By Princess Savage

Artists often use their craft to articulate the things they know to be true, and for Dess Dior, success has always felt inevitable. With her wordplay, delivery, and effortless flow on freestyles and experimental genre switch-ups, that much is obvious.

“The first song I wrote, it was still me boasting myself, manifesting my life and popping my sh-t through my music,” Dess says on the other end of our Zoom call.

Born in St. Louis and raised in Savannah, Dess Dior was just 12 years old when she started performing and securing studio time, making music in a middle school rap group with her best friend Jada. Each year since has seen Dess spin her passion into prophecy. 2020 and 2021 were especially significant periods for her career; “Rich Bitch,” “NO Hook,” and “Don’t Play” are only a few of the Dess classics that came out of those years, and that ultimately helped her sonic identity reach new heights.

With her 24th birthday just around the corner, Dess’ firm grasp on who she knows herself to be is unequivocally sharp. Her latest body of work RAW, an eight-track EP unleashed at the foot of September, showcases Dess in all her self-possessed fearlessness with a new level of vulnerability—representing what it means to be “raw” (note the double entendre), even through great discomfort. On “Stone Cold”, her newly-dropped single, Dess leans further into that discomfort; accompanied by singer and fellow Atlantan Mariah the Scientist, “Stone Cold” reads something like a diary entry, late-night vent session, and lovelorn confession all at once.

Dess’ new music isn’t just a “moment.” RAW Dess is the product of all her growth in music and personhood, ten years and 10,000 hours later. Here, we discuss the weight of it all—how it feels to get closer to herself and her fans, and to lay her truth bare in whole new ways.

Preme Magazine: You were born in Missouri and eventually moved to the South, then started developing a passion for music at an early age—middle school! It’s poetic that moving to Georgia coincided with the construction of your love for your craft. How do you feel growing up in the South has nurtured your voice in music?

Dess Dior: Honestly, it really nurtured my voice because I was surrounded by people who also loved music. I use music as my therapy, so growing up here in [the South], which is really the culture for music—it has all the hottest artists, all the hottest rappers—it was just inspiring for me. It made me want to do it even more.

PM: You say music is your therapy. You started a girl group back in middle school with your best friend. Do you remember the first songs that you wrote? What propelled you to start that group so young?

DD: The first song I wrote, it was still me boasting myself, really manifesting my life and popping my sh-t through my music. Jada made a post on Facebook, and was like, “I want to start a girl group,” and I knew I could rap. I always used to make rhymes, I always used to play around and make music. So I was like, “Let’s do it.” And from there, we immediately got into the studio. The music we were listening to around that time was Rich Homie Quan, Future, and Nicki Minaj.

PM: Throwback to those middle school days on Facebook. Do you have a specific memory that you distinctly remember from those early days dabbling in music?

DD: I remember when I first got in the studio. I’ve never really talked about this, but honestly, when I first got into the studio, it was this club promoter. He was an older guy, and he was one of the people who supported us. He had a studio at his house. Everybody, all the artists, used to go to his house to record.

That was my first time recording on the mic, and it took me so many tries. But I got it. That’s one of my core memories from back then, and then performing at the teen clubs in Savannah, we used to travel to Atlanta to record... we had a manager. He actually worked for the radio station, so he had a lot of different connects. We was making moves at a young age. We were professionals.

PM: At what point did you realize that you were a performer?

DD: When I was younger, I feel like we were just having fun with it. But I really noticed I was good at [performing] once I got older. My first performance, my first festival, is when I realized, “Okay, I love performing. I’m a star. This is easy to me.”

PM: Like you can just be you up there.
Mhm. Literally, when I walk on stage, it comes natural. I love it.

PM: I read that your dad pushed you to start taking your craft seriously. What music do you remember hearing growing up? I know you talked about Nicki Minaj, Future, Rich Homie Quan. I know you’ve also been heavily inspired by Trina. What artistic influences have shaped who you are and how you sound today?

