or being the newest rap giant out of Detroit, DeJa Trimble isn't very big. At a petite 5-foot-2, the 23-year-old can easily pass unnoticed in a crowd as not much more than a little girl. She arrived to her BLAC cover shoot in a bright hoodie, sweats and sneaks-her mom trailing not far behind, like a chaperone.
But it's when the pint-sized Trimble gets in front of the camera lens that she becomes DeJ Loaf, the artist who hijacked our playlists and views on women in rap last year. Clad in her signature shades and crisp white, she moves with a swagger that says, "Try me."
DeJ's road to superstardom is a Cinderella story only the Motor City could tell. Working a 9-to-5 as a janitor at a Chrysler plant, she didn't want to be caught up in Detroit's automobile "plant life."
"I always knew that's not what I wanted to do," says DeJ casually. "Once I quit, I knew I didn't want to go back. I just wanted to do my music full time."
The opportunity to quit practically came overnight, thanks to a casual Instagram post by the rapper Drake about six months months ago. The post-which quoted the lyrics to DeJ's song "Try Me" from her mixtape Just Do It-generated mass exposure for the relatively unknown artist. The perfect moment seemed designed by the rap gods themselves (or at least "Yeezus," if you are one of the believers).
"Love wearing black, you should see my closet," goes the song. To which everyone who looked up the lyrics and discovered DeJ in that moment was ready to respond with: "Rock that all white, when I'm feeling godly." And there it is again: DeJ's love for the virginal pristine pureness of white.
"Yeah, that's my thing," says Loaf with a coy laugh, explaining her signature floor-length white fur. "It's a good feeling. It just makes you feel clean, you know? It's a pure vibe."
As random as her spike in popularity seemed, DeJ "always saw it this way."
"I always saw my music going up and just really happening. I just didn't know when," she explains. "I see people that I used to work with and it's funny seeing them, because I guess they thought I was just gassing them up in saying I was gonna be the next thing. Now they see me, though. It's crazy."
Raised in the eastside projects of Detroit, DeJ's love of hip-hop music started early with rappers 2Pac and E-40-thanks to her father. By age 3, she remembers "vibing out" and knowing the words to 2Pac's "Wonder Why They Call You Bitch" by memory.
"I remember a lot of music because he used to listen to music around me," says DeJ. Her father was killed when she was 4 years old. By age 9, DeJ was writing songs about the pain.
Although her flows are certainly sharper now, the foundation of her music is the same: It's about telling her story.
"I want to share my story with the world," says DeJ, about her next project. "I can't tell a lie. Everything that's going on, you are going to get some good. You are going to get some old stories. But you are definitely gonna get some newer stuff that's going on."
Signing an estimated million-dollar deal with Columbia Records last fall-"estimated" because DeJ openly said she would not sign to a label for less than $1 million-not much has changed in DeJ's life. She still plans to stay in Detroit. And her mom, "Mama Loaf," who sometimes travels as DeJ's hairdresser, couldn't be prouder. "What do you expect me to be?" she says, with a down-to-earth outlook on her daughter's success. "This is just another day." And it's this humbleness she has passed on to DeJ.
"You imagine it," says DeJ of success, "But you don't think it's going to happen. For it all to be happening like that, it's dope. To have people want to take pictures, it's crazy."
True to DeJ's style, that's understated. When she's not doing interviews and photo spreads for national magazines like Elle, Complex and Rolling Stone, she is shooting music videos for upcoming releases and guest featuring on songs and the video for Eminem's "Detroit Vs. Everybody."
The best perk about superstardom, DeJ says, is simply the opportunity to be heard.
"Just getting people to actually listen and love what you are doing-I didn't expect this much love so fast," says DeJ. Her hit song "Try Me" has been given the remix treatment by hip-hop favorites Wiz Khalifa, Jeezy, T.I. and Chief Keef. "It's a blessing that people love what I am doing. It makes me want to go harder and keep creating more stuff."
While she remains mum on the details of her official album to drop this year-"Gonna work until everything becomes great, until everything sounds great"-there's no doubt the reception of her debut album will have a considerable impact on the next steps in her career. Which presents a stirring realization-DeJ Loaf is the only female rapper from Detroit to make it mainstream.
And somehow, she's made it without sashaying or twerking her way to the top-but, rather, challenging the gender roles of women in modern hip-hop by leading with her lyrics instead of her looks.
While she says "never say never" about the power of a twerk-filled music video, she doesn't knock anyone else's game.
"Whatever fits them. I don't knock them for doing what they do. What works for them works for them and what works for me works for me. Different things work for different people," says DeJ. "I like what they do actually. I mean they sell it. But I got my own style, so that's what I do."
She describes her style as "rare."
"Some people get it. Some people don't. Some things are not for everybody to understand or get. So I mean, majority wins all the time. That's what I look at-majority rules. And that's what is happening to me right now. I have more people tuned in than I have tuned out, so I really don't pay too much attention to it."
She adds: "I'm doing pretty well as me, DeJa Loaf. So it is what it is."
While she is at the helm of hip-hop, DeJ says she wants to open minds. "I do want people to be more open to different things. I just don't know many other female rappers out that can be just as good as Nicki or Iggy. Everybody else don't even sound like me. I'm representing where I am from. This is my style and I don't plan on changing it much."
And the weight of her success isn't lost on her.
"I just recently noticed. I was one of the first females to make it out of the city. But I am gonna represent it well. I am gonna try to put as many people in a position as I can from my hometown."
DeJ makes it clear: The next female rapper to come out of Detroit will have some big loafers to fill. "Definitely," she says, with a smile.