The D.E.Y.: Home Grown

On the surface, The D.E.Y. seem like a group who have applied the all too familiar formula consisting of a singer and a few rappers – a trio comparable to the likes of The Fugees and The Black Eyed Peas. However, with Fugees’ frontemen Wyclef and Pras giving them props, it doesn’t appear to be […]

On the surface, The D.E.Y. seem like a group who have applied the all too familiar formula consisting of a singer and a few rappers – a trio comparable to the likes of The Fugees and The Black Eyed Peas. However, with Fugees’ frontemen Wyclef and Pras giving them props, it doesn’t appear to be a regular day after all. The acronym of the group’s name, represents members Divine, Élan and Yeyo, who fuse together to produce a new wave of music that doesn’t fit any single category. Composing music in both English and Spanish, with melody inter-weaving rhyme, the artists charismatically refer to it as “urban.” Having collaborated with artists like Paula DeAnda and Sean Kingston, they have penetrated various music markets. The D.E.Y. have worked with highly regarded producers on their debut EP, The D.E.Y. Has Come, which includes their single “Give you the World” produced by J.R. Rotem and joined with Timbaland who produced their smash hit “Get the Feeling.” As they shared their diverse musical tastes in Hip-Hop, Soul and even Indian music, they gave some insight on a new sound they call The Alternatives: Do you find it difficult to remain original?Divine: Being original is knowing your origin, who you are, where you’re from and that’s what this project is about. It’s about us expressing our culture, where we’re from, claiming our birthright and identity. It feels good to be compared to people like The Fugees, and Black Eyed Peas, who had tremendous success. Yeyo:  We also do it bilingually. We do it in Spanish and English at the same time which nobody does. We bring in culture and heritage to our music and a lot of different influences that are just not present in modern pop music anymore. That’s like our main difference. We don’t like to be in a box or trend or nothing. We just like to go for what feels good, ‘cause music is feelings [and] emotion. AHHA: How do you decide which songs you’re gonna do in which language?Élan: It’s very organic.Yeyo: Most of the songs – the majority of them are in both. We didn’t want to separate the message of the package. We don’t wanna be like, “Let’s do this song for the Latin and Spanish speaking people and let’s do this other one like that.” No, we want these songs for everybody; this music is for everybody. We want everybody to be involved in thisproject. Everybody is welcome to enjoy our music. We do have all Spanish songs on the album ’cause they just came out like that.Élan: Organically, through the beat or through the day, whatever you’re experiencing through that time. You might be thinking in Spanish, you might be thinking something else in English. Sometimes it depends on the producer you might be working with. Our song on the EP entitled “No Looking Back” is predominately in English but that doesn’t hinder Yeyo’s part which comes towards the end. Wyclef says, “I don’t know what he’s saying but it’s hot,” which was my first instinct when I heard Yeyo. AHHA: With the three of you having such different musical backgrounds, how do you find common ground?Divine: I think that we [are] all definitely fans of each other, so it’s easy when I come with a certain concept – like an afro beat concept or something like that where Yeyo will be like, “Yeah that’s hot.” Same with Yeyo, when we do a certain chant in Spanish that I know he’s familiar with and it’ll come out naturally and I’m a fan of it. Same with Élan, I’m a fan of her whole Bollywood, Hollyhood [Élan laughs], the whole Indian thing. When I see her do the Indian thing I’m a fan of it. So I think that’s why it’s easy for us to accept each other’s creative inputs.Yeyo: We all bring our different backgrounds and elements, but we all share a common ground where we all come together which is this urban, Hip-Hop/Pop that we do. We all bring in our different influences from the Bronx and obviously Puerto Rico. We all meet each other at this pop place. All these influences don’t take us away from this urban genre that we are. We are urban people. That’s who we are, all these influences and elements are also part of who we are.AHHA: If you had to pick one issue in the world you feel most passionate about, what would it be?Divine: We’re passionate about representin’ the young bi-lingual urban community that might be misrepresented everyday. Whether it be on the radio or on TV, we want to represent the strong, intelligent, young, Latin person that’s not caught up in the everyday sex, money and murder concept. That has the ideas of building and being an entrepreneur, being a leader.Élan: Being a new breed of youthful, Latinos, mixed people like Yeyo is half Cuban, half Puerto Rican and I’m half Black and Puerto Rican but this is all of ours. This urban thing that we’re doing is ours and it’s our time. We spoke at a Latino conference about marketing. I know sometimes I might be in some deep water by saying that’s not necessarily who we are speaking at conferences, but we really want to get the point across on who we’re becoming. Not only are we changing as a people, but keeping our culture and that we strive for betterment. So the thing is with The D.E.Y., we really try to make it a movement. Like, a new day of music, a new day for our people. When we were on Meet TRL we were so happy that they understood the bilingual thing. That it’s not just, oh that’s that bilingual thing, but it is a daily aspect of their lives. We’re excited and we’re here reppin’ that.AHHA: You are receiving a lot of exposure like MTV, Fox News and Good Morning America. What other appearances have you dreamed about making?Divine: We definitely wanna do something like the Latin Grammy’s, the regular Grammy’s.