Introducing DETO BLACK, the model, creative director, stylist and rising star of the UK/Lagos’ rap scene. DETO catches up with Notion as she drops debut EP 'Yung Everything'.
DETO BLACK is bringing a completely unique wave of energy in her fashion style but most importantly in her music. In 2020 she made her professional debut as rapper after casually jumping on one of her closest friends Odunsi (The Engine)’s single “Body Count” alongside Amaarae and Gigi Atlantis. Little did she know at the time that this would send shockwaves around social media as her sound brought a new dynamic to the female rap scene and would begin her music career.
Being involved in the Nigerian creative scene for a while as a style influencer and creative director, DETO BLACK had already racked up notable features in titles such as Vogue, and recently worked on Sketpa’s Nike SkAir 5 launch after featuring in a freestyle alongside the Grime superstar, Unknown T and Lancey Foux.
Her lyrics overflow with confidence, spreading an empowering message for all women to own their sexuality. DETO doesn’t believe her music simply fits into one category or genre, and this is especially true of her new EP – “That’s why it’s called ‘Yung Everything’, because it’s a bit of everything”, she said. In fact, DETO doesn’t even label herself as a rapper because she is so much more than that.
In conversation with Notion, during the extremely humid London weather, DETO talks about her journey into music, new EP ‘Yung Everything’ – which features singles “Tesla” and “Brag” – sexual liberation, manifestation, and much more. We don’t mean to brag, but this is a good’un.
You do not shy away from talking about sexuality and its importance, especially within your music. How have you found the journey exploring sexual liberation as a Nigerian woman within Hip-Hop?
How did I find that journey? Hmmm okay, well I better start at the beginning of it all. When I was younger, being a little girl in Nigeria, we were obviously raised a little bit differently than the boys, you know? We would get a different conversation regarding sexuality and sex than the boys would; not saying that they didn’t have their own struggles as well, as being gay in Nigeria is already illegal – so that’s a crazy dynamic that some guys must have to deal with. But just being a heterosexual woman and comparing myself to heterosexual men – there was definitely a very different conversation that took place. And it wasn’t only the sexuality and sex that was the important thing for me, just in general – the overall treatment of women in comparison to men. I’m the oldest out of 3 boys in my family, so obviously in my mind those are my siblings, we’re all the same, we should all receive the same kind of treatment. And so, growing up in that environment and receiving a different kind of treatment from my brothers. It made me realise this was a bigger problem than I originally thought. Obviously, you know I was born in Delaware, but I grew up in Nigeria, then also came to London, so I think experiencing all these different cultures and how women are treated in each one just made think, wait a minute… things don’t actually have to be like this. It just became a passion for me. So, gender equality is something that I’m really passionate about. There is no standard way that a woman ‘should’ behave. I don’t know I feel like this should be so obvious, but women have desires, we have egos, we have pride, we have feelings. They just think because women are used to dealing with all sorts of things that they don’t have any of these qualities. Like ‘oh a woman will get over that way quicker’. To me it’s something that’s been said thousands of times over the years but somehow, it’s still not getting into people’s heads. So, I guess with my music, it has that shock factor of yes, I’m a woman and I can be a rapper, I can do this and that and I’ve DONE this and that. Because women still go to school and we still have to make money, we still have to provide for ourselves so why are we getting less treatment in our homes, in society, and emotionally. It needs to change.
What is one thing you would say to women who aren’t yet as confident about their sexuality?
It’s there. You just have to own it. First, get to know yourself, I feel it’s definitely important to get to know yourself before you enter into any sort of relationship with anyone, so you don’t have to compromise who you are for anyone. Just know yourself. So, you’re not with someone that’s going to be telling you ‘you need to be like this and act like that’, and then you realise that’s not what you want. Know yourself and be proud of who you are. I feel like human beings are both good and bad. And once you accept those two things, you can become the best version of yourself. If you don’t love yourself then how the hell you gon’ love somebody else? I think RuPaul might’ve said that, I don’t know!
