DeJ Loaf Has Detroit on Her Back and No Time for Haters
I met with 23-year-old Detroit rapper DeJ Loaf to discuss her new single, “We Be On It”, burgeoning fame, and celebrity crushes. When we sat down, I asked her what song of hers she thought was my favorite. She looked me up and down and immediately guessed correctly: “Me Hennessy & U”. I doubt she’d seen my Valentine’s Day Playlist, so I guess I’m just super predictable and lame. DeJ Loaf is the opposite.
Abeline Cohen: Do people often suggest that you change your look or your sound?
DeJ Loaf: Not the people around me but others do. I get hate comments, or tweets from people saying I should dress more girly. But I mean, I’m me for a reason, so I don’t plan on changing.
AC: Did you always have the chance to align yourself with people who would allow you to do what you want? Or is that like, a priority you have to make for yourself?
DL: Not saying I’m a vet, but I’ve always been comfortable with who I am and what I want to do. I mean, I didn’t know that “Try Me” was going to be my hit single, I didn’t know that was going to change my life, but I did trust myself. I trust myself to do what I want.
AC: Well, I feel that the things that people hate you for is also what makes you good. I think people are so weirded out because they don’t know how to reconcile your violent lyrics, with like, your voice that sounds unaggressive. And because people can’t figure that out, they flip.
DL: [Laughs] Yeah. People hate what they can’t understand. So that’s all that really be
AC: And that’s something that really annoys me in terms of like, Kanye West. I hate the way people talk about him—
DL: Can I tell you something? I just put up this picture of Kanye West on Instagram and I got so many hate comments! Everyone’s like, this is racist or like, I just hate him.
AC: Yeah, people don’t understand that when they talk about Kanye West, they’re feeding into exactly what they say is so annoying about him.
DL: Well, also, people don’t want Kanye to transition. People want you to stick to what you did. Like, people are so used to “Try Me” and they’re just judging me off this one song, and they expect my next single to sound the same. And I have so much more to talk about. My range is crazy, and I can really go any way, and I’m good in any area. Change is good.
AC: So is it harder to write music after getting famous? Does it make it harder to write music when you know that what you write might like, push your career in one direction or another?
DL: No, what makes it harder is like—just the different lifestyle I have now. Coming from struggling 6 months ago…I mean, I’m the kind of artist that makes music based on what’s really going on. I can write about, like I say, different struggles—I mean, everything is good now. And I remember when everything was bad, and I think good music really comes from pain and struggle, but now it’s something to think about. I have new struggles. That’s why I like to be home to record.
DL: Yeah, I don’t like to record outside of Michigan. I mean, I will, but I just like the home feeling. You just get that vibe, and that feeling, and nothing can compare to it. I come from writing in my room. That’s 4 walls and my little twin-sized bed, and I’m writing about what I want. And now I got it so I’m writing about how I got it, and where I’m going to go with it, and how I’m going to keep it, you know? But I think different experiences will create different sounds and different music.
AC: You know, I was watching the video for “Detroit Vs. Everybody” and like, I can’t really listen to Eminem anymore because I find it depressing, but I do think it’s interesting that Eminem still lives in Detroit. It’s not something everybody has to do, but at the point of success that you envision yourself reaching, do you imagine that you’ll stay there?
DL: I’ll always have a place in Detroit. I’ve been trying to figure out now, actually, I’m trying to buy a home. But I think I’ll always stay there. Even though it’s not all palm trees and sunny, it just gives me a home feeling…I love Detroit. It’s a love and hate thing. But you know, people usually get rich and then leave Detroit.
AC: Totally, but there’s also a lot of public interest in Detroit at the moment. How do you feel about all the like, artsy money people coming to Detroit?
DL: Um, well you have a shitload of people in Detroit that could be doing the things that everyone who is coming there wants to do. You know, Detroit, man, I’ll be glad when it gets back to what it is.
AC: I’ve never been.
