Now signed to independent label 11A Records, Dezi is hard at work becoming a talent for the national stage, and “Lady” is evidence of that effort. Relying on Dezi’s voice rather than bass lines or electronica, the track is a slow burning R&B song with an uplifting message about female empowerment, perfectly delivered by Dezi’s soaring vocals.
In the music video -- directed by Jeremy Biggers and cleanly shot in black and white -- Dezi belts his lyrics in a chic blazer and pants in front of a simple screen, a far cry from the sweaty nightclub stages of past visuals. The clip pans to a diverse group of women and shows candid closeups, striking profile shots, and gorgeous smiles. The “Lady” music video does indeed stay true to its name.
Billboard spoke to Dezi 5 to chat about “Lady,” his life growing up in Dallas, and why appreciating the women in your life is more important than ever.
Thanks for chatting with us! So you’re from Dallas. What was it like growing up as a black gay boy of the '80s in the middle of Texas?
Back then, being gay was still something most people wouldn’t even talk about. I was always a feminine kid, but I didn't know I was gay. People I grew up around would point out my gayness before I even knew what gay was. They’d call you a f-g but I didn’t even know what that meant then. So I never really had to come out; I just grew into myself, naturally. I never felt the need to tell my family that I was gay -- it was always pretty self-evident. But I never said that I wasn't!
And through all that, what were you listening to?
Michael Jackson, Janet, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder. Lots of gospel music. I sang in church. Lots of Shirley Caesar, the Williams Brothers. There was always a lot of R&B in my house. Traditional soul groups. That’s what I grew up around. And Erykah Badu is my No. 1: I’m from Dallas, she's from Dallas, so we have that Texas thing going on!
So let’s fast forward to today and “Lady.” What is it all about?
“Lady” is really about encouraging people to get it together. The message works equally well for everyone, for all human beings. My grandmother, who has since passed and really helped raise me, her resilience and heart was the inspiration for the song when I wrote it in 2012.
But it’s not only about her. It’s about all women, women in the world who are fighting for equality, trans women struggling to just stay alive. And it’s about my aunts and other family members I grew up with, those that were taken by the crack epidemic. Once, my aunties were beautiful and glamorous. They wore furs, put on terrific outfits. But they became victims of crack, and it changed them. They became almost unrecognizable. But I always remember them as those regal ladies, and this song is about remembering that, too.
The “Lady” video is also unostentatious and refreshing.
Thank you, that’s what we were going for! I wanted the video to be clean and simple, to give a feeling of nostalgia, because I think the song speaks for itself. I made sure to cast a diverse set of women, to show the beauty of all women, point blank. “Lady” is very different from the dance-first club music I usually create. It’s classic, much more simple, and I think the video reflects that.
The video starts with me getting a fresh fade at a barbershop to show me, a queer person, in a vulnerable position. For a gay black man like me, one of the hardest things to do is walk into a straight, black, male-dominated barbershop and sit down for a cut. These places can be filled with extremely homophobic guys, and it can be really, really uncomfortable. Even though the shop is a big part of black culture, and also a place I need to go to get the proper cut I want. So I wanted to show what overcoming anxiety can look like: Me, calmly sitting in a chair. I think, "If I can do it, they can do it too!"
During these times, when we're all stuck in the house and dealing with a ton of anxiety and doubts, what do you hope people glean from “Lady”?
I really hope people listening to “Lady” find the strength to get it together and keep moving forward. And I hope people start cherishing the women in their lives. It’s still Women’s History Month, after all, but it’s more important than ever that we remember to appreciate the women all the time. And I want the ladies listening to this to remember to wear their crowns, because they are all queens!
Ya know, “Lady” reminds me of growing up with my grandmother, sitting in the kitchen with her while she was preparing a meal, listening to music on the radio. She passed in 2013, and never got to hear the song she inspired. So being appreciative of the women you have around you is just so important.
And do you think your grandmother would approve of “Lady”?
Oh, I know for a fact that she would!