Hailing from the West Coast, Defari (born Duane Johnson Jr.) is an emcee praised for both his work as a solo artist and member of the Likwit Crew, alongside King T, Tha Alkaholiks and Xzibit. Defari first honed his talents as a DJ, getting his start in 1982. Five years later, he moved on to try his hand at emceeing, but ended up putting his career on hold to advance his education. After earning a sociology degree from the University of California at Berkeley, he then went on to study at Columbia University. Upon completing his Master’s degree in History and Education, Defari accepted a high school teaching position.
Following pursuing an academic career path, he returned to music once again, recording his first demo in 1994. Along with Alkaholiks producer E-Swift, the pair recorded the track “Big Up,” which appeared on the 1995 compilation Next Chapter: Strictly Underground and helped Defari to establish his presence in the underground hip-hop scene. The next year, his single “Bionic” was released via Oakland-based ABB Records, helping garner the attention of larger labels. In 1999, Defari recorded his debut solo studio album, Focused Daily, releasing the project through a new deal with Tommy Boy/Warner Bros. Records. In 2003, he released his sophomore album, Odds & Evens, via High Times Records. Following this venture, he created a Likwit Crew spin-off group with DJ Babu of Dilated Peoples and Beat Junkies, aptly known as the Likwit Junkies. Together, they released their lone collaborative project, The L.J.’s in 2005. Defari released his third solo effort, Street Music, in 2006. Despite a decade-long hiatus from the studio, Defari maintained a healthy touring schedule, returning to the booth for his fourth solo studio offering, Soundcheck, in 2016.