DaniLeigh | The Most Important Meal of the Day Might be YouTube
Humility is a trait that, ironically, many like to boast. Balancing a healthy dose of humility with confidence, or more specifically, acknowledging one’s self advancement in a crowded and sometimes vicious field that courts a multi-billion-dollar industry, is vital, especially when one has racked up credits singing on, dancing in, and directing pop’s most hallowed figures’ projects.
“My life is crazy and I always have something going on,” says DaniLeigh, as we commence our interview over the phone. “Either I’m in L.A., or at the airport, flying, going to a show, or going to a different city. I just be kind of everywhere.” The Orlando-born rapper and singer isn’t shy about her lightspeed life—and why not? At 24, she’s collaborated with Lil Baby, displayed her choreographic chops on Drake’s “In My Feelings” dance challenge, released her debut album, The Plan, last November via DefJam, and a few years prior to that, directed the totally un-innocuous and drag-inflected “Breakfast Can Wait” music video for the late, great, Prince. If you haven’t seen the video, or listened to the tune for that matter, you’re doing the Purple One an egregious disservice.
DaniLeigh represents a generation of talent who’s successfully harnessed the power, breadth and access that the Internet can offer. From cold-blooded Everglade gators to warm-blooded I-405 mountain lions, she relocated to Los Angeles with her family at 16. As to whether or not she was mentally prepared for such a grand move, she responds candidly, “I wouldn’t say so, it was a huge difference.” Soon after, she began uploading a vast trove of performance videos to YouTube—you know, the Soundcloud before Soundcloud was Soundcloud. “That was the only platform I felt was popping at the time,” DaniLeigh, real name Danielle Curiel, discloses, as she utilized the tools at her disposal to get the name, the voice, the brand, out there.
And what a success that was. “I’ve always tried to figure it out!” she says regarding Prince’s introduction to her. “He actually found me somewhere online, he never told me where... I guess Prince is the type who likes to find talent.” Not only was he the type to find talent, he was the type to hand over an 18-year-old, with no experience of directing a music video, let alone writing a treatment, full creative control. “It was amazing, but definitely scary,” she says of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I didn’t know how to do anything at that time, but I had been on a lot of music videos so I kinda figured out the directing. But it was cool because when I told him my ideas he loved them. He was so open to see what I would come up with.”
This unique partnership, where both parties exchanged ideas for mentorship, provided the native Floridian the confidence necessary to navigate the loud, proud, social-media crowd that would once again catapult DaniLeigh into the public’s radar. Last October, DaniLeigh teamed up with “Drip Too Hard” artist, Lil Baby, on a remix track of her certified-gold hit, “Lil Bebe.” The collaboration was a result of DaniLeigh tagging the Atlanta rapper in an Instagram video, and him agreeing to being featured. It was a huge hit, garnering 14 million views on YouTube and yielding an online explosion of reworks, re-edits, and reposts. Apparently the race to the top can also just be an @ away.
Stylistically influenced by Rihanna and musically motivated by Aaliyah, DaniLeigh is showing listeners and viewers alike that striking the important balance between pride and unpretentiousness, hustling tours globally while finding time to be authentically oneself, is possible. One healthy pastime in between tour dates is “Chilling. I’m a chill person. I love shopping. I love finding cool vintage tees.” Creature comforts prevail. Currently on her Be Yourself Tour, she’s already planned multiple dates all throughout North America. “When I’m in my element is when I’m on stage,” she remarks. “I love having shows. Meeting new people and seeing new faces.” Raised with a penchant for choreography, her live shows don’t disappoint. Spectacle and sound co-mingle. “I have dancers so I like to get my shows super clean,” she shares.
This summer, she’ll continue to perform, touching down in NYC, Belgium for the premier hip-hop festival Vestiville, and the United Kingdom for the Reading and Leeds Festivals. In other words, places that usually portend cooler, grayer weather patterns. DaniLeigh’s biggest wish for the future? “I want to go everywhere tropical... Jamaica. I want it to feel like I’m on vacation!” Watch out Kingston, you’ve got a tour-de-force en-route.