On June 18, specifically timed to Juneteenth, De’Wayne released his new album Stains. The album is beautifully genre-less, jumping between various styles of music and creating a sound that is unique to De’Wayne’s work. The LA-based rapper’s new album is one that sends a message about equality, musicianship and culture—making it one that you’ll want to listen to on repeat, so that you can soak up every word.
American Songwriter sat down with De’Wayne to chat about the new album, the story behind the songs and what he wants his fans to take away from the album.
American Songwriter: You have said that your album is an urgent and emotional story that needs to be told. Let’s chat about that.
De’Wayne: I mean, the urgency for me comes from last year when I was getting back from Europe, the pandemic was in full effect at this time, and I get a record deal. To me, it’s a dream come true. But that alone made me feel excited and like I had to really stand on my voice and my word. And you know, making sure that this music had meaning behind it and had urgency behind it. That was kind of a main thing and was emotional, because I told my story.
AS: Why is the album called Stains?
DW: I think there’s this simple way to put it. I just want to be a stain on the culture. And I really want to be here for the right reasons. As far as what I think that is… that’s just putting my best foot forward with my music. And I want to be remembered for those things. I just really want to be a good musician and be remembered for that, like my idols are.
AS: Who are your idols?
DW: Iggy Pop is like my god. No shade to God— sorry, mom. The Ramones. The Strokes. Lou Reed. Patti Smith. I was obsessed with J. Cole. As a kid, I was obsessed with Kendrick. Really any old music that my dad would show me growing up, like the Houston rappers that would pass their tapes out at the malls. Those guys had a lot of work ethic and I think I took a little bit of that. So a big shout out to them too.
AS: Your inspirations definitely span many genres. Tell me more about why you didn’t want to conform to a single genre on this album.
DW: I grew up with soul music, hip hop and gospel. And for the past six years, I went and I found rock music. I immersed myself into it and observed and studied everything that I could. And it’s quite natural for me. It’s like 19 years of those certain genres, and then six years of that, and I kind of just found a way to put it together. I still wanted to make the songs really good and really poppy, but also have a meaning behind them. So I think I did a good job with that. But I think it wouldn’t have been a De’Wayne album if it wasn’t mixed like that.
AS: There is a lot of commentary on the state of America, which is also a staple in your work. There have been a lot of important social issues that have been going on recently. Do you want to talk a little about that?
DW: It’s not like I would wake up in the morning and be like, ‘I’m going to speak on these things.’ I think just being from Texas, and observing, if you open your eyes like most of us do, you will see that it is not equal. You will see that not everybody gets a fair chance. You will see that there’s a lot of bullshit going on, and we don’t have it figured out. So it was just a little natural for me to go about it that way. This is what I’ve seen, and it hasn’t changed, and we should probably say something about it or do something about it. And a lot of my court is actually white fans. I think it’s super awesome that they can still come to me and listen to my music and accept who I am. And also trying to be a better person is just trying to listen more and not just going along with what’s been happening. It just felt natural for me to say these things.
AS: There is a lot of vulnerability in some of your tracks. In “Money” you were really vulnerable. Were some of the songs difficult to write and record?
DW: I really appreciate you saying that. It wasn’t difficult because it just wouldn’t have been a De’Wayne album if I didn’t say these things. And I’m a very emotional and vulnerable person. I’m just like, ‘This is how I feel.’ And I’m not ashamed about that. So, talking about money… not being obsessed with money… but just being like, ‘Yo, we need this to survive.’ I can have three jobs in LA and it’s still not enough. I have to talk about that. That’s fucking weird. I just speak on what is on my heart and in my soul. It felt good to get it out. Really, really good.
AS: With that in mind, what song would you tell your fans to go to first? And what song has really touched you in a special way?
DW: I’ve got to go with “Me vs. You.” That’s just me being like, ‘I want to be here.’ And I want to do high art and make dope rock music. I think that song is a really good print for who I am and what I’m trying to say and where my music is going.
AS: Lastly, what do you want to leave your fans with? What do you want them to know and really take with them?
DW: You have to be unashamed to be who you are, and go for it. And jump off the cliff. Even if you’ll get bruised when you land. And then, just look how far you’ve come. And look how far you’re about to go. That’s really all, just stay optimistic. It’s crazy because you need to be crazy to believe in yourself. It’s so easy to give up on that and be like, ‘Oh I’m gonna just do what I know.’ And, you know, I think we all kind of just want to live a little bit more, and I hope they can understand that and just go for that after hearing the record.