You made your debut as a music artist in 2020 featuring on Odunsi (The Engine)’s “Body Count”. Was making music always a plan for you?
No, making music was not always a plan for me, it actually came about in the strangest way. So, most of my closest friends are artists or musicians and it’s been like that since I was in high school – the guys of course. It was never really an option for the girls. And I was like you know what, I’ve been listening to a lot of female rappers in America and seeing a lot of young girls who I could relate to making a career from rapping. And I thought, why the hell am I not doing this? I want to do this; I want to try. So then my friend Odunsi (The Engine) had a song called Body Count, and he played it for me and I asked if I could do a verse. He was like yeah cool whatever, not thinking anything of it. And then I did my verse, and he was like ‘wow, this is so good I’m going to use it’. I was so happy. I could never have expected what the reaction was going to be like I just thought it was something fun to do in the moment. But it literally jumpstarted a whole music career for me and I’m super grateful for that and I’m so proud of myself in that moment, it was just me putting myself out there.
If you hadn’t found your confidence, then maybe you would’ve never done that verse or had the career you’ve had so far.
Yeah, that’s so true, because what happened was after that, a lot of girls that I knew from back in my hometown started getting inspired and were saying to me, ‘we’ve seen you do that and start rapping which has inspired me to be like, wait I can do that too’. And I’m like, ‘yes, that’s exactly how you should feel’. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
How important is it for you to be involved in every creative aspect of a project?
Ah, it’s super important to me. I’m trying to be less controlling actually! But like before I started doing music, I was doing creative direction, styling, fashion, film and so on. So, music was a way for me to combine everything that I’ve been doing and put it all into one. Even with my music video for Tesla, I told Aidan Zamiri (Director) exactly what I wanted, and he was then able to add stuff to it and bring it to life. It’s always nice to meet people who are on the same wavelength as me because then we can make something that’s even better than I ever imagined. You know when you add two heads together that are the same, it’s going to be better than just the one. But yeah, I’m always super involved in every single part of a project from the setting to makeup, fashion, mood boards, direction, music videos, production and sounds. I’m only just getting into actually producing music so I’m still at a relatively basic level, but I’m always massively involved. Human beings are so complex. You can’t just box them into one category. That’s why even being called a rapper, I love it because obviously, it’s such a cool title, but I do feel like I am a lot more things than just a rapper.
Your freestyle over the Franchise beat on Nigerian Independence Day become a viral hit, how was it working alongside a rap legend such as Skepta?
Honestly, it was amazing, I’ve been listening to Skepta since I was in high school. It was crazy, a real pinch-me moment. Because it was another amazing artist outside of my circle in Nigeria also believing in me and wanting to work with me, so it was an amazing experience and I’m so grateful.
You seem very active on Twitter and Instagram and your following is growing a lot. How important is it for you to use your platforms to inspire change politically?
This is something very important to me. Because even before when I didn’t have as many followers, I would still always use my platform to speak up about things, and I probably don’t even speak about it as much anymore, because now I’m thinking of ways that I can do more to create awareness. I want to see a change. So, I’m trying to be more present in real life, not just on social media. I feel like now more people know about the issues that we’re facing in Nigeria such as gender inequality, homophobia and the corrupt government. People know about this, so now it’s more about what we can DO to stop the change. I don’t know if you know but they’ve just recently banned Twitter in Nigeria. So, I don’t know, social media in that aspect is crazy, in some ways it’s not very useful as a tool, but I just use it spread my energy and what I think is right, my mood and how I live. I think in general the message I mostly try to give is that ‘it’s okay to be yourself, you know? You can just be you, there’s enough space in the world for everyone to just be themselves. Don’t be scared.
Having a BA in Social Anthropology and a Masters in Global Governance, how have these influenced you within your creative career?
