When I first encountered the musical stylings of Destini Rogers, aka Destro, I knew I would have to learn her story as soon as possible. What I came to find was that her dimensions span far past music production and into the realm of entrepreneurship and philosophy. Destro is just getting started on bringing the creative outlets of song and dance closer than ever, but that is a mere footnote to the larger picture goal of liberating artists everywhere, especially in her home of Oklahoma. When she sat down with LA Music Blog, I were able to find out what the “Destro Movement” is all about.
So tell me where you’ve been so far in life. What is your earliest memory of music?
When I was younger my mom said every time she would push “play,” I would start dancing. She put me in a program for inner city kids that was funded by the Oklahoma City Arts Council, and we got to learn theater and African and modern and ballet and jazz and acting and art and all these things. It was only one day a week, so she was like “You know what, this is free, it’s one day a week, let’s do it.” That was at age 5, and from that point on, I just started dancing non-stop.
I went to a performing arts school 8th through senior year, and I was able to learn theater and fine arts. We had great instructors and a really great, creative environment for young people. So one day I told my dance teacher that I have this dream about a stage production called “Sun God,” and it would be about good and bad energies fighting against each other. I told her that I wanted to choreograph the dance, and she let me use the dance company. That was at age 14. I just started doing choreography since then, but dance and music, to me, are the same. I feel like we make music to make people want to dance. Dancers are…we’re living through those people.
I can remember in my room I would read lyrics. Michael Jackson’s Thriller was my favorite, and “Human Nature” was my song. I would read the lyrics off the paper and just practice it all the time. Then I would take my little cassette tape and record the radio when they do Top 20, and I would just write down the lyrics. I’ve always loved music, and as a choreographer, I have to study it.
I was on So You Think You Can Dance. I made the first season of So You Think…, and I started a dance company after that in Oklahoma City. Then I came back to L.A., and I toured with a Korean pop artist, Rain. He was pretty inspirational, his story and how he came from nothing to fans everywhere. They would follow us to every single hotel and would be the same fans in every country; it was crazy. Then he got into acting and has his own clothing line. He’s just an amazing person, so he really inspired me. I started working for other artists like Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Swizz Beatz. Right now I choreograph for all these different studios in the U.S. I do a lot of competition choreography.
This year I had an epiphany. Something hit me. I moved to L.A. really hoping that I could just be a part of this big movement in dance, and dance behind all these artists, and when I got here I saw how we as dancers weren’t really respected. It inspired me to do music. I went to a performing arts school, I can sing, hell, why not try it? So the first year I got into music was a rough start. I really expected producers to just be like “Hey you, kid, you’re great, let’s make this song,” but it didn’t work that way. So what I ended up doing, I would take beats that I liked and would write lyrics and record over them. I sent vocals to a few producers, and they would make the beats around those vocals.
That’s how I came up with “Everywhere, Anywhere” and “Psychopath.” I was so excited about that single, and then “Kill It.” The guy N-Dex that raps on it, he’s a friend of mine. He’s from Oklahoma too and is a phenomenal rapper. He has that Trill, Trap Music-type style, but he also has a very Pimp C type as well. He’s the one who made that beat, and I told him that I wanted something just…nasty. I started writing my own music just because when I go in to a studio, a producer might say, “Oh you’re not a singer. You’re a dancer,” and they’re not really enthused about writing music for me. So it just happened by default, and that’s how I got here.
You talk about how music and dance are one in the same, but do you see yourself as having transitioned into a singer now, or are you still both?
I definitely want to do both. Like “Psychopath,” we’re shooting a music video to that, and it’s going to be very much like contemporary dance, an iconic movement that hasn’t really touched the music scene yet. I really want to create songs around the choreography. “Psychopath” isn’t finished, but once I write the sequence for the music video I’m going change the song to fit the music video. It’s definitely going to be a fuse of dance and choreography with music.
Every song of yours is…I don’t even know how to describe what genre or style your are. Is there a name you have put on it? What would you call your sound?
I came up with a sound called Ratchet House, and that’s what “Psychopath” is. It’s a mixture between house and African, but the lyrics are just whatever I feel right now.
So do you freestyle and then take notes or is it all written out and you develop a flow over that?
I don’t really freestyle. Well, I actually freestyled on “Psychopath,” but “Kill It,” I wrote that. I come up with a melody first, or sometimes I like to write the lyrics first. It just sort of happens. “Psychopath” started as a drunk joke, though. I was talking to my friends one day about this date I went on with this white guy. I was like “Oh this one might be the one,” but then he started getting psycho on me. He started acting psychotic. So I was like ‘”white boy is a psychopath, white boy is a psychopath.” But then I said “Hold on, no, no, white girls are psychopaths too, black girls are pretty psychotic too, you know…hell, everybody’s crazy.” You gotta be crazy. And that was all just freestyle.
Who would you say are your influences? Is it a give and take with the people you’ve worked with over the years?
