One year later DETO BLACK’s first official single, “Tesla” is here
One thing we can expect from her forthcoming debut EP, "that freaky shit!"
One thing we can expect from her forthcoming debut EP, "that freaky shit!"
On Thursday May 13, Odunsi’s path-altering EP, ‘EVERYTHING YOUR HEARD IS TRUE‘ and it’s standout record, “body count” turned one. To commemorate the day, the song and EP’s breakout star released her first official single, a soft-toned, loud-mouthed anthem for the bad bitches she’s been telling her aunties about the past year.
The star in question is DETO BLACK, and her new, debut single is “Tesla”. As the sirens blare through the speakers, DBlack is pictured strutting towards her vanity plated Tesla, customised with gemstone rims and a bedazzled steering wheel to match her dancing front teeth which part seductively biting her intimidating chrome nails. It’s no wonder “bitches so obsessed with [her]” as she professes on the opening bar of the track; Deto Black is a moment, and this is her moment.
Back on an Odunsi (The Engine) production, “Tesla” is predictably self-affirmative, as is Deto’s brand of… well everything. As her shadowed face she flirts with the hand-held camera in the intimately shot music video, I am reminded of the opening scene in Beyoncé’s “Ring The Alarm” – not least because of the sirens that consistently sound through the two-minute record. But where Bey passionately sings in pursuit of her man, and defense of her relationship, DETO BLACK calmly dismisses her ex with a quick one-liner before she gets down to business.
It’s a shot she’s taken before, on her verse on the leaked “FRANCHISE” refix. After playing on her likeness to Nicki Minaj – “I’m a motherfucking monster” – DETO BLACK’s opening bar on the track’s final verse follows, “broke up wit my ex then I turned into a rockstar,” celebrating the freedom she’s found since she left that lame niggga from her past life (so she spits on “Tesla”). From her very debut on “body count” to her TTG (Trained To Go) CRACK freestyle, “Pop Sh*t”, Deto Black has consistently empowered herself in relationships, whether she’s taking charge in sex, prioritising her pleasure (both carnally and in terms of her welfare), or simply blocking men who can’t get with it. In the wider Nigerian society, she’d be considered something of a radical for her sex-positive female-centric lyrics; but as she told Vogue last year, DETO BLACK is simply “doing the Lord’s work” for young, African women who have a myriad of oppressive conducts to manoeuvre, including patriarchal standards projecting themselves into heterosexual relationships.
Her lyrics aren’t her only offensive tool in her rage against the system. Prior to the advent of her instantaneously prolific music career, DETO BLACK already established herself as a creative and thoughtful image-maker. And in her imagery, she similarly defies social standards with her iconoclastic fashion, captured quintessentially in the lurid video for Thursday’s “Tesla”. Speaking with Paper Magazine, Deto shares that her direction for this “powerful and sexy” music video was centred around her “idea of what it means to be a Black African woman and a rock star; the perfect blend of divine feminine and masculine energy.” In a conversation with BRICKS Deto further stated of the record, “it’s a very sexy song where I try to make the girls feel like their sexuality and sensuality are superpowers.”
Not only does DETO BLACK embody sexual freedom in her bars and across her visual media, sensuality is a sermon Black preaches to other women, channelling sextivists that came before, from the anti-heroes of ’00s Nollywood to sexually liberated rap icons, including Kelis whom she references in the music video for “Tesla” and previously borrowed hairstyles from with her green/blonde two-tone dye job. All over her Instagram Deto’s media tells of her angst from society’s patriarchal binary gaze, an archive of her ascent to icon status.
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“One time, a young Nigerian girl told me my music made her feel proud to be Black and that she was capable of doing anything. That made everything feel worth it,” DETO BLACK shared with CRACK in the premiere for “Pop Sh*t”, emblematic of her influence within her Nigerian community and indicative of the long term impact her career is set to have on the industry.
