Imagine doing just one of these things: purchasing your mother a house; accumulating well over 100 million streams worldwide; selling out multiple headline shows; performing at festivals; starting a career within acting; creating a clothing line with boohooMAN.
Well, at just 18 years of age Deno has done all that and more, a global name resonating within British music. Born and raised in South London, you may remember a video that surfaced a few years back of a young singer who was introduced by a rather impressive back flip that swiftly caught the attention of ImJustBait and Stormzy – since then it’s been nothing, but an up-hill climb for Deno and it wasn’t long until labels came knocking on his door!
Today, Deno greets us with his highly awaited mixtape ‘Boy Meets World’, a follow on from his debut EP ‘Eye 2 Eye’ that dropped back in 2019. Spread across 14 tracks with guest appearances from Craig David, Unknown T, J.I., Chunkz, Cadet, DDG, Jade Silviia and OFB, the London native navigates us through the diverse, vibrant and up-beat sounds of his world. Displaying his signature infectious hooks, summer-drenched melodies and slick pen game, Deno continues to prove why he is a force to be reckoned with.
As we begin to stumble out of lockdown restrictions, Clash got the chance to catch up with Deno for a quick chat – over Zoom of course – about his brand-new mixtape ‘Boy Meets World’, his journey thus far and more. Tap in below to see what he had to say!
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How have you found the past 12 months as an artist?
It’s been mad but it’s been bearable I guess because I’ve been able to make do with what’s happening. We haven’t had any shows so that’s not great, but it is what it is!
What about creatively?
Creatively, I think I’ve been ever better I can’t lie! I’ve had more time to go to the studio and let stuff out. Sometimes I can get distracted when it comes to making music but because there hasn’t been anything happening all I can do is work and that’s been for the better. I finished my mixtape during the covid period, and I went crazy on it, it’s been one of the best things musically and creatively to happen to me.
I’d love to go back to the beginning with you briefly before we delve into the mixtape. Could you touch on your introduction to music from when you were younger and how you started singing?
I’ve been singing and rapping since I was young, but when I was around 13 years old me and my boys used to do stuff for no reason without it being filmed. One of my friends came and asked me to do it (singing) on his snap but I wasn’t on it, he said it wasn’t that deep, so he posted it and by the time I got home to school he had posted it on his Instagram page, and I gained around 10-15 followers, I was thinking “What?! Why do I have 10 new followers”? I was going to ask him to take it down, but girls were commenting saying how lit it was, so I thought he can keep it! (laughs)
We went back to school the next day and we did more videos, and we would post them on Snapchat for banter. The older people in my school would ask me to sing for their Snapchat and I just did it, even people from other schools would see me locally and ask me; I did that for a bit and my friend Jason noticed that ImJustBait had started a hashtag for singers so I got my followers to use the hashtag and the same night he saw it and he dm’d me and told me my voice was crazy. The next day he posted my video, he had a lot of followers and I was so gassed. From that moment on everything started to change. It all happened so quickly.
My explore page was filled with videos of me, I went to school the day, and I think I had gained around 1000 followers and everyone was talking about me! It didn’t stop for a few weeks, so many artists were showing love and started following me!
You were THAT guy!
I am THAT guy! (laughs)
You came into the industry at a young age and have achieved huge amounts since, in what ways do you think you have grown up until now?
So much! When I started making music, I was 13, I was singing for the fun of it and enjoying the wave. I don’t create the same stuff I used to; I make actual songs now. It naturally happened and I have learnt so much, I have matured a lot, from 13-18 you are growing up and I’ve done that in front of the nation. I’ve obviously had to mature a bit quicker and faster, but yeah, I’ve grown in every way.
Do you ever feel pressure to be a continuous good “role model” for the younger audience that looks up to you?
Not really! I’m just being myself so people can take it however they want to. I’ve heard bare times “You’re a good role model” but I’m not doing this to be a role model, I don’t make music to be that. I understand that being me, it can sometimes come with that responsibility, but I don’t think about it too much.
