Humans of Ransom Everglades: Dante Guzzi ’21 on his meteoric rise in the music industry
December 19, 2020
Two years ago, Dante Guzzi ‘21 was a typical high school student, spending his after-school hours studying and playing on the lacrosse team. But over the past eighteen months, Guzzi has skyrocketed into the national spotlight on the basis of one thing: his music. Starting by making beats on his computer and uploading them to YouTube, Guzzi quickly ascended in the industry and has already produced songs with established rappers such as Flipp Dinero and Lil Keed, going by the alias FernoSpazzin. His latest song with Flipp Dinero, “No No No (feat. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie)” currently has over seven million streams on Spotify.
This past Saturday, I sat down with Guzzi at his home while socially distanced and wearing masks for thirty minutes. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed how he discovered his passion for creating music, how he has handled his meteoric rise in the industry, and his future career plans.
How and when did you first get into music and producing music?
Thankfully for my mom, she forced me to play classical piano, and I always kept that on the lowkey because I didn’t really like it that much. But I was a musical kid, and I knew it. It must run in the family. I liked it. It was cool. But thank God she made me do that, because that gave me the intro to music, the basis for music, the music theory, and my love for music. So then it led me to be able to find my own way to prefer other music, which is what I’ve found now. But it was those first seven years from kindergarten to eighth grade [that] I did classical piano: Beethoven, Bach, all of that. No jazz. None of that.
How do you see yourself incorporating that classical piano background into your music right now?
It is super funny because you’ll have the biggest difference between the kids who grew up playing jazz [and those who grew up playing classical music], and you will hear the jazz influence between their scales and their chord progressions. I feel like there are more kids like that that go into my field from jazz stuff, and I am kind of in the minority going from classical stuff into what I do now, which is modern and contemporary music. So, you will see in my chord progressions, I often pick natural minor chords, and I have a darker sound, which is just funny when you compare it to kids who didn’t have that classical music background. They will pick happier, jazzier stuff. But here’s the thing: I do hope to be able to learn more of those influences because I do [already] know my classical stuff.
When did you decide you wanted to go into producing music?
Well, like I said, classical music was not my thing, and I had known this from the time I started. It was not something I had a passion for. I did not love it. But because I was on my computer all the damn time, I knew that there was a field of making music digitally. So, it was not just one thing. It was over many years. You are on YouTube. You are on the web. You see it and download it. The program FL Studio probably sat on my computer for years, but over time, and at one point, when I was in tenth or eleventh grade, I was like, ‘You know what, I want to this. I want to be big.’ From the day I decided to take it super seriously, I would just invest a lot of time sitting here in my room learning how to do it because I had the music background. But it is a whole different thing on the computer to do what I do. It’s like learning another language to have to make music on a computer, because you have to learn how it works and how the digital part of it comes into the music part.
So, what was the inspiration for you to go out and start producing?
In general, the thing that gives me the most satisfaction is always seeing somebody enjoy my song without them [knowing]. Some of my biggest dreams are that one day I hope to go to a music festival and DJ a set, as in just play the music. I want to see people enjoy my music. So that was my inspiration, because I felt that if I was just playing piano over there, I would never be able to compose my own thing or really make something that would impact somebody because I would never create something of my own. So, when I realized that, one, I wanted to create something of my own, and two, I wanted to be able to feel like I was impacting people, that is when I wanted to create my own thing. I knew I was not going to be able to do it on a classical piano, so it had to be something that I liked. And then I found the genres I like. Rap is my biggest one, but of course, I like a lot of modern pop music and then other indie rock stuff.
How has it felt seeing your songs out there with big names singing on them like Lil Keed and Flipp Dinero?
It is funny because a year and a half ago, it was something that was my goal. It would be this thing where I would listen to a song and be like, ‘I wish I produced this one,’ and I was thinking it would be super cool if I produced this. But I try to stay focused because nowadays when I get these super big songs, I love them, and it is awesome and exciting. But I cannot get too excited about it just for the sake of staying focused and having that passion to get another one because I never want to feel satisfied. I always know there is more space in music to innovate and explore, but it is obviously really cool to see rappers that I used to listen to and that I personally really enjoy using my music. It is nice to see that they enjoyed something that I made, and we were able to make a piece of art together.