DL: I like midtown in Detroit. I’ve never stayed midtown. I’ve stayed east, I’ve stayed west. That area, the architecture…it gives me a different feeling. It’s just like bars, and different cultures, and races of people—you’ve got the hipster kids kicking it down there.
AC: There must be a ton of hipsters down there
DL: It is, and it’s growing…it’s crazy.
AC: Like, a lot of coffee places?
DL: Yeah, that’s what most of midtown is.
AC: Do hipsters like you?
DL: They do! I mean, cause when I used to perform before like, I got on this level, those were the kinds of events that I performed at.
AC: Really? that’s interesting. So hipsters were your first fans.
DL: Yeah, because if you listen to my first mixtape, it was very hipster-ish.
AC: Because you’re talking about college and stuff?
DL: Yeah, ’cause I was into sneakers and stuff. That was my whole vibe in 2011…and I was in a different space, so people are like, how are you doing this now? Now I’m just riding around, trying to figure out life, wishing somebody would try me.
AC: [Laughs] Do you still like sneakers?
DL: Yeah, I have a lot of sneakers, man. I’m piling up on them every day. I have to ship some stuff back home.
AC: So do you have to buy a huge mansion for all your shoes in Detroit now?
DL: [Laughs] Maybe not a mansion, maybe I’ll just start with a condo. I mean it’s just me, I don’t have kids, I don’t have dogs. Maybe my mom will stay with me.
AC: Do you have siblings?
DL: yeah, one who’s 19 and one who’s 28. I’m the middle child.
AC: You know middle children are bad right?
DL: [Laughs] Yeah that’s what they say, but that’s not how it is with me! Cause my younger brother…he’s the one.
AC: He’s the one, huh. So you’ve got a younger brother and an older brother?
DL: [Pauses] Sister. I mean, my older brother, he’s like, transgender. He hasn’t really had the change or anything but…I call him he because I haven’t gotten used to “she” thing.
AC: So…he identifies as a female?
DL: Yeah, like if you see him, it’s “Hi girl!” or…I don’t know. I have to get used to it.
AC: How long ago did he decide to do that?
DL: Um, he’s been feminine for as long as I can remember. At first it started off as being you know, gay—no, bisexual—that’s how it all starts. Then you’re gay, but dressed like a guy. Now he’s just full woman. You know, he wears his heels…
AC: So all your siblings love shoes.
DL: Yeah, we’re all the same. That’s where I got my style from…my older….brother…it’s so weird [laughs] you know, I wanna try to give him—or her—credit but me and my mom are the only people, like, cause we’re just so used to just…him. It’s getting deeper and deeper, you know what I’m saying?
AC: Is it weird for you?
DL: No. I mean it was at first. Like when he first started changing, I was like, why is he doing that? I thought he was a handsome guy. I just didn’t get it. But it’s like, you gotta let people just be them, you know.
AC: Was your mom open to it?
DL: She wasn’t at first. I think we all felt the same way, pretty much like, what’s going on? But it slowly but surely turned into like, well, look at him, you can’t deny it! If that’s what he wants then I just have to get comfortable with it.
AC: Is she going to get a surgery?
DL: She wants to. You would really need to talk to my brother. You would really need to talk to Dez about it—I’m just going to say Dez—because he knows more about it than I do.
A: I mean, but imagine how hard that is to go through.
D: Definitely. It’s very difficult to find people who accepts you for you. Like I said, I’m not even comfortable saying “she” yet. I’ve accepted everything but it just slips out, like, “Boy, shut up!”
A: I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be transgender. People make fun of you all the time.
D: Yeah like, it’s not safe.
A: Especially in Detroit, I bet.
D: Worst place to be.
A: Hey, did you like being interviewed by Bow Wow [On 106th and Park]?
D: I love Bow Wow. I always loved Bow Wow, from when I was a kid. I really respect him, because he already did what he needed to do in the hip hop world, like as an artist, and now he’s moving on.
A: Did he? I mean, I guess he was one of the first kid rappers when that wasn’t really a thing.