DD: Before I even moved to the South, all my mom and older cousin used to listen to was Trina. I grew up listening to Trina.

Even though [her music] was probably a little inappropriate for me, what I love about Trina is she's unapologetic. She's unapologetically herself. The stuff she talks about in her music, it may be crazy to some people, but it's her, and she don't give a f-ck. That’s what I loved about Trina the most. She’s just a boss.

PM: It’s crazy that you say that, because there's a quality about your music that reads similarly. Talk about conceptualizing who Dess Dior is. How did the name and brand behind “Dess Dior” come about?

DD: “Dess Dior” came about before I actually started making music. I was trying to look for a Youtube name, and I knew I was into fashion, and I wanted to find something that blended with Dess. The person at the time who was helping me with my Youtube came up with “Dess Dior.” It was the perfect thing. It’s a fashion brand, I’m into fashion. It just sounded perfect. So when I started making music, I didn't really have to think too hard about a rap name because it could just be my Youtube name: Dess Dior. I’m glad I didn’t think too hard about it.

PM: I know that you were in virtual hustle mode during the pandemic. How do you feel quarantine and the world being in isolation helped you understand who you are as an artist, as a creative, as a person?

DD: Being in quarantine honestly gave me so much time to focus. I didn't have anything else to do. I just had time to brainstorm, and I was really thinking, “Okay, what can I do to make some money?” because we all sitting down. None of us is on the Internet. I had to really get creative. I was selling weight gaining products, tapping into different things. It just gave me some focus.

Once I did that, it inspired me to want to drop an EP. I was like, “I’m ‘bout to go in the studio and just lock in and drop an EP.” I always talk about how, when I make my money, I reinvest it into myself. So in quarantine, once I was making all that money, I was just investing it into my studio time and working on my project. It really gave me time to be creative and just... work. I didn’t have nothing else to do. I didn’t get lazy because it honestly gave me a little more structure in my life. It made me sit back. The world was on pause, and I didn’t have no choice but to focus on me. That’s what came out of it.

For the first part of quarantine, it was just me and my friends in one house. We were just in the house, on the Internet, going on Instagram like we normally do. We were talking to each other. We were just trying to figure out what we was gonna do, honestly. But once I left and I was just in my own apartment, that’s when I got the most creative. I wasn’t really doing too much. I was really just writing down my plan, writing down what I wanted. I had a journal, so I would write, write, write—what I wanted to do with my music, how far I wanted to go, my plan, how much money I wanted to make, what I was selling.

PM: That’s awesome. Almost every writer I know keeps a journal.
During quarantine, I had made a lot of money. I wrote down how much I wanted to make

next, and I made triple that. It’s power in the pen.

PM: There’s power in words for sure. Speaking of that power, you just released your latest EP RAW! Congratulations! How has it felt to unveil this new body of work for your listeners?

DD: Thank you! It’s been a long time coming. I've put so much time, passion, and vulnerability into this project. I'm just excited. I’m happy to finally be releasing it and let my fans hear another side of me. I got some melodic records on there. I feel like I really tapped into my artistry with this project. It's just a good feeling to be at my second EP.

PM: And you just released a single with Mariah the Scientist, “Stone Cold”, which goes back to how all this new music you’re releasing is revealing a particularly vulnerable side of yourself. Talk about the writing process behind that song. What parts were the easiest or most difficult for you to write?

DD: When me and Mariah made that song, we was literally on some random sh-t. After the club, we was like, “Oh, let's just go to the studio.” We went, we found a beat, and Mariah went in first. We were just gonna go back and forth and figure out how we wanted to structure the song.

What was difficult for me is... I'm not an R&B artist. Being on a song with an R&B artist, it took me a second to figure out the cadence I wanted to follow. It was challenging to me, because I be rapping fast, I rap aggressive. So I kind of had to slow it down, soften it up, and really see how I was about to come on it. I actually recorded the first night, and then I went back in when I was in the studio by myself so I could really lock in. Then I had to redo my verse. It was really challenging for me, because Mariah got a certain type of way she makes music, and it's totally different for me.

