Rapper, hip hop star, man of God, innovator, tech-guru, businessman, community activist, husband and father, Dae Lee has figured out the matrix of the entertainment industry, and he’s going to share it with you, our readers. Equipped with a new music app, which will not only personally engage his fans, but will reenergize the music scene, as well.
I was truly impressed by this award-winning artist and renaissance man’s extensive career, business acumen and endless knowledge on how to use technology to conquer the music industry.
Here’s what I learned about him, during our great conversation:
Kiel: So, Dae Lee, we want to know a little bit about you. For instance, where does the name Dae Lee come from, and who you are as an artist?
Dae Lee: So, the name, Dae Lee, came from a nickname, my uncle gave me, from my government name, which is my first and middle name, David Lee, and he used to just call me Dae Lee. So, when it came around to me starting to write and perform, and I needed a stage name, I was like, ‘oh…I don’t hate Dae Lee, so, I’m-a use it. So, that’s where that comes from. And what was your other question?
Kiel: Yeah, I read a little bit about you and your genre of music, and you’re what’s considered a Christian/indie-rock act, so, just expound on that a little for us?
Dae Lee: I actually got into music, through the same uncle, that gave me that nickname. He was a music director, and one day after basketball practice in high school, I walked over there and he had a keyboard sitting around and started playing around with it, and it had a lot of sequences on it, so that’s kind of how I got into production. And I did it, kind of nonstop, for maybe the next two years. And then I finally started to feel like I needed to hear some lyrics on top of this production, so I just started to write for the fun of it, and it snowballed from there, to where, you know, I thought, ‘okay, I might be all right with this.’ And I just kept on writing, and like I said, it just kind of snowballed from there
And I’m originally from Norfolk, VA. Ended up moving to the Queen Cities in 2001 for school, and then just continued to work on my craft. And I guess now, I’m five projects, one album later, and here I am right now, releasing some new music. So, that’s kind of how I got into it.
Dae Lee: And, as far as, genre-wise, I’m more at the core, hip-hop, but I guess the producer in me, loves any type of music that’s good music. So, I definitely infuse music, whether it’s indie-rock, whether it’s pop music or whether it’s Caribbean vibe, I infuse all of that in my music. I’m definitely real big on diversity and exposing people to different stuff, that more than likely you’ll like it, but you can say you don’t, but you’ve never heard it. And I like to avoid boxes.
Kiel: Right. I definitely feel that. Especially, in this new climate of music; it’s like everybody’s trying to do a mashup of something. So, you gotta think outside of the box. So, you said you had five projects in all, including the project you’re releasing right now, and an earlier project entitled, “Reflect,” right?
Dae Lee: Correct. I released “Reflect” in 2014. That was, actually, my first album. Before that, it was three mixtapes, which I released my first one (mixtapes) in 2005, and then a couple of EP’s, as well. Right now, what I’m working on, I don’t want to call it a project. It’s more so, I’m releasing a new single every month, which I started in August. So now, we’re on our third single, and I’m just trying a lot of different stuff. I mean, like my background is in tech, and just how things are changing with the music industry, I want to say I’m kind of changing my business model, to where I’m not waiting to release a new project, every other year or so, to actually releasing new music, every month, and actually releasing via my own app. So, I’m releasing it directly to the fans, and streaming it, and stuff like that. But, just trying some different things and stepping outside of the box, where our plan is more catered towards consumer than a marketing strategy, which is the typical way things usually work within the music industry.
Kiel: Cool. That’s awesome man. So, the next single, which I got a little snippet of, on your Facebook page, which is “Beautiful.” And that’s coming out now?
Dae Lee: Yeah, I’m releasing it in my app on Tuesday, and next week, I’ll be releasing a new video for it, on next Friday, to the public. And what it’s really all about for me, is vibing directly with my fans, and letting them hear the music first, and then I’ll trickle it out the public. And every month it’s a new song, and followed by a music video, as well.
Kiel: Yeah, because I really like that song man. I can’t wait to hear the whole thing.
Dae Lee: You ain’t gotta wait, man. You ain’t gotta wait. Download the app.
Kiel: Oh, it’s going down. I’m getting the app, today. And I love “Royal” too. I have to talk to you about that, actually. I have a podcast that I’m starting, and one of my stage names is K.I.N.G., and we’re looking for a song for the intro. So, we may have to talk.
Dae Lee: Let’s do it!! That’s what’s up.
Kiel: Most definitely, man. So, getting back to the music. I read that you’re on the recording label, called Jehovah Jireh. Are you still with them?
Dae Lee: That’s actually my production company.
Kiel: Oh, wow!!
Dae Lee: I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe it just stems from like my grandfather. He owns a construction company and worked with kids. So, I’ve always been business minded. And with having a tech background, I’ve always had the idea, that I should start a business, own what I do, and I started my production company, which what I release my music through, and even down to the app. I was like, “okay, I don’t want Facebook and Instagram to own audience; I want to connect with my audience.” It’s just a lot of things, I think the public and consumers, don’t know about. For example, if you have a thousand followers on Instagram, you only organically reach about 10% of those people.
Kiel: Wow!! I never knew that.
Dae Lee: Whereas, with the app, I actually own those relationships with my audience, in comparison to having to pay them (social media) more to reach people, who’ve already said they’re fans, which makes no business sense to me. When I’ve built this audience on this platform and they’re limiting to where I can’t even reach them, and the app allows me to maintain and own that relationship, and directly connect with them about what’s going on with me and the music.
