A mask is a powerful symbol. The righteous artist is said to wear masks for us. So that we see ourselves in them; so that we see them as a canvas, a reflection. UK artist DeJay embodies these reflections through his use of his mask. A canvas of conviction and righteousness that is as powerful as it is real.
KingstontoLA sat down with the masked avenger recently, where we were able to ask about all the things that make DeJay unique. From his sound to his political stance to his fashion choices.
KNG2LA: Tell us about the dub influence in the UK and how you started to work within that reggae realm.
DeJay: Right. The dub influence in the UK is massive. Dub and reggae, especially in the city that I'm from, is the heart beat of the city, and it has been since the '70s. With groups like Massive Attack starting out the sound systems and Portishead, they were all influenced by dub. One particular band, Black Roots, who I sampled in "St. Paul's Jammin," they're an original dub band from Bristol, that came out of the Bristol riots, it came out of the whole win rush situation. Which is why I'm in England in the first place. My grandparents from Jamaica went there, my dad was born there, I was born there. It's funny that if you were in the church scene in England, our grandparents and parents didn't allow us to listen to reggae music.
Dub, it was very a Rasta thing, anti-church thing, a rebellious movement. I wasn't really raised on dub and reggae music, in Jamaican culture. But that all changed two years ago when we were invited to a documentary where our studio was at. Our studio was in this building run by Rastafarians. We were invited to a documentary about the Bristol dub scene downstairs. It was a question and answer session; and we got to hear from the pioneers of the movement. This sparked something in me.
KNG2LA: Would you say you're part of this movement now? What's your role in the movement?
DeJay: I would say 100%. My particular role is, I've been asked to start a rebel militia, which is to rebel against pop culture, through music, using pop culture against its self. The first thing that I did naturally was start sampling dub and reggae music, and just adding what I was doing before to it. But there's a whole movement of conscious artists out. Chance the Rapper is doing amazing, Kendrick's change was amazing, J. Cole's change was amazing. Now you have Chronixx, you have Protoje, you have Kabaka Pyramid, you have Jah Bouks, you have Randy Valentine. You have so many dudes that are coming out and exploring their own role in the movement. There's 100% a new wave. Do I consider myself one of the leaders? 100%. My particular niche is England right now, and Bristol, and using the Bristol story to tell this story of the rebel militia, and that's what we're doing, 100%.
KNG2LA: Can you tell us what the mask means to you?
DeJay: The mask is an accumulation of a bunch of things. One particular thing was a conversation a few years ago with a friend of mine, back when I used to be a gospel artist. She said, "It would be dope if we had a group called Facelifts. That would be so dope." I hated the name, but I loved the concept. But the mask originated from me wearing a mask on stage in my old band, that was my thing on stage. I was a huge Flea fan, and it was all about being an artist on your ax, on your instrument. That's where it started, and it carried on through a bunch of different things. Of me being this rebel locked up, being unseen. It has a lot. The main thing is, what I say to people now is, I am not trying to hide my face, but I'm trying to reveal my faith. That's the point.
I would love for when the concerts start really coming through, that people just naturally begin to mask up, for what it means. Because if you listen to what I'm saying, you'll understand exactly what the mask is saying. It's accumulation of things, but the main thing is showing Babylon who we really are, and that we're here.
KNG2LA: What would you say inspires you right now?
DeJay: The journey inspires me right now. I've lived about seven lives before coming to LA, and all of those lives have tales and stories of experience. I'm filled with preacher's kid vibes, so not only my life but my dad's life and his father's life has all been a product of ministry and serving. I didn't necessarily think that my arena was going to be the church because my arena has been the church for three generations, so surely it's definitely not just mine. I decided to make the world my church. Obviously, I'm not here to preach or anything like that. Dub is using me for its purpose, not for my purpose. What inspires me to write is that ethos of my parents and their parents, observing the people, inspiring the people, telling stories, telling parables.
KNG2LA: What's next for DeJay?
DeJay: Mixing the new album is one of them. I have the album done, I have the next album completed as well and the album after that, all done. I don't really need to step foot in the studio for the next three, four years, only to mix the records. The next few months was me coming out here and establishing the rebel movement in LA. We already have it going on in Bristol, we have it going on in London, we have it going on in Nottingham, and we have it in France right now. People who think just like me, live just like me, off the grid, who are anti-everything, opposed to them. We thought, why not have the audacity to do it here in LA? We come from a rich soil of it, you know what I mean? We just have the audacity.
We're just a bunch of dudes from Bristol, bunch of pirates, we're just a bunch of rebels that just love dub and reggae and that natural process took us to London naturally. It took us to Nottingham naturally. We built these clubs, we built these hubs for people to come to and to grow. We wanted to just bring that whole thing to LA, because it worked everywhere else, why not? My job is not to be big, my job is not to be famous, I don't want more and more people knowing about Dejay, I need more and more people getting the medicine. That's it. If LA can help propel that, so we can keep getting more medicine out there to the people, then we're here; that's why we're here. I'm here until further notice until I get it done.
All Images Courtesy of @lovedejay & Instagram