The Verse is proud to present an in-depth discussion with Dennis Lisk, known in the German hip-hop community as Denyo. The topics of our conversation took us on a journey from the streets of Berlin, where Dennis was a pioneer in the early days of German hip hop… to the present day, where he is breaking through barriers in the music industry with his new project The District VR.
We also discuss his friendship with Fabian Vogelsteller, legendary developer and Founder of The LUKSO Network.
Dennis’ career started when he was 14-years-old with the hip-hop group called “Absolute Beginner” (later “Beginner”). In the early days of the 1990s, rap was not a mainstream genre in Europe… at least it wasn’t completely understood, culturally and linguistically. But, everything starts with a dream…
“As a hip-hop kid who had the dream to make music completely authentic, and real, like my idols, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Run DMC and all those bands and artists… but with German lyrics. Because as a German hip-hop kid, I wasn’t able to grasp the lyrics, not really, as I wasn’t a native English speaker.
But my band members and I, we had the dream to make music with German lyrics. And we contributed a lot to the [music] scene… and [we helped] it evolve. It started as a niche sub-cultural corner and then 10 years later it became huge in the entertainment industry. It became one of the largest sectors of music and entertainment in Germany and Europe.”
Like any story of success in the music industry there is a desire to try something new, sometimes on your own…
“After being in the game for almost 20 years, it was time for me to evolve, though. And being Denyo, the solo artist, people were expecting me to do something… to do music that is related to hip-hop…
But there was a guy called Everlast, for example, from the group House of Pain…
He was well-known worldwide as a hip-hop musician and then he took up the guitar and put out this great singer-songwriter album. And I wanted to do the same, and so, not to disappoint my fan-base, I had the idea to do it with my real name, Dennis Lisk.”
Beginner (Denyo on the left)
Dennis (aka Denyo) and his band Beginner were well-known for experimenting with genres and styles, but still, their fan-base in Germany only knew them as a hip-hop group…
“It was just a great experience that after 25 years we were able to release a multi-platinum album (called Advanced Chemistry) and play in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
You know, we had so much success, and so much support from our fans, it was time for me to give something back, to say thank you to the community. And what I realized during that time, and during my whole career, is how grateful I am for being able to make a living as an artist.”
Dennis tells us how much of his career was positive coincidence (aka Law of Attraction) and how not all of his friends had the same opportunities, even though they were equally talented.
When you listen to him tell his story, there is a sense of appreciation in his voice… but you also get the feeling that there is so much more beneath the surface…
He told us about his chance meeting with Fabian Vogelsteller, a brilliant developer who was quietly shaping an entire industry that nobody knew about, at the time… Ethereum was a young crypto project trying to find its own footing around the same time that Dennis was soul-searching for a new passion…
“During that time I met Fabian. He was a fan of the Beginner, and of our music. I met him privately because our children went to the same kindergarten. We talked often and, you know, it didn’t take too much time to realize that we agree on things and it was really cool…
Of course, he is a brilliant mind. He is very kind and knows so much about music… and technology. He introduced me to blockchain and Ethereum… we had a philosophical and spiritual connection. During that time I learned a lot about crypto and virtual reality.
But, it all came back to this new vision… the vision of giving something back to the community. With all these new tools, with this new web3 internet, maybe we would be able to solve some problems…
And the main problem for me is that too many artists are not able to make a living from their art… this was the beginning of my entrepreneurship in the web3 space.”
It makes you wonder what kind of philosophical leap a popular musician needs to make in order to also become a success in web3… this is the cutting edge, folks. And it doesn’t hurt to be friends with a cutting-edge web3 developer.
“Fabian is kind of a mentor in regards to those new technologies. I realized that I was really lucky, knowing that Fabian is the inventor of the ERC-20 token [along with Vitalik Buterin], especially during that time in 2018 when nobody wanted to talk about crypto. I took a chance to be around him and learn…
Blockchain and decentralized technology has the potential to solve so many problems, and [Fabian’s blockchain project] LUKSO, with its focus on lifestyle, culture, music, fashion and entertainment, was the perfect fit. I became an advisor to the LUKSO Network… to spread the word and help increase network effect, especially in regards to artists and musicians.”
