IH: Hi Denai! As I write these questions, the UK has swathes of people protesting and taking to the streets to say ‘ENOUGH’ to systemic racism. What does it feel like for you being a Black artist in the UK today?
DM: It feels like we’ve been building up to this moment for a while now. It also feels like a shift in our relationship with a system that has failed us and doesn’t align with us. It’s interesting to see the face of these protests being so broad and mixed, which shows so much progression in terms of true allyship. So many uncomfortable conversations are often the ones that are the most necessary. Justice feels possible if we all fight it together, which has been proven over the past few weeks with cases being revisited post all the protests. Being a Black artist during this time feels quite heavy. When I feel angry I write, and it has already affected the music I’m making right now in my bedroom at home.
IH: What do you think the music industry, specifically, can do to dismantle racism?
DM: I think we have to look at diversifying the rooms with people in power in the music industry to really help shape and preserve the authenticity of Black artists and voices. Black art is so diverse, and it does feel like many artists are cornered into specific boxes due to racism and the lack of foresight of allowing artists to be themselves.
I hope in my future I can be an A&R that can be that person on the other side validating Black artists in ways that many aren’t right now, because they aren’t understood in the same way. The music industry does have so many things to address in terms of how contracts work, and ownership of artists’ work.