Hip-Hop fans craving something new and different have started to discover the bilingual, multicultural Hip-Hop trio of Divine, Élan and Yeyo, better known as The D.E.Y. With multiple men and one woman in the group people have already drawn the obvious comparisons to acts such as The Fugees, City High and The Black Eyed Peas, but in this exclusive interview with RapReviews The D.E.Y. reveals what they feel makes them different from their predecessors as well as the impressive goals they hope to accomplish by rhyming in both English and Spanish and their redefining of the phrase “O.G.”
Adam Bernard: Let’s start with some background info. How did you three meet up?
Yeyo: It was destiny, baby. Me and Divine met through destiny in Puerto Rico and several years later a mutual friend of ours introduced us to the miracle baby girl that forms the special chemistry that we call The D.E.Y.
“I was like alright, this is not just a regular rapper, this is an interesting brother right here.”
AB: Elan, how did you feel about going in there and joining what was a male duo?
Elan: I always thought groups were a great idea because they bridge a gap for that fan that wants to see a guy and that other fan that wants to hear a soothing female voice, so even though I was working on my own personal stuff it was very easy for me to grasp the concept that it was a good thing. On top of that it wasn’t just a female group with four girls that all sound the same, it was two guys who were really on a mission to do something different and make a whole Spanish urban Nuyorican meets Miami meets the whole world with two languages. The reason why I say the whole world is because when I had first met Divine he was wearing these like urban Fela Kuti afro-centric pants with this long hair and I was like alright, this is not just a regular rapper, this is an interesting brother right here. I knew he was different and I dig that, there was culture involved with him and I knew that if there was culture involved with him then whoever Yeyo was, having not met him until I flew down to Miami, I knew that he would be cultured, as well.
AB: Divine, do you still own those pants?
Divine: Yes, I still do. I still got the pants, I love them. They were made by a girlfriend of mine, her name is Hekima Hapa, she went on to make stuff for Maxwell and Eryka Badu, and she would get these patterns from Africa and I’d want to wear them when we do a big show.
E: And when he says girlfriend he means a female friend designer that’s based out of Brooklyn. Harriet’s Alter-Ego is the store.
AB: You have the very interesting aspect of being bilingual and perform in both languages. What kind of impact do you hope this has?
Y: We want to invite both audiences. We don’t want to just do a Spanish record and go perform it at the Spanish club and then perform in the Hip-Hop club and do a Hip-Hop record, we want everybody to be together. We think all these genres of music have a relationship and we infuse them by bringing them to the urban market, so all of these elements that we bring to the table we figure are just gonna unite a bigger and more broad audience.
“We want people to learn from that and vibe to that and just break down some barriers and go out and have fun.”
AB: So what should folks like me, who don’t understand most of the Spanish language, do during the Spanish language parts of your songs?
Y: Even if you don’t understand the words you’re gonna understand the cadence and the rhythm and the flow and you’re gonna get super motivated because you’re gonna feel the energy behind it. When I do this it’s passion. When I’m up there I’m giving you a piece of my life, it’s not like I’m just standing up there and moving my hands, you really get to feel some energy behind it. We want people to learn from that and vibe to that and just break down some barriers and go out and have fun. I grew up in Puerto Rico not speaking English but loving American music just because I understood the melodies and the flows and the feelings and the emotion behind that music. I might not have understood the words but I still fell in love with the music and it made me want to know what they were talking about.
AB: I’m glad you mentioned breaking down barriers because I read you have some goals concerning voicing Latino cultural heritage. Talk to me about them.
Y: I want people to be proud of their own heritage regardless of where they’re from. You could be Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Ecuadorian, etc. and I want you to use that as something that identifies you as unique and special, but yet not use it to separate you. We’re living in a world where we’re no longer just individuals, or Puerto Ricans, we’re part of a bigger community, a world community, and we all have to learn how to share our culture and our heritage to be able to understand each other and better live with each other. What better way to do this than through music?
AB: What do you feel are some of the more common misconceptions people have of Latinos in 2008?
