Premiere: "Without Me"
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Check out the music video below.
“Songwriting was never something I was proud of in the past,” she tells us. “I’m starting to own that it is part of my story. I always wanted to be the artist because I’m an artist through and through. But what really took off for me was songwriting. It paid the bills and that gave me the time to build my art—financially. That [songwriting] is what gave me the accolades. But there is something to be said about these powerful women calling upon me to help them. I had to realize that was a gift. Especially someone coming from where I come from.”
Diana hails from Southside Jamaica, Queens. New York. Foch Boulevard. Baisley Park. Eight people living in a two-room house. From early on Diana had a lot of responsibility, pain, trauma, and lots of religion. “I’m trying to step away from being ultra-humble. I’m so used to being a servant because of my life: helping others, having so many siblings. I got into this role of how can I help you opposed to how can I help myself. I got into a role of downplaying my greatness.”
Left— Shirt, jacket and tie by GUCCI; Boots by Y/PROJECT; Panty, jewelry: model's own
Right— Jacket by AREA; Boots by GUCCI; Tights: model's own
But fate can’t be fooled—there is no stunting her greatness. Diana’s first big break came in 2005 when she was contracted to write for Mary J. Blige. She went on to create for other multi-platinum selling women (J.Lo, Dua Lipa and Beyoncé to name a few), which aided in her career as a professional singer. She signed with Atlantic as Wynter Gordon. However, with every passing year, Diana learned who she did not want to be.
“Everyone wanted me to make R&B songs about love, and dance like Chris Brown. By my eighth year, I had my eighth A&R and each one had a vision for me. I got stuck doing dance music, which is what they wanted me to do. I had yet to explore anything because I was fully busy on tour with Flo Rida, on the Hot 100, making crazy money, touring the world, playing the biggest festivals…and I hated it. I was making $20k a night at 5AM. I never drank and I don’t smoke, so it was not my life.”
On New Year’s Eve in 2011, Diana sat down with her label president and explained to him that she was not looking to be the next Katy Perry. That wasn’t her. After hours of back and forth trying to convince Diana to stay, he agreed to let her walk away. “Real things happen on the ground. Real things. The people say what’s hot, not the radio. That’s what I wanted. I wanted the people. And walking away from millions of dollars was part of that shit.” She used the money she acquired to pay for studio time—her way.
“I have crossed a bridge and I’m not in the same place anymore. I can’t continue to use the pain as fuel. I have to find something new, something positive and exciting. Build new memories, meet new people, and be inspired by different art.”
Right— Blouse by CHELSEA MAK; Boots by PRADA; Socks by CALZEDONIA; Panty and gloves: model's own
Whether Diana knew it or not, every YouTube single and music project, made way for future success. Her cult following grew. She was ahead of every wave that would follow. Though Diana was still underground, she was becoming the tastemaker, and people were tapping in. “It’s like when you know you’re the mood board. For once, I don’t want to be the mood board. I want to be the main thing.”
You ever get turned out by an artist for the first time after attending their live show? Maybe you had heard of them before, perhaps they never crossed your path. But somehow, some way you ended up at a venue. From that first note, they captivated you. You experienced all the glory and magic, then…poof!! You are a diehard fan. That is the effect of Diana. She is the main thing.
Not only is Diana’s voice cut from the same cloth as Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell, but her pen game and star quality are on or above that caliber —she is fresh as fuck. From being mentored by the late Jazz whiz, Hugh Masekela, to mentoring young talents like Chloe and Halle, Diana has range –vocally, artistically, spiritually. She’s an all-encompassing boss. “This is my jump into consistency. This is my jump into doing beautiful visuals consistently. You can be the only one to take power of your life.”
…And what a powerful life force she is.
“I am very happy. I’m in a place where I don’t give a fuck. I am really committed to making things that feel real to me. I want people to hear my voice because it’s special. I want to tell the truth in my music and my lyrics. I want to be raw and bare.”
Before the world was thrown for an overwhelming loop due to COVID-19, Diana Gordon was set to open for Yves Tumor and play a handful of select venues. Sometimes it takes drastic measures for us to find solace in simple pleasures. May you be healthy, productive and as peaceful as possible during this time.
If you don’t know where to start, get into Diana’s discography. She will take you places.
So you see the video of RollingRay, what are your first thoughts?
I've been a fan. I think he’s truly an orator and wordsmith of the time, so when he came out with the “Corone” PSA, it resonated instantly. In the midst of the chaos, he gave the girls a ki’ and an affirmation. That's powerful, PUR’.
Describe the process behind making "Corone Cunt."
I had gone to a ball the night before—that night all of the female figures stormed the floor for the frenzy. The room was vibrating, and the ceiling was sweating. It seemed as if everyone knew that this might be one of our last times together for a while, and we decided to give our all to the space. They had officially announced the recommended shut down the next day, and the city was on tilt. Social media flooded with despair and confusion, and it started to really give me the blues. I opened my laptop, picked up my SM-58 mic and tried to channel all the joy and strength I felt the night before at the ball onto VJtheDJ’s beat. I recorded the chant in about three hours, then uploaded it to SoundCloud the same day. It was a good time and really gave me a way to reclaim and own my feelings about it all.
Besides making a song surrounding the coronavirus, what else have you been doing to survive the boredom of quarantine?
Ha—the boredom. I'm a full-time student, senior year. I'm working on my thesis film and EP, there's always something to do for that, a garment, set design, planning, etc. So I've been trying to stay diligent. Also eating good and tryna' download a piece of body when I find the will.
