Over the years we’ve seen a rise in young talents emerging through the likes of social media and viral moments, and one artist who has proven to flourish in this given route is Deno. Spending his school break times freestyling in the playground with his friends, Deno has become a household name in a few short years, and at present, still only stands at the very start of his career.
In this virtual day and age, we sat down with Deno over Zoom to discuss all the key moments in his life that led to his stellar present-day career, where he’s introducing his first-ever mixtape, Boy Meets World. GRM chatted through all things music with the young creative, as Deno took us back to the very day his viral moments were birthed. Those who have been following his journey so far will remember the viral playground freestyle, which gained a huge amount of attention when he was just 13 years old. Reflecting on that time of his life, he told us:
“The first time it was kinda overnight, if we’re being real because I remember making videos with my friends at school and then after I remember one of my boys posting it online, and I didn’t want him to but he ended up posting it. Then I remember there was some #imjustbait thing going on at the time and everyone was like ‘you should use it and get @imjustbait to post it’, everyone at school was saying this to me, so I thought, ‘you know what, yeah let’s just try it’. So I had what, like, a couple hundred followers and I said ‘you lot hashtag #imjustbait’ and he ended up finding it and then after he DM’ed me and was like ‘yo, your videos are crazy I’m gonna post you up tomorrow’.
“I just remember going back to school the next morning and said @imjustbait messaged me and said he’s gonna post it and everyone was like ‘is it, you’re gonna be famous’, but like, as a joke, and after he posted it that night and it went everywhere, my thing was just going nuts. Everyone was posting it, I remember my sister came back from school and was like ‘yo, like everyone’s talking about you’, but that whole period was going on for like a week or two or maybe even longer, I feel like stuff lasted longer those days. Like nowadays stuff just disappears, but them days it was about for a minute, so I was just going constantly viral for about two weeks straight I’d say.”
It should come as no surprise that it was only up from there for Deno, as his talents were nurtured by creatives in the industry who saw his potential from early and worked with him to pave the career he humbly embodies today. We asked if there was a clear pivotal moment where he felt the gears change in his career, and he pinpointed summer 2018 as a memorable time where everything “drastically changed for the good”.
“I feel like in 2018, when we started making songs that was hitting the radio, those times was when everything started massively changing because it was like, I was just being introduced to like charting, doing shows, all of that, so I feel like the most pivotal moment was summertime 2018 ‘cause that’s when all of that stuff started coming. We’d just dropped “London” which was our first successful single, and then after I ended up doing a freestyle on Mixtape Madness that ended up being one of the most-viewed freestyles.
“I did “Shiro’s Story” around the same time, “Advice”, so everything at that moment was busy, so all the work I’d been putting in throughout that summer and that year, I got to live off it the next year. So 2019 I got to do most of the festivals and shows and that, and obviously that was all before Covid so yeah, I’d say that was the most pivotal moment for me, everything just drastically changed for the good.”
2018 saw Deno’s price go way up, as he blossomed into routes of music with aforementioned tracks; “Advice”, which he worked on with his good friend and late rapper Cadet, as well as “London”, which he worked on with fellow budding creatives, AJ and EO. Rapman’s three-part YouTube series, Shiro’s Story, blessed fans with a star-studded lineup of cameo appearances by a huge array of UK talent, one of whom was Deno.
He did all of this while still embarking on his education, with the now-18-year-old star admitting his post-school life has allowed him more time to focus on his music and the route he wants to take it: “I’ve got a lot of time, well, I’m still busy but I’ve got more time to do stuff. Obviously, I’m not saying school is a distraction, but I’m not distracted no more, I’m all in.”
Deno being “all in” should come as no surprise to those who have been following his moves lately, with the first single from his mixtape, “Lingo” featuring Chunkz and J.I, already dropping in April and giving a glimpse of what’s to come in his 14-track forthcoming tape. Delving into his creative process for the project, Deno dubbed it his “breakthrough”, explaining what went into making it:
“I feel like this one here’s gonna be my breakthrough – it’s not an album but it basically is an album because of the amount of effort I’ve put into this. It’s got 14 tracks, good solid features on there, I feel like people are gonna actually understand and listen to this one and just take it in because I feel like it deserves to be heard.
“When we started making it, we were just doing the fun kinda bouncy songs, but then with life, different obstacles happen and I wanted it to be as raw as possible so I just wanted to talk my truth, just explain stories and just make it interesting and out of the ordinary and I feel like you get a lot of sides of me in the project; you’ve got the fun sides, the deeper sides where I’m talking about like life in general, good times, bad times, losses and all of that. I feel like it’s all gonna come together in this mixtape. I just feel like people are really gonna like this one.”
Speaking about what it was like working with Chunkz and J.I in the transatlantic collaboration, the young star explained how their link-up came about:
“That single there, I’ve had that hook for a minute and I just knew that single was gonna be a banger. Everyone’s been wanting a song from me and Chunkz, everyone calls us brothers, so I was just like ‘I’ve gotta call in Chunkz for this one’. J.I’s been rocking with me heavy, I’ve been rocking with J.I as well so we just thought, let’s just link up on a tune and then we just brought them together and made a hit. With ‘Lingo’ that’s how it came together really.”
