In Damien Gibson’s video for his hip-hop infused electro-pop song “18 Piñatas,” he literally stands in a room with 18 piñatas, and then destroys them. When he showed the video to his friends, a lot of them reacted like he was just being weird, but the concept is actually highly personal.
As a kid, he always wanted a piñata for his birthday. Instead, he barely scraped by, watched his mom O.D. when he was 3, and later had to live in group homes after his dad went to prison. In the song, he says you can’t fix the past, but you can give yourself what you lacked.
“Just because you weren’t given opportunities, you get that for yourself,” Gibson says. “Whatever your parents threw you into as far as life goes, it doesn’t matter.”
His relationship with music started in prison. At 19, he crashed a stolen car into a cop car in Sacramento, injuring himself and the officer, earning three years in jail. In 2013, a year after he got out, he started working with producers, and in 2014, he released his debut record and played 50 dates on the Warped Tour doing solo acoustic hip-hop. Since then, he’s self-released several experimental alt-pop records.
Last month, he released Domenika on Monolog Records—his 12th album, but his first on a label. He’s even taken down much of his older music for a fresh start. The new record, like “18 Piñatas,” is well-produced and mixes hip-hop, R&B and EDM elements. It’s experimental, but not nearly as scatterbrain as his old stuff.
“It’s a higher-level production,” Gibson says. “Everything before was basically me working on my laptop with no formal training, just winging it.”