Deto Black Is Making Her Own Culture

Deto Black Is Making Her Own Culture

Story by Alessandra Schade / Photography by Marko Vrbos

Deto Black, mummified in a stringy black outfit, gyrates on an escalator in opaque sunglasses. Flash cut to her cosplaying an anime character with two 100-dollar bills covering her nipples as she licks the camera lens. Flash cut to Deto twerking in a pleated cargo micro-mini under a rainstorm of cash. Flash cut and she’s flashing the London skyline. Flash cut. Flash cut.Flash cut.

Teaming up with creative director and producer Marko Vrbos and director Ben Cole, London-based Deto Black shows us what happens when her two passions — fashion and music — combust. And that’s a whole lot of underboob (underbutt as well), shouting into phones, strutting down the streets, ass-shaking, teeth-gnashing, smoking and, most of all, sass in the form of hip pops, hair flips, and pose-striking. The Y2K grunge video is arguably more about serving looks than it is about sharing a story — unless that story is: sex, money, bitches.

Born Deto Tejuoso in America and raised in Lagos, the 27-year-old artist’s single “Drop Off” (one of two featured in the fashion film), drops today and marks a notable shift in her body of work. Her debut solo project, Yung Everything, released last year, explored the intersections of hip-hop, rap and her own style of hyper-trap. In “Drop Off,” she continues her sonic adventure of genre-bending experimentation, moving further away from drill and closer to a Riot Grrrl sound of '90s electronic alt — infused with that vintage Deto hip-hop sound, of course.

Deto's sex-positive verses and boisterous, colorful style have earned her fashion icon status in Lagos, and now she’s coming for London.

“The story is ultimately about loving yourself and the power that holds,” says producer and photographer Marko Vrbos, adding that “with strong messages of feminism and femininity... we can fight toxic masculinity and change how society views femininity, women and queer people who are secure with their sexuality and express themselves freely.”

Check out the premiere of Deto Black, Marko Vrbos and Ben Cole's audacious look into a cheeky fashion paradise ruled by powerful women. And below, PAPER chatted with Deto about existing at the intersections of fashion and music.

Top and underwear: Chantelle Lucyl, Jacket and skirt: Rika Kim, Shoes: BB.SMITH, Sunglasses: Gentle Monster, Jewelry: Amy Rodriguez.

The film, which is this fashion-meets-music explosion on screen, is a Y2K wonderland and creative jungle. Can you share the inspiration for this project?

Marko Vrbos is my good friend who I’ve worked with in the past. Every time we come together, we make something amazing. So they had this idea and [the process] really was very organic. There was no one idea behind it. I was like, I just want to serve looks and like I have this fire song; let’s combine it together. We were actually just going to take pictures and then it turned into a video. That’s how simple and natural it was. Obviously, Ben Cole is a genius. Literally, it’s just three creatives coming together and making magic. I was also shocked at how it turned out. I was like, what?!

So we see these five looks in the film: a strappy, leather rave girl, a fashion “It Girl” wearing trend-heavy designers like Diesel and Nii HAi, there’s Sailor Moon’s doppelganger, this fabulous pink dominatrix gimp suit, and then her softer counterpart in this sultry sex kitten number. Do these five characters represent different parts of yourself?

I don’t like to get too stuck on labels, which is why I haven't really given each character a label. Even with my EP that I put out last year, Yung Everything, where each song is a different piece of me. I have so many interests, so many moods, my style is changing all the time.

I’m in a constant state of change. I’m everything at once. The characters are depicting that pretty much. So you have the super like Motomami, a more dark personality who’s very confident and a little cunty. Then you have another look, which is more girly and soft. I have that feminine side to me as well. Like, I’m an independent woman, but I also expect princess treatment. The song is inspired by [this contradiction], basically talking about a woman who’s super independent, has her own money, but still expects princess treatment.

Sleeve top, skirt, and underwear worn as top: Nii HAi, Bag: Diesel, Sunglasses: Gentle Monster, Jewelry: G6C, Shoes: B.B. SMITH, Belt: Stylist’s Own.

Your new single “Drop Off” is featured in the video. There’s this '90s punk-pop vibe mirrored in the grunge DIY film production. Then there’s also this funky alternative sound. How does this project differ sonically from your past work?

I have a very eclectic taste in everything: with music, fashion, everything. So I have a hard time choosing one thing and sticking to one thing. So I combined all the things I like and made something new. And I think that’s why you’re getting that mixed vibe from it, because it is a mixture of different sounds.

I worked with the producer 2AB, who also produced the songs “Geeked and Gorgeous” and “350” on my EP. This song is kind of like a mesh between those two songs and another song called “Better” on my EP. Yeah, if you mix all those three together and add some Chemical X — this is what you get. I can't really say what genre it is.

Top, pants and shoes: Mugler, Jewelry: G6C and Amy Rodriguez.

Everything in your career has been at the intersection of fashion and music. How do these two passions coalesce and play off each other for you?

I always say, fashion is my first love and music is like my soulmate. I’ve been doing fashion for way longer. So I started music properly and dropped my first song, which was a feature with my friend, Odunsi, “Body Count.” I dropped that in 2020 on his EP. So that was just me being thrown into it. And then I dropped my first project in 2021.

So fashion has always been my backbone. It’s something I’ve known for a long time. I’m very familiar with it. It comes to me and it’s a part of me. Whereas music is something that I love so much, but I never really saw myself being able to do it. That’s why, now, I feel like it’s such a blessing that I can do it.

Fashion will always be an integral part of anything I do. I used to do films when I was in Lagos on the fashion there. Fashion just shows in everything I do. I guess some people could say I make fashion music now.

Top and skirt: Mowalola, Bags: Diesel, Hip attachments: Eduardo Morreira, Shoes and sleeves: Stylist’s own.

What’s your current social scene right now?

I’m in London right now, but I’m literally going to Lagos next week. I'm not gonna lie, I like OD'ed on the social scenes last year. When “Body Count” came out, that was 2020 and everyone was inside. I had a lot of alone time. So last year, it was like, oh, yeah, we’re back outside!

So what’s feeding me now, is like, I’m getting fed from an internal source. So right now, I'm really focused on being inside with the people I love. That's kind of the main source of my inspiration right now.

Jumpsuit: Poster Girl, Jacket: PARIAH, Shoes: Nii HAi, Sunglasses: Prada, Scarf: Ahluwalia, Bra and jewelry: Alex Justspat x Studio Fclx, Helmet: Stylist’s own.

How do your different identities — as a Nigerian woman, a woman from Lagos, a sex-positive creator, etc. — influence your work as an artist?

It gave me a lot of freedom. I’m Nigerian; I was born in America; I’ve lived in London for my adult life. So I’ve been exposed to so many different ways of living and it made me understand that, yeah, there’s tradition, but you can make your own tradition. I make my own culture.

When I was in Uni studying social anthropology, that just reinforced that message in my mind. My whole life, I just want to make my own culture. You know, I live by my own rules and that’s made me feel really fearless and powerful.

Sometimes it can be quite challenging because I think other people want to put you in one place so they can understand you better. So it’s like: Are you Nigerian? Or are you British? Or are you American? Like, what are you? But everything is influencing me, you know?

Talent: Deto Black
Creative direction, photography and styling: Marko Vrbos
Makeup: Alice Dodds
Hair: Manwigs
Videography: Ben Cole
Photography assistant: Elizabete Pakule
Styling assistants: Rocio Drew and Tioluwanipinmi Enitan