Harlem-Bred Delly's Got Ten Toes Down
By Chioma Nwana
Chioma Nwana: The first thing I always tell people is to tell us who you are, where you’re from, and what you do.
Delly: Wassup? My name is Delly, I’m from Harlem, and I’m your favorite popstar slash artist slash dancer slash sexy man.
CN: [laughs] Okay, so how long have you been making music?
D: I’ve been making music for about a year now.
CN: Why’d you start?
D: I started making music because I started thinking to myself, “Everyone is out here making trash, and I need to revamp the feeling of music.” I want to make people happy. I’m tired of listening to “gang, gang, gang.”
CN: Is that why you make pop music?
D: That’s why my music is pop, feel-good. I want people to listen to my music and smile after. I don’t want people to listen to my music and feel like they wanna, you know, rob the bank.
CN: I feel that. Okay, so you said that you’re from Harlem.
D: True life.
CN: Is there any part of your music that you feel reflects Harlem? Do you try to encapsulate Harlem in your music?
D: I think the confidence, and how I deliver things, and how I say things are a part of what Harlem has instilled in me. Like “Trini King.” “King shit, ain’t no motherfucking word any of you niggas can say to me.” It encompasses that Harlem vibe. The confidence that you don’t have to speak about because it comes out of you.
CN: So you’re 19.
D: 19, for sure.
CN: Do people ever tell you that you’re too young to be in the industry? Or do people support the fact that you’re doing it so early?
D: People actually do support the fact I am young and doing it. I actually think that I’m kinda old at this point.
CN: In comparison to whom?
D: Okay, not old, but I feel like I started at an appropriate – or a little bit late – age for music. It wasn’t like I was writing or making music when I was 16. I first wrote down lyrics a year and a half ago when I first went to a recording studio, and stuff like that. And there’s younger kids out here doing bigger things. I gotta catch up. That’s how I feel. Not even just to catch up to people, but I gotta catch and surpass everybody.
CN: So like you said, there are a lot of young people in the game right now. What do you think it causing this transition? Because, you know, back in the day, people used to be like 20, 25, 27. That’s when their careers started taking off. So why do you think so many people are now getting into the game so early?
D: It’s because no one wants to really apply themselves to anything serious. A lot of people do music as a joke or something to occupy their time other than what they probably should be doing. Some people don’t have the talent – I mean, who am I to judge? Or they don’t have the drive to really do music, but they do it because it’s easier than going to school or working a 9 to 5 or actually putting real effort and work behind it. I think that’s why a lot of people are in it now, but also in general, there’s the fact that people have access to so much information and social media and internet. Even on a day-to-day, with your cell phone, you see 16-year-olds doing it. It inspires people, which is the beauty of it because there are probably people with real talent who are now starting to do music. It inspires people to really do what they want to do.
CN: So do you feel like the industry is becoming oversaturated, for that very reason?
D: Super. It’s supersaturated. It’s what makes it hard for artists to stand out. Everybody wants to blend in. And the fact that everybody’s blending in is making people numb to appreciation of music. You have people like Migos who are dropping 50 songs a year, making hard for anyone to listen to anyone else. Like people are getting tired of listening to Migos, so what makes you think they’re gonna turn to someone that’s not even as relevant as Migos? People in the industry are saturated. People who are trying to get into the industry are saturated, by adding to that same sound. It just becomes a big pot of sameness. That’s why I choose to do different types of songs. That’s why I choose to go on different types of beats – catch a whole new vibe. It’s refreshing when you can listen to someone who has good music but also doesn’t sound like everybody else. I know I definitely do enjoy when I find people who sound different.
CN: That makes sense. Well that was actually going to be my next question: what makes you different? But you answered that for me. So, you said you’ve been doing this for a year and a half. What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
D: I feel like I haven’t had any huge accomplishments. You know, putting out my EP is definitely a huge accomplishment–
CN: That’s a big one! How you gonna put out a whole EP and say you don’t have any accomplishments?
D: That’s a step I already saw myself doing. I feel like an accomplishment is something that you see yourself doing, but it’s not something that’s guaranteed. I guaranteed myself that I was going to put out an EP. But let’s say I want to win a Grammy. That’s not guaranteed, but if I won a Grammy?
CN: You’d be hype.