But it was basically the cadence. I heard it back, and I was like, “Okay, I can say this better. I know how I want to say it.” I had to listen to it in the car a couple times and figure out how I wanted to flow on it.

PM: Is that usually how your writing process goes? You listen to it in the car a couple times, tweak things from there?

DD: Yeah, the car is like my mini studio. I can hear everything clear so I can say, “Okay, I want to go back in and fix this. I feel like I could say that like this.”

PM: It's something about listening to music in the car! And you released the visual for “IT BITCH Freestyle” a little bit ago. That joint is so hard! I need to know the energy you were on when you were recording that.

DD: I was popping my sh-t, letting people know what it is. I always be popping my sh-t when I go in the studio. That record I knew was going to set the tone for my project. I was like, “I’m just about to put it all on the flow.” We were lit.

PM: What are a few studio necessities you require to make sure the energy is right?

DD: First, I need a bottle. I need some tea. And the lights got to be off, I like it to be completely dark in the studio.

PM: Going back to the video, I know you pay special attention to all your visuals. Your videos have a really consistent, cinematic quality to them, and a number of your videos have amassed hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube. How do you map out a visual of yours, from start to finish?

DD: When I hear a song, I’ll have a slight idea, and then I'll hit up a creative director to enhance it—because, obviously, I’m not a creative director, and I always want it to be the best it can be. But sometimes I'll plan out my videos from start to finish, like “Don’t Play.” Everything I was rapping about, I did it. That video was pretty easy. But “Talk To Me,” one of my first big music videos, I had an idea, and my friend Treasure expanded on it. I always have creative people around me who can just add ideas. Then I make it happen and pull it together. But it all starts with a little idea.

PM: How do you decide which videos to drop first?

DD: Well, first, we came out with “Nann Hoe,” and the queen, Trina, is in the video. I’m literally gonna cry. I’m so excited. [The fans] weren’t expecting that. Then, I just go off my fans, see what songs they gravitate to the most, and those are the next songs I do videos to. But “Nann Hoe” is first, and after that, we’re coming with a deluxe.

PM: Obviously, there's a lot of growth you're showcasing on this EP, and you're doing all these experiments with your visuals. How does RAW Dess compare to the past versions of Dess that you’ve showcased in your discography?

DD: This project is different from my other projects because—and this is one of the reasons I named it “RAW”—I feel like I was just putting it all on the table. I just put it all on the floor, talking about past experiences in my life and really being open. I'm never vulnerable. With this project, we got two records on there where I was just completely vulnerable, so that was a little scary for me.

PM: What did you do to help tap into that more transparent side of yourself, to get into that mindset?

DD: We always have heart-to-hearts in the studio. It’s like an intervention. We just be talking about relationships. Everybody’s talking about what they done went through, and they inspired me to go ahead and talk about my own experiences through life, what I've been through, what frustrates me in relationships. It all comes from conversations, girl talk.

PM: You’re known as “the Rawest”. Define what a truly raw woman looks like to you.

DD: A truly raw female to me is somebody who's authentic to herself in whatever role she's in. She stands out, she’s herself unapologetically, and she stands on her own. Yeah, “raw” is just

In this industry, people pressure you to try to be something you’re not, or be like somebody else. They

wanna compare you. So “raw”, to me, is just being me, my authentic self—unapologetically being Dess.

PM: I feel like that's the only way you can stay sane, too. You also speak often about the process it took for you to find your own sound. I feel like people who aren’t artists don’t understand how difficult that can be. The way you approach a beat, the way you deliver, your writing, and even your word choice are all distinctly your own.

DD: It took some time. I’ve always felt like I had to yell, or get loud, or force my words out to get my point across. But with this project, with practice, and with me just standing in the studio, people critiquing me, and me being around people who I trust to critique me, I realized, “Okay, it sounds better when I just sit back, chill.” I learned I can still be assertive without forcing the words out.