Somewhere in my drafts is a piece detailing how “body count” changed everything. On fan favourite, Amaarae and DETO BLACK shun misogynistic expectations from society, and, along with Gigi Atlantis, encourage women to do the same, through the medium of sex. “body count” doesn’t feel like women being given a space, it’s women owning the space, commanding the space and inspiring us all to take up space; in the year since, we have seen a certain rise in a number of women from Black’s cohort doing just that.
Now, rising rappers within the non-conforming Lagos creative scene – names such as T6lu, L0la, Brazy, ytboutthataction, SGaWD, DEELA, Ictooicy – command the attention they deserve, in their multiplicity, not simply as tokens; and Amaarae and Deto Black’s verses of the year on “body count” marked a critical point in the community’s immersion in rising female rap. Increased visibility of women in rap is not unique to the alternative Nigerian music scene. In the dominating American music industry, more and more women are enjoying commercial success in rap and the progressive politics, that demands greater and fairer opportunities for women responsible for diversifying hip-hop, are the backbone of the counter-grain, revolutionising alté community. These are the ideals Deto Black embodies, and the politics that attract not only a youthful, empowered audience, but also industry heavyweights who have their own various experiences of the perils of capitalistic conformity.
Appearing alongside Skepta on “FRANCHISE” and in his recent SkAir 5, though their growing up experiences and the way oppression manifests in their lives might differ, as a black man raised in the UK and an African woman, both Deto and Skepta’s lyrics and message are lined with an understanding that the world placed them at a disadvantage for sole gain of the white man. That will not stop them from getting it though.
In spite of the pandemic, DETO BLACK has been working continentally, from Lagos, to London to LA, even linking up with Young Thug in Atlanta. It is in link-ups and co-signs such as these, including most recently a nod from Theophilus London, that DETO BLACK has kept fans on the edge of their seats for her music.
Her’s has been an interesting, noteworthy breakout year. “I’m a busy bitch, you a basic bitch,” Deto brags (not without slamming a couple counterfeit competitors, of course) about her fruitful year since her first ever appearance on what I wouldn’t hesitate to name the song of the year. In the Nigerian music industry, where quantity is key, and new artists emerge from the woodwork monthly, frequent releases are advised. Teni, for example, after the epic couple of years she had, between 2018 and 2019, lost her steam once the pandemic hit, stalling her debut album. On the other hand, thanks to backing from the Mavin industrial machine, Rema rose to instant stardom with his debut EP and has maintained his spot at the top with consistent charting singles and a strong media presence. DETO BLACK certainly has the latter, and has kept listeners gagging for the former – no album out.
It’s cosmic timing that DETO BLACK’s debut single coincides with the re-release of Nicki Minaj’s breakout mixtape, ‘Beam Me Up Scotty‘. This past year has be DBlack’s ’09. Deliberately lo-fi, DETO BLACK’s studio shoot for her “Pop Sh*t” Freestyle is her very own tribute to “Itty Bitty Piggy”, a preemptive diss to whoever dares to come on smoke; where Nicki rounded off in 2009 with “I win, you lose,” Deto picks but up, 11 years later, on “Pop Sh*t” saying, “I don’t start no fights but I can finish ’em.” Again, delivering the most memorable verse of the track alongside an all male cast, including the Grime veteran Skepta, “FRANCHISE” is an effort not far off Nicki’s spot on Young Money’s “Roger That”, full of cheeky brags and hard-hitting, memorable bars.
When asked about her plans for early 2021 back in October last year, DETO BLACK answered, “I have no idea and it’s so exciting.” A slight disappointment for fans who were expecting new music, the time has finally come, Deto’s ‘Pink Friday‘ moment is here. Though the content will certainly differ – it’s not ‘Pink Friday‘ – the impact of this imminent EP is poised to be just as defining, for both Deto Black and likely the heavily contested arena of rap in Nigeria – whether you like it or not.
As with everything the self-professed creative polymath does, it’s hard to know what exactly to expect. One thing we can be sure of, “that freaky shit!“
Featured Image Credits: Deto Black/Instagram