D: Yeah, he made millions. I mean, it’s not even about the money, but about the transition, like, he was one of the first that popped off. A lot of people don’t last that long.
A: How long did he last?
D: [Laughs] I mean, just going from a kid to doing different stuff, like movies. I like Bow Wow.
A: Well, you seem like you have a really positive attitude.
D: Yeah, I do. You—you don’t care, you’re just like, he sucks.
A: No! That’s not it—
D: I don’t like everybody though.
A: Did you see the meme of Bow Wow at the Grammys? The one that said he looked like a kid who sells candy on the street? It was f***ed up.
D: Oh my god, no, I didn’t see that.
A: And so what about the Grammys— I feel like they’re totally irrelevant. I don’t think the Grammys decide which musicians are popular.
D: I mean yeah, at the end of the day, you’re still going to go home, and go to sleep and like—like Beyonce doesn’t care. I think those things are important to some people. I’d love to win a grammy—or 6.
A: 1 or 6 would be good, yeah. But do you get mad about it? Like were you mad about Macklemore last year?
D: Nah, cause I wasn’t into it. I didn’t even watch it. But you know, some people feel like you don’t deserve stuff, but you don’t know. Everybody has their own struggles—
A: That’s so positive.
D: Do you think he deserved it?
A: [Laughs] No.
D: But I do think YG should have won best album. That’s something I can side with.
A: The people who decide who gets nominated don’t even know who that is.
D: Yeah, they need to do their research.
A: Yeah, but they’re so old. And nobody really cares what old people listen to anyway. Forget about that though—who are your like, celebrity crushes? Is that thing?
D: A crush for me is really deep. I think people are like, hot, but when I have a crush, it’s like when you’re in love with someone you don’t know.
A: So do you love Bow Wow?
D: I think everybody did. Who do I like? Nobody really, I’m going to be honest with you.
A: Have you met Drake?
D: No, but he’s never been a crush.
A: Yeah, but he’s like, ugly anyway.
D: [Laughs] You said he’s ugly? You are mean!
A: No, I’m not! I love Drake, but I mean…
D: So then who do you like, then?
A: I don’t know—
D: I was crazy about Chris Brown. But who wasn’t?
A: Uh, I wasn’t? Didn’t that change after…
D: After the situation? [Laughs] No, I’m still on his team, because I know how it gets…sometimes you have to choke a bitch.
A: [Laughs] Um, is that true? I don’t know if that’s true—he’s a lunatic! You like his bleached hair?
D: Yeah, I think it’s sexy.
A: Alright, well, I’ll leave that one alone. What music do you listen to that makes you want to write your own stuff?
D: You know, old stuff. People say that and they’re lying, but I really mean it. I love Marvin Gaye and Al Green.
A: And tell me, do you get drunk a lot? Are you a big party girl?
D: No, I like to do chill stuff, I’m like, boring. I’m considered boring. I’ll get a little shot or something, but my days of getting drunk are over. Unless I’m just really you know, in the mood—I’ll have some days, where I’m really like, turn up! Like I was supposed to go out last night. We were supposed to go to Starlets, a strip club out here in New York, I guess, but I got sleepy. I went to sleep.
A: Have you ever been to a strip club?
D: Yeah, I’m not a fan of them. I don’t wanna throw my money at people, like, you didn’t earn this! And I don’t throw my money at the ones who don’t dance well. Like you have some that are pretty, but they don’t dance. And so it’s like, “Excuse me, move!”
A: Yeah, I just don’t like them, because the energy is weird since the girls are clearly working for their money, but guys are so dumb and say things like, “this stripper is in love with me!” and it’s like, no, they’re working.
D: Yeah, I see where their mind is. They have some strippers who are actually gross, and they’ll do things for the money. But I’m not judging anybody.
A: Well, in New York, they can only take their top off. In Oregon, they can like sit on your face.
D: Oh really? That’s how it is in Detroit also. You can do anything out there.