Rapper Norman Dean advances his career from behind the soundboard | Local Beat | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Rapper Norman Dean advances his career from behind the soundboard

"I'm starting to get more serious with pushing the studio as a brand and a business."

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Like many millennial rappers, Norman Dean started his journey in the back of the classroom: scribbling down lyrics that he would later record into his phone and send to friends, asking for opinions. Unlike most, he stuck it out through the ups and downs of self-promotion and selling tickets for the promoters who put him on shows.

Now he has a team behind him, a fully functioning recording studio in Carnegie, and is hitting the road for out-of-town shows nearly every other month. His team is epic, literally. It's called Team Epic, and it has been making big moves, getting Dean on showcases at the AC3 festival in Atlanta, and at South by Southwest, in Austin.

Listening to Dean, you can hear the upbeat, hippie vibe that Wiz Khalifa made famous, but he also brings a harder, more diverse feel to songs like "Demons."

Dean knows that performing is only half the battle. He's investing his time wisely, learning all aspects of the industry. After setting up his studio (in a former garage) in early 2014, he began recording not only himself, but other artists from around the tri-state area.

Norman Dean
  • Photo by Trevor Leard
  • Norman Dean

"I've had 60 to 70 clients come through and record over the first year," Dean says. "I'm just starting to get more serious with pushing the studio as a brand and a business."

Dean has become what some might call a "lab rat." In hip-hop terms, this means someone who spends the majority of their time in the studio. It may sound condescending, but the phrase has been used to describe some of hip hop's greatest artists and producers, like Eminem and the late J Dilla.

"I spend at least 30 to 40 hours a week in [the studio] at the bare minimum," Dean says. "If it's a week where I have a lot of sessions or songs, I could be in there anywhere from to 60 to 80 hours."

Next up, Norman is set to drop a mixtape entitled My Brother's Keeper, with fellow Team Epic member Space Jam Jiff at the end of May. Norman will also join Pittsburgh-based rapper Beedie on his Counter Culture Tour, which kicks off this Friday, in Erie.

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