INTERVIEW: Stefflon Don Has 'Universal' Music & Isn't Trying To Crossover
By Isha Thorpe
December 13, 2017
If you haven't heard the name Stefflon Don yet, you will very soon because the rising star is on the fast track to being one of music's next biggest tings.
Born Stefanie Allen in Birmingham, England to Jamaican parents who constantly played reggae around the house, music has always been a major part of her life. At the age of 4 years ago, Don moved to the Netherlands with her family. Fun fact: This allowed her to speak fluent Dutch. While in this country, she became familiar with "bubbling," which is a Dutch sub-genre of dancehall. Then at 14, Don and her family moved to London when grime was taking over the city.
At this point, the soon-to-be star became so influenced by all of these different types of music styles that she began recording songs for fun. After years of making music, Don decided to take it seriously as a career in her early 20s. That's when she started getting busy in the studio and the rest is music history. Due to the vast influences she grew up around, Don can switch from a British accent to a patois one in the drop of a dime and also go from hot rapping to singing just like that.
That's why she's been getting recognized by some of the biggest artists in the industry. Only about two years into the game, the 25-year-old has already collaborated with Demi Lovato on "Instruction," Jeremih on "London," French Montana on "Hurtin' Me," and so much more.
iHeartRadio spoke with Stefflon Don about her amazing music. Check out our interview with her below!
Let's start by talking about your single "Hurtin' Me" with French Montana. How was it recording with him?
I actually recorded the track and then we sent it to him. So, we weren't in the studio together. He just sent back his verse.
What or who is the song inspired by?
The song is about a girl being very hurt that her ex-boyfriend has moved on, and he now has a new girlfriend. In the song, I play the role as the ex-girlfriend being hurt. But, in real life, I was actually the new girlfriend, and I just tried to put myself in her shoes, and [see] how she would feel, and just made a song for her to sing along.
Are all of your songs based on your personal life?
No, not all the time. Sometimes... I might be chilling with my girls, and they might be talking about a particular scenario with a guy and I'll just be writing stuff about that whole situation.
Are you the type of friend that gives your friends relationship advice?
Yeah, I always give my friends relationship advice, but they never take it [laughs]. It's good advice, but they never take it.
You have a lot of songs with American artists. Do you think it's easy to crossover?
This has been my first promo run and I haven't really tried to crossover. I've just been making music and just getting it placed everywhere. I mean, you got the internet. I got fans all over the world, so I haven't really tried to crossover. I just think of my sound as just universal. I want it to be everywhere. So, I haven't just come to America saying, 'Oh, I just wanna be here.' I wanna be everywhere.
How would you describe your music, or your sound, to people who maybe haven't heard it yet over here?
I feel like my sound is, first of all, very real. I don't do stuff that I don't like and everything that I do, I like it before I put it out. It's not just about what someone else likes. I rap and I sing, so then you've got a bit of hip hop in there. I'm Jamaican, so you got a bit of dancehall. And I'm from London, so there's a bit of London things in there. Yeah, it's a bit mixed. And at sometimes, it's a little bit Afro beat. So, it's all mixed into hip hop, and then dancehall, and then a bit of Afro beat sometimes. And then, sometimes, it's just straight rap. So, it's a blend. But, it sounds good.
Describe U.K. grime music for someone who doesn't know what that is.
U.K. grime is just a whole different style of rap. You could have a grime beat -- a grime beat is really fast. I can't remember how the tempo goes, but it's more faster than a generic hip hop beat, and the way they rap on it is totally different. It's like double time. It's really quick. A lot of times, they repeat the same words like, 'I'm a big man, but I'm not 30. Don't understand, you can't hurt me,' and then they go, 'I'm a big man, but I'm not 30.'
And they just have mad, what do you call it? Punchlines? They just always say mad stuff to get the crowd just hype. And it's a gas type of tunes. If they perform it in the audience, it will go off, it will go crazy. The crowd in England, and London, even in Europe; they just love that sound.
**WARNING: Explicit language**
Which do you like better, rapping or singing?
It depends on my mood and it depends on what beat I'm writing to. So, if I hear a beat, and it's like, 'Okay, I need to sing on this,' I'm gonna sing. Then, if I hear a beat that I need to rap on. But, I will say, it's easier for me to make singing songs because I just go and I freestyle. And when you [are] freestyle singing, it's like you've got way more time to think of what the next line's gonna be. So, it's easier for me to make singing songs. But, I do love rapping, as well. So, it's a bit hard.
You also appeared on Future's Hndrxx Tour. How was that experience?
The tour was lit. That's like my first tour. So, to start with Future, that's crazy. And you had big names on there, like Rich The Kid, as well. So, that was sick. And just touring around Europe and then also realizing that the whole Europe market, kind of, knows who you are because normally, before you come out, you're always like, '[Are] there people [who are] gonna know who I am?' But they knew who I was, which was dope.
What made you want to be an artist?
I don't know. Since I was little, I just always loved music and my family's musical. They love music, as well. And growing up, my TV just used to constantly be on music channels. And my dad would always play music on these big, like massive, speakers. I think because I'm Jamaican, as well. I feel like they love music. They always play music around the house, when they cleaning, when they cooking, all you hear is music. So, from a young kid, I guess it was instilled in me if it wasn't just in my blood anyway. I knew this is what I wanted to do from the get go. I've been writing since I was like eight.
Any new music in 2018?
I wanna drop a project early next year, probably like a mixtape or something. I'm gonna make sure I got a lot of rap on there, cover the rap side. Still have my flavors with my Caribbean things, and my Afro things. I feel like it's still gonna be a mix like my last mixtape, how Real Ting kind of was.
**WARNING: Explicit language*
Photos: Derrick Kakembo