IMAGE COURTESY OF JOACHIM ZIMMERMANN
She may not yet have released a debut album, but Berlin-based MC DENA (Denitza Todorova) is already drawing lofty comparisons to artists like M.I.A. and Santigold based on the strength of singles “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools” and “Boyfriend.” But where the latter ladies pen lyrics steeped in metaphors and nuance, DENA (for whom English is a third language) doesn’t concern herself with hidden messages or agendas. The simplicity and directness of her rhymes and self-programmed MPC basslines make her brand of “girl from the bloc” pop an infectious, refreshing game-changer. DENA first got noticed with her impressive vocals on two of The Whitest Boy Alive albums, and her first solo project is a 7″ by Finnish producer Jonas Verwijnen.
Interview caught up with her at Jonas’s Kaiku Studios in Berlin, as she was putting the shiny finishing touches on her behemoth party opus, benevolently dedicated to art, fashion, and the pursuit of fun times.
GOODBYE COMMUNISM: I left Bulgaria after I finished high school in 2004. I was in a German school. The political situation there in the ’90s was a little bit tricky. Bulgaria used to be a Communist country. After the Berlin Wall came down, there was this crazy anarchy. So, after graduating, and being able to speak fluent German, I moved to Berlin.
HER BERLIN LIFE: I live in Kreuzberg. It’s like the Brooklyn of Berlin. For the eight years I’ve been here, it’s getting more exciting day by day. It’s not a town that you live in and it becomes boring. There are a lot of opportunities for networking. I’ve been writing like crazy and developing my tracks… trying to make it all more concrete. Because of the success of the video (“Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools”) we just dropped, I’m totally occupied with emailing and all that stuff. Otherwise, I’m composing, bringing all my beats to the studio, and making everything sound fett! I’m not hanging a lot at the Turkish market!
DESTINY’S CHILD: I’m inspired by hip-hop, R&B, and music from the ’90s. I’m totally into Destiny’s Child! It’s my favorite band. But I also listen to beat music, like J Dilla and Madlib. Destiny’s Child is the music where singing and rapping is perfectly combined. I care for harmonies and chords. I don’t have this “anti-pop” or “commercial music” thing. In Germany, there was this famous [quote:] “Good music, I dance. No good music, I not dance!” I’m not American or English. I don’t have this filtering connection to the lyrics of all those groups. When I listen to Jay-Z, I probably get about ten percent of what he’s saying! Growing up in Bulgaria, my only connection to music was MTV… and it was a bit delayed. So, maybe I’m a bit behind.
THE NEXT M.I.A OR SANTIGOLD?: I can’t really say. I’ve only heard two of their tracks.
A STATEMENT ABOUT HIP-HOP EXCESS?: [“Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools” is] a playful statement. It’s not like a “fuck you” to all those status symbols. It’s definitely playing with irony. I’m trying to stay in a neutral zone, pointing towards me just wanting to have a good time. I’ve experienced liking a track, but not identifying with certain lyrics. In hip-hop, it can happen that you like the production, but you can’t listen to it because you feel affected or insulted.
THE FUTURE PERFECT: I’m going to have a guest verse on LCMDF’s track “Mental.” It’ll be out in October. I might also play CMJ then. Otherwise, “Everything is chill. Everybody calm down. Soon, we’re all gonna hang by the pool!”
FOR MORE ON DENA, VISIT HER WEBSITE.