Kiel: You’re already an award-winning artist. Stellar & Dove winner and Grammy Nominated. Which songs and/or albums were those for?
Dae Lee: Yeah so, actually very early on in my production I was able to produce for a guy name Da’ T.R.U.T.H., who’s a rapper, for a couple of his projects. But I worked on his first project, where I produced a couple of songs on it, and that album Grammy nominated, which is where my Grammy nomination as the producer, comes from. And that album won a Stellar Award & a Dove Award, which all happened very early on in 2005
And I guess that segue into another passion of mine, which is mentoring younger producers, creative people, and artist. Initially, I didn’t know I had been nominated or even won the other two awards, until like five years later, when I was talking to his manager. And because I was really young, when it happened, I didn’t know what to do it or how to leverage it career-wise. And if I had been mentored or instructed I would have known how to like to move forward with a career. Definitely not regretting it, but just imagine how much further I could be. So that and other things gave me a passion to lend the knowledge I have and just help them understand how important mentors and even goals are with your career.
Just like the algorithm I told you about. A lot of people don’t know that, and they hours upon hours every day on Instagram to get their followers up, and they don’t know they’re limited to only reach less than 10% of that audience. And a mentor may be able to direct you into utilizing your energy somewhere else. Because I’d rather have a 100 people, who are really supportive of what I do, and really be able to contact them and grow an actual relationship with them, rather than 1,000 followers on Instagram or Facebook.
For instance, when Master P started selling cd’s out of the back of his car, and sold 10,000 copies, if he had done that on iTunes, it’s not the same type of relationship, because iTunes knows who those people are, but you don’t, so you can’t further that relationship with them. You actually own those relationships.
Kiel: Exactly. Artist like P and even Too $hort were the first to distribute their music straight out of the trunks of their cars and transition into megastars
Dae Lee: Yeah, man.
Kiel: So, your latest single is Royal?
Dae Lee: That was actually my first single out, in August. Then in September, I released a song called “Imagine,” and this month I’m releasing “Beautiful.”
Kiel: So considering your method of getting your music to your fans, what’s the response been like and has it been advantageous for you, to release music this way?
Dae Lee: I think it’s a little too early to tell. We’re only two months in, and just shy of the third month, and again it’s gonna have to be a ton of education on our process put out there to our fanbase because this is something new and they’re not used to. For instance, a label artist’s fan can expect to wait a year or more for them to release a full album, and with streaming, you can pick the song(s) you wanna play. Very rarely do we click a full album. So, it’s going to take some time to really prove this method works, but in other mediums, it’s kind of already a proven method. Say television…we’re streaming Hulu, where we’re finding shows we like and we’re playing what we like, which is the same thing I’m doing with my music. Which, I’ll release a song every month, and whatever you like, and you sign up for the app, you can listen to the latest release. And eventually, we’ll get to the point like Hulu, where we’ll be like, “okay, 90 days free,” because of you like this music so much, they hey contribute and support with a subscription within the app. And right now, I have about 90 people in the app, which are 90 relationships I own, where I can email or contact them directly, which is the basis of my whole concept for my projects. And like with any business, you have to give it time, which is usually anywhere between 2-3 years to see the return of success. “Imagine” did very well locally, so I’m expecting that same and more type of responses as I continue to release music.
Kiel: And you’re getting ready to gear up for some live performances, I saw on your website. Tell us about that?
Dae Lee: Right now, I’m getting ready to book a winter/spring tour, but for right now, it’s in-between dates going on. The first will be on the 14th (Oct.) up in the mountains. Up in the mountains. Sort of a private gig, for a middle school youth group, where I’ll be doing some songs for them, but also for St. Augustine University Homecoming, which on the 22nd (Oct.), and maybe a couple more shows, where I can bring people to experience opportunities I’m creating for myself, by way of this new concept of how I push my music, which also is like an educational experience, as well.
Kiel: Awesome man. So, just so that we here at Empower and for our followers can stay in touch with you and support your movement, where can we find you online and in social media?
Dae Lee: Yeah, social media-wise, my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are all ‘DaeLeeMusic,’ YouTube is https://www.youtube.com/user/watchdaelee, and I say the first line of communication is to download the app. You can go to the Android or Apple Stores and type in: Dae Lee, and it’ll come up, which is the best way to stay tuned, listen to new music first and staying in contact.
Kiel: Cool man!!! Anything else you like for me to add to the article before I let you go?
Dae Lee: Umm, I just want to say, this month “Beautiful” is all about the ladies, man, and reminding them that they’re all beautiful. Just like the hook goes, “It’s hard to see yourself when you’re looking at someone else. You’re beautiful.” And I’ll be doing a lot this month, with it being Breast Cancer Awareness month, as my mom and grandmother, as well as, my mother-in-law have all had scares and experiences with breast cancer, and although you might not feel like it or feeling 100%, I just want them to know, I appreciate you. So, I’ll be doing a few different things in the community for that.
Just as I promised, Dae Lee gave us a great interview. So, please take some time to visit his YouTube page and find some truly good music, and his social media to stay informed of all he’s got coming up. And don’t forget to download that app. You can go to the Android or Apple Stores and type in: Dae Lee. You don’t want to miss this week’s new release. Peace, Power, Love & Empower!!!!!