As funny as it seems, the song touches base on some serious topics like capitalism. How important is it for you to use music to express how you feel?
I don't think I really have a choice but to communicate how I feel, bear, and witness. I think the times demand it. We didn't ask to be in this “wicked womb,” but I believe that while we are here, we gotta sing a song, and do a dance in this mf.
Did you think this single would blow-up like this?
When I was writing it, I was KIIIIIIIII’d’, so I knew the girls would kii’ too. I’ve garnered a fly and intimate audience in these past three years, but the music hasn’t gone viral in this kind of way. I used to say that I was shadow-banned. With that said, it wasn't made with virality in mind, simply for the love, It's cute though. :)
What legendary vogue artist would you like to see vogue to "Corone Cunt?"
Hmm.. who do I wanna see play with the beat? They’re not legends... yet! But for dramatics, let me see Freddie Ninja, Soft n’ Cunt, Bunny Dior, and FQ Performance gimme delicious Gucci! That’s who I wanna see.
How much does the vogue community mean to you, and how does this song’s success affect that?
Ballroom here in Chicago especially means a lot to me. I’ve learned and built so many parts of myself in the community. Some of the most inspiring, creative, and alive people in the world are right here in queer Black America—it’ll always be that way. I’m a hip-hop MC, so ballroom commentary isn’t my specialty, but I got in my bag real quick. This is definitely a community where you earn your spot and respect, so the song is me paying my dues, so to speak.
What do you foresee for "Corone Cunt" post-coronavirus?
I really hope "Corone Cunt" post-pandemic fuels our journey into this new world. I want it to serve as a ki’, a politic, a sample, another piece of language for the people. I pray the same for all the things I do.
Now that this has gained recognition, what’s next for you?
I’m working on my Sophomore EP Hi Cotton right now. It’s a new flavor but still very Blu; my pen and instincts are sharper than ever. It’s an exciting time. Also working on my thesis film “In This Wicked Womb." In the meantime, I might pop a few freestyles or something.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm 24 years old, and I’m from Covington, Louisiana, and I’m like 5'8 or ‘9. I make music—I just put an album out not too long ago.
What was growing up in Louisiana like?
It was dope. I grew up in a small town. My dad was the mayor of our town when I was really little. As I got older, we’d go to the grocery store and he knew everybody. It was a small town and I like that feeling of knowing people at the stores you go to. It’s really nice. And being able to walk around a lot––me and my friends would just walk to the downtown Covington area and just skate. In Junior high we would walk to our school all of that was really nice. I like walking, and that community familiarity. It was great.
Your music seems to contain a little bit of pop, a little bit of indie combined with a plethora of other things. How do you describe the sound of your music?
As whack as it sounds I would just prefer not to describe it. Typically just ‘cause there are so many things that I’m thinking about—that I’m influenced by that other people might not hear, so it makes it harder for me to categorize myself. Other people can be like, "Oh he’s this," and usually it kind of sucks to hear that, but I can’t really do anything about how they feel. I like a lot of music. I like a lot of R&B. That’s where I get a lot of music inspiration for melodies. But other than that, I kind of just listen to whatever.
In your new album, Cardboard City, you have two features with J’von on "No Country" and with Dijon on "Rope Swing." How did you go about choosing them?
J’von is somebody I’ve known for a long time; he’s on my last album too. We’ve made a lot of music together and I thought he was sick. So yeah he had to be on this album. And then for Dijon, I’ve known him for a couple of years and we made one other song—I like making music with him, it’s fun. So before this album had even really started to come together I had written a fake tracklist, and one of the songs was Rope Swing about the rope swing I had back in Covington. So I was like, Dijon would be cool for that, and it would be cool if we hopped into his world for a second and transfer the song to fit his stuff in the middle and then come back.
Your music has a relatable song for nearly everyone. How do you go about crafting up lyrics?
For lyrics, I like writing a lot. I think it’s really cool and I think it’s very satisfying for me to hear certain stuff in writing. Just like it’s satisfying to hear a chord change or a really nice melody. I like the idea of writing a story. As for relatability I feel like everyone kind of goes through the same shit or slightly different circumstances a lot of the time. Not everybody goes through the same stuff if you know what I mean. I don't know––I don’t see it as relatable, I’m just writing about how I feel.
What inspires the creation of your music?
My friends, art, drawing, paintings, and movies. A lot of times I’ll go see a movie and leave feeling super inspired.
What’s your favorite song on Cardboard City?
My favorite song on Cardboard City, I’d say "Snoopy." All the voices you hear on "Snoopy" are all my friends and my friends' parents and stuff. I just got everybody to send me voice memos, and then I tried to compile them all together so it could sound like a busy street corner. I just like the chords and I like that song. "Superhero Strength" and "Grateful" too, those are probably my favorites.
What is your favorite movie at the moment?
Little Women, but I watched it four times and I think that was a mistake.The first three times I saw it I was obsessed with it. And then I watched it one more time, and I was like fuck. Everytime I see it I focus on different details, and the fourth time I felt like I’ve seen it all—I kind of checked out. I fucked myself over, but I still love that movie so much though. Little Women was fucking dope.
Your Instagram is filled with pieces of your visual artwork—when did you first start drawing?
I started drawing in elementary school. The way that it works in Louisiana, there's a gifted and talented program which is a really dumb name. Anyways if you were good at art you could try out. My dad is an artist. He makes these fish out of tin, and my aunt is a painter. I think I always thought art was really cool, but I was just really bad at drawing. And I’m still bad at drawing—I’m trying to get better.
What is one goal you have for this year?
Finish my next album.