DE'WAYNE says his next album will blend Ramones, Iggy Pop and the Strokes

“It’s been an all right year,” DE’WAYNE says. The genre-bending artist released his debut record, STAINS, an explosive combination of punk, hip-hop and pop, in June. For DE’WAYNE, it wasn’t just the powerful start of a new era but also a chance for him to cross a childhood goal — releasing an album by the age of 25 — off his list. “That was really huge for me, and I got to work on that for most of the year. That felt like a dream come true to me, so that was really exciting,” he says.

But DE’WAYNE, who has always spoken openly about his blockbuster ambitions for the future, is hungry for more, like cracking the top 20 on radio. “I really want to penetrate radio next year — I really do — while still being myself and still talking about the things that I talk about,” he says.

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That also includes making his second album, which he already has demos for. He describes it as “if the Ramones and Iggy Pop had a little Strokes baby. But he had cornrows like Kendrick Lamar.” The new record also includes a song about his dad, which was inspired by their growing relationship in the past year. “We made a breakthrough during quarantine, and we even got closer than we already were because we were very close,” he says. DE’WAYNE explains that the song says, “I’m sorry, and I’m trying to grow. I hope we can become closer as a father and son.”

Although family and STAINS really defined DE’WAYNE’s 2021, those were just a few aspects of what the past year brought for him, both as an artist and a person.

Now that you’ve had some time since the record’s release, and you’ve had some time to think about it and reflect, how was that whole experience?

It was amazing to put it out actually. It was more amazing to make what I wanted to make because I feel like even though I have my label and I have a great A&R and a great team, nobody was really telling me what to do. I really was able to take everything that I wanted to make and do it with my producers, tell my story and it felt special. It was [a] very exciting time. For two weeks after the album dropped, I felt like I was walking on water. I definitely feel like I achieved something. I feel like my family was proud of me, and I was proud of me. It felt great to put out a record that I still stand behind, even five months after, and it’s something I still feel like I’ll love in a couple of years.

How’s touring been? You’ve toured with WILLOW.

We slayed it. We smashed it. It was beautiful to me because I got to play to a lot of Black kids, which I’ve never got to [do]. It was a lot of just beautiful Black people with huge Afros even bigger than mine, looking for rock music and talking to me after the shows and telling me that they was feeling it. I can see it from the energy, from song one to the last one. That shit was great. The WILLOW tour was the best tour I’ve been on. Me and her really sparked up a friendship.

I feel like punk music really exploded in 2021, and you and WILLOW were a part of that. What was that like, being a part of that, from the inside, as an artist and going through that?

[Laughs.] You think I was a part of that? 

I think so!

That means a lot to me because I usually watch from the outside. I felt a little bit a part of it this year. I don’t know if that makes me egotistical to say that. It felt fucking cool. It just felt like rock music was getting more inclusive. It was starting to sound and look more like the world. I think that’s the reason it’s starting to be better again and be fucking cool. You have all types of humans coming to these shows. They’re all enjoying it. They’re all moshing, and they’re all singing. They’re all crying. I want to blow that shit up next year. I do feel like I’ve made a stand this year, and I’m glad that people are into it.

What were some of the highlights of 2021 that we haven’t talked about so far?

Getting a crib. That was really huge for me because I was like a kid for the past five, six years and just staying with my manager. I fell in love, and that was really, really nice. I might have fallen in love again, but I’ll talk about that another time. Buying my mom stuff is really cool, just when she wants stuff. Because last year I didn’t even send her anything for her birthday ’cause I didn’t have any money. I just take care of her now. It’s shit like that. That shit makes me happy, like hearing “Perfume” on the radio after I said it was going to be on the radio. Little small affirmations. Iggy Pop playing “National Anthem” on the radio was pretty iconic for me.

How did 2021 change you?

I really found my confidence this year. I always had confidence onstage, but I found that off the stage, [it] can be an issue sometimes, but I usually balance it out, and it works. I really just believe in my DE’WAYNE superpowers, and that came to me this year, fully realized.

Were there any low points in the past year? Any disappointments or failures?

I haven’t told a lot of people this. I’ll tell you because it was so important for me, and that’s why I am where I am now. My manager told me, “Hey man, you did really good. Bro, we’re proud of you. You put out a great album. But you like a rookie that didn’t make the playoffs. So you gotta keep going.”  

That was one of the harshest things anyone’s ever said to me, and I took it. I’m working my ass off. I gotta make championship next year. That was kind of the thing where I have to step back from those two weeks or like a month of the album being out, and I’m like, “Hell yeah, STAINS is so good!” In my heart knowing it’s so fucking fire and nobody’s doing what I’m doing and I’m actually creating something new, and we still didn’t have a hit, though. I got back in the studio, and we [made] a new plan. I really focused up immediately after dropping my debut album that I’ve worked on for 25 years. That was — not disappointing — but it was like real life. I want to be a legendary artist. I want to be a great artist, and I gotta make 10 albums to do that. That was a strong moment for me.

This interview was originally in AltPress issue #401 (the AP yearbook) available here