Dej Loaf's lyrics are unapologetically blunt, skipping past the bullshit and cutting straight to her point. And her point, frankly, is not to fuck with her.
The Detroit artist's raps fluidly ride melodies from hard-spoken verses into R&B-style singing, all over the beats of masterful producers like DDS, Sonny Digital, and KLVN, to name a few. This blend of singing and rapping comes together naturally, like on "Desire" off her 2015 debut EP, #AndSeeThatsTheThing. One second she's throwing verses about cracking skulls, and the next she's softly cooing about "my best friend, my godson."
Dej Loaf, born Deja Trimble, debuted the Just Do It mixtape in 2012 before releasing the massively popular Sell Sole in 2014. Her single "Try Me" had taken off, piquing the interest of artists like Drake and leading to big-name collaborations with Future and Big Sean on #AndSeeThatsTheThing. This month, she released a brand-new mixtape, All Jokes Aside.
Don't confuse Dej Loaf's confidence with cockiness—she just knows what she wants and won't let anyone get in her way. On "We Winnin'" off #AndSeeThatsTheThing, she sings, "Spill my name in the game/I know they want me to fail/Tell 'em I'm lit, tell 'em I ain't going nowhere."
All Jokes Aside boldly reaffirms her purpose with track names like "Im Gon' Win" and "Goals." She's refreshingly confident (for good reason), railing against those who try to undercut her on tracks like "Bitch Please." "Im Gon' Win" is more complicated than its title might suggest—it plays like a self-reassuring affirmation that she's going to win and "make something out of nothing." She raps through murky, thick beats that sound almost sinister, mumbling "Everybody wanna be somebody" in the same breath as "I'm gonna win." Winning hasn't come easy to Dej Loaf—she's still fighting for her own success, reminding listeners, "Don't act like I ain't special, I'm a blessing."
She's clearly a fighter—since childhood, she's struggled with chronic asthma that's nearly killed her several times. She grew up in the projects of East Detroit, where her father was killed when she was 4 years old. She started writing in elementary school, and hasn't stopped since. Before quitting college to focus on her music, she worked as a janitor at a Chrysler plant. While the support of celebrities like Drake has certainly gotten Dej Loaf a lot of attention, she didn't need it to succeed: Her drive comes from within.
Dej Loaf spits lyrics of self-love with the ferocity of an insult, and she doesn't hesitate to praise her own talents. Her music sounds like she's not just convincing others she's deserving of success—she's convincing herself. This is just one reason her music is so addictive. Listening to Dej Loaf hype herself up is inspiring, and her unflinching confidence is contagious.
In a press release about All Jokes Aside, she's quoted saying, "There comes a time in a girl's life where she becomes a young woman. It's called growth, it's called maturity, it's called living life to the full potential and being true to who you are. That's what I represent. I feel good about everything that I am doing right now, because it is what I want to do. Not what anyone else wants me to do, it's what I want to do. I'm in charge. I run my show. It feels damn good."
The same press release promises Dej Loaf is finishing up her debut full-length. Here's hoping it comes soon. But as she raps on "Bitch Please," don't forget: "Y'all thought it was over, she gon' keep going."