Sebastian Demian is the director of Dem Passwords, an oddly-named art gallery-cum-music venue that is dfficult to find. It's located beneath a West Hollywood hydroponics store, but it's not accessible from the street, so you have to enter through the alley. When I walked up recently, a small group of the most stereotypical hipsters I have ever seen were getting sauced in the parking area.
Along with Ethan Higbee -- who owns the spot -- Demian is at the center of a quite-exciting emerging scene at the north end of Fairfax. Dem Passwords hosts DIY music sets from artists like Andrew W.K., MTV Riff Raff, and LA Vampires, the latest project from Pocahaunted's Amanda Brown. You also might see rapper Lil B hanging out there, because Demian is his manager.
Well, "manager" is too square of a term for the new agey B, but Demian is the guy who handles his business and directs many of his videos. "B and I don't put any limitations on what's possible, we're really shooting for the stars," Demian says. "We're not bound by the traditional boundaries."
"He's very self-contained and smart," says Lil B of Demian. "He's super positive and uplifting, somebody like no other."
So many good vibes emit from Lil B and Demian that they threaten to knock you onto your coccyx. Right now the latter is stationed in Dem Passwords' tiny back office, holding a big bottle of Stella and a blunt. His long, wavy, light-brown hair is tucked into the back of his t-shirt, on which is depicted a red penis spurting semen. The penis was drawn by Lee "Scratch" Perry, the Jamaica-native who produced Bob Marley and pretty much invented reggae. Demian is Perry's North American tour manager and, along with Higbee, helped create a documentary about him called The Upsetter. They also worked on the Lil Wayne doc Tha Carter, which, if you ask me, is among the best hip-hop films ever.
Demian rattles off these projects in his affable way, as calm as one of those bubbling-water-with-stones plug-ins from Brookstone. Though he tends to ramble, it's almost impossible to disagree with the guy about anything; he'll always find common ground.
Still, the question remains: How did this 32-year-old dude who arrived to town ten years ago by way of Richmond and New York end up kinda sorta running things?
Hard to say. Part of it is his penchant for accentuating the positive. "He's really out there for the love and not for the dime," says Higbee. While this sentiment is uttered every hour on the hour in the music and art communities, this might be the one instance it's true. Demian paired up with the Berkeley-reared B in 2008 after he and Higbee remixed one of his early tracks, and began attending performances given by B's group The Pack all over the state. "You could feel his star power, he seemed comfortable and in control," Demian says. "It was exhilarating."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
He started giving B rides to his hotels after the shows, and eventually began shooting his verite-style videos, like 2009's "Crown Me King" (above), filmed in Santa Barbara. Though his role was never really defined he ended up sticking around, and helped B take his show on the road not long afterward. Demian orchestrated his near-riotous first live solo show at Freak City the next year, as well as his break out performance -- at New York club Santos Party House -- which inspired breathless write-ups in publications like The New York Times and Village Voice.
Though Lil B's atypical self-promotional tactics and off-the-beat delivery has divided hip-hop fans, there's no question that his popularity has mushroomed, as evidenced by his spot on XXL's latest freshman list. But, aside from one-off projects with Amalgam Digital, he hasn't signed with a label; in fact, one of Demian's trickiest responsibilities has been charting a path for an artist who's making things up as he goes along.
"We're 'do it yourself,' we're not embedded in the traditional record system, so we're not working within their system," Demian says.
Though he adds that B was somewhat scarred by The Pack's experience on Jive, he hints that a more traditional major label record from the artist may be in store. "I feel, and I think B feels, that the path will be illuminated when it's right. I'm helping with the business, and I'd like to think it's as creative as what he's doing with the music."