D: That’s an accomplishment. That’s something you can brag about. You can brag about your own music – you should brag about your own music – but it feels better when other people can recognize it too.
CN: Do you feel like you’re getting that recognition within your immediate circle or within Harlem?
D: I feel like I’m definitely on the rise of it, for sure. You know, when I first started doing music, I had a really big response off rip. I’m growing, but I never felt like I started from rock bottom. I’m just trying to build on the platform that I already have, being the lit kid from Harlem who dances at every party. Going from that to making music was a smooth transition.
CN: People were already looking at you.
D: Yeah, people were already looking. The immediate circle was there, off rip. But now I need to expand to different areas. I want to be in other people’s immediate circles, D.C.’s immediate circle, Brooklyn even. Right now, Harlem is the smallest part of New York City. I want people in Brooklyn, Queens. I want to be a New York name, a D.C. name, nationwide, worldwide.
CN: So to that point, what are some places where you’ve performed outside of Harlem?
D: I’ve performed at Hampton University.
D: Yeah, for their homecoming. Howard University. Binghamton University for their homecoming. Where else? Chicago. They had an awards showcase where I opened up for Smooky and Warhol. That was my first performance. I only had one song out at that point, so that was pretty cool. I was like “Damn, I’m performing on the stage with niggas who like-“
CN: Have catalogs.
D: Yeah, they have catalogs. And I got one song out.
CN: But that one song got you on the stage.
D: Right. That one song opened up a lot of doors for me, honestly. It got the attention of different celebrity personalities, got the attention of labels. I was just like, “Wow, one song? So what will six songs or eight songs do for me?” So I gotta keep it pushing.
CN: Speaking of celebrity attention, what is it like being a music artist as the younger brother of A$AP Ferg?
D: It’s pressure because you don’t want to use it too hard. You want to play it smart.
CN: Like you’re only dialing numbers when you need them.
D: Right. You’re using it for the connections that it could possibly give you, but you’re not using it for clout points.
CN: So you’re not out here wearing “Hey I’m A$AP Ferg’s brother” on your shirt.
D: Right, no one cares about that. I learned at a young age that, you know, people only care about the person. It’s very rare that people care that you’re related to them or friends with them. It doesn’t mean anything because you’re still just a normal person. I’ve led a normal life for the majority of my life. It doesn’t change all of a sudden. It’s more of a thing of “I want to be able to stand in the same light and not under his light.” It can easily become under his light. That would open up doors and opportunities, but I would have a limit, a roof, a cap on how successful I could really be. Take Taylor Bennett for example. Chance The Rapper’s younger brother. Chance The Rapper put on for him, and now Taylor has a bunch of success. And he’s doing what he needs to do, but he’ll never be able to stand in the same light or in the same position as his brother because of the fact that his brother is the reason he’s successful. Once someone can say that they’re the reason that you’re successful…
CN: It isn’t fully yours. It’s like “we’re sharing this.”
D: Yeah, we’re sharing this. We’re sharing success. It’s a beautiful thing to share success, but a person should want their own success.
CN: So is that one of the reasons that you went in the direction that you did with the sound of your music? Or is a natural thing?
D: For sure. When I first started doing music, I wasn’t really making the island vibes and stuff like that. It was really him who told me, “Instead of trying to make the music that everyone else is making, go left field. Go with something that you can connect with. Go with something that people gon’ feel.” My brother didn’t give me a specific genre – he didn’t say I should do island vibes – but he was just telling me that in this industry, everybody wants to capitalize on what someone else has done. People love to ride the bandwagon. It works for some people, but he told me that we have to be the ones who set ourselves apart from what other people are doing. You don’t want to sound like everybody else. You want to make your own sound and make people want to sound like you. It took me some time, but once I found the sound that I wanted to do, I attacked it full-force. I feel like I’m the originator of the type of music I make.
CN: Word, I haven’t heard anyone making music like yours.
D: I feel like I’ve inspired people to want to do that now. I feel like I’ve inspired people to be more proud of where they come from even if they’re not fully at Caribana wining up and stuff like that. I have people digging deeper to find out how they can be proud of being from the islands like I’m proud of being from the islands. I ask myself how I can make music that’s gonna embody the type of person I am rather than following the waves of the new school type of music.