Of course, Dennis realized the best way to help LUKSO was to build use-cases on the blockchain… and passion projects can lead to something that the whole world wants to use. Dennis tells us about his first introduction to VR, where Fabian showed him a virtual reality club called Vinyl Reality, made by a Berlin developer…
“I had this VR headset and was spinning my own records and it was mind-blowing… but, it wasn’t the best user experience. The graphics weren’t so cool and also you weren’t able to DJ in front of a real audience.
But, I realized this could be one of the first use-cases on LUKSO. Together with Fabian and some VR experts we founded Proof of Taste… Our focus would be on virtual live events. All about music, concerts and live DJing, with new play-to-earn mechanics.”
During this time Dennis began exploring all the ways blockchain could be used, including identity, intellectual property, copyrights for sharing content, monetizing that content and most of all, engaging directly with the community.
The idea of spaciousness… the “3rd Dimension of the Internet” all seemed incredible, Dennis told us.
But, we were curious to know more about this project, Proof of Taste, started with Fabian! What exactly does Proof of Taste mean?
“Proof of Taste is this company that will provide various kinds of decentralized applications for the so-called metaverse… and for the creative economy. But, first and foremost, focusing on the music, lifestyle and entertainment industry.
But The District VR will always be the main platform for Proof of Taste… it has so much potential, there are so many ways we can experiment with it, that’s all we’re focused on, right now.”
But, was The District VR always intended to use blockchain technology?
“You know, we always had this dream. This doesn’t have too much to do with blockchain, at the moment. First we have to build a product that’s really cool and helps people experience live events in a completely new way… as well as for artists to create and manage their OWN events, in a cost-effective way.
We want fans to be able to visit their favorite bands from anywhere in the world.
Of course we will integrate Universal Profiles. Every user will own and manage their own assets, as well as possibly owning a share of the platform, with governance voting.
And Fabian and the team are thinking about all those missing pieces, in regards to identity and user-experience that can reach mass adoption.
But we have to build new tools. We have to focus on young musicians who are open-minded enough to let go of the old traditional music and entertainment system of distribution of labels and publishing agencies, and find new use-cases.
And The District VR, being powered by LUKSO, will create so many new use-cases.”
Mass adoption has to start somewhere… in the case of The District VR, that somewhere is the club districts in Berlin… The idea starts with a virtual representation of real city neighborhoods, where fans can explore clubs, events, NFT shops, galleries, and even be a DJ or host of their own event.
Without the normal physical boundaries, a person can have a variety of experiences, from hybrid events to live ones, even in real clubs simultaneously. As Dennis points out, this can increase the reach of clubs and artists, dramatically!
“Virtual reality headsets will become the iPads of the future. They will become more like sunglasses or something.”
The conversation sidetracks a bit and there is banter about the inconvenience of VR headsets… Dennis shares a story about how his lady doesn’t like VR because the headsets are too heavy and ugly. We all agree that the technology will only get better and attract a larger audience…
Dennis continues to explain that the game-changer is how artists will be able to increase their reach, and the fans will win because it will be more convenient and less-expensive. But, he points out, that you really need virtual reality for it to take off, because visiting a concert on your phone or iPad just isn’t the same. You don’t feel any energy… you are separate from the event. Whereas, virtual reality is so immersive, you feel like you’re there.
It’s a win-win for the artist and the fans.
Getting us back on track, Nakamura brings up a great question about what platform The District VR will be hosted on.
“It’s its own platform. But I won’t say that we are our own metaverse, because the metaverse is more like a puzzle, with various kinds of pieces.
Maybe we will find new terminology, like “web3D”, but for now we’d say we’re creating our own platform in the metaverse. And hopefully in the second quarter of 2023 you can visit Berlin without leaving the comfort of your living room.”
There is a calm demeanor about Dennis that makes you forget that he’s one of the most famous musicians in Germany. He seems like the sort of guy you can have a beer and genuine conversation with… never did we feel like he had an agenda or ego.
Case-in-point is the casual way he talks about his relationship with Epic Games… Nakamura couldn’t resist bringing it up, because…
In March of this year several members of The District VR went to the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX where they struck up a conversation with the team from Epic Games, who wanted to learn more. So, Dennis and The District VR team flew to Los Angeles to present their project.