My A&R Syd helped me a lot with that, because she was one person who was always in the studio with me, critiquing and giving me hella feedback on anything that I would make after the night was over. She would be like, “Okay, I like this. But I feel like if you tone it down a bit, be more assertive, and just relax while you rapping, it’ll help.” Syd played a big part in helping me find my sound and lock in the studio even more, because I took a long break before I dropped this EP. I went through a lot last year, and it threw my focus off a little bit. Once I did get back in the studio, I felt like I was relearning everything, relearning me. Syd helped a lot with that.

PM: It must feel good to have someone in the studio challenging you, too.
I love when people are in the studio with me and giving feedback—actually listening to me

and critiquing. I love that. If you sleep in the studio, you can go home.

PM: You touched on a few of them already, but talk about the most memorable moments from the entire process of working on “RAW”.

DD: My most memorable moment probably had to be when I recorded “Nann Hoe.” I had went in the studio, and it was me and two other creative directors I work with. We played the beat. After I said what I said, everybody was like, “What the f-ck, Dess?! Where’d that come from?”

Music is fun to me, and I be having fun just saying anything. But that was probably my most memorable moment, because everybody in the studio was like, “What the f-ck?!” when I came out the booth.

PM: That energy definitely comes off. Other than “Nann Hoe”, what’s your favorite song on the EP?

someone who’s authentic to themselves, who don’t care. I stand on that so much.

DD: My favorite song on the EP is “Bottega,” because it was so chill. That was also me popping my sh-t. And another favorite—I have two!—is “Can’t Blame You,” because I’m putting my heart on the beat. And I was singing a little bit on the hook, so that’s super new.

With these songs, I feel like my fans are gonna get closer to me. Everybody always say, “Dess, you’re so closed in. You’re such an introvert,” or whatever. But I feel like my fans are really gonna get a closer look at Dess, and it's gonna make them feel a deeper connection to me. The more vulnerable I get through my music, the more they’re gonna feel like they know me.

PM: With the release of all your new music, do you feel the same level of excitement performing your older hits from 2020 as you did when you first started performing them?

DD: Oh, I love performing my older songs too. A lot of people know those, and those songs were impactful for my career. “Rich Bitch”, I always talk about the vibe I was in, the air I was in. I love performing that song because it brings back that energy for me. I do be wanting to perform new music, so releasing is always fun. But I will always love performing “Rich Bitch” and “Don’t Play.” Those are some of my favorite old songs to perform. They’re gonna be in every single set!

PM: You talked earlier about your love for fashion, especially with your stage surname, “Dior”. One thing I noticed about you is your eye for colors. What color combos have you been gravitating toward recently?

DD: I don’t have a favorite, but I’ve been wearing a lot of pink lately. I literally wore all pink last night for my release. I like stepping out my box, getting a little sexy. I’ve been wearing a lot of skirts. I just wore a skirt with a slit. But yes, it’s all very colorful. During Fashion Week, I wore a whole pink “costume”-y outfit. I been having a lot of fun with my outfits lately.

PM: Speaking of, how was your experience at New York Fashion Week?

DD: Literally amazing. It was my first time ever attending Fashion Week, and I walked in my first show. I had tweeted that I really wanted to tap into modeling, because I really do want to dig in deeper on the fashion side. That's another industry that I want to dive into. The first day of me being there, my team was like, “Do you want to walk in a show?” I’m like, “Hell yeah!”

That was really amazing, and it was a great experience. I hope I can do more of that. I ate my looks up the whole week.

PM: On “IT BITCH Freestyle,” you say, “Bitches ain’t up on this fashion sh*t, they still own that? They taking notes!” What are some fashion trends that you’ve been particularly fond of recently? Ones that you’re not so fond of?

DD: I love this new streetwear look the girls been doing—the baggy pants, the oversized hoodie. That's what I like to wear and that's when I'm most comfortable, so that's what I love to

see the girls in, like the UK girls. I look at them the most when it comes to fashion, because they just be eating! They be down my whole Explore page, on my TikTok. Their videos, the aesthetic, I love it so much.

