Branded a ‘rising star’ by NME and recently making an appearance on a playlist by the Gorillaz, Deema is set to be a one of 2021’s breakout names.
Quick-witted and funny, it is easy to forget that the Catford rapper is only 20-years-old.
Deema first made waves as the youngest member of the Lewisham-based grime collective The Square – which boasted the likes of Novelist, Elf Kid, DeeJillz and Lolingo among its former members.
At the age of just 16, Deema joined The Square through links from his “one and only true love” Telegraph Hill Park, in Lewisham.
There is no doubt that The Square has made its mark within the Grime scene, not least for successfully putting Lewisham Mcdonalds on map with the single ‘Lewisham McDeez’ released in April 2015.
“I saw Elf the other day actually, he was like my mentor,” Deema said. “I was telling him how much of a blessing it was.”
“They took me to shows that I wasn’t really meant to be getting into at aged 15/16.
“I think The square did put Lewisham on the map and I always say if they [the originals] hadn’t left it would have been crazy.
“They came up around the same time as AJ Tracey and they were all going to radio sets together.
“They took over the end of Boy Better Know (BBK) shows with Skepta and appeared on Radar Radio– back when radar was a thing.
“They definitely had a big impact on Grime and music in general. They’ve brought some positivity to Lewisham.”
Now branching out on his own, his debut EP ‘CHEW YOUR FOOD’ is produced by fellow Square alumni, Dom Valentino and features the likes of South East London rapper David Armada.
The seven track EP showcases Deema’s versatility and is proof that he is, as he raps in one track, “dropping bangers out of SE4”.
In the track RAT RACE, his favourite on the EP, Deema comments on the reality of staring at phone screens and living in a rat race.
“Before I started releasing songs, I didn’t even have any social media presence.
“Social media is definitely helpful and I’m sure if I didn’t have it I might not be where I am, but it is a blessing and a curse.”
He admits that he does feel the pressure of social media and his generations need to “have it all” by your 20s.
“You can write here ‘Deema looked really stressed,’” He laughed. “The pressure is on.”
Born in Peckham, real name Dillon Roe-Edema attended Hollydale Primary School in Nunhead before moving to the Brockley and Telegraph Hill area.
His background has a clear influence throughout his music, from obvious references – one track on the EP is simply titled SE4 – to more critical social commentary in RAT RACE and DEAD WEIGHT.
For secondary school Deema attended Haberdashers Askes – a music specialist school in New Cross that boasts singer-songwriter Katy B among its notable former students.
It was here that he was introduced to members of The Square but it was through the local park that he was first discovered as an artist.
“I can’t lie, me and my friends were all super-fans of The Square and we would copy their bars, until we eventually started making our own,” he said.
“Blakie [a member of The Square] came through the park one time and, even though we were his youngers, he liked what he heard.
“He took me to Flex FM, which was a pirate radio station at the time, where The Square were doing a set that day and he let me join in.
“I got my first reload and that was the beginning of it all.
“It was all started because of the park.”
Deema also presents a radio show on the Peckham-based station Balamii titled Southside Selection, that features a range of artists from across South London – and sometimes beyond.
Currently on pause during the Coronavirus pandemic, Southside selection showcases a mix of grime, hip-hop, RnB and drum and bass tracks with different guests every month.
Watch out for Deema’s new single called “Can I?” Coming out on the 29th of April. You can follow him on Instagram for updates via @swearthatsdeema
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