Spend 15 minutes talking to HeyDeon, and you may never discover he’s a musician. Be in the same room with him while one of his songs is playing, and you still might not know he’s the man who’s responsible for what you’re hearing. For the promising talent, it’s important for the personal connection to come first; if you happen to be a fan of the music too, that’s just a bonus.
“When I meet someone, I don’t like to start off with ‘I make music,’” he says while walking through his hometown of Long Beach. “Automatically they want you to feel good, so they’ll say it’s good. I’d rather them listen to it on their own time; if it’s trash, they won’t say anything, they’ll just let you get on with your life. But if it’s actually good, and it makes them feel a way, they’ll let you know.”
That’s not to say he’s fearful of criticism, however, or that he lacks ambition in his music career. Back in high school, the real dream was to be a basketball player, but as he began to realize his odds of making the NBA were slim, he turned to making music as a light pastime. Eventually he released a debut mixtape that even he readily admits was “trash,” but when people around him listened and started telling him to quit music, he found the motivation to work harder at his craft until he could find success.
Years later, his latest project Long Story Short is his most ambitious release thus far, seeing him delve into new sounds on what he’s terming an “alternative project.” On the eight song tracklist, Deon blends colorful synths and off-kilter rhythms with ease, crooning soothing melodies over the production to elevate the soundscape higher.
After rapping on the majority of his previous project Found, the first single in “No More” signaled the shift in direction he wanted to take on the new project, allowing him to showcase his vocals in a new realm.
“I sat on ‘No More’ for a year and a half,” he reveals. “That was supposed to come out, literally before Found. But I love to rap, so I decided to get the rap project out and let everything out about how I’m feeling during that time period, and then we could get back on this new wave.”
The reception to the project has been amazing in Deon’s eyes; just like those who initially told him to quit music, many of his friends questioned his singing ability at first and urged him to stick to rapping. He quickly won them over as he began to hone his skills, however, and saw the impact it had in real life when he celebrated the new project at his release party.
“I kept telling people ‘it’s gonna be like eight people here,’” he says with a laugh. “But they filled that little building all the way up, it was so hot. But they loved the project! Those are the people I do it for.”
HeyDeon threw the event in Long Beach, where he grew up and has lived his entire life. Much like what’s been happening across Los Angeles in recent decades, he’s seen the changes and rise in gentrification throughout the city, as developers push out existing businesses in an attempt attract a wealthier crowd and fatten their own pockets. While walking through Downtown, he notes many of the buildings that weren’t around when he grew up, as well as the ones that are no longer around.
“What do kids do on this?” he asks, as we walk through an abstract looking park with odd, unnamed activities. “Is it supposed to be a jungle gym? I don’t understand the basics of this thing.”
Still, he loves the city, and mentioned how integral art is to the culture of the area. You can feel it when you’re in Long Beach; creative murals enliven the walls throughout Downtown, accentuating the architecture and allowing the community to stand on its own with an individual identity.
“Space, freedom, and good and bad decisions,” he says, attempting summarize up his experience growing up in the city. “You hang out with certain people and go down that road, or you can meet cool people who can better you and push you to be a better person. Yeah, you can run into people trying to cause problems, but for the most part, you can be out here, and be fine. That really sums up Long Beach; the diversity, and being able to express yourself in different art forms.”
Thus, it’s unsurprising how individualized his own creative output has been. Even as he dives into trap-based production on “Dreams”— his first single of 2019 — there’s a sparkling brightness under the hard-hitting drums that qualifies it as his own distinct sound. He strives to maintain that uniqueness, ensuring he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of emerging artists and can instead stand out on his own.
“I don’t see anyone in my lane, honestly,” he says. “I can’t pinpoint an artist going the same route that I am. Like, with me, you have a song like ‘LifeNme;’ who’s making that? I don’t see anyone making that sound. It made me feel like I had a band, without having a band.”
It can be easy to over-saturate the market in 2019, especially when your window of promo surrounding a new album release is slimmer than ever. Deon has other ideas, however; rather than trying to pump out new songs as soon as he makes them, he’d rather take the time to maximize each new drop, boosting the replay value and allowing fans to grow with the music instead of instantaneously digesting it and looking for the next one.
“People think you have to constantly release music,” he says. “You really don’t. You’re just making them become fast food consumers, that’s it. I’m giving you a project once a year, literally. But I’m gonna make sure I give you everything in that project, so you can listen to it for the whole year, and even longer.”