When people think "rapper," they don’t think some dude dressed up in 70s or 80s flannel,” said DeLon during our interview in his recording studio in Downtown, L.A. This Sri Lankan artist, rocking a blonde Silver Lake fade hairdo, has known how to get the party started by DJing since he was 12 years old. He talked to us about the ways his culture and music has influenced his wardrobe choices on and off stage and his plans to combine them in his upcoming T-shirt line. Bonus: He gives fellow fellas some dating advice.
Labeling Men: Can you tell us a little bit about your choice of outfit for today?
DeLon: Choice of outfit today is Rocky. “This whole life was a million to one shot.” That’s how I feel as an artist. It’s more like, a billion to one shot. But this is how I feel I have to be everyday; be strong. Even when you feel like all the chips are against you, you have to be fucking strong. This is a bunch of guitar picks made into a necklace that I got at Sundance when I opened up for the Chemical Brothers as a DJ, and then the next day I opened up for Lil’ John as a rapper. I was at one of the gifting booths from a company called Nicolina Royale. It’s such a great concept because I love instruments and it kind of defines me as musician. I like these boots from Ted Baker. My jeans are Hudson from American Rag. I love these fucking jeans. I actually wore them out; they didn’t have these holes. They just started getting holes and I was like fuck it, who cares, people pay for this shit.
L.M.: Who are some of your inspirations for your music?
DeLon: When I was in my deepest, darkest times listening to Outkast was a release. I was like, “Oh, shit! This artist is incredible! Everything this guy fucking says makes sense to me.” [I was also inspired by] Mos Def, M-1 from DeadPrez…I was a hip-hop DJ before I became an EDM [Electric Dance Music] DJ, so I really love old school hip-hop.
L.M.: Do your musical influences have any impact on your fashion style?
DeLon: Abso-fucking-lutely. I used to wear Air Force 1s, every fucking day! And I had a fresh pair of white ones and I had the ones I’d wear everyday, and then I’d have all my white tees, and then my black tees, and my jeans. That’s all I fucking wore my whole life and that’s because all I would listen to is hip-hop and this genre in that era was all about white tees, jeans and Air Force 1s. That was the dopest shit and all that shit comes from the music, right? Now I listen to more EDM and more like singer-songwriter music that has more hipster vibe and you fucking dress different and dye your hair blonde. Crazy people do crazy shit. I like it. It actually makes me not make me talk as much to prove that I am crazy.
L.M.: Does your style change between on and off stage? Or is consistent?
DeLon: No, it definitely changes. It’s different.
L.M.: How do you dress on stage compared to off stage?
DeLon: Like, I iron my shirts [before going on stage]. I wear cleaner shoes and I actually care that it represents the music. Whereas, because I’ve grown up with different genres, when I dress on daily basis… I’ll be wearing the most random stuff. Like, I’d be in like khaki board shorts, sandals and a white tee some days. Some days I’ll be in some fancy slacks and a 70s shirt. Fucking weird, random shit. I think this is a great era for fashion…you can just fucking mix all sorts of sorts of random cultural, era, shit up and it’ll look tight.
L.M.: Does what you wear on stage affect the mood of the shows?
DeLon: For me, as a performer, absolutely. Absolutely. If I feel good, then I perform well. If I feel like half-baked, then I perform that way. I pay attention to what I wear on stage; I never just hop up on a stage. I did yesterday and I didn’t feel good about that, actually now that I think about it, because I was wearing brown shoes, a crazy 70s shirt and jeans and it didn’t represent what I did for that artist. What I did for that artist was more slick, so if I came wearing that or like even a more hip hop vibe, then it would’ve portrayed itself more differently to the crowd.
L.M.: Why do you choose to dress that way on stage?
DeLon: It’s all about your brand, you know. How people view you is how they judge you. That’s especially true in Los Angeles. Like, in San Francisco it’s totally different. You dress however you want and people are wiling to talk to you and find out your personality. Here, before your personality it’s, “Let me see what you look like. Do you fit the same realm as me? Now, let’s chat.” It’s the exact opposite in San Francisco.
L.M.: How do you balance the current fashion style while still paying homage to your hometown of Sri Lanka?
DeLon: That’s a great question! Sometimes I’ll get up and do shows in a batik shirt, just so motherfuckers know I’m Sri Lankan. I did this freestyle contest on indie.com and on the freestyle contest I’m wearing this Indian shirt with boots and jeans, just because I knew it was going to be on the internet, so I was like, “Oh, everyone is going to see this shit, I’m gonna fucking rep my country!”
L.M.: Can you compare the differences between America and your hometown, as far as fashion style?
DeLon: In Sri Lanka, because it’s a third world country and it’s hot as fuck, everyone is always in sandals, a sarong and a wife-beater. Women are always dressed up in basically slacks and a top because it’s not a very conservative country. Well, it’s more conservative than America but it’s not a conservative country. But, it’s an island so you get more of an islander vibe.
L.M.: Would you have any future plans to do a line collaboration using Sri Lankan design with modern Americanization?
DeLon: That is exactly what I’m doing right now! I’m actually waiting for the designer to bring me that. I am a Buddhist and in Buddhism there’s something called the Noble Eightfold Path and it’s right intention, right speech, right view, and so on and so on up to right mindfulness. [For my emblem] I took the dharma wheel, and dharma means truth wheel, and my name is DeLon, so I didn’t really take away from the original. I’m putting on a shirt and I’m putting henna design all over the shirt and through the logo, so it’s a real collaboration between American style and Eastern style. I’m going to take the full Sri Lankan vibe and make it American a little bit so people can rock the henna. I think it’s hot. I think it’s sexy, you know? It doesn’t matter what race wears it.
L.M.: I’ve noticed that you have some really great tattoos.