You have been working with a lot of people who are older and more experienced than you in the industry. How is it working with them when you have only been at this for like a year or two?
The people like that were exactly the key to me actually finding success, because when you have an industry like this, it is so saturated. It is ridiculously saturated. I mean, that is why most people will not find success, because there are so many people that are trying to make it. But what I did was I used those other people, bigger people, that could help me out and had other connections for me, and I learned from them. So it has been super cool working with different people who are older than me and more experienced than me because they have offered me advice and connections. The rappers that I know on the big songs that I have gotten are mostly through other people, or thanks to other people. But it’s definitely something I was not expecting to have to work. If you told me a year ago that I would be working with people like that, I would not have expected it, but they have just been so crucial to my success that I realize in all these types of things how important networking is. I feel like, at Ransom, they do not talk about that [enough] because that is the type of skill you have to learn once you’re actually in a specific field. Some fields require a lot of networking … and I might be ignorant, but it is such a crucial thing.
I am pretty sure I heard one of your songs on an ESPN Monday Night Football commercial. You have some songs getting on TV now, so how does it feel to see your work on something like ESPN?
That was the coolest thing that’s happened to me because a lot of people don’t listen to rap music, and I respect that. Taste in music is subjective. That is the beauty of it. So sometimes it is hard for me to show when I proud of something and I want to show it to somebody. I get that not everybody is going to appreciate my work as much as others. But to have a song on ESPN like that, it was pretty cool for me to walk around and be like ‘my song’s on ESPN. It was on Monday Night Football.’ It is something everyone can understand, so that is why it was cool for me. I am proud of myself, but I try to stay quiet and humble. Obviously, I am no Gandhi. That one was super neat. I am a football fan, and that was something that hit home.
How have you seen your life change over the past year or two as a result of you starting to produce music and experiencing this level of success?
I had to mature a lot because of all of the money coming in. I had to be so much more responsible about everything I do. I do not really sell a product, if you want to think about it from a business standpoint. I am selling myself as a brand, so I am a lot more self-conscious about the things that I represent and also the image and sounds that I want to push. All the success, in general, has just made me a more mature person. I have a lot more responsibility now because I have people reaching out to me. I have rappers coming to me, and they need beats. I have money that is lying around, and I have to deal with it. I cannot be irresponsible with it. I have had to grow up a little bit. I think that’s been the biggest change.
How have you seen the Ransom Everglades community respond to your music? Have any teachers mentioned it to you? What’s the student reaction been?
I have a long history of that. My friends are all great. Everyone has been super supportive this year, which is awesome. It is super dope. And it is nice seeing people that you don’t often talk to come up to you and say, ‘Hey, I really enjoyed that song.’ It is super nice, and it’s really made me lowkey love our community a little bit more because it always shows you that people are watching and supporting. I have been a lot more supportive of other people too, thanks to that. I realized how supportive of a community we have. Personally, though, I do not tell anybody about it. I have told like two of my teachers about the ESPN thing, but that is because the only way I will ever know if I am popping or famous is when random people that I know walk up to me and are like, ‘Yo, I didn’t know about that.’ That is why I don’t want to tell too many people because, in the future, I need to know if something ever pops off or not. I can look at numbers all day, but I will know if a hit song is a hit song, because like with the one that was on ESPN, I will get a Snapchat of somebody listening to it on the radio in their car. It is like, ‘Oh cool. Someone I know is seeing this.’
What is the highest aspiration for your music career? What is your ultimate end goal with music? Where do you want music to take you in life?
I would love to be the CEO of a huge record label or even any record label, even if I make my own. I am passionate about it, but also as the head of that, I would really have influential power in music, and that’s my goal with music. I love seeing people enjoy my songs and seeing them moved by them. I feel like as the CEO of a record label, I would have countless artists that would be making music, and I would be at the top of that.