On The Radar: Deno

On The Radar: Deno

Trust me, you’re going to remember this interview and what I told you on this day in September, 2019. Trust me, man, just wait…” Deno is telling Music Week in no uncertain terms that he is going to be an international superstar. “I’m going to be like Drake, I’m going to do mad things,” says the smooth-singing 16-year-old, whose full name is Deno Michael Mebrahitu. “I want to headline Wireless because it’s the first festival I did, I want to do Glastonbury no matter where I am on the line-up, that’s a must. Coachella is a must as well. To have a No.1 album or single would be crazy, but they’ll come.”

Our rocket science skills aren’t necessary to register that Deno’s confidence is abundant, but perhaps his swagger is understandable. In 2016, Stormzy tracked him down after catching the video of Deno with his mates singing Geko’s Over & Under outside school, when he was just 13. Days later, the pair were pictured in matching Adidas tracksuits in the studio while the grime star was recording Gang Signs & Prayer. Idris Elba’s a fan too, and cast Deno in his In The Long Run series last year. In between, the South Londoner has worked with the late Cadet on Advice, a viral rap banger that pays homage to Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli and has 539,761 sales, according to the Official Charts Company. Add in a run of singles both under his own name and alongside former collaborator AJ (London has 35 million YouTube views) and you’ve quite the prospect.

I’m going to be like Drake


Deno’s as-yet-untitled debut EP is coming next month, and lead single Change (which features Digdat and has 1.4m Spotify plays and 1.6m YouTube views so far) has set the tone nicely. But, Deno insists, numbers aren’t everything. “It’s about quality, man. You’ve got to show people what you bring to the table as an artist and deliver a mixtape, an album. You can’t just be that guy who had a couple of hits,” he says. “Nah, that doesn’t make you a proper artist, that’s not going to take you to the greatest level and that’s what it’s about for me, I want to be one of the greats.”

Unsurprisingly, Deno is very clear about what he can offer. “I’ve got that street-smart aura. I’ve got that cool, young, fresh sound. I can do more than just one genre,” he says. “I don’t just do Afroswing. I did a song the other day with Chip on a rhythmic drill beat. I can do the singing thing and the half-sing, half-rap thing. It takes me to different audiences.”

Deno will turn 17 before the EP drops, and he’s not about to let anything get in the way of his mission. Three years ago, Stormzy told him to “stay focused, keep my head screwed on,” and Deno is heeding the advice. “There aren’t really a lot of young artists like myself doing music, so to have as much recognition as I do in the scene right now is great,” he says. “The last person to ever do something like this was Chip back in the day. For people to now see a new kid doing their thing is just mad.”

Deno wants to be an example to his ever-expanding following, to make a lasting impression. “No matter where you grow up or what background you come from, you can still make it,” he says. “If you have a dream, just chase it…”


RELEASES Untitled EP (October)
LABEL Columbia
NEXT GIG O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, November 1 (w/Jay 1 & DJ Semtex)

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