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Spotlight: UI senior raps about heartache

BY EVAN CLARK | FEBRUARY 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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Songs about heartbreak have been around since the dawn of music. Musicians from Elvis Presley to ABBA to Eminem have expressed that heartaches can be a main inspiration for material.

Since going through a breakup over a year ago, University of Iowa senior David Hoffman has also turned to music.

“I just had a really bad breakup, and writing lyrics was just a good way to vent for me,” Hoffman said.

The rain was falling hard, drumming on his roof when an instrumental version of Kanye West’s “All Falls Down” came through Hoffman’s car stereo, prompting him to write his first song.

“I started writing to that and I’ve been writing lyrics ever since,” Hoffman said.

The 22-year-old refers to his 2004 silver Pontiac Grand Am as his “sanctuary,” where he drives around for hours at a time listening to beats and spending pennies on his thoughts as well as gas money. He describes his lyrics as “very personal,” yet relies heavily on using symbolism and metaphors for listeners to decode the message.

Kyle Hoffman, David’s older brother, said he believes it’s his brother’s ability to speak about personal experiences that sets him apart from other rappers.

“Some people make music for the sake of making music, but he truly speaks for who he really is,” Kyle said. “I think when you make music, you need to show to the world who you really are, and that’s what David is good at.”

Rapping wasn’t always Hoffman’s ambition. The West Branch native is a theater major, and he has acted in a number of UI shows.

His theater début took place during his sophomore year in high school; he played Schroeder in a Charlie Brown musical. He spent the rest of his high-school days singing in choir, playing saxophone, and participating in sports.

But a college class on freestyle writing helped him expand his poetry and lyric creativity. Idris Goodwin, a graduate student in the Playwrights’ Workshop, was also a student in the class and sensed right away that Hoffman had something special.

“I think he really understands rap as a real art form,” Goodwin said. “Anybody can rap or make words rhyme, but [Hoffman] is aware that there’s a legacy to it. Rapping is something you have to spend a lot of time on to be good at, and he’s hungry to get better at it, and you can sense that when you hear his words.”

Lately, Hoffman has performed at open mikes around Iowa City, and he is beginning to record his first mix tape. Though he’s still relativity new to the rap game, he feels comfortable performing his material live and credits his experience in acting as the backbone of his confidence.

Though Hoffman may never share his lyrics with thousands, he plans on sticking with his music whether he’s heartbroken or not. The peace of mind that he feels when he writes motivates him the most.

“I’ll never stop rapping,” he said. “Even if rapping doesn’t work out, I’ll keep performing in my car. I always write from a place that means something to me so if someone does knock me, it doesn’t affect me, because no one can tell me what I’ve written for myself is no good.”


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