TOYA DELAZY TALKS POWERPUFF GIRLS, THE IMPACT OF THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT AND THE EXCITING PROJECTS SHE IS WORKING ON
JUNE 16TH 2020
Toya Delazy is an immense force to be reckoned with, as a pianist, producer, rapper and singer-songwriter from Durban, South Africa who is based in East London, she has carved out spaces for black queer artistry and left her mark in the worlds of music and animation.
Her music is a blend of Jazz, Electro and Hip-Hop, a genre that she calls “JEHP”. She released two albums under Sony Music Africa, “Due Drop” in April 2012 and “Ascension” in 2014, then she moved to London and started her own record label: Delazy Entertainment. The singer/songwriter joined us from lockdown in France to discuss her new track 'Find Di Boy', the impact lockdown has had on her and how the Black Lives Matter movement has personally affected her mental health.
How has your experience of lockdown been? What have you got up to and how are you coping creatively?
So, basically when this all started I buried myself in production, trying to teach myself whilst learning new skills and was literally feeling quite normal about everything, but it wasn’t until I realised I hadn’t been connected to people for so long and the energy started slapping. Right now, I’m in France, of course being safe and just re-booting some energy because I don’t know when I’m going to see my family! I miss my mum like crazy!
I want to go right back to the start, what began this passion for music and creativity and was music always the first love and goal?
Music was a form of expression and expression of self, my background is very conversive and I didn’t always have the oppotunity to say what I wanted to say, so music gave me a voice and visibility and it’s been incredibly healing to feel heard. I thought if this is something I can do then why can’t I do it? I studied jazz music firstly and I have just grown from there. It’s been an amazing journey.
I know of course you write your own material, what do you feel is more important to you in your creative process? Do you feel it’s the song writing, composing, producing, what element do you connect to most?
So definitely the writing is important first and foremost, I need to get my voice heard and I love it when my writing is poetic and saying something in a more beautiful way. Melodys come second, they also connect to me so much. I feel like I see them as colours, again I want to use the word healing, tis very therapeutic for me. Meolodys and words are the formula for a winning track and they are my first two loves.
Your new single, ‘Find Di Boy’, talk me through how that came into fruition? I heard you produced it yourself which is just amazing, what can’t you do?!
I produced the record myself yes (laughs) I was listening to afrobeat’s and it hit me that I am an African queer person and I haven’t had the opportunity to express myself in the way that I wanted to. We hear all these love songs and heteronormative binary fairy tales, I wanted to write my own fairy-tale and that’s exactly what I did boo.
I love that, why are you so iconic?! (laughs) Now I wanted to touch on another iconic moment for you, I know you voiced the 4th member of the Powerpuff girls, how did this experience come about and what was it like taking on a role that opened so many doors in the world of animation?
Well it happened in 2016 they asked me to re-write the theme song because they were re-producing everything, so I wrote and recorded 18 new tracks for Africa and then in 2017 they said they’re introducing a new black character called Bliss and they asked me and I was obviously like ‘HELL YES!’. It was a dream come true, I felt like I was living out all my childhood fantasies it was wild. It was also super emotional because a lot of black animated characters in the past has been disrespectful and disingenuous, playing on stereotypes, but this felt so different and it felt amazing to be a part of something that I hope we see way more of in the near future.
Having that representation within animation to of course looking at the political climate we are currently in with the incredible Black Lives Matter movement, how have you been dealing with that and what are the things that have affected you perhaps previously within the industry you are a part of?
Basically, when this movement started I was praying it wasn’t another performative moment that we, as black people, have become all too familiar with. Now that we have gone past the point of performance and people are realising this movement isn’t going anywhere and is here to stay, it felt so incredible and emotional. I mean sure, I have still run into a fair few people during this time that are of the ‘All Lives Matter’ mindset and seeing them just be performative for social media is frustrating, but overall, I just think time to put things into practice and this movement is helping achieve exactly that.
We seem to of always ended things at just talking, but this, this is about marching, protesting, fighting for our rights yet people still block us with false promises and performativity and that’s the hardest part. I’ll be honest with you now, when it all started it was very triggering I couldn’t even look at my phone, people kept asking me because of my platform – “why aren’t you speaking out?” and it was truly overwhelming. I would describe myself as an activist and part of that activist lifestyle is we HAVE to be vocal, but what people don’t realise is that, every day, being a black person, is a protest and a form of activism and it becomes draining and the expectations on me as a black person can feel too great. I’m trying to heal my own triggers and traumas and I’m learning everyday about my identity all the time and now, all of sudden, I am logging onto social media and seeing people that look like me dying and being murdered. Its traumatic.
"We seem to of always ended things at just talking, but this, this is about marching, protesting, fighting for our rights yet people still block us with false promises and performativity and that’s the hardest part"
I mean, it truly has been a really horrific time on social media, when we are seeing so many black people being murdered, it really is heart-breaking, and I can’t even imagine how it must feel to be black and have to see this. I just hope, as you said, this starts to get people going beyond ‘talking’ about it and actually actively being anti-racist and helping in the fight for justice. The one aspect of social media that has been incredible is this feeling of unity and hope, seeing so many people speak out, I just hope this pushes us in the right direction going forward! And reminder for anyone reading whose social media has gone back to normal, you aren’t following the right people baby and the fight isn’t over!
Right! That’s exactly it, it’s about pushing the envelope every day until we are seeing big changes and making sure we are looking after our mental health. People need to understand for black people this is triggering and brings up past traumas so be kind and patient. Like you said, it’s just hoping for better days in the future and keeping up this momentum.
Right. Looking at the music scene, which is just teaming with talent, who are some up and coming music artists that you have your eye on and feel should be pushed more into the spotlight?
I LOVE Sherelle, I can’t wait for her to blow up even more, she’s an incredible DJ and it is just so sick, and I think they can just sore to great heights! There are so many incredible black artists right now that need to be heard, what’s been nice though is seeing so many black queer artists fly high without being pigeon holed into a box of ‘black’ or ‘queer’ if you get me? It’s just nice to see us all getting heard and respected as great musicians.
Of course, getting into music is not an easy journey, what advice would you give to younger artists that are up and coming?
Definitely, check your contracts baby boo, take the time to talk to someone, your talents and opportunities won’t run away. Don’t let people change your sound, be open to ideas but don’t damp your craft.
To finish, what would you say to any queer and/or black person struggling with their identity right now, advice you yourself would have liked to of heard?
I would say, YOU are worthy, YOU deserve to be here and there is nothing wrong with you. Having learned about my history as a black person and not from the eyes of white supremacy, I learned about my history of spirituality, my personnel heritage and identity and I am proud of my culture. Pride goes a long way and BE PROUD. It’s called LGBTQA+ pride and Black pride for a reason, pride is what we all need to be feeling. We are PRIDE. You have been made whole and accept and appreciate every aspect of yourself.