On Day 6 of our "12 Days of Christmas," we talk with DaniLeigh. The Def Jam artist sat down with us to talk about creating "MOVIE" during a pandemic, marching for BLM, and maintaining her privacy in a world where everyone has formed an opinion about her personal life.
Not every artist takes hold of the opportunities placed before them. Some don’t believe they’re ready for certain chances while others know they aren’t prepared, but DaniLeigh has been able to carve out her space in the industry by trusting her process. Weeks ago, DaniLeigh delivered her sophomore studio album MOVIE two years after formally introducing herself on her debut effort, The Plan. The project arrived with a captivating visual album that shared a cohesive story of love, infidelity, loss, and rising from the ashes; a production that showcased that DaniLeigh is a multi-hyphenate creator, more than just Def Jam’s current “It” girl.
We had the pleasure of speaking with DaniLeigh for our 12 Days of Christmas series, and the singer shared her experiences as an artist and creative in 2020 while enduring this current socio-political climate that's been further intensified by a pandemic. Like millions of others in Los Angeles County, DaniLeigh is once again facing quarantine lockdown mandates due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Throughout the year, we’ve watched artists find innovative ways to not only create but to perform. DaniLeigh was able to write, record, and release MOVIE while many artists haven’t been able to find direction.
Day Six: A Conversation with DaniLeigh
“It shows that you just gotta be creative I feel,” DaniLeigh said of adapting to the times. “Just the fact that I got to do something like this for my album showed people that I am a creative person. This pandemic has either made people be like, ‘Bro, I don’t know what to do,’ or the other way around where they have time and they’re just, really excited type of thing.”
Making sure she was honing her skills wasn’t the only thing on DaniLeigh’s mind this year. The world united to take on to their prospective neighborhoods as they protested police brutality and systemic racism— a unification on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement, unlike anything we have witnessed in history. DaniLeigh was on the front lines in her city and it was a cause that she did not hesitate to lend her voice to.
“It was important. 2020 has been so crazy and it was a time to be able to stand for Black people and I feel like I just had to be out there,” said the singer. Back in June, DaniLeigh shared an image of herself with friends during a protest with the caption, “F*CK RACISM && F*CK YOU IF U HAVEN’T SPOKEN ON IT.”
“I’m a part of something that I fought for so it was definitely important for me and it was a good moment in a sense of speaking on that and fighting for justice,” she added. Leading by example is something that’s significant to the singer, especially because she's had influential figures in her life to help her along the way. When DaniLeigh was just 18-years-old, late music legend Prince tapped her to direct the music video for his 2013 single “Breakfast Can Wait.” It was an opportunity of a lifetime and soon, the music icon would become DaniLeigh’s mentor until his death.
Directing wasn’t an avenue that DaniLeigh initially nurtured, but after tackling Prince's visual, the singer has incorporated those skills into her own career. “I like to be a part of everything I do,” she said. She’s been hands-on with her own music videos and acted as director for MOVIE’s visual album.
“It just makes it real for me. It’s fun, too,” she added. “I love being involved with everything. It could be something I do. People have reached out to me for a couple of things [to direct], but I’m just busy. But shoot, maybe! It might be something I gamble in.”
Paul Morigi / Contributor / Getty Images
As she weighs whether or not she has time to get behind the camera for her fellow artists, DaniLeigh is taking risks as it pertains to crafting music. Fans got to know her on The Plan as the professional dancer displayed her moves with Chris Brown in the visual to the remix of her track “Easy.” With a little more time and life experience under her belt, DaniLeigh highlighted areas where she’s matured as an artist since that album's release.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I’ve grown with my pen for sure,” she said. “I feel like my pen has gotten stronger. [I’ve also grown] as a woman, you know what I mean…I’ve just grown up more. The Plan was when I was 22. I’m 25 now so I’ve definitely gone through more life, and I always have my sound—my sound is my vibe which is like R&B, trap, you know those types of production beats, but I’ve definitely grown. It’s just all growth.”
