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No fear, just talent: What propels KC hip-hop artist Dettsa

Solo freestyle: Dettsa

Kansas City artist Dettsa (Justin Martin) is charmingly arrogant, incredibly talented, cordial and bloodthirsty.
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Kansas City artist Dettsa (Justin Martin) is charmingly arrogant, incredibly talented, cordial and bloodthirsty.

Dettsa (@dettsabirets3): The Rock Star

Age: 21

Home: Kansas City

Four Augusts ago, the hip-hop stratosphere imploded from a Kendrick Lamar guest verse on Big Sean’s 2013 single “Control.” On the song, Lamar compared himself to the Beatles, poked fun at the weak personalities of other rappers and singled out 11 contemporaries (literally, he said their names: J Cole, Drake, Mac Miller, Wale, etc), telling them “I got love for you, but I’m trying to murder you.”

It was as brazen a verse as hip-hop had seen in a decade, and perhaps the best way to describe local artist Dettsa (pronounced DET-suh): wildly arrogant, incredibly talented, cordial, bloodthirsty.

Perhaps this is why despite having taken rap seriously for only a little over a year, Dettsa (Justin Martin) finds himself on the shortlist of local artists to have had their music covered by nationally recognized rap blogs; Chicago-based music blog Fake Shore Drive debuted the video for his single “Heavy Heart” last month. The video was striking, with a dark, haunting tone similar to early Tyler the Creator. But Heavy Heart was just a peek into Dettsa’s complete package.

Listen to three Dettsa songs and you hear three Dettsas. On one track, “Truth” (with fellow KC rappers Joey Origami and Kuttybear), he delivers a scene-stealing verse with a rapid-fire cadence similar to Big Sean. On another, “Go Crazy” (produced by local musician Bam Keith), he’s flashing a capacity for crafting a pop party record with crisp Tech N9ne-like flows.

But enough people can rap well; Dettsa’s strength lies in a relentless work ethic and self-reliance: “I probably write 12 (iPhone) notes of lyrics a day,” he says. “I’ve got like 2,000 notes in my phone.”

He doesn’t have a team or management but says he studies the industry relentlessly. It helps inform his insistence that Kansas City can be next up: “The KC rap scene is wavy right now. We’re coming up. It’s enough space for everybody to eat out here.”

Just don’t be surprised if Dettsa finds a spot front and center.

Essential tracks: “Babylon,” “Go Crazy,” “Obsessive”

Aaron Randle: 816-234-4060, @aaronronel

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