s finest hip-hop artists] was also a very memorable experience, as well as all the out-of-state shows I’ve done randomly. Traveling and seeing beautiful new environments and being able to do what you love most is as good as life gets, in my opinion. I’d also have to say the Summer Jam and Cinco de Mayo battles I was in last year were crazy. Seeing more than 10,000 people cheering for you during a freestyle battle is the highest I’ve ever felt — adrenaline like you wouldn’t believe. The album release in May of this year was also amazing. Getting 225 people on a Tuesday night is huge for a local hip-hop show. Me and my good friend Pat Maine also had some fun times going out of state this year. And to top it off, getting No. 6 on the nationwide hip-hop chart with my debut album is something I will never forget.
What is the key to getting national success?
All I ever did was put everything that I had to offer into my music and hoped for it to pay off. But being an independent artist, the job is never done. I’m not good at self-marketing so I stick to what I know and do best: Creating music I am proud of.
What fan-made signs would you like to see held up at one of your shows?
Dumb Luck for President.
Why do we say we’re head over heels when we’re happy? Isn’t that the way we normally are?
Well, that term is usually used when somebody is extremely happy. Like so happy that they lose sense of what’s going on around them and fall “head over heels” all over the place. Just kind of mindlessly lost in bliss wandering around with no particular destination. And it’s also used to describe falling in love. “Head over heels” because you are “falling” in love. Get it?
Your ‘Social Introduction’ to Def Letter
O Visit youtube.com/watch?v=yZywE6I-PHg to view the Utah hip-hop duo’s music.