That’s a good question. I don’t really know. Of course I’m inspired by artists like Beyoncé, Kayne West, Ingrid Michaelson, and lots of others. But I would say that because I don’t wait on anyone to give me anything, if I find a song that I really love, I write lyrics to it. I have a song that I wrote to a DeadMau5 track. I was just working out one day and heard it. So I guess I’m influenced by everything.
What other styles of music do you like? Do you get into any rock, jazz, blues?
I actually am looking forward to recording a new track that will be musical theater. It’s a hip-hop/musical theater mix. I love musical theater. I love blues. I love jazz. I’m going to do a cover of “Summertime,” but I really love house/dance music. Old school house, Frankie Knuckles type, Chicago style. I really love dance music. Not even “Oh that’s what’s new.” Not on a pop level at all. I just really love dance music, so I hope to put out a dance album soon.
Last weekend I went to the Noize Entertainment Expo in Hollywood. It was the inaugural event and had representatives from a number of various outlets in the entertainment business. It was basically about the state of the music industry and how it applies to rising talent. I was wondering about your approach to music and what your thoughts are on the state of the industry. Is it easier as an up-and-coming artist with all the technology and media, or harder due to all the traffic through these pathways?
It’s funny because I’ve been doing a lot of research on the music industry because I’ve been putting together an artistic plan and looking for investors. So it’s funny that you say that because I am putting together my own plan – basically what a manager or a record label would do – just to get the money from people who have nothing to do with record labels. I’ve had to take that approach because record labels …they’re machines to me. We got to get this product, it’s got to make money, so someone like me who doesn’t have one style of music or has a style that you can’t even put a name to…it’s hard to get signed.
For artists, I feel like it’s liberating. It’s like this civil war is about to end, and you can be creative now. You can actually be an artist. It’s crazy because it does reach the world. It’s even more people, even more competition I guess – I wouldn’t call it competition – but I think it’s pretty awesome.
What would you say was your big break? You say you had an epiphany and you wanted to do music. How did you get from that spark in your head to doing the “Everywhere, Anywhere” video?
My whole life I’ve just felt like I had to do something legendary when it comes to dance. Something way bigger than “Step Up 4,” or 29, or whatever one. Something bigger than just being behind a background dancer and just being the background. Not just for me, but creating opportunities for dancers so that they can have insurance, and cool stuff like that. So I just said, “If I got to do this, I got to do it full force.” So “Everywhere, Anywhere” is just a sexy song, and I’m really mostly conservative in the way I dress and act — maybe not talk, but you know what I’m saying. So I thought, “How can I really just push the envelope so that I can get a couple interests?” So we decided to go with that. Just a performance with me, no other dancers, no actors, not being in the background, just me. We spent like fifty bucks on it.
So how did you get the ball rolling then? It was just that easy?
Yeah, basically, yeah. That came and then I did the “Kill It” song. Before that I had done three other songs. “Everywhere, Anywhere” is almost two years old. I just decided to quit waiting on a record label to sign me and said to do it. After that I just started recording other songs. Right now I’m working on getting investors for my project.
Another thing I took away from the entertainment expo was that even if you don’t need a record deal, you need to form a team around you. Who are your go-to people?
Well DaCor, my brother. He’s on the “Swing Low” track. He moved down here too. N-Dex is one of them. My friend Classic Anderson who produced “Everywhere, Anywhere” is from Oklahoma, and he moved here. Of course my promotional manager Wardell Jasper has obviously been a go-to person for me as well.
It’s like the Oklahoma Movement.
Yeah and that’s funny because on the 17th of May I’m putting together a documentary in Oklahoma that is going to be called “The Destro Movement,” basically talking about how we have to come together as artists in Oklahoma and get our music and our talent out to the world. It’s not just about me. So we’re shooting that May 13th through the 17th in Oklahoma, and we’re having a showcase there. A couple of my friends that I went to high school with, Spence Brown and the Dudes, they’re all a band. We all went to high school together. A guy named Jabee. N-Dex is going to be performing there. So I guess I kind of got a crew. I got a little crew for me.
Considering the long-term, not only what do you see yourself doing, but what are you going to be doing? Do you have any definite plans?
Yeah I have plans. I’m shooting a video. “Psychopath” is going to be in 3D. I’m shooting that in New York. I’m using ten dancers, and my friend Emily Shock and I are doing the choreography. Alexander Hankoff is going to be doing the video and the creative direction. He’s amazing. And there’s a group I’ll be working with in New York that’s also from Oklahoma called Project Fathom. So I’m going to be working on that and from there we hope to push the single and get an EP out by October.
I was just going to ask you about an EP or LP.
EP definitely, and I want to put out at least three of the most creative music videos ever. That’s going to be in the next year or so, but what I see in the future…I see my music and working with shoe companies, because it is dance and music. I have a clothing line called Destro Retro. It’s all dance clothes that you can wear in the dance studio and out on the street. Bigger projects, too, even movies and musicals. I really want to use dancers and be able to pay them and be able to change the way we think about music. Music isn’t just about an artist, one artist. It’s about the band, the producer, the writers, the lyrics you make. We’re all the bigger picture.