CN: So you seem to know a lot about the industry and making music, whether it be from learning from your brother or just things that you’ve learned in general. So after one year of making music, what would you say is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned?
D: People only care when…
CN: When everybody else cares.
D: Right. People only care when everybody else cares. And the number one thing that you should learn how to do is learn how to make everyone care. Learn how to connect to people and make them care. Whether it be through relatable things or through being cool with everybody, you have to find a way to be a people’s person. Be everybody’s people’s person. You don’t want to come across a person that doesn’t want to be around you. You want to make yourself the person that people want to hang out with, like “Come out with us!” You don’t want someone to be the person who is just like, “Oh he had a bad attitude. I don’t want to fuck with him.” You want to be the person who makes everyone say, “I like him a lot! We should have him to this or that.” The most opportunities that I’ve ever gotten were from people that genuinely liked me as a person. Not even through my music or anything like that. Those are when the best relationships form. That’s when people actually want to do something for you. Not when they know that you want to befriend them off-hand because of some whatever reason. That’s when people know that it’s not genuine. Genuinity – that’s not a word, but imma use it – genuinity is hard to find because everybody has hidden agendas. But once you can build a genuine relationship with somebody, that’s when you’ll reap the most benefits out of that relationship.
CN: And on the topic of genuine and not genuine, have you experienced a lot of fake friends slash fake supporters? And how do you normally tell who’s who?
D: I’ve experienced fake friends and fake supporters since I was in 7th grade. Once people find out that this person is related to this person, people always try to get close to you to see, “What can this guy do for me?” I started high school with a good number of friends. I was hanging out with everybody. Now I’m boiled down to single digits of people that I can really call on. We’re not even talking about the high single digits.
CN: What is it, like 4?
D: We’re talking about 5 or 6 people that I can consistently depend on to be there for me as friends without an end-game. But there are relationships and bridges that you shouldn’t burn. You know that this relationship may only exist because of this one thing, but it’s a relationship that’s necessary.
CN: Some relationships are solely transactional, and that’s okay as long as both parties in the relationship are aware of it.
D: That’s fine. As long as we both know that we’re only talking because of such-and-such reason.
CN: It gets tricky when people are like, “Oh no, I don’t need anything,” but they’re lowkey milking you and you don’t find out until after they’ve milked you and disappear.
D: Exactly. People act like I can’t tell, but you can always tell when someone is being genuine because it’s certain ways that people go about things when relationships are genuine. Number one advice I can give anybody: if you want to know who’s really your friend? Your friends will never try to compete with you. Your friends will always uplift whatever you do and keep it 100% honest with you at all points in time. They won’t be rude, but they’ll keep it honest with you.
CN: How have your friends held it down in the past year since you’ve been making music?
D: Honestly, whenever I was down on my ass, my friends were there to pick me up. Whether it be with like – because this music shit can get expensive.
D: Whether it be with money or emotional support, like with me feeling like I don’t really want to do it anymore. Or making sure I’m at places on time or at places in general. They open up new connections for me. They open up their networks for me. I feel like my closest friends have really helped me a lot – an unmeasurable amount – with my success. That’s why I feel like my success isn’t my own. My success is all of my friends’ success.
CN: I like that.
D: That’s why at all points in time, in whatever I do, I can’t only see a benefit for just me. I have to see a benefit for anyone that’s helped me get to where I’ve been. Anything I do is for an end result for everyone to eat. When I say everyone, I don’t mean people who are just coming in and out. I mean people who are really set in making sure that I’m not just successful but that we’re all successful. Because once anyone’s time and energy are set into something, people want to see that flourish into something. It’s the same way that you do a group project: there might be one person who speaks, but there might be 3 or 4 people in that group who all put in work for that one person to present it well.
CN: Everyone’s gonna get an A.
D: Everyone’s gonna get an A, but he just presented it. I’m just a presenter, but everyone behind me is putting in the real work. They’re putting in the ground steps for me to be able to have such a nice presentation.
CN: Okay. So this next question is in a different direction. Do you have a list of artists who inspired you? Or a favorite artist in general?
