Interview: Deon Young – R&B Savior
When it comes to the new generation of r&b singers, many of the older fans of the genre tend to give them a bad name and say the quality of the music can’t compare to what they grew up with. Enter Deon Young, a singer from Harlem and the latest signing of Sylvia Rhone to Epic Records. Not only has he studied those artists who paved the way for singers like himself, but he also has a great understanding of where the genre has come from, and where it has to go. He’s a very impressive young man, especially for the fact that he started college prior to his deal, and is still taking courses even though he’s signed. He also recently released his new mixtape called “Forever Young”. YouKnowIGotSoul caught up with him after a recent performance in NYC and discussed his origins as a rapper, the sound he’s bringing coming out of Harlem, appealing to both the hip-hop and r&b crowds, responding to the older generation of fans, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I read that originally you were a singer, but turned to rapping, and then came back to singing. What made you switch it up?
Deon Young: It’s just a feeling that I get. I get a different feeling when I sing. I love rapping, and I wouldn’t say I completely stopped rapping, but I just learned how to incorporate my rapping skills with my r&b talents. It’s been a smooth transition.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Eventually you released the mixtape “For the Love” and virally the thing blew up and caught a lot of people’s attention. Talk about that.
Deon Young: “For the Love” is like my heart and soul. That’s what got me into the game and got me my deal. I have 11 tracks on there and it got a lot of internet buzz. We got a lot of press off of that and a lot of doors opened up, radio interviews, it got us to perform different places. So that kinda got the ball rolling. That mixtape was important in my career.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Why do you think it did so well virally and so many people caught onto it?
Deon Young: The concepts. When I work on different projects, I use different concepts and I have a very creative mind so I like to incorporate my art into it. Everything that I wrote on “For the Love” is a true story, it’s true what I’m singing about, it’s not just like I have a dope hook in my head and I started singing it over and over again to make a song. A lot of those songs are true stories, it’s a lot of different emotion and they made me grow as an artist.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’re from Harlem, and I know a lot of people associate hip-hop with Harlem and not necessarily r&b music. What kinda sound should people expect from you?
Deon Young: I’m still going to represent for the hip hop heads because it’s a certain type of sound that they like to hear. I just want to bring back that true essence and that edginess mixed with the smoothness. It’s kinda like that feeling that Mary J would give you back in the 90’s when “Real Love” was out.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Do you think it’s tough to touch both the hip-hop and r&b crowds? How’s it been so far?
Deon Young: It’s been successful so far but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a tour coming up, the “Closer to my Dreams” tour, so that should be a very great experience. That will be the initial period of when I start to figure out what my r&b listeners like and what my hip-hop listeners like and just incorporate those together and create something that’s just epic.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I read you had started college and were there for one semester before deciding to do music full time. What was that decision like?
Deon Young: It was a huge decision for me. When I first made the decision I was kind of nervous. I guess you could say a lot of people supported me as far as school goes, my mom was very supportive of my school decisions. At the same time, I just wanted to stop everything and focus on my music and she was very supportive about it as well. We came up with a solution that I was going to just get a tutor when I’m on the road, and just do my online classes. So I didn’t completely stop college, I’m still in college.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about the label interest you had coming at you. I know now you’ve signed with Epic and Sylvia Rhone basically snatched you up. But prior to that, were a lot of labels interested in signing you?
Deon Young: It was a rough process because when you’re a new artist and you’re starting up, the things you want can be hard to get. You have to prove yourself. It’s like I compare it to the NBA, they say the artists want to like the ballers and the ballers want to be like the artists. When you come out of college and go into the league, it’s hard, you’ve got to work for your endorsements and work for your sponsors. My sponsors are Sylvia and everybody at Epic. She kinda backed everything that I wanted to do. I told her my vision and where I wanted to take my music. As soon as she heard my music she understood exactly how I felt about my music. That’s the real reason why this deal came together and it made a lot of sense.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about the upcoming project you’re working on.
Deon Young: My mixtape is dropping this month and it’s called “Forever Young”. My first single from my album is dropping this month as well it’s called “Party Life”. We don’t have a title for the album yet or a release date, we’re just working and I have a ton of records recorded for it. So it’s coming along great.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I know when it comes to the older generation of r&b fans, they tend to look at the younger generation of artists and give them a bad name and claim the music they’re making isn’t that good. How do you respond to those fans?
Deon Young: I just want to tell them that I’ve taken my time thus far with what I’ve been doing with my music and it’s come a long way. I’ve studied all of the people that have paved the way for young singers like myself to get into the game. I respect the music that was made before my time came. They say to know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where it came from, and I know where r&b came from. I know exactly where I want to take it. I don’t think they’ll be disappointed in my work. A lot of people have been saying that r&b has quieted down or it’s down a little bit. I guess you could call me the savior, I got a lot planned for the whole r&b game. Look forward to that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about what you’re looking forward to most about the “Closer to my Dreams” tour.
Deon Young: We’re just going to go out there and have some fun. I just can’t wait to get out there and interact with fans and people who have been supporting me up until this point in my career. I feel like this is going to be the toughest point in my career; the groundbreaking stage. I just can’t wait to get out there it’s my first time! I’m a teenager; I’m excited to go out there and have fun and work and do what I do.