Gustavo D'Arthenay is better known these days as Input, an emerging rapper who's been grinding hard for the better part of the past decade. With a half-dozen releases and two more — including Bomb's Over Everything, a seven-track album produced by Supa Hot Beats (aka Will Power, an Atlanta producer who's worked on tracks for the likes of Yelawolf, Wiz Khalifa, Eminem and Slaughterhouse) — due in the next few months, Input is starting to make a name for himself.
Dial back the clock to the spring of 1999, though, and the rapper was simply Gus D'Arthenay, a wide-eyed fourteen-year-old student at Columbine High School, still adjusting to being in such a big place after the small private school he'd attended previously. On an April morning that nobody around here is likely to forget, two of his classmates conducted one of the worst school shootings in history, violently turning D'Arthenay and his classmates' lives upside down. D'Arthenay remembers waiting for the madness to end, and when it finally did, the impetus of his young life came sharply into focus.
Full interview: Input on how SupaHotBeats convinced him to share his harrowing Columbine experience
Input CD-release party, with Sims (of Doomtree), Astronautalis and DJ Gatsby, 8 p.m. Saturday, November 10, Marquis Theater, $10-$12, 866-468-7621.
"When you're lying on a floor and you're listening to all this shit going on, it was like...there were moments in time where I literally didn't think I was going to get out," he recalls. "And once you kind of get yourself so far to that point — that you're accepting of death, where you're basically waiting to die — once you come out of that and survive, I think that just made me want to live and want to succeed and want to be something."
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D'Arthenay recounts the events of that day in vivid detail on "Sparks Fly," a song produced by Supa Hot Beats, with a haunting hook sung by Atlanta R&B singer Nikkiya. Out of all the songs the prolific MC has written, "Sparks Fly" marks the first time he's ever written about his experience. While there have been subtle nods in past lyrics, D'Arthenay has consciously avoided making any overt references.
"I never wanted any association between my music and that part of my life," he explains. "I just didn't want the two to correlate, because I thought if that was the reason I got any kind of publicity, I didn't want that to be the only thing. I wanted my music to speak for itself."
Supa Hot Beats later convinced him that his story deserved to be told, and so during one of their sessions, D'Arthenay opened up. The results are chilling, as expected, but there's also an element of empowerment, particularly in the closing lines: "I made this life from a tile floor in a science class, and I'm proud of the person I am today, and you can't fire back." Those lines in particular embody both D'Arthenay's outlook and the reason he finally allowed the tragedy to bleed into his art.
"There's such a negative light over the whole thing that nobody ever talks about the positives that come out of it, because nobody thinks that positive things can come out of tragedy, I guess," he concludes. "I wanted to be able to show that it's not all trauma and a ruined life because you experienced something like this."