words: Kristen Bingle
photos: Will Beach
Deyah is the introspective rapper/singer bringing us raw, honest lyrics and hypnotic melodies. Her second EP Care City was just released and focuses on a dark time in the young artist’s life. The 8-track project explores spirituality, mental health and healing. It is an eclectic mix of spoken interludes, poetry, rap and melodic vocals. We had the chance to chat with Deyah about her musical influences, her love of travel and her new project.
Hey Deyah, how are you? How have you been finding this period of lockdown?
Not too bad if I’m honest. I’m quite an introvert anyway, so spending time by myself has been my life anyways. It hasn’t made that much of a difference to me. It’s been alright for me so far.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music?
Introspective, conscious RnB. With a bit of grime sprinkled in — sometimes.
You flow between singing, rapping and also spoken-word at times. Do you consider yourself to be a rapper or singer? Or a bit of both?
I’d say 80% rapper 20% singer. I don’t actually enjoy singing but I like to get things done — maybe it's a bit of impatience — so I just sing to get things done. I’m learning I can’t keep doing that, there are so many amazing voices out there that can ‘sing sing.’ So hopefully soon there’ll be other artists in my music.
Who are some of your musical influences?
OK. Little Simz, 100% she’s sick. J Cole as well — I love J Cole he's mad. Wretch 32 he’s up there. Queen Latifah, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill from back in the day. I actually like classical music as well. Not really for the sound, I’m still trying to get into it but for the feeling it gives, it's very calm. Beethoven has some really cool sounds. I create a whole film to it [the music] in my mind, cause there’s no words obviously.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Cardiff, but we travelled a lot. We were sort of all over the place, but our main base was Wales. My mum is Welsh and my dad is Nigerian. I’ve also got family from France, family from Jamaica, some family France so it’s a bit here there and everywhere.
Do you think where you’re from has shaped your sound?
Travelling has opened my eyes a lot, it’s exposed me to different sounds. When I was in Paris, I discovered French folk alternative rap, and I was like what is that? It was sick — it made me realise that there's more to music than pop or rap or grime. I don’t think I would have understood that unless I travelled. Nigeria has influenced my music, I’ve been there quite a lot.
What is the role of spirituality/religion in your life and in your music?
I’d say spirituality because I feel like unfortunately religion, without trying to be controversial, is quite controlling. There’s not much leeway to grow, it’s kind of by the book. I wasn’t spiritual at all, up until I was 18, then I had this mad thing and then I found God and it was crazy. In terms of my general life and my music, it impacts me on a daily basis, in terms of prayer and reading Scripture. In my music I talk about what I know and spirituality is what I know and what I’m about as well.
Talk to me about your project Care City.
It's a truthful account of last year, a documentation. I didn’t plan to create it. I recorded a bunch of songs that organically came together. My music is normally truthful, but this one in was raw and truthful in particular. I just sat down one day, no movement, just writing, writing, writing. I created Care City as a metaphorical safe city to be in, a mindset. It's a utopia of forgiveness, lack of judgement and love.
Where are you at musically?
Last year was the worst year of my life. I went through a lot of things and I lost the idea of fear, I didn’t care about peoples’ expectations. So my sound changed dramatically last year, I just focused on what I wanted to do. My sound sort of progressed and now I’m trying to do a bit of jazz, a bit of soul, grime, salsa and classical as well. In terms of my career, a lot of things are obviously on hold at the moment but I’m still writing and creating.
Is your honesty on Care City a way for you to work through your feelings or is it more reflective?
I think it's a bit of both. If I go through something I'll write about it as quickly as I can. Because last year was so peak, I didn’t have a fear of what anyone would perceive from what I said. I get a little bit upset sometimes when I hear music which doesn’t have truth. I guess truth is subjective but you just wanna hear realness sometimes. So, I thought from now on, I wanna make sure everything I say is real — some of the things I say are embarrassing, I’m ashamed of them, but yeah it’s me.
How does Care City differ from your last project Lover Loner?
With Lover Loner, I found bare beats and wrote to them, I didn't think too deep. I got positive feedback but the negative feedback was people saying the same thing: the tracks are all similar, and it's true. With Care City, although it wasn’t planned, I was more thoughtful with the beats, the lyrics and melodies — Care City is raw raw.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I’ll be 30. I hope, no wait let me not say hope, let me speak this out loud: I will be known in the music industry or by people who are into alternative, underground music. I have a record label which I’ve started, so artists on my label as well.
One artist you can’t get enough of right now and one artist you would love to collaborate with.
Koffee - she’s too much, way too much. Collab, I’d say Wretch 32. Everything he releases is mad and he speaks on such a deep level as well.
What’s been a standout moment in your career so far?
Can I do 2? OK, so performing at Reading and Leeds Festival. That was mad and it just came out of the blue. And Recording with Lily Allen as well, that was mad. I think collaborating with Lily Allen is number 1 because I’ve listened to her all my life and just to get the call from her was crazy.
What’s next for Deyah?
I have another EP ready, it's at demo stage. The original plan was to have some collaborations so me and my team are figuring out a way to get others involved otherwise I’ll only be releasing music by myself. I’ve also got some collaborations on other peoples tracks coming out soon. All I can do right now is create, record, collaborate and release freestyles and visuals if I can.