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Local rapper is regional winner of rap contest

Jacquinn Williams
Local rapper is regional winner of rap contest
Dorchester native Nilton Depina has been named the regional winner of “America’s Next Top Rapper.” He will travel to Las Vegas later this year to compete in the finals. (Photo: 2Face Dejavu)

Dorchester native Nilton Depina is the regional winner of the “America’s Next Top Rapper” competition. He went up against dozens of local rappers to win $5,000 in cash. The talent contest is modeled after “American Idol” with contestants from all around the nation converging in Las Vegas for the finals.

Depina, whose stage name is 2Face Dejavu, is the son of Cape Verdean immigrants. Energized by winning the competition, he is working on fresh material as he waits for more news from the TV show.

The grand prize winner of the show’s competition will take home $100,000 worth of prizes including a distribution deal from Universal Music, a video, a booking agent, a publicist and a tour.

In the meantime, Depina is stepping his game up and readying himself for Sin City.

When do you head to Las Vegas?

Vegas is later in the year. No date yet. Right now they’re traveling to different cities. Eight to 10 cities. In Boston there were more than 80 people competing.

How did you hear about the contest?

My sister heard an ad on the radio. She told me about it. I thought about it a couple of times, but it took me awhile to do it. Another friend online hit me up about it. They thought I’d be great. By that time, I felt like it’s a sign.

Tell me about your stage name?

2Face Dejavu stems from my cousin Mikey who passed away. He was murdered in Roxbury. When he was alive he used to love rapping. He used it to relieve stress. When he died, I picked up a couple of his tapes. What he rapped about was incredible. My cousin’s rap name was 2Face. I used Dejavu as rebirth.

When did you start rapping?

When I was with Mikey. I was 8. We did a family performance. I didn’t know what to write. He wrote it for me. We had it on video! I don’t know what happened to it. Ever since then I was really into hip hop. I listened to Nas, Pac, Jay-Z, Mobb Deep and Outkast.

It wasn’t until he passed, when I was 14, that I took it seriously. I bought my own equipment to make my own beats.

How did your family feel about you choosing rap as a career?

My parents didn’t have an opinion. [They] didn’t take it seriously. Now they know.

What have you done so far to promote yourself?

I went to New York in 2005. I dropped “I’m Here” it was a double CD. I was there for about three months. I went back in 2006 and went to Columbia University for a semester. That worked out well. I met a lot of people. A girl I met interned at a few labels and got me a few meetings. I started thinking about it more as a business.

Ever since then, I’ve thought more about leaving and moving to LA or New York. I realize I got to stay in my city until a certain point. I gotta do it from the inside out. Boston is a tough place to make it. This is the year. I feel like there’s a barrier here.

We need to build our own [music] culture. There needs to be more love between DJs and artists. There is this one kid that is making some noise named Moufy. We need people like that to come together. We do have talent here.

Who taught you how to make beats?

I picked it up on my own. Recording, editing, writing and producing, I do it all.

Right now we’re looking for producers to work with. I haven’t been producing as much as I used to. I want to focus on writing and get more into production. So I’m focusing as a writer. We’re looking for a new sound.

Have you done any touring outside of Boston?

I did one show in New York and two or three other shows outside of greater Boston. We’re sticking to Boston right now. We’re trying to grow it organically. Then expand to New England. We want a fan base that sticks with you. Like Nas and Common. I want fans of me, not just the music.