It’s fair to say DeJ Loaf’s 2014 viral hit “Try Me” catapulted her into the world of Hip Hop mainstream. The Detroit native closed off an epic year by signing a record deal with Coloumbia Records, delivering a new body of work and even collaborating with the likes of Eminem, Birdman, Ty Dolla $ign, Young Thug and Remy Ma.
DeJ has proved herself to be way more than a one-hit wonder. We got our guy Griff to chat to 23 year old Loaf about her future, collaborations and why female MC’s cant look out for each other.
GRM: What’s up DeJ, you good?
DL: Hey Alex. I’m just up here working right now. It’s going great.
GRM: I’m chatting to you at quite an exciting time, with the release of your ‘Sell Sole’ mixtape and the success of “Try Me” last year – can you tell me a bit about last year and how your life has changed subsequently now we’re in 2015?
DL: My life has changed drastically. Coming from Detroit, not even knowing what my next move was going to be just six months ago, to signing with Columbia Records. I’m doing something that I always dreamed of doing. I really didn’t know when it was going to happen for me, so it’s a blessing.
GRM: Your rise as an artist seemed to happen quite quickly. Was it a shock how fast things started moving?
DL: It was! I mean obviously I saw it happen with my own eyes, but everything happened so fast I wasn’t even able to grasp everything that was going on. I was meeting people that I – you know, I wouldn’t say looked up to – but people I used to listen to, who are legends. They were just saluting what I was doing. There was never a moment where I was like ‘wow’, as I just didn’t have time, I’m still on the go now. It was just crazy.
GRM: Speaking of legends, you were on Eminem’s last album (Shady XV), which is crazy, especially for someone from Detroit. How did that collaboration come about?
DL: Royce Da 5’9′ (who’s one of Em’s best friends and signed to Shady Records) reached out to me to come to the studio and kick it. He was saluting what I was doing and was proud of me. We went to the studio back home in Michigan and he didn’t play any records for me, he just asked if I can rap. I was like, ‘Yeah I can rap’. That’s what I do. People get confused and think I just sing, but I mainly rap. Then, he played me the ‘Detroit vs Everybody’ record and told me Em’s idea for it. He said Big Sean and Danny Brown are on there and we want you too.
When I did the record, I did the chorus for it, but I did a 16 bar verse too that didn’t make the final song. So when I found out it made the album – I found out just like everybody else, when they dropped the tracklist – I was like wow, this is dope. I didn’t know if it was gonna make it, as you do a lot of songs with lots of people that sometimes don’t make their album. But that was incredible. Eminem, I just wanna thank him, that was a good look.
GRM: You’re quite an individual sounding artist and don’t have a defined ‘Detroit’ sound. How has growing up there helped influence your music and what parts of that lifestyle did you draw on and put forward as your own?
DL: I’m usually inspired by the things that are actually around me and that are really happening, so it’s easy for me to write about. I do use different types of wordplay and stuff, but everything I rap about is really happening. I come from the projects, so I make music about that. Just different things, like the killing. I lost my father at an early age, I’ve got a little brother who is a young rebel and hot headed – I’ve got lots of different things in my life I can speak on.
GRM: Now you’ve signed with Columbia, are you working on your major label debut album?
DL: I’m actually working on it now. I don’t have a set date because I like to take my time with the music. I’m sure I could put some things together right now and put out an album, but I definitely want it to be incredible. It’s my first album, so I want it to sound like the craziest thing you’ve ever heard. I’m gonna take my time with it and when it’s ready, it’s ready.
GRM: Who would be your dream feature or producer on the album?
DL: The dream feature? Hmm… I’d have to say Kanye West, as the producer and feature. I love Kanye West. Someone in that area; Jay Z, Beyonce (laughs). Those types of people. I’ve ran into a lot of the people I love listening to and they’ve all been willing to do music, so it’s a phone call away. DMX actually called me last week and said he liked my music. That’s crazy to me, DMX is one of the best ever. He’s ready, so I’m ready.
GRM: Right now there’s a lot of friction surrounding female rappers (with recurring issues involving Azealia Banks, Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj), which you seem to have shyed away from. Why do you think female rappers can’t co-exist? Also, do you feel pigeon-holed as a ‘female rapper’?
DL: I’d say they [female rappers] can’t co-exist, because as a woman, it’s hard. I wouldn’t say it’s harder than being a man, but it’s different. If you’re a man in the industry, you don’t mind collaborating on different things. When you’re a woman and you’re good at what you do, you want to feel like you’re the best. Because it’s rare to find a woman who can actually rap. It’s a rare sport. Women want to feel like they’re the only ones who can do it and are the best, and nobody else can see them. I was just like that – I feel like I’m the best of the best and you don’t want anybody trying to take your title.
I’ve come to the point now though, where I feel like there’s room for everybody to work, and if you’re music’s good, then it’s good. If it’s not, it’s not. It won’t downplay anyone’s music if there’s more than one of us. I like Iggy Azalea, I like Nicki Minaj – I think everybody’s dope. Well, not everybody… but it’s OK, there’s room for everybody. It’s like relationships sometimes, they don’t want to compete with the other girls. That’s how I see it and why we can’t really prosper as much as guys.
GRM: One of my personal favourites from you is “Blood”, alongside Young Thug and Birdman. Can you tell me a bit about the making of that record and the meaning behind the hook?
DL: That came about probably last year I’d say. Blood to me is family. I’d already done the song and thought it was dope, playing it so much before it was actually out. I thought I’d put Young Thug on it because he’s Blood Gang affiliated and his definition may mean something different to mine. I’m not blood affiliated at all, so my definition of ‘Blood’ means family. It was dope to get him on there and he loved it. Birdman actually surprised me by getting on there and doing what he did. I didn’t expect it, but he did it and it was crazy. He’s another person who reached out and told me a few things, it was dope.
GRM: Have you got any plans to tour the UK this year?
DL: Sure! They were just telling me, my camp is trying to get some shows out there pretty soon. I’m looking forward to coming over, as I’ve never been outside of the country really. I went to Toronto a couple of weeks ago, but I live in Detroit, so Toronto isn’t really that far.
GRM: Your fellow Detroit resident Danny Brown has been a big supporter of Grime – have you listened to much and do you have any favourite UK MC’s?
DL: I can’t lie, I haven’t heard anybody that much. I couldn’t name them by name… I really haven’t heard too many people from over in the UK. I should definitely do my research, huh?
GRM: Well, there is some talent out here!
DL: Who do you recommend I listen to? I’ll check them out.
GRM: Guys like Stormzy, Skepta and Krept & Konan are all doing huge things.
DL: OK, I’ll definitely check them out.
GRM: A big question now – in 10 years time, how would you like DeJ Loaf to be remembered?
DL: I want to be one of the best to ever do it and keep my unique style. You don’t really come across an artist like myself too often and I’m very confident in saying that. You haven’t seen something like this in a while. I’m not trying to be anybody but myself. Line me up with the greats… legendary.
GRM: More short term then – what would you like to take out of 2015?
DL: I want to start out doing so much. I definitely want to get a role in some type of movie or TV show, just to challenge myself. I’ve never acted a day in my life but I want to try it out, just to see. You never know what could become of it, so that’s a short term goal.
GRM: What would your perfect role in a movie be?
DL: Probably to just be myself. Not DeJ Loaf, but the real me. A shy girl or a chill girl… I don’t know. (laughs). I just want to challenge myself and be able to do these sorts of things.
GRM: Well, I look forward to hearing from you in the future. Thanks for chatting with me!
DL: Thank you for having me. Bye!
Interview by Alex Griffin.