At first, Who Sold My Soul? might seem like an odd title for an independently released, debut full-length project but dereck d.a.c. is no stranger to the big, scary music industry and the project’s opening skit makes it immediately clear the kind of conflict he’s grappling with: music is nothing without soul. It is by no mistake, then, that this project is oozing soul from its heartfelt samples and verses, blending sound and emotion like a larger than life painting.

Almost entirely produced and recorded alongside technical wiz-kids KianVSLife and Hxrlxy during a trip to Lisbon last Summer, this intimate relationship (no really, you should see the size of their AirBnB) between production and vocals is a stand-out feature of the project. It is hard to tell where Dereck and Kian start and the likes of Julio Iglesias stop between timely sample chops and the boys’ croaking melodics, blurring the boundaries between the two to give the impression of one seamless voice and message. To use their own terms, Dereck and Kian literally start to embody the ‘soul’ they’re searching for.

Befitting of the interpretive art doodles on the cover, this blending of sampling and live delivery, message and instrumentation, song and interlude starts to find order in unorthodox ways and this is true both horizontally and vertically across the project. As his colourful, character-packed verses collapse into introspective interludes and expand outwards again, ‘Who Sold My Soul?’ revels in the childlike excitability with which it illustrates Dereck’s cartoonish series of slapstick calamities and brusque revelations.

“With a bounty on my head” – Dereck’s lyrics here come across as a caricature of real life

This is brought to the fore on the album’s making-of documentary set to drop a month from now, in which explorations of both their surroundings and the project’s sounds itself unfold simultaneously alongside touching moments of camaraderie. Focussing mainly on the cramped AirBnB Dereck, Kian and Hxrlxy inhabited over their 10 days in Lisbon, it is Hxrlxy’s light-hearted editing cuts that really bring to life the sort of bursts of passion and creativity that the project was borne out of.

In one exchange during the making of single ‘Who Sold You’, Kian frantically explains the significance of using triplet patterns as a “concept” to a sleepy-eyed Dereck who, despite just delivering one of the most technically impressive verses on the project, mumbles that he needs a coffee. Comedy aside, though, it is this ability to casually play with the art form that speaks to his command over the craft. From riding the unorthodox rhythms of ‘Moonshoes’ and ‘Happy’ to the driving dynamism of rhyming asymmetry woven throughout his verses, Dereck manages to strike a careful balance between musical maestro and man-about-town, navigating his own struggles with finding intimacy and contentedness within himself without sacrificing any of the childlike enthusiasm that makes the project so fun to listen to in the first place.

Dereck D.A.C. and co-producer/compadre KianVsLife

Following a triplet of friends through full-bodied soundscapes and honest self-reflections into the slapstick calamities that seem to make up Dereck and Kian’s worldview, Who Sold My Soul? sets out both physically and emotionally to find something he felt he lost in previous musical ventures. To me, at least, it seems that search wasn’t in vain.

The duo’s larger-than-life journey to find their souls departs on all major streaming platforms this Friday and you can cop the vinyl and cassette pre-release HERE.