The D.E.Y. Interview
|Next Project:||The D.E.Y. Has Come (Spring '08)|
|Website:||The DEY's Website|
For years the landscape of urban music has shifted in and out of industry trends and month-long fads. Along the way the concept of appealing to a bilingual audience has occurred, but never has an artist, or group, succeeded in blending English and Spanish. That is, until now.
Linked through their Puerto Rican roots, rappers Divine and Yeyo, and singer Elan, form the trio The D.E.Y.. Signed as the first bilingual act to not go through a major label’s Spanish division, their long-awaited debut album, “The D.E.Y. Has Come,” is set for release this spring through Epic/Koch.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” The D.E.Y. steps inside the booth to talk about the creation of their group name, why their English-Spanish musical hybrid is so unique, and how they will remain a sound investment during the country’s economic downturn.
Listen to the Interview
The DEY Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy, ‘Z’, doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a bilingual Latin trio whose music will prove that funk, sex, and education can exist on the same album. Please welcome MCs Divine and Yeyo, and singer Elan, of the D.E.Y.! How you all doin’?
Yeyo: What the hell is going on papa, we all doin’ great!
Divine: What up, zig-zag-ziggler’ big Z, my brother!
Elan: Hey! How you doin’ out there?
DJ Booth: That’s the kind of energy I like. We’re gonna go deep right away. Your J.R. Rotem-produced single, “Give You The World,” currently hitting the airwaves across the country - if each of you could give one gift to the world, that you think would make it a better place for us all, what would you wrap up and hand over?
Divine: I would give everybody good health, man. Good health is wealth.
Elan: I would say I’d give everybody really great mothers if they didn’t have one.
DJ Booth: All right, so, health, mothers, and, Yeyo?
Yeyo: I would give everybody peace, man.
DJ Booth: Those three would be wonderful gifts I’m sure the world would really embrace.
Yeyo: Nothin’ but love, peace and happiness - that’s all we wish for everybody.
DJ Booth: Exactly. Since the D.E.Y. is an acronym for your names, what would have happened, Divine and Yeyo, if you had met Elan and her name didn’t start with ‘E?’
Divine: We probably would’ve been something totally different. The story is that we had to have a name immediately - like, we couldn’t even think about it! So the name was just sitting right there in front of us. If not, I don’t think it would’ve been so short and sweet.
Elan: It’s alphabetical order! [singing] A-B-C-D-E!
Yeyo: [laughter] That’s right; we’d probably still be lookin’ for a name.
DJ Booth: Everything I’ve read about the group includes the phrases “conscious message,” and “radio-ready jams.” With the current structure of the music industry, can those two attributes really be placed alongside one another?
Elan: Oh definitely. We have at least fourteen songs right now on the album. Each one is a little different from the next, stemming from love to breakups, to a song about your mom, to heritage and culture. It’s not preachy, it’s just in a way that rallies people together, that is sometimes hand-holding and sometimes booty-movin’. These different beats, different emotions, different flavors, different instruments, they all bring out a different side of your own life from day to day. It’s definitely something that you live with over time.
Yeyo: We all balance each other. I believe that the fact that all three of us are putting a little bit of our own together, into this pot, it makes that possible.
Divine: Z, what I wanna add, too, is the word “conscious,” meaning that you’re aware, so we’re very aware of the things we write and how we put it together and how we project it to the people, without takin’ sides or tryin’ to advocate anything that’ll separate us.
DJ Booth: When you go into the process of creating the message that you want to portray through your music, is there any subject matter that’s off-base for you?
Divine: Off-base, meaning subject matter that we won’t touch?
DJ Booth: Yeah, that you just feel is not your place to cover.
Divine: Well, anything that we feel is not right, discordant to how we live as individuals, you know what I’m saying? Elan will not advocate certain forms of sexuality that might exploit her. Just like me - I won’t do anything that’ll have me feelin’ like I’m advocating some form of unrighteousness to my brothers that might be influenced by the things that I say.
Yeyo: We believe in energies, man, and we really try to fill the world with a positive energy; that’s why you get that perspective through our music. We would never just dwell on any subject that would spread negativity.
DJ Booth: Let’s talk about they key to all of this, and that’s the backing that you have behind you. The music industry is trying to feverishly figure out how to sell music and make money, but they’ve neglected for the most part the thought of appealing more to a bilingual audience. How fundamentally key is a Latin following to your success and failure as a group?
Divine: It’s very, very important. We have been in certain situations with radio formats that might not allow Spanish on their station regularly, and it causes us to radio edit these songs for them. And the demand that the Latin community has to make, saying, “Look - I want the Spanish version. I want to be able to hear this song the way it’s supposed to go,” is very important and essential. The Latin community has to support this, because if they don’t, then the others will not get it.
Yeyo: I think the Latin community and the Latin market is our base and our foundation, and it’s the common link that we all three have with each other.
DJ Booth: Not many artists and groups have previously been able to successfully do that English-Spanish mix. What makes you all so confident that you can do it, and do it well?