“You know they have those grants, they support great products and companies who use Unreal Engine in creative and innovative ways. They are also very interested in our mindset and our view regarding “web3D” and new business models. So they just wanted to learn.
The great thing about Epic Games is, even though they are so successful, they always want to learn. So, they listen to what you are up to, they want to experience, they want to evolve… and that’s why we love them.
The meeting I had there was super cool. I DJ’d a little bit, played some old school music… now, we are thinking about creating and managing hybrid events for the SXSW Festival in 2023… and we are planning this together with Epic and SXSW, but it’s still in the planning phase, so there is nothing to announce yet.
But, yeah, it’s a great relationship and we’ve had deep talks with each other, because it’s a very synergetic thing.”
People’s opinions of the metaverse sometimes skews towards skepticism, but Dennis sees the metaverse, not as a dystopian prison like the matrix, rather as an incredible tool of freedom to allow a greater range of new experiences.
This is where the conversation begins to steer in the direction of what could keep people from just attending events in-person… Icculus mentions social anxieties, as well as physical disabilities, and Dennis agrees wholeheartedly that VR is a tool for creating more access.
“Absolutely true! There are various reasons people are not able to participate in real world events… it can be money… or like you already said, maybe there is anxiety. Or you want to be free… you don’t want to be judged by your taste, or by your skin color, your political beliefs or whatever it is.”
Dennis explains that this is the key to really scale it up. Again, why it’s good for the artist and the fans. More opportunities for less-famous artists, as well as fans who may not have the ability to see artists live.
He goes on to explain how web2 opened up all these new business models for creators, but how we’ve reached the limits of those use-cases… one example being the insane idea that most musicians don’t make any money from their albums. To be a successful musician requires advertisements, brand integrations and live concerts.
The main goal with The District VR is that new web3 use-cases will allow artists to make a living, express themselves how they want, and engage with their community in completely new ways.
It’s easy to see why Dennis is so excited about this emerging technology, it really is a fascinating topic and conversation… and we’re really interested to see where The District VR is headed… But, of course, we wouldn’t be true to our own fan-base if we didn’t ask some parting questions about LUKSO.
But instead of more prefacing, here’s Dennis, in his own words…
“I’m just really super grateful to be part of the LUKSO community. I really love the community. I love LUKSO, of course, and all the developers. I love Fabian and his great leadership. He’s a great developer. And I already said he is like a mentor to me.
But maybe this… you know he was also a DJ himself, you know, when he was younger. And his older brother was a relatively famous DJ in Berlin, as well. He was like a techno DJ and had a header name in Berlin and Fabian was producing in his early days when he was a kid… he was producing music and DJing… and was into this technical stuff, too.
So this is also very important that Fabian is not only the blockchain guy, who will implement those Universal Profiles, you know. He has this huge vision to help us to be ready for the future, in regards to blockchain and so on. He is also a huge virtual reality fan and has spent thousands of hours in VR when he was younger, so he has a huge experience there, and he is a DJ, as well. And that is very important for us at The District VR and why he is supporting us and part of the founding team… he’s the cofounder of Proof of Taste because we were able to have the same vision. We come from the same space, but with different expertise. I’m the musician and we have those two other founders who are absolutely brilliant VR experts.
We have Fabian as the blockchain legend… and we all love music, we all love DJing. We all love this entertainment and lifestyle culture. And this is what unites us, and what gives us the power to do it, because it is a lot of work… but we will make it happen because of our passion and our love for the culture.”
Very well said…
On September 20th check out a live event hosted by The District VR… more details at
To kick off our streaming series, we invite you to the Holzmarkt, Berlin on September 20th.
Here, not only the co-founder of Proof of Taste @dennis_lisk will present #TheDistrictVR, but also will play a DJ live set completely in VR. pic.twitter.com/w56oWC2FYZ
— The District VR (@TheDistrictVR) September 17, 2022
We at the Luksoverse would like to thank Dennis for an enlightening conversation. Big thanks to Nakamura and Icculus for putting together an outstanding interview… and a great conversation!
We’ll be following The District VR closely… and if you’d like to learn more, you can find Dennis, and his project here