For those who have seen the track-list for Boy Meets World, Chunkz and J.I are just the tip of the iceberg of the stellar collaborations Deno has in the works for his mixtape, which definitely made it just that bit harder for him to pick his favourite track – but he settled on a top three of the moment, before telling us his most memorable recording session:
“This one’s hard, do you know what it is, not on a cliche bias thing but they’re all so hard. Can I say my top 3? They always change though, but right now I’d say my top 3 would be “Medicine” featuring Unknown T, that’s one of my favourite ones. “Toxic Love” with a girl called Jade Silviia, she just started making music. And the title track “Boy Meets World” that one’s hard. Ah, there’s too many good ones.”
“So the recording session I remember the most is “Medicine” with Unknown T, ‘cause I’m literally in the studio right now where I recorded that, and it was just good vibes. With Unknown T, we met each other a couple times, but when we properly linked up to do the session, we proper became friends, we became cool and we were just having fun together. I remember Dave ended up walking in; like that session I remember, that was a fun session, it was when I first started using this studio as well, so I feel like it was very memorable.”
As a self-described lover of collaborations, we of course had to ask who was on his mind to step in the booth with next, with Deno giving us a few names he’d be keen to work with in future: “I wanna work with Drake, I’d love to work with The Weeknd, Rod Wave, Lil Tjay, Dave, AJ Tracey, there’s a lot of people man, I like collaborating with people so those people for sure would be nuts to make a song with.”
Whether it’s working with notable artists or befriending them, Deno has become familiar with a lot of creatives who had marked their way in music ahead of the start of his career, and we wanted to know if any of them had given him some wise words at a young age, that he still actively takes note of to this day. Telling a sweet anecdote of a piece of advice given to him by Stormzy, he told us:
“I remember the first artist I worked with was Stormzy. I feel like Stormzy always knew that I was gonna go far and I just remember him saying to me, the first time I ever met him, that whatever comes, just make sure you remain humble, that’s like the number one thing you can do, just stay humble. I feel like that one stuck with me the most.”
Stretching his talents into the acting world, with previously mentioned Shiro’s Story, where he played Bailey in part three, Deno went on to star in and produce his very-own three-part short film on YouTube titled The Re-Up, as well as appearing in and scoring Idris Elba’s debut TV show In The Long Run. He told us that he’s been offered other roles, but music has stayed at the forefront for him. We asked what the biggest difference was when it came to starring in a show VS producing one of his own:
“I feel like obviously when you produce it yourself, that’s like your child, that’s your thing. So I feel like there’s more passion and that when it comes to producing it yourself because that’s obviously like you started it yourself, the ideas are all yours, so I feel like you take that more into consideration, so you care for it more. But I feel like I don’t really do a lot of acting, even though I get offered so much I just never really accept anything because for me, my number one thing is music, I just care about music the most. With acting, I feel like the process of acting’s just long, I can’t even lie, sometimes it’s not fun – it is a lot of the time, but sometimes it’s just a drag.
“So I feel like with acting, if the right thing comes along then I’ll execute it. Like when Rapman asked me to do Shiro’s Story, I wanted to do that because I was watching Shiro’s Story myself and I fucked with it, I was liking that so I was like ‘I’ll do that’. It was fun and obviously it went mad. Then with The Re-Up, we didn’t really do much acting after that. We worked with Idris Elba on his TV show, that was good, that showed me the real sides of the acting industry like the proper sets and stuff so I felt like I learnt a lot. So we tried our own ting, we did ‘Re-Up’, we got millions of views on it, which I’m happy about but yeah, acting has its pros and its cons.”
Serving a string of accomplishments with his journey between music and acting, Deno also became the youngest boohooMAN ambassador in 2019, when he was just 16 years old. Between all of his achievements, we wanted to know which was his stand-out accomplishment so far:
“This might sound mad but now that you’ve brought up the whole Boohoo thing, when we did the launch party we just shut down Thorpe Park. Like when we was there I was all over Thorpe Park, like my face and the adverts and that. So I feel like compared to the other stuff, I feel like I’ve done a lot in terms of achievements, but I feel like that is one of the ones I can’t forget. As a child, we were going on school trips to Thorpe Park, it’s the place everyone goes to, so for me to actually shut it down, that has to be up there, that was nuts. Other than anything I feel like that was the most memorable and it was fun, so I can’t forget that one.”
A Covid life has halted plans for many people, especially those in the creative industry, but proving there’s so much more left to come in future, Deno assured us he’s set to take off again once given the green light and detailed what we can expect from him next:
“I’m ready to perform, I’m ready to go back on tour, I’m ready to just like keep dropping music and be out here while it’s out, in terms of like clubs and stuff. I just love seeing people react to it in real life, so I feel like when I get the opportunity to go back out and do all of that, that’s what I’m gonna be looking forward to the most. I’m looking forward to going on holiday, going abroad and performing abroad.
“I wanna go back to America, I’ve not been in like two years, I love LA, I just wanna do everything when I get a chance to. I’m ready for the mixtape, I’m so gassed for it to drop. I feel like I’ve worked so hard on it so I feel like it deserves to be heard. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it and for them to just really deep what’s going on and the growth, so yeah, more music and more power.”
We’re anticipating what’s next on the cards with Deno, as he’s been keeping his career progressive in all aspects – for now, take in his first mixtape ‘Boy Meets World’ below, which is available on all streaming platforms as of tomorrow, May 14.