Exclusive Interview: mojo, meanings, and mantras with rising hip hop artist De’Wayne Jackson
Fresh off a stellar run on Waterparks’ Entertainment Tour, alternative poet De’Wayne Jackson is inspired, invigorated, and ready to shake up the music scene in 2019. In addition to his newest release, “LET IT BANG” ( a hip hop banger loaded with important social commentary that we reviewed in full here), De’Wayne was kind enough to kickstart his big year by chatting with Us For Once. Lexy: Hey De’Wayne! How are you? I just wanted to preface this a little bit by saying that two of my friends and I followed the Entertainment Tour for a bit- that’s how we found out about you, and I just want to say that you some of the best stage presence we’ve ever seen! De’Wayne: Hey Lexy, I’m good! Thank you so much! Lexy: Going off of that, you radiate huge confidence. You’re not scared to be outgoing or break gender norms, wear your crop tops and glitter and talk about your feelings- and that’s super sick! I’m wondering, where did you develop that confidence? What advice would you give to other people, especially like young artists trying to do the same? De’Wayne: I kinda gained it like right before the Waterparks tour! I’ve always been very shy, kinda stay out of the way, but I had this certain type of energy that I just wanted to give off, and I’ve always felt alive on stage, but this was the first time I felt like I could be my actual self around people and have people embrace it. When we were in Florida, one of the girls gave me that glitter, and honestly it just sparked something in me that just made me feel like a different type of human, so I think I just tried to give off that energy. All the people that I admire and look up to have something about them that makes them unique and special, and I think being authentic is one of those things. But when I added the glitter, it just made me feel mad beautiful and sexy and strong and all those types of things, that vibe came off to people and they embraced it and it was great! Lexy: That’s so awesome! You could have fooled me, you could’ve said, “Man I’ve been so confident forever, I’ve been wearing glitter since I was like 7” and I would’ve been like “Yeah, totally!” De’Wayne: Nah... I mean like, I’ve always been very confident on stage but once I got that little extra thing I realized yeah, I can really give people what I truly am! The confident, at times flamboyant, at times very strong and emotional human that I am, you know? I just want to get people feeling. Sometimes you can’t sit and wait for people to tell you who you are and what you are, sometimes you’ve got to look at yourself and say, “I am this person, I want to be this person, I am beautiful, I am strong; and I am good at living life, because shit can get hard”, like keep believing. It’s real simple for me Lexy: I’ve been keeping up with you on social media and I see all of this talk about a headline tour soon and new music in January- so without giving away too much, can you tell our readers a little bit about that? What can we expect from you lyrically/soundwise that’s different from what you’ve already released? De’Wayne: I’m definitely definitely putting out a lot of new music this year. I only put out two songs last year, so definitely a lot of new music. I do really want to headline some shows- I feel like people would come! I’m getting a grasp on people who’d really be into it, and I definitely wanna do that soon. As far as music: storytelling always, making people see the bigger picture and what I’m actually going through, and just what I’m trying to capture. I’m always trying to get people to understand that, so I’m big on storytelling. Sonically, very alternative inspired, bending genres; think rock and hip hop and putting some flavor on it and making it a little spicy, adding some glitter. Lexy: Yeah, it’s super unique! The first time I saw you and Dom [De’Wayne’s guitar player] I was like a little skeptical, but then the groove came in, the dancing, everything, and I was like like “Oh, these guys are great!” On that note, there’s been a few songs off your Entertainment Tour set that I’ve been obsessed with and can’t seem to find anywhere on the internet… are those possibly going to be a part of the new release? De’Wayne: Yes! All of those you heard with Waterparks. All of those are definitely going to be released this year, I can’t say when, but I got you. Lexy: Back to what we talked about a little bit earlier, people like you because you’re not only captivating at first with your look, energy, and how your music sounds at first, but there’s also a deeper meaning to it. A message that’s important. There was a lot of social change/Black Lives Matter themes in what I saw you perform on tour, like “Family Tree” and “Top Man”, is that something you’re planning to continue speaking on throughout your career? De’Wayne: Oh, 100%. Kind of like what we said earlier, I want to redefine genres and I always want to lift my own people up. I am a black man from Texas, and growing up for me was like, go to church, go to school, and there’s people that don’t look like you and I’ve dealt with that side, I think it’s just growing up into my own and lifting my own people up and saying the word that matters. Especially with the climate that’s going on now, like, this is something that needs to be discussed. Especially today, there’s a lot more people in the young generation who are open in to acceptance of that story, understanding where these certain type of people different than you come from and where we’re trying to go. We have a long way to go- all of us do. I have to look at myself and the people around me and try to speak on those things, and I definitely want to continue to do that in a powerful and beautiful way, not in a preachy way. Lexy: I think you’re totally right in saying this generation is very open minded and ready to listen. You’re giving something important that we need to hear and we’re interested in. Like, the first time I heard you perform “Family Tree” was an experience, the lyrics, the passion, the anger, the confusion, everything. I thought, “Okay. I need to keep up with