by Akii Butler
Upon first glance at Denzel Washington’s Instagram, there is an aura about him. It’s sort of mysterious in the same vein of many R&B artists such as H.E.R., 6LACK, or even Aaliyah. But as you continue to scroll, you start to catch glimpses of his personality which may surprise you, such as an image of Denzel staring into the camera while winking and making a funny face.
But it all brings you to the same question: Who is Denzel The Artist?
“Denzel The Artist is an entity that wants to inspire people,” Denzel says. “At the end of the day, I feel that I was put here to inspire people … you don’t even have to be creative. I feel that God gave everyone a skill, whether it’s artistic or not … I feel that everyone has a talent that they don’t know and it’s my purpose to inspire people to do that talent.”
At first listen, Denzel’s music is what R&B is made of. It’s sleek, smooth and filled with so much soul. From his original music to his covers, you’d think he’d been singing this music his whole life.
“Originally I didn’t start in R&B,” Denzel says. “I come from a chorale background.”
Denzel’s journey started at a young age. Originally accepted by Firestone High School for acting, his passion for singing lead him to join the school’s choir, where he met one of his first inspirations, his instructor, Sally Snider.
Snider bumped Denzel up from the intermediate choir to the Men’s Chorus.
“From then on I started to become more serious about it and even had experiences that I never thought [were] possible coming from the hood,” Denzel says. “For my 16th birthday we traveled to Europe to perform and sang in Latin.”
Denzel credits his time in chorale for his success today.
“I feel that it helped train my voice to do the music that I am doing now,” Denzel says. “If I didn’t do choral music, I wouldn’t know how to read music, I wouldn’t know how to identify harmonies, I wouldn’t know how certain tones come through music and how to say certain things in music so that it comes across a certain way so that the audience feels it.”
The one question Denzel constantly gets is, of course, about his name.
“When I’m not Denzel The Artist, the singer, every day I’m Denzel Washington. When I walk into an audition room it’s like, ‘Denzel Washington?’” Denzel says, feigning a look of surprise. “It’s a great conversation starter. It’s a great thing to have on your audition resume … It’s actually a stepping stone and a way to get my foot in the door.”
Denzel Washington isn’t the reason Denzel decided to go by Denzel the Artist, though.
“I’m actually a collection of many things, and that’s where I got my name from,” Denzel says. “One day I was just like, ‘I act, I dance, I sing, I’m a filmmaker,’ and I didn’t want to put myself in a box and be like Denzel the singer or Denzel the Actor. I’m just Denzel The Artist, because at the end of the day, I love art in its entirety.”
For Denzel, it’s all about balancing and focusing on one thing at a time. “I bounce back and forth between what I want to do,” Denzel says. “Last year was my acting year. I did a lot of independent films, I did a lot of commercials and stuff like that in Cleveland… this year is the year I fixate on making my album.”
Since Dec. 1, 2018, Denzel has released 3 covers with the most recent cover being ‘Disconnect’ by Grammy-nominated artist 6LACK, on Jan. 6th and another in the works, Washington has no plans on slowing down anytime soon. With an album due out by the end of the year and an EP and a mixtape on the way, Denzel is proving that 2019 is his year of music.
The mixtape, I Remember, is a culmination of precious memories, Denzel says. The theme is self-acceptance.
“Each relationship you have with someone, you take something from them,” Denzel says. “In the beginning, you start off as this person, and through the relationship, you change for the worst and you change for the best … in the end, you’re still the same person, and you have to look back at all of these experiences and be able to accept yourself and these are the experiences that made you who you are today.”
Denzel is planning to release an album, which is currently untitled, later this year.
While he does plan on moving to another state at some point, Denzel says he’ll never leave Akron behind.
“When it’s all said and done, I want to become a teacher and give back by giving knowledge to people, and open those doors that others opened for me,” Denzel says.
Akii Butler is a senior at Kent State University. He studies journalism and is an avid fan of music.
All photos by Deondre Washington. Used with permission from Denzel Washington. Follow Deondre on Instagram at @4eyeviews.