As we settle into 2015, it's nice to get a glimpse of what's to come in the New Year. Between the new guards of rap, models with more than meets the eye, artists and tastemakers of all sorts, we've rounded up some of the most exciting, influential, and, not to mention, youngest creatives NYC has to offer.
Photography by Todd Jordan.
Tell me a little bit about where you’re from.
The east side of Detroit. My high school was right next door to the projects—that’s where I was raised. Lots of kids and family around, it was a very family oriented area.
Did you discover your love for music during high school or have you always been attracted to it?
I’ve always loved music and writing. I used to stay to myself a lot and just write in my room—just do instrumentals and different things. I listened to everything I could get my hands on. Early on, 19-years-old, my love for music was out of this world. I was just into it.
Did you listen to a lot of music growing up back home? Are there any specific influences you had?
Family. Situations. Every day life. Those are the things that influence me to write. In my music, I just want to write about what’s going on. We’re right here. It’s easier that way, to just write about what’s here.
So the material is obviously very personal to you?
Who would you say has been your biggest influence in music – any artists you really look up to?
Not really. I listen to all types of music. I think certain artists are good but I don’t want to say I look up to them or they influenced me in a certain way… music in general influences me. I could name drop Jay-Z and talk about how he transformed, like me, from the projects and made it. The place he’s at, that’s something to look at and say “Oh yeah, I want to do that.”
You’ve been traveling a lot for work – are there any cities that you’ve fallen in love with while on the road?
Definitely – Oakland, California. They picked up on the song [Try Me] first.
Try Me has blown up.
Yeah, I didn’t see it coming at all. I didn’t know this song would change my life. I put it out at the end of July and it just grew so rapidly, like crazy. I was going to put out a new song at only 5,000 plays, and then it passed that…
Did you predict that it would be the big hit single?
I didn’t. I liked the song a lot but I wasn’t in the position to put my music out the way I wanted to. If you don’t have the proper resources, even with a good song, a song can just be a song and it can flop. A lot of people have hit songs but nobody has heard them. So, with this song, it was just God. I didn’t have management…
I didn’t have anybody helping me. I put the song on SondCloud myself, you know. It wasn’t even a perfect mix on the song—it was all God’s work.
You came out with a remix for it, too. And shot a video?
Yeah, we had Ty Dolla $ign and Remy Ma.
Has Remy Ma influenced your music at all?
Yeah just looking at, like, before she stepped in the game – there was always just something special about her. Being a female rapper, she really had it. There aren’t a lot of female rappers who can really deliver music like the men. She’s got the music both guys and girls can listen to. A lot of guys don’t like to listen to female music. She has it, you know, she can spit. She makes good music. Her, Nicki Minaj, Missy Elliott, they have it.
There’s a new wave of female empowerment throughout music, art, fashion, even—It’s a really amazing time. There should be more female artists!
Definitely. That’s the only way we can get on that scale. But me, personally, I don’t like to separate it. I don’t like to say “Oh yeah, I’m a female rapper or a female artist.” I’m an artist. I don’t want to be put in a box. There’s no limit to what I can do and what my music can do. I make music for guys, I make music for girls, I make music for babies, grandmas, everybody.
You’ve had so many accomplishments this year. Last week you signed with Columbia, and you have an amazing hit single. The year is wrapping up—looking back, what were some of your biggest standout moments?
Accomplishments? Signing a record deal. That was an accomplishment considering last year I almost quit music. I was sort of down and out about everything going on in my life. I quit my job, I was out, I was just at home saying, “What am I going to do?”
And how old are you?
I’m 23. And signing that deal, I did that on my own. I really didn’t have any help. I did it on my own and just put it out there. Signing that Columbia deal, seeing my mom happy, that was just the best thing.
And it all happened so quickly! So what puts you in that creative mindset when you’re writing? What inspires you?
I like to be alone when I’m working on my music. Isolated, away. I come up with some of the craziest ideas and things when I’m alone. I’m a loner. What I need? Space. Space and my headphones.
What would you be doing if you weren’t pursuing music?
Dying. I would be dying right now if I wasn’t making music. I don’t like to work for people…
It’s a great gift to be able to work for yourself.
Yeah, I always felt that way. But, it’s one of those things—I’m sure you love your job because it’s something you love to do, but working for somebody else never fit me.
If you had a theme song what would it be?
Notorious B.I.G.’s Sky’s The Limit. I love that video. It brought so much life. They had the kids in the video all dressed up. People could look at that and say, “I can do that,” you know? But the sky really isn’t the limit—we can go beyond the sky. And Raffael Saadiq’s Ask of You. He says my name in the song—the part where he sings, “I really love you […] I love you Deja.” My name is Deja so I always smile when that comes on.
What is on the horizon for you? What are you looking forward to for this year in terms of growth and your music in general?
I’m looking to work with the best of the best. I want to come into this industry and stamp my name. I’m not trying to go anywhere, I’m about longevity. I’m going to stamp my name by making great music and working with great people. That’s what I want to do, become legendary. Whatever it takes. I want to win those awards, do all of that. Legendary.