D: I don’t really have a favorite artist. Actually I do. Swae Lee is probably my favorite artist. But I don’t know if he sways – no pun intended – the way I do music. I have a playlist on SoundCloud called inspiration. I’ll add songs when I like what a certain person does to the song. There’s a certain aspect of the song that I enjoy that I want to incorporate into the way I make music and make it my own. So I wouldn’t copy a flow, but if someone has some nice reverb, I’ll be like, “Woah, I want my reverb to sound like that on my next track,” or something like that. I’ll save that in the inspiration playlist, so that when I’m listening back to something, I’m keeping tabs, basically, on how I can improve because I felt like something was done really well.
CN: What kind of inspiration would you want people to draw from your music?
D: I people to get the energy. It’s all about the energy with me. Not energy like the speed of the song, but the vibe. Like be happy. I’m not always saying the nicest things in my music. It’s not like I’m saying “Be happy, smile.” I’m not like Pharrell. “Because I’m happy…” But whatever I’m saying, I’m saying it proudly. I’m not mumbling. I’m not trying to sound cool. I’m just genuinely being who I am. I want people to feel that. I want people to hear my music, see that I’m happy, and then be in a good mood. Like, “You know what? He just got me in a good mood. I’m ready to smile. I’m ready to help somebody.” Or even, “I am ready to fight, but I’m happy. I want to fight happily!” I don’t wanna get nobody in they bag. I’m not get-in-your-bag music. I’m get-out-of-your-feelings music. Be cool. Smile a little.
CN: With all of that being said, who would be your ideal feature on a song? And who would be your ideal feature on stage? Those can be two different people.
D: Ahem, Swae Lee, if you’re listening [laughs]. I have two people that I really want to make music with regardless of whether or not they’re ideal. It would be PnB Rock or Swae Lee, just because they really know how to capture the whole singy-rappy vibe. And I’m not a singer-rapper, but I do the melodies, and I feel like I know how to capitalize on certain things. But honestly, my ideal music feature is this kid named Wonderful. Every time we step on a track together, it’s like magic. And I can’t discredit it because he’s not a big name yet – we make really good music together.
CN: Related to that, I heard a quote from Issa Rae the other day that I really like. She said something along the lines of “network across, not necessarily up.” How do you feel about that?
D: Yeah, networking across is definitely the best way to go. Networking up is always cool, but I always tell people, “That one little shoutout or that one little feature that you get on a song isn’t gonna solidify you in anybody’s eyes.” Only time that someone can get on a song with you and it’s gonna do something is if you’re talking about Drake, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Rihanna. If you’re talking about cultural influencers. People who have millions of people in their fanbase. Chris Brown got songs with people that people still don’t know about.
CN: Right, you’ll be going through a Chris Brown playlist, and all of a sudden you find some abstract song that he featured on. And you’re like, “Who is this person he collaborated with?” But because people don’t know the artist that featured him on the song, people don’t necessarily care.
D: Right, they don’t care.
CN: But on the other hand, if it’s someone like Kanye, it’s like, “Who is this person that was talented enough to work with Kanye?”
D: Yeah, it can’t just be a little thing. Honestly, to me, networking across is networking up. You never know who you’re going to meet or what opportunities they could present. Let’s say I meet you. Today or tomorrow, you could get this huge opportunity to work with someone big and then you put me on. Or you could switch it around: let’s say I do something today or tomorrow. I could hit you up and tell you that a dope opportunity came up for me and I could help you. Networking across is going to network you up. Networking up is going to waste your time, honestly. It will work eventually, and you should always strive for it, but it should not be the only thing that your mind is focused on. The small things add up to large things. You may not get the apple crumb cake off-rip, but you can pick up some little chips on the way [laughs]. You might be hungry going to the bakery, but you can go to the deli real quick until you can finally get to the grocery store.
CN: So lastly, what should we expect from you over the next couple months, the next year or so?
D: Hits. Hits, personality, and hits. You should expect hits. I just dropped my EP.
CN: Let the people know! Where can we find it?
D: You can find it everywhere. It’s “TRINIRAD.” Delly. D-E-L-L-Y.
CN: [whispers] It’s a written interview. It’ll be spelled out.
CN: Amazon? You really covered all bases.
D: Cmon, you already know. I’m coming for radio stations in Africa.
CN: Go ahead!
D: Yeah, it’s everywhere to be found. So since that just dropped, I’ll just be promoting that. I’ll be throwing some snippets out there to see how people react. But hits. That’s all I can really say. If it’s a hit to me, it should be a hit to the world.