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Deto Black
Photography @russiansandgod

Deto Black on bad bitch energy, being your own best friend, and Bratz

The London-based hyper-trap artist releases her debut project Yung Everything, and talks through her Lagos upbringing, creative complexity, and sex positivity

Deto Black’s music is technicoloured – it glitters and flashes in neon with messages of self-assurance and carefree sexuality. Raised between Lagos, the US and most recently London, the rapper and artist is a cultural chameleon who blends together her globe-spanning influences to create something uniquely modern and universal. 

Having featured on tracks with the likes of Odunsi (the Engine) and Zamir, Deto’s debut solo project Yung Everything was one of the continent’s most highly-anticipated and on it she lands somewhere between hip hop, rap, and her own brand of hyper-trap. Here, Dazed speaks to her about her journey into music, her multi-hyphenate approach to life, and manifesting bad bitch energy through her art.

You’ve lived in the States, Lagos, and London too – where are you based at the moment?

Deto Black: Right now I’m in London and I’m quite happy to be here, but I do also miss Lagos a lot. I don’t know, I can’t really say which is my favourite though, I think I like moving around.

Do you feel like you get different energies from different places?

Deto Black: Definitely. But it’s starting to kind of mesh into one now, I guess because of the internet. I’ll see influencers in Nigeria wearing the same thing, the same brands as everyone this side.

It does feel like there’s a really burgeoning creative scene coming out of Lagos and taking over internationally that you’re a part of…

Deto Black: It’s actually kind of a dream come true because when I was a child growing up in Lagos, I just always wanted a community that I could fit into and friends with similar interests as me. It’s so nice and comforting.

Growing up did it feel like you were existing a little outside of the mainstream culture in Lagos at the time?

Deto Black: I definitely felt like I didn’t fit in because the way a Nigerian girl was thought to be (by society) wasn’t really satisfactory to me, I just never had those interests. So I felt like a weirdo because I wanted to dress different, I wanted to do things differently, I was a feminist at heart even before I knew what feminism was.

You’ve also been the name on people’s lips for a minute, with a lot of collaborations and conversation building up around you. Going into your career as an artist in full force now, how did it feel to commit to this fully?

Deto Black: Everything I’ve done so far has led up to this point, honestly! I never really felt too much pressure because I just started so it’s literally just beginning for me. Like I feel like I finally found my purpose, I’m trying different things out and yeah it’s just the start of my journey, so so far it’s been great!

And you have a really interesting educational and professional background too – talk me through the years leading up to you deciding to fully pursue music?

Deto Black: I’ve always been interested in fashion, when I was younger I thought I would become a fashion designer but I don’t know, I didn’t really follow up with that. I think I preferred wearing clothes rather than making them for other people to wear (laughs).

“That was the most important step in my journey – just being able to try different things and not being scared of getting into something” – Deto Black

But I always wanted to be involved in fashion so I started blogging, I had a Tumblr and I also liked to film a lot. So I started making these fashion films when I was in Lagos. And I was styling too, just trying different things to see! I’d be like, ‘I’m interested in this’ and then just try it out, even make-up and hair. That was the most important step in my journey – just being able to try different things and not being scared of getting into something. But I was like, I like rap music, and female rappers inspire me, so much so why don’t I just try? And I did, and it worked out.

I love that. It kind of embodies the energy of your motto and the title of your most recent mixtape, Yung Everything, too right?

Deto Black: Yeah. I feel like I’ve always been very indecisive with things, like I kind of want everything? I want to try everything. And I really struggled with having to label myself as one thing because I like make-up, I like hair, I like styling, I like film, all these different things. So I thought, what name encapsulates everything? That’s hard to do so I’d rather just be everything rather than simplify myself into one thing. Human beings are very complex and we’re all capable of doing more than one thing, you know. 

And your music feels like it’s versatile and varied in a similar way. What was it like going on to hone your voice and what you wanted to express as an artist specifically?

Deto Black: I think I just go with what I feel and I also try to manifest things in my music too, to become the person I want to become.

That’s super interesting because so much of your music is this really contagious unapologetic, bad bitch energy. What was your journey like arriving at that space or being able to embody it in your music?

Deto Black: Honestly my music is like a reminder-slash-manifestation because I feel like as a human being your emotions go up and down. Sometimes you don’t always feel like the best version of yourself. So through my music, I just wanted to have that sense of, you know when you feel the best you can feel and you have the greatest feeling of joy and happiness and confidence? I try to always put that in my music so it’s like a reminder to myself and to other girls and guys that, you know – you are that bitch, don’t forget it.

“(My music is) like a reminder to myself and to other girls and guys that, you know – you are that bitch, don’t forget it” – Deto Black

And (asking for a friend), other than pulling up one of your songs, what advice would you give to others trying to emulate that energy in their own lives? 

Deto Black: I think treating yourself as a friend. I feel like people really try hard to be the best friend they can be to their friends, but I think sometimes we neglect ourselves. So I think looking at yourself like, this person is my friend as well, let me be nice to them too, you’re a lot less hard on yourself and just kinder. And when your friend is nice to you, you feel good so when you’re nicer to yourself, you’ll feel good too.

And from the confidence to sex-positivity, was it ever a struggle to navigate that kind of energy in the context of Lagos, Nigeria as well as interpersonally?

Deto Black: Oh definitely, it’s a struggle every day in Nigeria because although it’s progressing and the younger generations are getting older and they have a similar mentality, you still run into people and have everyday situations like going to the bank or the passport office and there will alway be someone who just really doesn’t get it and isn’t aware of the changes that are happening. But I also have to day so far, I’ve been so happy to see the progress and I like to focus on the good stuff.

What would you say are some of things that inspire you creatively?

Deto Black: Everything is quite based on emotion. I kind of go with how I feel, how the song makes me feel or what I envision when I hear it or it’s just something that I’m really into. Like with the Bratz thing, I’ve been obsessed with Bratz since I was a child. My best friend and I would always go to each other’s houses and bring our Bratz and play with them so I just really wanted that to be in the video (for “three5zero”).

Yeah there’s almost like an inner child playfulness to some of your anime or cartoon aesthetics as well as that uncompromised confidence that comes from the music too…

Deto Black: Definitely, because I feel like even when I was younger, when you’re a kid or a teenager, I didn’t really need to remind myself of any of that. You just feel like you know everything, no one knows more than you, it’s almost like an ignorant confidence? But as you get older, you want to be less ignorant but still maintain that confidence.

Is that what you want people to take away from listening to your music?

Deto Black: Yeah I just hope it makes them feel confident and secure in themselves. I hope that’s the emotion that it inspires, that it gives you some energy, some positivity. I know sometimes you just can’t see any way of things getting better in life and when I listen to music, that’s what I try to get out of it, to get my mood up so I just hope it’s the same with my own.

Deto Black’s Yung Everything is out now