Elan: One thing that makes me confident in this group from the very beginning is our different levels, and where we come from in the Latino world. We are all a little bit different and adapt to our different strengths in both languages. We have a range, and in that range we help each other write in a certain way, that everybody will be able to get. Yeyo coming straight from Puerto Rico, and I am half black - I’m raised by my mom -so I’m not one hundred percent fluent. We teach each other, and we work together to say, “You know what, Yeyo? I may not understand that word; help me figure it out. Maybe I could help you by putting in this English [verse], but you don’t have to change your rhyme; I’m just gonna grace it with this melody in English and then Divine is gonna back me up, for instance, in ‘Darme un Momento,’ so you understand what I’m saying in Spanish.” We’re taking turns, and we’re giving it to our whole audience. We want our audience to be the world, not just one city, or our neighbor. This is our baby here, so we’re tryin’ to package our baby to shoot out into the world and to be accepted.
DJ Booth: That’s a nice image right there. You said that collaboration between the three of you is what makes each of you individually stronger as an artist. What do you think each of you has learned, since becoming a trio, which you didn’t know about yourself as an artist before?
Yeyo: I don’t want to say second-guess myself but, like, to review what I do. Sometimes when you’re a solo artist, you think the first thing you come out with, that’s it. But being a part of a group, you gotta know and understand that what you do has to be able to fit the group format. Just like society - you gotta learn to be considerate to other people around the world.
Elan: Definitely it would be the balance between the yin and the yang, working alongside your fellow sisters and brothers.
Divine: Yeah, and it’s fun, you know? It’s fun to share this art with people, and to be able to meet people on stage. It gets lonely up there by yourself. From bein’ a solo artist, like all of use three individuals, I know that we all have fun up there together.
DJ Booth: When you hear comparisons to groups like The Fugees or Black Eyed Peas, do you embrace that assessment, or do you reject it?
Yeyo: Of course! We super-embrace it. It’s an honor and a privilege to be compared to such successful bands, like the Fugees and the Black Eyed Peas. It just sets a platform or a standard for us to shoot for, and if we could just be even half as successful as they were, it’ll be an incredible accomplishment for us.
DJ Booth: In April, or hopefully sometime this spring, your debut album - Elan, you said it’s your baby, “The D.E.Y. Has Come” will be available. After having that release date pushed back multiple times, has there ever been a feeling amongst the three of you that the day might not come?
Divine: We wanna clear this up: we never were pushed back or even given a release date. We was just bein’ demanded by the people. The people that knew about us, and they wanted to see it happen because they knew that it was already done. And I’d have to say that Epic has been very, very good to us as far as makin’ us feel like this project is gonna get off the ground even though it’s an experimental project for us all. We’re the first bilingual act to ever get signed to a major label without goin’ directly through the Spanish division. Our machine is big enough to make this happen, and we’re patiently waiting for our day to come. We all are - the whole world’s waiting for D.E.Y.‘s day to come.
DJ Booth: MTV recently deemed you’re their current “Discover and Download” feature, Entertainment Weekly named you one of their top ten new artists for 2008. So with lofty expectations sometimes come missed opportunities - how can you all guarantee yourselves a successful year?
Yeyo: Hard work. Doin’ a lot of hard work and through a great team we have behind us. We’ve got the good people at Epic Records, and we’ve got a great team at Violator Management and the Chamber Group that are working hard with us to make sure that the whole world gets a taste of the D.E.Y. We’re three focused individuals with a common goal, and we’re ready to achieve it.
DJ Booth: Awesome. Last question: with the stock market reaching lows over the past few weeks, everyone’s holding their money close to their vest. Let’s pretend that the three of you are a stock. Your symbol’s gonna be called “DEY.” Convince the consuming public that you’re a safe buy.
Yeyo: Oh, man.
Divine: Well, we know and understand that the Latin community ids one of the most biggest and grandest driving economical forces in the United States, and that we are a passionate and very supportive community. It’s like cotton; you know what I’m saying? It has to be there. Like oil - it has to be there!
Elan: Right. When you invest in us, we’re definitely gonna take your money and make it grow. We have stuff in store for you. We already have the technology sitting in our file cabinet right now just like they had the Mac Airbook sitting in theirs. We already have the second edition! [laughter] You’re just gonna have to wait for it a little while. But we definitely have it, so you can buy our stock, and know we’re gonna come up with the second plan and the third plan and the fourth plan, and new editions.
Yeyo: And you can be assured that our warehouses are stocked with material, and we’re gonna keep the good material coming so the world is gonna have their share of the D.E.Y. officially.
Elan: And we’re already talkin’ to new producers like Swizz Beatz, and just getting on our second edition, you know? Best believe that.
DJ Booth: That’s hot. You know, during that answer I thought I was talking to politicians, not artists. That was wonderful.
Yeyo: [laughter] Well, that’s what we wanna do. We’re definitely empowerin’ ourselves and getting’ educated enough to represent our communities, and hopefully one of us would run for office one day.
Elan: Woohoo! [laughter]
DJ Booth: Well, if you need someone behind you, just let me know - I got you. One of you wanna go ahead and give a website or a Myspace page so that everyone can find out more about the D.E.Y.?
Yeyo: Definitely. Check out thedey.com, or they can check us out on Myspace at myspace.com/thedey. And please check us out on iTunes; we got an EP out called, “The D.E.Y. Has Come.” Yo, and we’d like to thank Z for havin’ us and interviewin’ us and for takin’ a little bit of your time to hang out with us!