Interview: ‘Try Me’ Rapper/Singer Dej Loaf Might Not Be Who You Think She Is
Meet the creator of the trigger-happy hit “Try Me,” who captured our heart (and Drake’s) by threatening to put a bullet through it
When rapper (singer?) Dej Loaf walks in, you’re not sure what to expect. Yet the chorus of the 23-year-old newbie’s smoldering breakout hit “Try Me”—which boasts of catching bodies and killing entire families—doesn’t quite prepare you for the petite, barely five-foot chick with a hushed voice who walks through the door. But that’s what gives her a prized distinction. The Detroit native’s delivery is an oxymoronic blend. Her voice is gentle and warm, while the lyrics to her overnight hit are dangerous and resistant. “Try Me” tip-toes between being threatening and murderous, but its catchy melody captures the ear of delinquents and delightfuls alike. Even Wiz Khalifa and E-40 have caught on, lacing the eerie instrumental with some bars for remixes to show their appreciation (another, with Ty $, is on the way), while Drake has shown some love via IG. Dej stopped by the VIBE office yesterday (Sept. 24) to chop it about growing up in the D, talk her musical beginnings and the real reason you shouldn’t “try” her. —Tanay Hudson VIBE: Tell us about your upbringing in Detroit. Dej Loaf: It was crazy. I was always a homebody as a kid. I stayed in the house writing music. I was the good kid in the projects. Single mom. Me and my two brothers. I stayed out of trouble. I could have gotten into all that stuff that was going on, but I stayed in the house. So you were a good kid in a mad city. Exactly. When did you first start writing music? When I was 9 or 10. I started out writing [down] lyrics from other people’s songs. I used to put the CD in and write their lyrics down, then I started writing my own. Do you remember what your first song sounded like? Terrible. [laughs] What were you talking about? Who knows. I used to cuss a lot in my raps when I was little. I used to say anything, listen to everything. It was terrible [laughs]. When did you get serious about music? After high school. I always wanted to do it, I just wasn’t in the studio. I was serious after high school. I graduated in 2009. I was in a group for a year and some change. Once I separated from the group I got with CMC. We were like a bunch of artists. I put out my first mixtape in February 2012 called Just Do It. From there it was serious. I had left college and did that. I was always writing. I just put it all together and made the mixtape. Tell me about the group you were in in high school. It was called G4. It was me, Matt G, my best friend Mike, Logic, Wayne. My best friend brought me into the group. They had already started the group—I was the only girl. Why did you guys broke up? We weren’t organized. We were just all over the place. It wasn’t like we were performing anywhere. We were just doing music. It was actually good music. If we would have had a little help we probably could have popped off. Who knows. Everybody graduated and went their separate ways. How would you define your sound? I like melodies. I’m not afraid to try different flows and put it together. Sing, rap. Everybody says they like my tone of voice.Your voice is soft and you’re singing some hardcore lyrics on “Try Me.” It’s funny that you say you were the good kid because on the song you sound like you weren’t. When did you begin to… When did I turn gangsta? Yeah. It’s not even about being gangsta. I’m around that all the time, so I can speak on it. Because you were the good kid, do you think people used to try you thinking you wouldn’t do anything? I was always cool. I wasn’t like a lame or anything. I stayed to myself, stayed out of trouble. I was smart. Nobody tried me. I was around it with my brothers, cousins. I was in the house with them. Nobody could try me because I had that circle around me. You said you went to college. What college did you go to? Saginaw Valley State University. It’s an hour and a half away from Detroit. What was your major? Nursing. Did you graduate? No, I did the Kanye. I left because I was bored. I wasn’t on it like how I was with music. If you’re gonna go to school you should be dedicated to it and that’s with anything you do. I was coming home like every weekend and that’s not what college is about. I came home and I wasn’t even supposed to come home for good. It kind of just happened. That’s why people tell you before you go to school don’t come home, just stay at school. How long were in you in school before you left? Like, three semesters. As an upcoming hip hop female artist, how will you be different from Remy Ma, Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea? The ones that you named are the ones that are actually good. I’m just going to be me. This is how I rap. I make music for everybody. I got songs. I’m not the “Try Me” girl. Other artists have shown you love by remixing your song. Which are your favorite remixes of “Try Me”? E-40. Just to even have him reach out was big. I grew up listening to his stuff. Who were some of your favorite rappers coming up? I didn’t really have many. I listen to all types of music. Do you have a favorite genre? Jazz. It’s real soothing, calm. On your song you mentioned not wanting to sign to a label. Would you rather stay independent? You never know. If I’m in the right situation then sure. I just want to be with people who care and are in it for the long run, not because “Try Me” is hot. Have you met with any labels? Of course. That’s why I’m out here. [Eds note: She couldn’t disclose which labels she met with.] Since gaining fame, what have you been experiencing lately that is new to you? Traveling, no sleep, planes. I’m used to writing my rhymes in my room. I was definitely going to church every Sunday for months but I’ve been missing church because I haven’t been home. I know you’re a big Drake fan. What was your initial reaction to seeing Drake comment on your Instagram page? It was crazy. People were tweeting me like, “Oh, Drake followed you!” But it was great. Drake is one of the biggest artists in the world. You know you’re getting somewhere when you got people like that are interested in you. He didn’t have to say anything. Is he going to be on a “Try Me” remix? I was hoping he was but I don’t know. We’re gonna do something even if it isn’t “Try Me.” He doesn’t even have to get on there. We can work on something new. Have you been compared to anyone? No not yet. Not even for the sound of your voice? When I first heard your voice it reminded me of Jeremih. Has anyone ever told you that you sounded like him? No. Someone just told me that he was feeling “Try Me.” But no one has ever told me that. You might be the one to make everybody start saying it [laughs]. Could you relate to it? I can. I was also the good kid and people used to think they could try me because I was quiet. People try people everyday, but I see what you’re saying. I wasn’t really coming from that… well, maybe I was. I was walking in the mall one day and these people were looking at me. I was like “what the hell?!” I just went back and wrote the song. How did you chose your name? Did it come from wearing loafers? The idea of wearing loafers. I used to wear a lot of Jordans; everybody wore Jordans. So I was just like, I’m going to switch it up and wear Gucci loafers. One day I was thinking, “Man I’ma wear these and they gon’ start calling me Deja Loaf.” The idea stuck with me since 10th grade. I never started wearing them but I was like the name is cool, even if I don’t wear loafers. Did you have any other rap names? Stuff like Young Dej. Terrible [laughs]. How did you get Deelishis (from Flavor of Love 2) in the “Try Me” video? She’s from the D. She liked the song and she had uploaded a video to it. We reached out to her, went to her house and she did her cameo. She’s cool. Do you have any other talents? I could play ball. I could do a little something. Do you have a favorite team? I don’t have one. I don’t really watch sports anymore. What’s next for you? We’re trying to drop something next month so people know there’s more than just “Try Me.” I’m not sure of the name. A mixtape. Then we might drop an EP.