Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The rising star Denaisha never shies away from expressing their true self and aims to embody every aspect of what it means to be human during their puberty: sentimental, curious, confident and self-aware, you name it.
Growing up in Minneapolis, Denaisha had the privilege to immerse themselves in the flourishing music scene in which individuality and creativity are truly appreciated. As an ambitious artist, they consistently break the chains that social conventions put on them and set music free from political and cultural labels. Now we acknowledge and admire their talent and discuss their music career and more.
For those who are about to discover your music, how would you describe Denaisha as a musician that is worth listening to?
I think that any person who is struggling with over romanticisation during the emotional part of puberty would like my music. It is very honest and kind of embarrassing. The music I have on my upcoming EP is really representing my past more than anything. I wouldn’t say it describes me as the type of musician I am now. Just as a teenager who spent every second I had believing I was in love.
Since your affection for music started in Minneapolis and you went on to work with local producers, tell us about the music scenes in this city and how they have shaped your musical identity.
I would say the music I listened to growing up is more what shaped my very much still developing musical identity. But the music scene in Minneapolis is very unique. Everyone has their own style and our DJs are cherished dearly. We all make a point to create space for shows where everyone is having fun and connecting with one another.
If an album is a novel, then an EP is a collection of short stories. What is the common thread of your debut five-track EP Aquarius Season that bonds together these seemingly separate tales?
The common thread is definitely longing, being young and wanting to believe that every crush or connection is love. It is that aspect between Neptune and your reality check. The feeling of attaching to unnatural, fantasy motivated outcomes. It’s so lovely to dream about that fairytale situation where everything is going to happen in the most desirable way possible, but it is not very healthy to solely live off illusions alone. And it is the easiest way to set yourself up for disappointment or heartbreak. Even our manifestations require a touch of reality. These songs are what it felt like before I realised reality was also my friend.
Your versatility really shines through in your debut EP: the sexual boldness conveyed by the deep punchy baseline in Girlfriend is nothing like the melancholic melodies in Water Signs. Do you think it is possible for you to write these two songs on the same day? Are you emotionally capricious when it comes to writing songs?
This is a funny question to me because I pretty much did write these songs probably only a day apart.
I am a very moody person with very strong emotions, and writing music has been the healthiest way for me to give each feeling its own space to be manifested.
Both singles, Aquarius Season and Girlfriend, are produced by MJ booboo, to whom you give credits for helping develop your sound over the years. What do you see in her that makes you believe you can make something phenomenal together?
Booboo has always been an extremely talented and gifted artist, and I’ve looked up to her since we were in high school. She is very kind, generous and open minded, and I didn’t know much about recording when she first handed me a mic, so when we started making music together it was entirely for fun. And it still is. You feel very special when such an artist creates space for you to freely express yourself in a world she’s already mastered. So with that it only makes sense that we’d create something beautiful every time we got together.
As a Lady Gaga stan myself, I am extraordinarily pleased to know that she is among your biggest inspirations. Please tell me, what is the best lesson you have ever taken away from her?
Lady Gaga without a doubt was the artist that had the most impact on me as a kid. I never missed a performance, never missed an interview, and never skipped a track. I didn’t grow up with money and I was always pretty shy so it was very difficult for me to fit in. When I discovered Lady Gaga, I realised I did not have to fit in and I had never felt so free. She was bold, confident and dramatic, and it was not long before I allowed myself to embody my own version of glamour and drama. Her image and message as an artist made me feel like there was absolutely nothing I could not do. And because of her I carry that energy in my body every single day. With that being said, she definitely showed me how powerful music could be, from then on I knew it would be one of the many marks I would make in the world.
In the music video of your latest single Girlfriend, we are situated in a 90s neon palace where you are dressed in flamboyant sequin catsuits and wearing fluffy boots. However, I am particularly fascinated by the way visuals seem to be projected onto a globe, illuminating a seductive glow. What is the thought process behind this? To what extent do you have a say in the visual execution?
Sati is a very hard working artist and director and she put a lot of energy into bringing the vision I had for Girlfriend to life. I actually had very simple plans for the video because we did not have a lot of time to get things done and I did not want it to be a draining project. But she of course had bigger plans and bigger vision! Most of the shots and plots were her ideas and she executed them beautifully as usual. She is wonderful to work with and I value her artistic opinions greatly.
Aquarius Season expresses dire warnings about falling in love with Aquarius women, whom you described as seductive, mysterious and extreme. How should we interpret the last scene in which you sing and smoke blunts in a lake? Is it your way of saying, “okay, I need to take a break from this intense relationship to find myself in the reflections”?
Haha, everyone thinks we were smoking blunts in the last scene of Aquarius Season. Although that would have been fantastic, we were actually smoking cigarettes! To emphasise that it had indeed been a very dramatic and tough time. Both in my experience with Aquarius women, and the effort we put into shooting the music video.
How do you find a balanced voice between fresh R&B and alternative hip hop? Is there a clear boundary between these two genres that you think is limiting your creativity?
Honestly as far as genres go, I am not exactly sure what to label music as. It would be lovely to be an R&B artist but I don’t think that is what any of the music on this EP is giving. It is a little more experimental and playful than anything. Genre doesn’t really come into my brain during my creative process. And it is not that I am necessarily trying to steer away from labels or anything, it just does not have anything to do with what is happening in my brain when I’m writing. Sometimes when people ask me l might say R&B or hip hop, to move the conversation along. But it just feels like I’m being asked what box do I put you in . And when you are black and your genre isn’t something they can place on their own, it always has to either be R&B or hip hop.
The popularisation of music streaming platforms has transformed the music industry to a great extent. As a new artist, do you think you will continue releasing new singles or EPs in the near future to appeal to more explorative audiences before an official studio album comes to fruition?
In the immediate future I do not think anything other than myself is going to dictate the way I choose to share my music with the world. When I become more intentional and confident about creating, that is when I will choose to record and put out a studio album. Now is about having fun with my development, and I’ll share my growth in a way that makes sense to me as time goes on.
Which first; lyricist or vocalist or performer?
Lyricist. I have not exactly found my voice yet in terms of being a vocalist, and performing is not my favourite. I enjoy it in small intimate spaces but it mostly only happens when I am asked by friends. I have been writing music since I was in elementary school and I have always felt like it was the clearest way I could express myself. I think my end goal might even be writing music for other artists, some of the music I write definitely feels like it should be shared through another body.
Where do you see yourself as a musician in 5 years?
Music will definitely be a part of me forever, I can’t even brush my teeth without listening to my music. It scares me to think of myself doing anything non music to it in the future. I have come a lot further as an artist than I had ever thought I would be when I was a kid.  So I’m giving myself permission now to have much bigger goals as a musician for the future!
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