It was crucial for DaniLeigh to challenge herself as she evolved, and while we’ve seen major artists like Beyoncé complete the laborious undertaking of creating a visual album, the younger generation of artists aren’t as confident...or patient. “I’ve been wanting to do that for a minute and quarantine really gave me the time to really put it together,” said DaniLeigh. “So, it was a blessing-- the pandemic for me. I got to have time and do that, and as far as the songs, some of them are older. Literally, there’s a song in there that’s like two years old.”
Her tracks “Put U On,” “Diamonds on Me,” “Last Night,” “I Wish,” and “Situations” are a bit older, while “Superstar,” “Famous,” and “Dominican Mami” were penned this year. “Levi High was new,” she said of her collaboration with DaBaby. “’Monique’ was new. ‘Mistreated’ is new. So, there’s a good balance. There’s like, two years of work. It’s me just going through life, living life, and recording all the time… A movie.”
DaniLeigh poured herself into MOVIE and it was clear that listeners would be taken for a ride as soon as they pressed play. The introductory song “Superstar” was all about her romance with another celebrity, with lyrics like:
Hope TMZ don't post the pictures from the club
'Cause they'll show the world exactly who I love
You love the way I always go and get my bag
And that's to show that I ain't with you 'cause you rap
You make me better, I guess I found my better half
The singer is usually tight-lipped about her personal life, especially after rumors about her romance with DaBaby began to circulate earlier this year. “I put it all in the music. I am a lowkey person and do like my privacy. But, when it comes to music, that’s just my real feelings so I don’t really alter it or anything, you know?”
Hours after we completed our interview with DaniLeigh, she shared a photo of herself hugging DaBaby to her Instagram, confirming their much-talked-about relationship. Both artists have been enjoying fawning over one another on social media ever since, but just because the public sees portions of her life doesn't mean that DaniLeigh has given them access.
“I feel like everybody be trying to figure out who I am and it’s just like, ‘Y’all don’t know me. It’s okay,’” she said. “I mean, I don’t know, it’s just the fact that…I feel like I have a very pure heart and everything I do has good intentions. You know?" At this moment, it seems as if she's referencing the unwarranted backlash and the hateful remarks she receives. "I have a really big heart, sometimes it’s too big. I feel like it gets taken advantage of. I don’t know. I feel like that could be something where people feel like I'm this or that. But I’m really not.”
We couldn’t have a conversation with the MOVIE songwriter without asking her about her adoration for '90s Hip Hop and R&B. DaniLeigh’s love for Missy Elliott is something that she hasn’t kept a secret, but we wanted to know what other artists from that era she would work with if she had the chance—dead or alive.
A smile crept across her face as she thought of her answers. “I would do one with Aaliyah. I would do one with Usher,” said DaniLeigh. “I would do a song with Biggie Smalls. Who else…Pac. I’m trying to think. Brandy! That would be fire.” The girl groups received love as well as TLC and SWV were on the table.
Theo Wargo / Staff / Getty Images
As 2021 quickly approaches, DaniLeigh is imagining what next year holds for her. She told us that she’s been developing a fashion line, something that is still in its inception stages. “I’m about to start it. I have my MOVIE merch and I designed all that, all merch and stuff. So aside from DaniLeigh [the artist], I wanna do my own line.”
Fans can expect to receive “streetwear vibes” from the singer’s upcoming apparel collection that she calls “fly stuff. Just jiggy stuff.” There will be much more from DaniLeigh on the music front, as well, as she has plans to continue advancing as an artist.
“I’m just gonna be recording, really. That’s what I love to do and just think of other ideas,” she said of 2021. “MOVIE was just an ‘it popped up in my head’ type of thing, so we’ll see what happens.” Will there be a MOVIE sequel? “I don’t know. We shall see,” DaniLeigh answered. “I just really create music and we’ll see what happens. MOVIE can be what it was, you know. Stay tuned.”
Overall, DaniLeigh has simple 2021 resolutions: “Just keep leveling up. That’s it. Just keep balling.”
Watch DaniLeigh's visual album for MOVIE below.