Whether you love him, you hate him or this is the first you’ve heard of him, there’s little room to argue that Richard Crout is one of a kind.
Sure, there may be a few other white rappers out there with slightly off-kilter rhymes who are still trying to make a push for success in the music business while approaching their 40th birthday. But of those, how many can also say they are an expert beatboxer, have taken a 12-year hiatus from rap and were once a Jehovah’s Witness?
We’d venture to guess not a single one.
It’s these unique qualities — along with some superb lyrical talent — which make the man better known to Grand Strand fans as Decm (pronounced Deck-um) one of the area’s most intriguing and enigmatic talents.
From Cool J to Jehovah
A Hershey, Pa., native, Decm began to be exposed to hip-hop while attending a boarding school which taught kids from cities such as New York and Philadelphia. Picking up on the urban influences around him, he started rapping at age 11.
“Right away I started writing my own stuff, beatboxing, getting in talent shows, all that,” he said.
Drawing inspiration from acts such as the Fat Boys, Eric B. and Rakim, Run DMC and LL Cool J, Decm immediately knew his path was to be involved in music.
“From the time I made my first rhyme I knew I wanted to do this and that I was always going to be a hip-hop artist,” he said. “I just didn’t know it would take me until almost 40 to do it.”
But as often happens to the dreams of young musicians, Decm’s love for hip-hop was derailed when life took an unexpected turn and he found himself following a higher calling as a Jehovah’s Witness.
“I did that for 12 years, and I took it seriously enough that I put everything else on the back burner.” He said. “It was a case of where you completely give yourself over to the cause. I didn’t pay attention to hip-hop or anything.”
Despite getting married and finding a certain level of spiritual fulfillment during his time as a Jehova’s Witness, Decm says he always knew that something was missing.
“There were certain aspects which I didn’t agree with, and when I decided to part ways with that my marriage and basically everything else fell apart,” he said.
It was at this time, Decm says, that he was left with nothing but his love for music. So in 2005, Decm once again began pursing a life as a hip-hop artist.
“I remarried my music and decided to go as full steam ahead as I could,” he said.
Myrtle Beach Music: Decm performs at Crunkfest '08 at Club Toxic
Crafting a sound
Landing at the beach, Decm dove head first into the local music scene getting involved in every show he could find and handing out CDs by the hundreds, trying to make his mark.
“When I first got back into the game 6 years ago, I knew I had to get myself back on stage as much as possible to get myself seasoned again and find out at this age what’s going to work live,” Decm says.
With much trial and error, Decm found success in definining himself as an artist, yet had a tough time getting much recognition for his unique sound in this tight-knit local music community.
“It was really difficult trying to adapt to what’s going on around me, because I don’t sound anything like anybody around here,” he said. “It seems like every show I went to there was a little animosity toward what I’m doing simply because I stick out so much.”
After nearly 5 years of pushing himself hard locally, Decm slowed down in 2010 in order to re-examine his tactics.
“That’s when I decided I gotta take a step back and do something different. Take a different direction,” he said.
Having gotten much feedback about incorporating more of his beatboxing skills — which he often refers to as the Human Boomin’ System — into his act, Decm decided to take that advice and invested in a system he calls the Inhuman Boomin’ System.
Myrtle Beach Music: Decm's Inhuman Boomin' MachineThis setup, which includes a sampler, a loop pedal and a modification pad which adds various effects to the sounds being looped, allows Decm to use his mouth to compose beats as he goes and rap over top of the sounds he just created adding yet another new twist to his live performances.
“Now I’m bringing a machine with me to make the music on the fly in front of the audience and blowing them away when I spit lyric over top of it,” he says.
Forty going on forever
As his act reaches new levels of artistic achievement, there’s no doubt the 39-year-old understands that the responsibilities of life and having people who depend on him continue make it more challenging to keep up the pace of making music and promoting himself.
Still, he’s not letting that stop him.
“There are a lot more obstacles when you’re my age trying to get into this game,” Decm says. “But it’s just another roadblock that I’m going to knock straight through to get to where I need to be.
But even with drive that’s hard to question, making your way as a hip-hop artist in a town known mostly for Beach music and cover bands is never an easy proposition.
“I’ve been on stage around the area enough to know that performing shows around here, that’s not likely to get me a record deal or even necessarily a lot of fans,” Decm says.
Attributing it partially to the transient population of the area and a little to “who knows what?” Decm believes there’s something missing when it comes to having a thriving hip-hop community at the beach.
“There’s a lot of talent here, just not maybe the proper opportunities to succeed,” he says.
Building beyond the beach
That’s part of the reason Decm has set his sights on taking his music outside of Myrtle Beach and even outside of South Carolina. His plan for doing so consists of gathering up a team of like-minded individuals who can help propel each other to more recognition.
“I really need to pull together a good solid team of people,” Decm said. “Eminem couldn’t do it by himself. He had [Dr.] Dre and his people and those people had people working with them. It’s all about building something bigger.”
Yet in an area where many of the successful hip-hop groups have been working together most of their lives, Decm says it can be tough to find people to manage and promote for an outsider like himself.
“Since I’d been out of this so long, a lot of it is just trying to break in and prove myself,” he says. “I love my southern people, but there’s a lot of clicks and people who really just like their boys. I’ve gone to shows where they cheer for their boys and as soon as I got up on stage some of them are booing me from the back of the club.”
Regardless of the number of roadblocks or circumstances stacked against him, the love for the music runs so deep with Decm that it’s unlikely he’ll ever fold or give up on trying to make music.
According to him, the key is just to focus on continuing to build a show unlike any other and being smart about how he proceeds.
“I’m going to come back out in 2011 and it’s going to be better than ever,” he said. “But when I do it’s gotta be promoted right. I’ll do a few open mic shows and things, but overall I’m being a lot more selective about where and when I perform.”