A fashion trend I’m not really into is the mesh look. The see-through clothing? I’m not really into that, because that’s not really what I’m comfortable wearing.

PM: I feel you on the streetwear tip—catch me on a hot day, still in a hoodie!
Still in a hoodie with some baggy pants and a cute sneaker, or you could even put on a

heel with it.

PM: I noticed you put the number “1” in front of everything... your Instagram username, your merch brand’s username. Out of curiosity, do you believe in angel numbers?

DD: Well, the reason why I put “1” is because @dessdior wasn’t available on Instagram, and I wanted everything else to be cohesive. But I do believe in angel numbers... a lot. What’s crazy is I’ve been seeing them so much lately. I feel like everything is aligning for me. I’ve been seeing 555, my text messages was on 444. I see 444 in comments. I just seen 9999 yesterday on a random person’s likes. So I feel like something is coming. It’s literally happening in front of my eyes, but it’s all coming full circle.

PM: What does 555 mean?
It means change. 555 means change.
PM: Any merch drops that fans should be excited about?

DD: We're dropping my silk collection on my birthday. It’s gonna be silk pillows, silk pajamas, silk eye masks, silk robes. I did this because I think feeling luxury is about how you pamper yourself, how you take care of yourself at home, and silk is the best thing you can sleep on. It don’t break your hair off, and it makes you feel like luxury. That’s what “rich” is all about to me. It’s about how you manifest and take care of yourself. It’s a mindset, and that starts at home.

PM: One of my favorite things about you, and in general with this surge of women in rap and music period, is how open and transparent you are about your definition of powerful womanhood—about making money, about being sex-positive, about being confident.

How important is it for you to showcase the specific power that comes with being a woman in a world that urges us to make ourselves smaller?

DD: Being confident influences everything in your life. When you’re confident and walking in your truth, everything is enhanced. Everything is way better when you believe in yourself and don’t care what nobody think.My advice to everybody is to really believe in whatever you want to do. Be confident. Stand ten toes behind it.Be true to you. That’s the most important.

PM: It’s definitely easier said than done, but that can change your life.

DD: Very much easier said than done! It took me some time, a lot of time. It took me to go through quarantine to change my thought process. I always used to think negatively about myself. So quarantine did that, too—it changed my thought process. I had time to evaluate me, as a whole person.

PM: Do you feel any pressure from being that role model for other women, and how do you cope or take care of yourself?

DD: I spend a lot of time by myself. People always say, “You don’t be lonely?” But I feel like when I’m by myself, I have the clearest thoughts. I have time to think. I have time to plan. I have time to be strategic with everything I want to do. And I pray a lot. That’s something that helps me the most—just being by myself.

PM: You’re a Scorpio too, and I know Scorpios need that time to themselves! [Laughs] DD: That plays a big part. That sounded like some Scorpio sh-t what I just said. [Laughs] PM: How do you feel like you align or depart from Scorpio stereotypes?

DD: I feel like I’m a true Scorpio. When you think about a Scorpio—literally, I’m that. They say Scorpios freaky, I’m freaky. They say they’re private, I’m private. And I’m loyal! That’s what people don’t know about Scorpios. Scorpios are the most loyal sign, and I’m very loyal to the people I love, the people I care about. I love them. Scorpios are the realest.

PM: Speaking of being a Scorpio, your birthday is around the corner. What goals have you set for yourself for your Kobe year?

DD: For my Kobe year, I told myself I’m going to hit everything I want to do. I’m gonna stop thinking so hard about everything. I’m gonna release more music, I’m gonna try to connect with my supporters more, I’m going to be on Youtube more. I’m gonna release music every month, stay on brand, keep my Instagram page revolved around my artistry moving forward, and really just pour into myself even more than I did before.

I want to enhance every field of my life, and take it up a notch. I’m staying committed to that.

PM: We elevating.
Yes, we elevating—even more.

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