When the formidable UK rapper Skepta asked relative newcomer Deto Black to join him on a track, telling her to “Go brazy and shit on the world”, what resulted was an acerbic lyrical delivery that saw Deto running amongst the top dogs.
Travis Scott’s ‘Franchise’ laid the backing for the freestyle, with the well-established voices of Unknown T and Lancey Foux jumping aboard to deliver a remix that would help establish the early success of Deto’s career.
“I’m a beast/ I’m a beast I’m a motherfuckin monster/Broke up with my ex and I turned into a rock star.”
With a no-fucks-given lyricism, Deto established a sound that was as. equally calm-and-collected as it was below-the-belt petty. She had an attitude, and she didn’t care.
Though Skepta’s invitation for collaboration put the wind in her sails and provided an experience that made Deto realize “Woah, things are really moving fast, oh my god let’s go”, it was really fellow Nigerian Odunsi (the engine) that helped build the boat.
‘Body Count’, a track on Odunsi’s Everything you heard is true EP, was Deto’s first single. It put her on the map and opened her up to the world of music. Before that, she was somewhat of a nomadic academic, moving between her hometown of Lagos and London to finish her second degree. Her first; a Bachelors in Social Anthropology.
“So I went back to Lagos after I finished my Masters [of Global Governance] in London, and my Dad just called me one day and he was like ‘What do you wanna do now? Do you want to join the army?’ and I was like ‘No’, and he was like ‘Do you want to be a pilot?’ and I was like ‘No’, and then he was like “Okay, what about an accountant?” and I was like ‘Hm, okay, maybe’.”
Though Chartered Accounting is ultimately where she landed, deep-thinking in pandemic isolation had her questioning her motives, “It was three days till the exam, and then there was 7-9 months of quarantine and I was like ‘You know what? I’m done, I’m not going back’. I didn’t even want to do it. I think the pandemic just kind of made me realize you don’t really know what’s going to happen tomorrow. If you’re not really passionate about what you’re doing, it won’t lead to a good life. I dropped my first feature song and it got such a good response, so I felt like it was a sign from God, just telling me to believe in myself and just take a chance.”
Lucky that she did, Deto now finds herself on the tail end of the release of her debut EP Yung Everything, a project that transcends binary genre, instead ascending into a plain of experimentalism. “That’s why it’s called Yung Everything,” Deto told NOTION Magazine, “because it’s a bit of everything.”
First track in and she’s not wrong. ‘Three5zero‘, plays like a SOPHIE ballad. That’s the best way to describe it; computerized synths, hyperactive vocals and an element of bubblegum pop. Moving further in, other influences such as Shygirl play cat-and-mouse between choruses. When I liken the sound to the UK artist, Deto replies, “I love Shygirl!” Ultimately, however, the sound is Deto’s own.
“When you’re an individual…” she tells me, “you just go with what you like and it just creates itself.” Across the 7-tracks this becomes obvious, yet ‘F.U.N.’ is where the statement really resonates.
“I feel like F.U.N. is a lot of peoples’ favourite, and I’m like “yes!”, cause that’s the most personal one to me, I did it completely by myself. No one was around, I was in quarantine and I did that. So I’m very proud of that song.”
Introduced to the track by a trepid tiptoeing bass, the energy is soon proliferated by Deto’s cool half-rap. It’s slightly taunting, but it’s seductively fun.
“Tell me papi, are you happy, in my back you try to stab me/ Are you done?/ thought you were the one/ love is on the run/Yeah I fucked your life up but you know it was fun”
“Yeah, that was me just thinking about toxic relationships,” says Deto, “Sometimes it’s really messed up, but it’s fun a little bit when you talk about it.” Along with themes of past flings, Deto’s EP highlights the positivity around female sexuality and strength. In ‘Betterrr’ she lets us know that anything you can do, she can do better. On ‘G and G’, she’s geeked and gorgeous, can’t afford us. And in ‘Brag’ she’s the baddest in the city, thought you knew?
Though there are many things that fans will learn about Deto throughout the EP, perhaps the most prominent is that she is a frenetic, creative maniac. Look no further than Instagram where you’ll see that she exists as the human-epitome of a Bratz doll slash Teletubby slash anime-character slash rave-scene-pop-queen. No doubt this is in part the influence of longtime friend, collaborator and fellow Lagos-local, Mowalola (a talent recently chosen to head Kanye West’s Yeezy Gap design team). Yet also, it’s Deto’s own innate pursuit of inspiration, one unbounded to place.
“So you and Mowalola are both from Lagos. I feel like there’s so much talent coming out of there at the moment. What kind of influences are people consuming over there?” I ask. She answers in a very Gen Z way.
“I think because everyone is exposed to pretty much everything. The internet is such a huge place, I just feel like we all kinda absorb all the same types of information. If you look on Instagram now you’ll see Nigerian girls in like, I.Am.Gia, and that’s what they’re wearing in America and London, so it’s all just melting into one.”
The world’s interconnectedness aside, Deto Black’s approach to art is a testimony to how far this generation’s creative reach has gone, and can go. Creatives now hone a cool exterior, while a manic energy pushes them from beneath, and in all directions with a hunger to create. Deto, in all her endeavours, embodies this.
Coming to the end of the interview, I ask Deto where she sees herself at the end of it all, what’s her ultimate goal? For her, it’s quite simple, and it relies only on one person: “To impress Deto.”