Élan: To do these morning shows, Regis and Kelly, like that’s big for us. Also to do ¡Despierta América! [Wake Up America], that’s huge for us. I wanna do a novela (Latin soap opera), I wanna perform in that. But we also want to perform in the English novelas as well. All My Children, One life to Live, so if we could hit all those crowds that’s hot.Yeyo: We gotta do Sabado Gigante.All: Oh man!Yeyo: We wanna do BET, we want to do the main TRL, we did the Meet TRL which we feel good, we gave to the Latin community first.AHHA: As you have collaborated with quite a few artists like Paula DeAnda and Sean Kingston, is there a particular type of artist you like working with the most?Yeyo: I would say whoever inspires us. We like a whole lot of different music, but it’s artists who are genuine and are doing their own thing.Divine: Artists that are lost in their music, that are not creating boxes, just love their music and that we can come and be a part of their world.Élan: I like a motivated person. Somebody that’s gonna be like, we gonna do this, like now, we ready to rumble! We also like culture, we all worked with Gypsy Kings. It could be different world music. We’re ready for that.AHHA: How did you hook up with Timbaland on “Get the Feeling”? Élan: I’m trying to make coffee in Chalice Studios, which is a very famous studio out in L.A., and there’s Timbaland and there’s Justin Timberlake, and there’s Cameron Diaz. I’m trying to be humble with my coffee and they’re all in the kitchen area. Ryan Tedder says, “Oh Timbaland, you gotta meet Élan, she’s a great singer.” And I’m like, “Oh my God what a fabulous intro.”Meanwhile, in the works was our label backing us up trying to get us in with King [Logan] and [Sir] John, they are beat makers for Timbaland. Lo and behold, King and John [are] flying in for us [and] we hit it off with them. They came out speaking spanish, “Papito. Papito, Papitooo!” They were motivated with us, called Attitude [Timothy Clayton] up, he has great swagger, he’s from Alabama. He comes through, he sings me this hook idea. I go in – kill it. So right now the song is great but there’s one missing element. So we got a surprise, the next day Timbaland comes through. He gives me certain new things to sing, He put on his morse code: doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-bum-bum, he lays down his grace on the keys. It was a beautiful, beautiful moment to see that. He wasn’t booked for that session, but word of mouth got out about us and he came through and he didn’t have to.AHHA: Divine, you have made statements which are critical of Reggaeton music. Why do you feel this way? Divine: I know and understand that Reggaeton is made by my people. It might not be something I listen to everyday or might be gravitated towards or inspired by, but definitely I know and understand that it’s made by my people. I respect it and love it, but it’s not something that we do. I think we’re trying to set the bar and raise it a little higher. As far as being able to compose music, having notes fluently come together that make melodies, it’s kinda different. We ‘aint bashin’ Reggaeton; we love Reggaeton. A lot of people feel that we try to separate ourselves [but] we just try to be the defining group. We get put in that box sometimes, we gotta fight to say we’re not in that box. So we kinda bridged the gap by working on the Héctor Lavoe urban salute tribute.AHHA: Would you want to collaborate with any reggaeton artists?Divine: Me, personally I got a lot of friends in the Reggaeton world. I would love to work with the Randy’s and De la Ghetto’s. The people that’s in the hood and doing regular joints that the girls like.Yeyo: We Puerto Rican and we automatically get, “Oh, you guys Puerto Rican? You do Reggaeton?” We’re raising the bar. There’s other music in Puerto Rico.Élan: There was Salsa before; it’s like we forgot for a second.AHHA: Élan, you have sang with some big Latin artists like Frankie Negron, DLG and Marc Anthony. What are some unforgettable moments that you have from those experiences?Élan: Can I say them? [laughs] In Colombia, I was leaving a show and at that time I had blue hair. I was going into the tour bus and a dude on the bus wanted to touch me and ya’ll know how I am. I just brought out the NuyoRican and he got off the bus. Then all the band members got on and I felt disgusting. I went to the hotel, lo and behold, that guy is at the hotel trying to get to members of DLG. But I had already told them that he disrespected me. So I have the managers [and] DLG staring at the dude in the elevator like you disrespected our girl right now, you thought she was just another chick. The next day the picture that they put in the newspaper was me and Huey singing together. Even though you have a memory of something that’s not so good, you stand up for yourself and then you see the next day people appreciated you when you were on stage. And I was like, “I’m in the paper in Colombia with blue bangs and I’m motivated and still have that at home.”

Check Out the Video For the D.E.Y.’s “Give You The World”