How ESSENCE Festival Artist Dej Loaf Went from Scrubbing Floors to Winning in Hip-Hop

Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images Portrait
With fans like Drake, Dej Loaf—who will perform at ESSENCE Festival, held June 30-July 3 in New Orleans—has become one of the hottest new female MCs in the game.

In 2011, Dej Loaf was scrubbing floors after dropping out of college.  She had no money, no plan, and no idea how she was going to make her secret dream of becoming a rapper/singer come true. She only had a gut feeling that everything would work out.

Now, in 2016, she has a gold single, 3.9 million followers, three successful mixtapes (her latest, All Jokes Aside, dropped last month), her own Mac lip gloss and an upcoming performance at ESSENCE Festival. Her gut was right.
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Looking back, the decision was simple. “I was doing janitorial work for a Chrysler car company. The lady I worked for handed me a toothbrush— a cleaning toothbrush—to scrub in between the tiles in the bathroom floor,” Dej recalls. “And I think that was it for me.” 

The day after her revelation, she decided to take her talents seriously. As a shy kid who’d spend time writing down lyrics to her favorite songs while her mom did “kitchen hair” in their home, songwriting came easy to her. She eventually joined a local collective of artists who appreciated her laid-back tomboy style, but soon outgrew them.

Shortly after that, she recorded 2014's “Try Me,” the song that would change her life. “I definitely felt like it was a special record because I wanted to record it immediately," she says. "When I wrote it I was like, “Yo! I got to get to the studio!”  

The special record got the attention of a fellow Detroit artist named Pablo Skywalkin’, who had a large following in the Bay Area. He posted a video with her song playing in the background, and it spread like wildfire. Soon after, rappers and notable NBA stars took a public liking to the song. Drake even posted a caption to his Instagram with her lyrics. Her life quickly changed: “Everyone was like, 'Who's that?' Then everything was a roller coaster.”

She released her debut mixtape, Sell Sole, and opened for Nicki Minaj on The Pinkprint Tour soon after. "It was just like, ‘Yo, music is it!” she says."I feel like God was just showing me where I needed to be.”

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Today at 25, all Dej Loaf cares about is making an impact with the talents God gave her. She has dreams of becoming as big as Jay Z and knows she has a lot of work to do. Still, she tries to find the time to date, but is not looking for anything serious. “I’m single and I'm focusing on my music," she says.

With fans like Drake waiting to hear what she'll do on her debut album, she’s ignoring the pressure and focusing on creating a great body of work. “My goal is to put out a great album that is going to stick forever,” she says. “I’m just excited to show people what I'm capable of and what I know I can do.”

And there’s one more thing she’s excited to about: “I've never been at the ESSENCE Festival.  I've heard so much about it," she says. "So it's dope to have Dej Loaf on stage. I'm going to do my best—I have to come with my A game.”

Don’t miss Dej Loaf and a star-studded lineup at the 2016 ESSENCE Festival. Buy your tickets now!

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