Y: I think there’s always been the misconception that we’re all illegal immigrants, or depending on where you’re from if you’re dealing with it on the west coast you’re all Mexicans and if you’re dealing with it on the east coast you’re all Puerto Ricans, or Dominicans. I would like to say that for the last several years, the Latin community, in terms of music has been identified by old genres and very regional genres. It’s been like if you’re Dominican then you do meringue or bachata and if you’re Puerto Rican then you do salsa or reggaeton now, and that’s not the case. The new modern Latino is venturing into all types of music. There’s been Latinos for tens and twenties of years in Hip-Hop and R&B and other genres and we should be accepted and identified as a part of these genres.
AB: OK, so what else should everybody know about the Latino culture?
Y: That we’re humble, hard working people and that we love to have fun and party and we love to just share with people. We’re not negative, we’re not people that are trying to steal from nobody, we’re not aggressive crazy people, we’re here trying to survive and we’re just happy people.
E: I would like to add that the other part of heritage is that it’s becoming mixed and that is also the point of The D.E.Y., that our heritage is merging into different cultures. We’re all mixing together, so it’s great to have a group where you have a blue eyed Cuban-Puerto Rican, a girl right in the middle and Divine with his chocolate skin and his long Indian hair. It’s beautiful, I love it because it shows who we are as a Latino people, that we are a part of this world and we are the colors of the world and we should be able to mix with everybody.
AB: That world we’re all a part of and mixing with happens to be one where music gets compartmentalized. I know artists hate to do this, but I have to ask, how would you describe your sound to someone who’s looking at your CD on the rack and wondering if they should pick it up?
D: I like to describe it as a gumbo. We call it Sancocho. It’s basically everything in one. There are different moods and different vibes you’re gonna get from every song, so it’s a balanced record.
Y: It’s like you said, artists don’t like to be put in a box and that definitely pertains a lot to this project because we have so many different genres and styles of music that you just can’t classify it as one thing. It’s a world music. It’s music for the world.
AB: Is there any one common theme that runs through the entire album?
D: It’s all in threes. You’re gonna get love, peace and happiness. You’re gonna get the hustle, the muscle, the beauty. You’re gonna get the concept of doing everything yourself which is the DIY. You’re gonna get inspirational tunes that will make you continue to keep moving forward and being who you want to be. It’s wide.
Y: I think the common bond with all these songs is that everything that we express is being expressed through a point of love. There’s no negative message in any of the songs, everything is lifted up into a positive perspective.
D: And you can listen to this album with your kids. It’s the kind of record that bridges the gap, not just between black and brown, but old and new.
E: For instance our single “Give You The World” was originally Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Fantasy,” so the young people will be like “oh I like that” and the older people will be like “oh shoot I remember that song” and now you can jam together.
“We got the blessings from Wyclef and Pras.”
AB: You have two men and a woman in The D.E.Y., but no pizza place. We’ve seen this before with The Fugees and City High, so is there any concern knowing how those groups ended that you might end up going down that same road?
Y: They say you must learn through your mistakes and through other people’s mistakes and we’ve all admired groups like The Fugees, City High and The Black Eyed Peas and we definitely have learned from their triumphs and from their mistakes. I think that we have to respect each other and know that we’re gonna get creative and we’re gonna have to do our own thing and at the same time stay united and stay being The D.E.Y.
D: We got the blessings from Wyclef and Pras. Pras even spoke to Elan about what they went through and how important it is for us to communicate with one another and not let people feel like they can get in-between us.
AB: With the three groups you mentioned I have to ask, which one of you will shave their head, which one will get pregnant and which one is going to marry Josh Duhamel?
E: Well Divine is not gonna be pregnant, nor am I anytime soon.
Y: I already shaved my head, so you can scratch that one off.
E: And I think that guy from the soap operas is pretty hot. I remember him from when I was a kid watching soaps.
AB: Hit me with each of your weirdest quirks or personality traits.
Y: I can’t leave my house without peppermints in my pocket. My father does that and I guess he infected me with that one.
E: I tend to make faces. I have to make a face a day, it makes me happy. I’m a little silly firecracker.
D: On the low, I like to prank call. I’ll just do a random prank call from anywhere. I still got a craving for it.
“OG’s, Elan’s the Only Girl.”
AB: Nice. Is there anything else that people need to know about y’all?
Y: That we’re OG’s, original gentlemen, baby. We’re bringin that back. We’re opening up doors and pulling out chairs.
D: OG’s, Elan’s the Only Girl.
Y: We also want people to get hip to self-empowerment and believe in themselves and know that they can do whatever they put their minds to.