this.” De’Wayne: Thank you, that song means so much to me. And to be able to take it to the Entertainment Tour and play it for people who don’t look like me, who are younger, older, kids, moms, and have them listen and seeing tears after hearing my story. It means a lot, I was like “Yeah, people feel a real thing from this”. It was amazing. I want to continue that. Lexy: So because you have this really sick combo of interesting stage presence combined with music that can hold its own, and I was wondering what’s your writing process? Do you come up with your ideas first and then do lyrics and then mold a great beat around that or do you think of something that’s going to sound hype and then fill it with an important message? De’Wayne: For me, the process now is definitely more the first one. I write or read or watch the news and these words come to me and I start to kind of arrange them more like poetry. And then I think sound-wise after, I go to the studio and me and my homies just nerd out and we try and make something dope. Lexy: Has your process changed? Did you use to do it differently and now you’re finding it more that way, or has it always kinda been story first? De’Wayne: It really always has been story first. I try to make myself seem like more of a visual artist, with stories that people can see on stage. I think it’s very important now for people to see what something looks like and what it feels like, and when we can give a visual experience of what something feels like, it helps people get into it more. Pictures and stories are like my biggest thing. Lexy: Yeah, and I feel like also music that people actually care about and support and listen to comes from the heart, and that kind of bleeds out into what they hear and what they see, and like, you have that obviously. De’Wayne: I appreciate it! It was just crazy for me to see people understanding those songs from me and those stories. Like, I had kids coming up to me after shows like “I usually don’t listen to music that’s deep to me, but your stuff-” and I’m like damn! I’m all about that. Personally, if I can’t feel it, I don’t want it, but other those other perspectives are really interesting to see. I’m really happy to be able to be some people’s first experience with hearing some deep music, something that means more than just a cool beat. Lexy: I remember every night near the end of your set you’d talk about this thing called The Circle, can you expand a little bit more on what that means to you both personally and creatively? De’Wayne: Okay, I’ll try to make this short, because it means a lot to me. Even just talking about this makes me feel a way because… I had an idea, where I was seeing people start to understand what I was doing. And for people to start to grab on to that, I’m like, “Man, I want to build a family and a community for people that go to my shows and the people that listen to me”, and it doesn’t have to be “oh we all look like this”, or “all our backstories are like this”. I felt like if I could start The Circle it’d be a family, a tight knight group of not-quite-outcasts, but we’re all a little different, we have different ideas and different things about us, and I just wanted to bring that together and just be like: yo, these people in The Circle, this family, we have the ability to do literally whatever we wanna do, you know what I’m saying? We just have to put our foot in the ground and move on it, it may take time but that’s all The Circle’s about. Just people coming together that look like whatever but moving forward. And I feel like people got it, and that’s cool. Lexy: That is really cool! It always gave me the vibe of a bigger idea, like it’s not just you, it’s not just us, the performer and the audience, the idea, the music, like this all-encompassing thing, it’s really sick. In the future, are you trying to make your brand synonymous with The Circle, like it’s not like a specific era thing, like it should carry on? De’Wayne: Exactly! I see a lot of bands that have this and that and eras and I’m just like… an era for me? This is like my life. I see the stories and the fans growing and I see the change but I don’t know if I’ll be coming in and out of certain things. People are going to be able to understand that I’m just an artist and The Circle is a family forever. I don’t want it to just be an era. I just want The Circle to grow with me as the music continues to get better and we just get bigger. That’s all I see for it. I feel like I could step onto the scene and make something special happen, but I don’t want to conform to an era, I think it’s interesting but nah.
Lexy: Which one of your songs describes who you are as a person the best? De’Wayne: One that I would say is “Top Man”. Definitely gives you where I’m at mentally and where I’m trying to go. But I feel like- you’ve heard this song, “Family Tree” is, I think that’s what people are going to get next: okay, this is De’Wayne, just 100%. This is my backstory and how I'm feeling now and how I felt when I was younger. I think that “Family Tree” can explain that in a way that I can stand behind. Lexy: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about working in the music industry? De’Wayne: I’ve gotten some pretty solid advice, but I have to say I remember hearing Tyler from Twenty One Pilots talk about how Twenty One Pilots was super small, they were playing like five people shows, and all their friends and all their people were doing all kinds of things and they just kept their head down and worked and when they came back up they were signed and playing all these tours, I really live by that. They work and do their own thing, and that’s like me, I am my own individual artist, I go about things my own way, seeing it, I kinda see what it’s going to bring, and keeping my head down I just kinda keep that same approach. I know what I want and I’m not gonna stop. Lexy: Describe what your 2019 is going to be like in one word. De’Wayne: Sensational. Lexy: I believe that. Us For Once will stick around to see it play out, because we truly feel it will be sensational. Thank you so much for doing this interview, we’ll see you around on your next tour!