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"working class hero"

D. Roof (Deontae Ruth) was in eighth grade when he started rapping. Lucky for him, he had an open-minded math teacher who took him seriously and encouraged him to develop his skills.

"I used to beat on the desk and have fun on the side," says Ruth one afternoon while taking a break from his day job at Whole Foods. "The teacher pulled me aside and asked if I ever thought about doing it as a serious thing. I was 13 at the time and said, 'Not really.' But he had a studio and took me under his wing and really worked with me."

Eventually, Ruth realized he needed to produce his own music because he couldn't afford to buy beats from outside producers. Throughout high school, he competed in talent shows and developed as a rapper and lyricist. "I didn't take it that serious," he says. "There would be a couple of months when I wouldn't be doing it."

Ruth then signed with Double Up, a New York-based label that helped him issue his 2006 debut, Vaccine. Since then, he's been extremely active. He dropped a follow-up, The Addiction Album, in 2007 and The Ingredients of Ignorance in 2008. His latest release, Ens Legis, comes out this week, and Ruth celebrates its release with a Grog Shop show. The album's title derives from the Latin term for "a creature of the law," he explains. "The real name for the album was Fighting Ens Legis, so it's about fighting the corporation."

There's a heavy emphasis on the plight of the working class on the album. On the opening track, "Why Not Rebel," Ruth raps "Back when I was young/My momma used to tell me/Some things are never gonna change/You're either poor or you're wealthy" and calls the country "the divided states of America."

With references to centuries of debt ("Every 70 Years") and the manipulation of interest rates ("Words From Wall Street"), as well as the decline of U.S. currency value ("Death of the Dollar"), the album has the kind of educational focus you find in Public Enemy or KRS-One's music. "[KRS-One] was one of the people I looked up to while coming up," admits Ruth. "I try to educate through entertainment. I know our school system isn't what it should be. I know there's all kind of white lies that the government is keeping from us. I try to expose that but not be preachy. I study politics and worldly things, not for a degree, just for personal knowledge."

Ruth admits his clean raps and jazzy beats (think Common or Gang Starr) have little in common with Cleveland rappers who are obsessed with wealth and money.

"They talk about things they don't have, like a Range Rover on 42-inch rims, which is impossible," he says. "They have fun with them; I won't disrespect them. But that's what dominant."

Ruth says he has enough of a following keep him rapping. And by making his shows benefit concerts (his CD release show at the Grog doubles as a food drive), he hopes to put into practice what he preaches.

"I do have a fan base here," he says. "I run into people who congratulate me for what I'm doing. To me, this is a city more for people who are in rock bands. I've seen a hip-hop show on Thursday that draws 50 people, and the rock show on Friday will be sold out. But I'm not discouraged. I'm working at developing a fan base here." -

""ens legis" album review"

D. Roof is a socially conscious emcee from Cleveland, OH who has made a name for himself creating concept-driven albums. First it was the ‘Addiction’ LP, then ‘Ingredients of Ignorance’, and this time around his target is the corporations, government, and the consumers who buy their products. The album is creatively entitled “ENS Legis” meaning ’creature of the law’. The timing is certainly right for an album like this. Did D. Roof live up to expectations?

Roof kicks off with “Why Not Rebel” and asks that very same question of his audience. It was a nice way to introduce the theme of this whole cd. He follows up with “Heroes And Villains” over a rare Beach Boys sample, and tries to sort out who really are the good guys and bad guys in government. “Consumed” features one of the more up-tempo beats on the album, and the song highlights the relationship between consumers and corporations, with both sides taking some blame for current economic problems.

From there the album takes a rough turn into overly complicated songs about history and government policy which might be perfect for a college economics or philosophy class, but don’t seem to work well as hip-hop songs. There may be an older audience out there for material like this, but the kids will skip it.

The album picks up steam again at track 9, “Problems & Solutions”, as D. Roof notes that it is completely up to us to solve our own problems. The production on this track sounds like a mix of classic east coast and southern rap drums and melodies, and is probably my favorite on the album. “Searching” is another laid back hip-hop joint featuring poetry from Underground Kween. This felt like a 1994 Tupac joint and really took me on a trip down memory lane. The album closes strong with “Can You Feel It”, and a positive message for hope.

Overall this album is laced with amazing production and a few standout songs, but ultimately it doesn’t measure up to past D. Roof efforts. His ‘Addiction’ album is still one of my favorite local cds ever, and I fear less people will really connect with the messages on this album compared to his past two. It’s still worth a listen though as albums like this are harder to come by in an era of watered down music, so go ahead and support D. Roof again. This man never stops working, and I hear his next album is already being planned. One only hopes he gets back to his ‘Addiction’ days on the next one.



"VACCINE" (2006)
"ENS LEGIS" (2009)

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Cleveland's Indie-rap scene hasn't been the same since lyricist D.
Roof shot to the top of the pack. Versed in both wisdom and
vocabulary that most artist could only dream of, D. Roof has managed
to take Ohio by storm at twenty-one years of age.
His subject matter strays from today's radio singles laced in false
realities. "We already have enough followers, enough fakes, enough
yellow 5...what we need is people that stick to it and don't switch as
soon as the money comes." He chooses to embrace the positive, poking
fun at those building up a life of crime, emphasizing education and
hard work.
D. Roof (born Deontae Ruth) was born to a strong woman by the name
of, Rainda Ruth. D. Roof grew up and lived in some of the roughest
neighborhoods in Cleveland, an area plagued by poverty and dying
industry. He fell in love with hip-hop starting back in grade school,
"during those lunch periods watching my peers form a circle around
lunch tables beating on tables with ink pens, and pencils while some
other kids spit raps off the rhythms. It was that energy, that
freedom, that got me into music."
He began free styling off of hip-hop and r&b Instrumentals, until one
day his Eighth grade math teacher Mr. Kennedy (a.k.a. Stay High) got a
hold of one of his mix tapes. D. Roof was thirteen years old when he
began working in the studio, developing a style and sound that he
still stays true to.
Deontae grew into the man they call D. Roof, a vegetarian (who doesn't
go searching for rap beef), who lives more the Zen lifestyle rather
than that of a rapper. He lives his music anytime anyway from his 7
a.m. to his 3 p.m., or his 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. job at Whole Foods and
Starbucks. "He literally goes around the store singing, rapping, or
making fun of the music playing on the speaker," says one co-worker.
While you're sleeping, he's creating music.
D. Roof is a meld of old school hip-hop, r&b, modern day society,
politics, and the dirt and grit of the city of Cleveland. D. Roof is
about, "turning cities of poverty in to cities of Prosperity!"