If Jazz and Hip-Hop ever had a love child, Dessy Di Lauro would be her name.
She is an artist that is just as comfortable listening to Ella Fitzgerald scat as she is going to see Andre 3000 spit rhymes.
For Dessy Di Lauro, Jazz and Hip-Hop represent the genres of music history where freedom of expression was the norm. Instead music has become very stagnant, mediocre and everybody ‘sounds’ the same, she explained.
RayCornelius.com recently talked with this one time Cirque du Soliel performer and aspiring fashion maven about her quest to change the music industry and the next generation’s perspective of jazz and soul music…one song at a time.
RC: You describe your sound as ‘Feathered Frohawk Futuristic Art Deco Centric Harlem Renaissance Hep Music?’ Explain that? LOL
DDL: LOL Ummm, basically it’s the style of music I’m doing right now. It’s a totally different twist of ‘throwback.’ So I’m taking it and basically mixing 1930’s influence with today. The best way to describe it is Lauryn Hill meets Cab Calloway. So it’s Neo-Ragtime-Soul-Hop.
RC: You’re a Canadian-born singer with a pinch of Cuba, a dash of Brazil, and a sprinkle of Italy. How much does this mixed-heritage play in your music?
DDL: Wow! My mixed heritage played a very important role on the last album or on the EP because it was a mix of Soul, Bassa, Somba, and Salsa. So that was the combination. I still want to do more of it in the future.
RC: Who were some of your musical influences growing up as a child in east Montreal?
DDL: My parents exposed me to so much music. Sarah Vaughn was the ‘voice’ in my house. So I had that mix of jazz, gospel, soul and of course I’m a hip-hop child as well.
But my biggest influences were Sarah Vaughn, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller, like really old stuff. And of course, Whitney, Luther, Donny Hathaway, Outkast, Goodie Mob…just a plethora of music.
RC: You also dabble in fashion and will soon launch your own line. Who are some of your influences and how would you describe your style?
DDL: So right now I’m pushing these cute little feathered head pieces. I don’t know if you have seen my website but all the head pieces that I’m wearing were all custom designed by myself. And they are starting to catch on. You can dress them up. You can dress them down. You can wear them with denim. So I’m working on that. I have a few more ideas that I want to do. Right now just baby steps.
As far as my style? Oh, my goodness! I think one of my favorite designers is Alexander McQueen. I loved his work. He was brilliant. I also love Betsey Johnson. You know the really high end stuff I can’t afford. LOL
RC: How important was Cirque du Soleil to your career?
DDL: Oh my goodness. Cirque was amazing! It’s so funny, coming from Montreal pretty much everyone knows about Cirque but I didn’t. I wasn’t familiar with what they did. I knew they were a circus in town but I didn’t know the level of how they did things and what kind of shows they performed.
So when I joined, it was whole different ball game because I had to be more than just a singer. Cirque is the type of show with all kind of different disciplines. It’s not only music or acrobat. It’s all the arts combined into one. Believe it or not, I actually had to sing, suspended about 50 feet in the air and dance at the same time.
But I learned so much from that experience. It really helped me develop into the performer I am today. I actually have this theatrical element to my performances now. It’s great!
RC: Any chances of you returning to the theatrical stage?
DDL: I had considered Broadway but not for long only because I really enjoy what I’m doing right now. And I really want to focus and push that. Hopefully it gets out to a broader market. I think we have reached a stagnant place in urban music and I’m reintroducing the freedom and expression that use to be there in music.
You know the Harlem Renaissance period was such an incredible period because all of the art and writing and stuff that were going on at that time were forms of expression. The freedom was through their expression. And I find that it has come to a halt in our music today. Yes, there are some amazing artists out there but they don’t get the acknowledgement that a lot of the other stuff gets. I’m really trying to make jazz and soul cool for the next generation. LOL
RC: Let’s talk about your latest video and single, ‘Why You Raggin?’ How did this concept come about?
DDL: It just happened. Me and my writing partner, Ric’key Pageot just sit around and write songs. And whatever comes…comes, and that is exactly how it happened. ‘Why you Raggin?’ was actually written in ten minutes. Yeah, it just flowed. Spiritually it was a gift. The interesting twist is that the song is sung from the friend’s perspective and not from the person in the relationship. And it is about a friend of mine too. LOL we laugh about it all the time.
RC: Any new plans or projects?
DDL: Right now I’m working on a mixed tape. You can actually go to my website, www.dessydilauro.com now and download it for free. It’s called “You Won’t Be the Boss.” It’s an anti-bullying song that features an ol’ school Chief Rocka beat and an MC named Deploi based out of LA.
RC: You’ve worked with a number of other notable singer, one in particular is Patti Labelle. What was it like performing with such a music legend?
DDL: There are no words. Patti Labelle is a beast! She is unbelievable. She is the sweetest woman and very down home. She is always cooking for her crew and happy all the time. And what a voice. I mean, the more she goes, the stronger she gets. She is an incredible talent and another influence of mine. That was a real trip meeting and working for her.
RC: You’re a former victim of domestic violence. How were you able to overcome it? What would you suggest to someone who may be a victim now?
DDL: Get out! My strongest advice is to get out and seek some help. Don’t be ashamed. You know, there is a lot of shame that comes with going through something like this. And there is no need to be ashamed about it. Get help and talk to people. My thing was that I was afraid to talk to people. I was embarrassed because I thought people were going to judge me for staying in this crazy relationship. And unfortunately that is the first thing that people assume who have not experienced the power of manipulation and control. They have no idea how difficult it is. It really is a stronghold.