Social Anthropology was literally the best thing I ever did. I feel like it opened my mind a lot. I wasn’t really a proper active feminist before, but this degree really threw me into it and gave me confidence in myself as a woman. Social Anthropology is the study of human culture and so, you study how cultures are formed, how society dictates what they think is right and wrong and why you should be married and not in a polygamous relationship. Or why a polygamous relationship works in specific situations but not in others. Just generally how things are formed. Why we have religion, community and political structures. It was so interesting, it helped me understand human beings a lot more. That’s why I’m so confident in saying that I’m more than one thing and don’t have to have a label. I feel like back in the day you had to have just one job. Even when I was younger, I was looking for an aesthetic, a detailed, specific pathway. Social Anthropology just gave me that freedom to be whoever I wanted. Global Governance was just a bit more disciplined and structured. It’s also about the study of human beings. As you might have guessed, I’m really interested in humans, community, relationships, interpersonal relationships etc. In terms of creativity, they allowed me to not box myself in, and just tap into all the different aspects of myself to create who I truly am. Obviously I’m not a social anthropologist but that course was extremely fundamental in me being here and the woman I am now.
You worked on your EP with producers such as 2aab, Oche, Genio, and Odunsi (The Engine). How valuable is collaboration to you?
I love it, it’s everything. I like to work with people who are very likeminded to me and just kind of get my vision because it’s not every producer I go to that we immediately click and end up making a good song. It’s more about who is seeing the vision the same way you are or has a similar vision to you altogether. Or is even helping you see it in a better way than you’ve imagined. Collaboration, love it. I want to collaborate more after my EP with different artists and more producers.
What would you say is the overall vibe of the EP?
Hmm, how do I put this? I think it’s girly if anything. Even though it has a masculine energy it portrays this in a very feminine way. I find it hard to label it or put it into one genre or category. That’s why it’s called ‘Yung Everything’ – because it’s a bit of everything. I can’t wait for you all to hear it.
You’ve been involved in some amazing fashion campaigns such as the Nike SKAir 5 launch, and more recently in the Theophilus London x Off-White campaign. Could you tell us a bit about how these came about and if you want to start venturing into fashion yourself?
Definitely. Fashion has always been a big part of my life. When I was young, I wanted to be a fashion designer. That was the one creative job I wanted. I took fine arts in high school, and I definitely wanted to be involved in fashion in some way. Being a Nigerian girl, you get told ‘oh that’s not really a job blah blah blah’ and its almost taken away from you as an option. But I knew I really liked this creative side of me. I would always think about it, it’s one of the things that gives me joy and excitement in my life. My best friend, Mowalolo is a fashion designer, that’s my best friend! So, we have that in common, we love fashion. In the future, I can see myself either collaborating with brands and possibly even starting my own thing.
What can we expect from the future of DETO BLACK?
I always get asked this question and I kind of feel fake giving an answer because after Covid-19 happened, we all now know that what we think is going to happen… is probably not going to happen! I can’t ever plan too far ahead; I don’t even know what I’m going to be doing in 3 months. The max I can plan up to is like a month and a half. But what I hope for, is for whatever I’m doing for me to be happy and content and be living my authentic self. The main thing is happiness. Two years ago, I was becoming a chartered accountant, I was literally on my way, you know. The fact that I’m here doing this interview right now, is crazy. So, who knows!
Finally, knowing what you know now, what is one thing you would tell your younger self?
Ooooh okay. I would tell her: trust your gut. You know in your heart what you want. So, trust yourself that you can achieve it. You are smart and you are capable, you don’t need anyone else to advise you on how to live your life. Learn from things, try new things and learn from it. And just keep going and keep believing in yourself. Manifest it. Because if you believe and you act like you believe, then you can 100% achieve it. I started reading this book that basically says our words are like magic spells that we cast upon ourselves. Whatever you say whatever you’re thinking, you’re feeding it into your subconscious and somehow your body is moving towards that thing. It will take you there.