A lot of people call Andu Desbele soft-spoken. He disagrees, but there might be some truth to it. There’s such a gentleness to his voice, it’s hard to imagine him being able to speak over a crowded room, let alone perform in front of one.
But, when he is on stage under his rap name “Geniuz” a different side of him comes alive.
“I am more vicious, I get to unleash more.” he said. “I can jump around, dance, do crazy stuff, throw shirts and everything I feel like doing. I get to get that energy up.”
The 22-year-old rapper has “unleashed” at multiple venues in and around Harrisburg. According to Desbele, all of his songs reflect moments of his life.
“[My music] is very reflective of my issues with being poor, and not having money when I wanted it, having a broken heart,” he said. “That fuels a person to do a lot of different things. For me, it was writing.”
Desbele fell into music during a cypher, a freestyle rap battle, with some of his friends when he was 14. Though they were mostly all rookies, Desbele might have been the rookie of the rookies since he barely listened to rap music before entering the ring. Most of the lines in the cypher were aimed at the other’s hairline or outfit. Still, Desbele felt the start of something.
After that, he dove into his music, writing rhymes whenever he had time and recording them on his laptop. According to Desbele, no one believed him when he told people he wanted to pursue rap until a year later, when he was chosen to participate in BET’s “Next Hit” in North Carolina.
For the first time, Desbele got to work with other established and emerging artists, record in a studio and send a professional email (which, at 15, was a huge accomplishment).
Since then, Desbele has been working the underground Harrisburg music scene. He performed at several locations such as Little Amps, the Harrisburg Improv Theatre and the Underground Bike Shop. His favorite thing about the Harrisburg music scene is the grittiness of the artists and how they are fighting to make a name for themselves and their city.
“We don’t have any big, Harrisburg rappers to put our name on the map. We’re really coming up with our own studios, our own venues,” he said. “The sound is so unique and everything’s just from the mud, and everyone is just trying to do everything by themselves and not by the book.”
Desbele is currently cultivating artists for his new music group Naomi17. The goal is to have the music group established in the next few months.
In 10 years, he plans to be in the later years of his music career and branching out into other venues such as television or comic books. But, he promises the music will never stop.
“I’m probably never going to retire, I’m just going to slow down a lot,” he said. “Music will always be a heavy presence in what I do.”
Check out the music yourself at soundcloud.com/geniuz717. Follow him on social media @Geniuz717 and @N17worldwide.
This story is one in a series of local musician profiles in celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month.