You are going to be releasing your ‘Boy Meets World’ mixtape soon. Before we get into the tracks, what inspired the title behind it?
I was so indecisive with my title! For the longest time I was going to call it ‘Southside Story’ and when we went into planning a lot of people didn’t really get it. I didn’t want my title to be confusing, I wanted people to get it straight away, so I sat down and thought about it. My manager said that is has to resonate with me and a lot of people don’t know I am from South London. I looked back at my whole career, I looked at who I am, and I realised that everyone sees me as the boy or school kid that started making music and I wanted to play on that.
I’ve been growing up in front of the world, I have so much more to do, and I have such a big career ahead of me, I feel like I am finally meeting my reality now. I am also a big Drake fan, that’s where Deno Driz comes from, Drake had a tour called ‘Boy Meets World, I remember a show called that in the 90’s and when I said it everyone really liked it!
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How do you think it differs in comparison to your ‘Eye 2 Eye’ EP?
So much! I had never really made a project; I just made a collection of songs for ‘Eye 2 Eye’ and I was testing the waters a lot! I did some dancehall and R&B, with ‘Boy Meets World’ you are going to get a lot of Deno that you have heard before but not every track is going to be like that. I go deeper with this one and I tell me story, I created it like an album, and I talk my truth in the songs.
You dropped 'Lingo' as the lead single, what was it about this single that led you to choose this as the first one?
I wanted 'Lingo' to be the first single because people have been asking me to do a song with Chunkz for so long and we just had to do it! Me and J.I. have been rocking with each other for the past year and people wanted us to work together because we’re the young kids in our cities and I like American music; I am a big J.I. fan so we had to get it done! It’s a light-hearted and fun single and it was the perfect way to introduce the tape. It starts the summer off nicely!
You have quite a few big features on the tape! Tell me a bit more about how these came about? Are you more organic with your link ups?
100%! I don’t like doing the whole ‘get your management to contact them’, I like working with people that I genuinely vibe with. A lot of the artists on there were like that, me and Unknown T have been cool since 2018, we’ve always spoken online and saw each other at shows and festivals, we got into the studio last summer and we made “Medicine”, an absolute banger! It’s a Drill song but it has the Deno touch on it!
The Cadet song, we have history, and everyone knows that we are a fun duo when we link up, it’s a brotherly love, rest in peace Cadet! We’ve been sitting on his verses for a minute, I think now is the right time to release them; I think this is going to be my break-through project and I wouldn’t want anyone else on there. Craig David is a legend; I’ve always listened to his tunes! DJ Semtex interviewed him, and he shouted me out on there, he said he’s had his chart success, but he feels like I’m going to do something crazy and take it to the next level and that’s exactly how I see it for myself! It’s like the old school meets the new school – it’s a banger!
I’ve also got Jade Silvia on there; this will be her first song and she’s an amazing vocalist. There’s so many man! I watch and listen to DDG, he hit me up and asked me to work so that was simple! The OFB single, we dropped that last summer and threw that in there but that’s about it really!
Do you have any particular favourites from the tape that you resonate more with?
There’s one called 'Drizzy', it’s different but very in fashion! 'Toxic Love' with Jade brings out a different side to me and 'Medicine' is for the clubs! There’s so many, but those are probably my top three!
Putting the music aside, what does Deno like to do for fun?
I’m a spontaneous person! I don’t even know; I just do things on the spot! I like chilling – it might sound boring the way I am explaining it, but it’s not – I like being with my peoples and working and I like being busy! I’m a simple guy! (laughs)
What else can we expect to see from you this year, if anything?
I have a feature on KSI’s album that’s coming in July – that’s a lit one! I am planning to go to American and work out there for a little bit and I should be doing a tour!
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'Boy Meets World' is out now.
Words: Elle Evans
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