DeLon: Honesty and freedom. Why do they go together? The truth will set you free. It’s a short answer. They’re inside my arms because they’re for me and I feel like as long as I’m honest to myself, then I will always be free as a human being. That has to do with producing music, that has to do with talking to people, that has to do with my own goals, and how I interact with the world. Just try to be as honest as possible.
L.M.: What about the one in your forearm?
DeLon: This says victorious lion [in Sinhalese]. It’s my last name, we’re all Sinhalese. On my back, I also have a tattoo that says Ceylon, which is the original name for Sri Lanka. Before we were colonized our original name was Selenamdipa and what that meant was beautiful Sinhalese island and then as time went by it became Seylon with an S and Ceylon with a C. With time, it morphed and then when we were colonized, people felt over that 500 years that the name Ceylon represented our colonization. So when we got our freedom in 1948, which is not that long ago, they changed the country’s name to Sri Lanka, which means beautiful island.
L.M.: Why did you decide to get that tattoo?
DeLon: ‘Cause I think I represent the original formulation of the country because of my pride. My first album I had called it The Connection and it was about connecting all these different cultures through hip-hop. I produced a lot of that album and wrote on it and it was about how a first generation immigrant feels in America trying to fit in, in a world where there’s no such thing as a Sri Lankan person. There’s Indians, which is the closest thing, but back when I was growing up there was not even Indians in Pasadena. Their closest relationship to my color is black. So, I’m confused because people are calling me black, they’re calling me bad names and I’m like, “Wassup?” The whole album was about letting the American public see how closely related a white person is to a Cuban and how a Cuban is related to a Black person and how a Black person is related to an Indian and how an Indian is related to Sri Lankan and then right back going the other way, we’re back where we started. I don’t really see the difference in colors. I actually don’t see the colors, because where we grew up in Sri Lanka, I used to go there every summer and Christmas, everyone was the same fucking color, right? So you don’t see this shit. You don’t actually think about the difference in color to even have a conversation about whether that’s cool or not, you know what I mean? You go to Germany and everyone is white for the most part. You go to Asia, everyone is Asian. You come to America and everyone is a different color and you’re sitting there and you grow up in a society where there’s already pre-conceived notions for every fucking race and it’s disgusting. It actually bugs the shit out of me, which is another reason why I dyed my hair. Because the pre-conceived notion is, “Oh, DeLon, you’re Indian?” Okay, that’s the first pre-conceived notion. No, I’m not, but that’s fine. I don’t mind it so much anymore. But then it’s, “What do you do, finance? What are you, an engineer?” Back in the day it was, “Do you work at 7-11?” So coming from a guy who ran track for USC, been a DJ since I was 12, I just don’t understand stereotypes at all. I just think it’s fucking ignorant and I don’t like it, so a lot of what I do as a musician is to break fucking stereotypes. Especially when it comes to just visualizing something.
L.M.: How do the tattoos relate to your fashion style?
DeLon: I think tattoos are the shit. I love them. I think they have everything to do with someone’s fashion and I think it shows who they are. If someone is willing to tattoo something to their bodies, it means they are so about it, that for the rest of their lives - when they grow old and wrinkly - they will still be worth talking about. When my arms aren’t sexy anymore, and they’re fucking saggy and wobbly, and someone asks me why I got the “honesty” tattoo, I’m still going to be like, “Well, let me explain it…” I think it has everything to do with what your meaning is as a human being and how you express yourself, and that’s fashion. Fashion is all about that.
L.M.: Do you have any advice for guys your age, dating in L.A. or just in general?
DeLon: Ha, I got so much of that. We can be here for days! I can write a column on this. Get out of your lane. So if your lane is, I only date this type of thing and I’m only into this type of thing…try something different. This is one of the only cities where you can try anything you want. You can try dating outside your race, which a lot of people don’t do for some reason. Man, I can’t even remember the last time I dated a Sri Lankan girl.
Also, if you’re here just to have sex, I’ve got no advice for you. Do your own thing, I don’t care. If you’re here to actually meet somebody that you actually give a shit about, you have to follow your intuition when you’re having a conversation with a woman. It’s very easy to judge someone on the way they look or the way they dress and a lot of men were attracted to that portion, which there’s nothing wrong with that, but a lot that leaves you astray. Which is why I think a lot of good women dress like bad women and bad women just dress like bad women, so you’re going to get this thing where you’re looking for a good woman so you’re looking for a woman that dresses like a good woman, but she maybe dressed like a badass chick wearing 10 inch heels and got her sexy on. But you have to follow your intuition. So, if you feel something makes sense to you in a conversation, not just how someone looks, then you should go for it. If you don’t, you should definitely not, because there are some crazy motherfucking people out there. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, so I am kind of good at weeding them out, but even I’ve been caught by a lunatic who’s faked a pregnancy and has done a lot of crazy stuff.
I say just follow your intuition. Be your fucking self, dude. So many guys are worried about what cars they drive, this, that and the other. How the fuck is a girl supposed to know what kind of car you drive if you’re in a fucking bar? Seriously. Who cares if you drive in a fucking jalopy or a fucking Lamborghini? When you’re in a bar, you’re in the same playing field as every other motherfucker in that bar. Nobody knows what you’re driving. All this, “I got this on and I got that”…No. Swag will kill all of that shit. Your confidence, how you talk to someone, how you listen to someone. I would say how you talk, how you act, how you listen and your confidence is what’s important, and dress how it makes you comfortable and get outside of your box. This is L.A. Enjoy yourself, get outside of your box, meet people outside of your race. Don’t do the same shit over and over again cause clearly it hasn’t worked yet; that’s why you’re still dating.
Find out more about DeLon by following him on social media @DeLonMusic
Interview by Karen Guzelian