Last October, New York City’s first while-female rapper, Daylle Deanna Schwartz passed away. Last Saturday, a beautiful and warm day in April, Daylle’s family and friends held a remembrance for her at The Open Center. Inside a spacious room with large windows on the second floor, everyone gathered to pay their respects to Daylle. They talked about how they have come to meet her, the time they had spent with Daylle, and how she left an impression on their lives.
I had come to know Daylle back in the Summer of 2013 when I interviewed her for the Music Historian. Learning about her background in music, her strides within the industry, and her advocacy for self-love, made this interview and article one of my most memorable. Meeting her family and friends, whom she has touched with her energy, love and positiveness – and who reciprocated the same to her – made me realize there was a backdrop to this artist’s life that I did not, nor could not see the first time around.
Throughout her life, Daylle was a rapper, teacher, entrepreneur, writer, and former Board Member of Women in Music and a committee member of New York Women in Communications. She also dedicated her life to her daughter, grandchildren, and all of her family members. Even when Daylle split with her husband, she always remained a great friend to him. Friends and family members said that regardless of her busy work schedule, Daylle made an effort to stay in touch with everyone closest to her.
While everyone has a public persona and a private persona, I believe there should exist a characteristic common in both. For Daylle, this characteristic was empowerment. Based on what I have learned from our interview years ago, the self-love she talks about closely relates to how she empowers those around her to feel more confident in who they are, braver in verbalizing their needs, and more accepting of what they need to fix within their lives. Reflecting on what I learned from her family and friends, Daylle advocated self-love and empowerment to everybody, like a need everybody required whether they admitted it or not.
In honor of the celebration of Daylle’s life, I republish my easy-to-read question and answer interview with a rapper who broke stereotypes to make her fantasies real, showed the world nice girls can finish first, and spread the word of self-love. I also republish this article as a “Thank You” to Daylle’s family and friends for having me at her remembrance. To my readers, let this article be a reminder of how far the industry has come in including ethnic diversity among genres like hip-hop, and how much attention gender inequality still requires.
(First published July 19, 2013)
Prior to becoming the founder of the Self-Love Movement™ and the author of How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways, Daylle Deanna Schwartz, first left her mark on the 1980’s music scene in New York City as the first white-female rapper. Shortly after, she would become one of the first women to start her own record label.
When I listened to Daylle’s song, “Girls Can Do” I initially thought, “how charming.” Then I listened with my Music Historian ears, and heard a song that encouraged women to value self-respect and break the feminine stereotypes that lingered in both society and the music industry during the 1980’s. That stereotype being that a woman could not achieve everything she desired without compromising her emotional self, femininity or well-being, especially when it involved music or any profession.
As I personally reflect on my own professional experiences from the past few years, many women today continue to think they need to change themselves in order to get ahead in their careers. I also feel that many women still live with the illusion that personal and professional success is measured only by material; a belief that causes them to disregard genuine happiness.
As Daylle furthered her experience in the music business, she started to carve room for another passion – writing about self-empowerment for musicians and women. Today, she advises clients on how to manage their own music careers and focuses on growing the Self-Love Movement™.
In my first Q&A segment on Music Historian, I talk to Daylle to find out what she learned about being a woman in the music business, the advice she has for other female professionals, and why her 31 Days of Self-Love Commitment matters.
Music Historian: Tell me about your career as a rapper.
Daylle: During the late 1980’s, I was a teacher, and I remember feeling so bored and creatively stuck. In those times, my students were doing the human beat box in class. I would feel the beat and start to write my own raps.
My students were always rapping in school, and one day they dared me to rap. They would say “you cannot rap because you are a white lady,” but I told them I could rap as well as anybody out there.
In those days, there were no white rappers. This was before 3rd Bass and Vanilla Ice, and the only female rappers before Salt-N-Pepa were Sparky Dee, emcee The Real Roxanne and Roxanne Shante.
Then they [my students] told me I couldn’t rap because I was too old.
How old were you?
I was in my 20’s.
That’s not old by today’s standards.
Yeah, but I was also a teacher. The students would say “we don’t know how old you are, but you must be too old [to be a rapper] because you are a teacher.”
That’s how they assessed me as too old. Although I was in my early twenties, I was perceived as a grown-up. Most rappers typically start when they are teenagers. While they are in school, they build a fan base, then receive a record deal and obtain fame during adulthood.
I wanted to rap to prove a point. I wanted to show my students not to let stereotypes stop them. I didn’t want kids to grow up believing their sex or skin color could stop them.
Eventually, I would go into the streets and rap. At the time, Davy DMX lived in the neighborhood and heard about this “a crazy white teacher rapping.” He sent someone to recruit me, and as soon as I was introduced to him we started working together.
I met Kurtis Blow and a few other rappers. I soon recorded my first record with Davy, “Girls Can Do.” At that time, Kurtis also invited me to come along on his European tour.
In the U.S., mostly Black Americans listened to hip-hop, and it took some time for this music to cross over to different nationalities. Europe had a very different scene. Most of the audience members at the shows Kurtis played on the tour were white kids.
While I was in the UK, I made some contacts, a few great ones and kept in touch with them afterwards. I met a guy who wanted to manage me when I was sure I was going to [professionally] rap. He was the manager for a rock band that was popular in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Fine Young Cannibals.
My manager helped me get onto a few radio shows in the UK and helped me gain a lot of publicity. Unfortunately, though, I couldn’t get signed.
You had all of these fabulous publicity opportunities but still could not get a deal?
Yes, my manager in England eventually said “I give up. They just don’t want a white woman rapper.”
When I returned to the U.S. and to teaching, my students would tell me “You have to shop a deal here.” So I started paying people to shop a deal for me, but they took my money and did not do anything.
Is that when you decided to do Revenge Productions?
My students followed the story, and they would say “You have to get your revenge on them; they’re ripping you off…” That’s when I started Revenge Productions and then Revenge Records.
Revenge Productions and Revenge Records did quite well. I released “Girls Can Do” under this label, and DJs picked up on it, and the song sold, and I got distribution for my label.
Getting ripped off and losing money eventually taught me that I was doing the business all wrong. Then I started doing it right.
Part of my “revenge” stemmed from the fact that people tried to take advantage of me. I also had a mentor that was a very powerful man. He had told my father he would take good care of me. After that though, he tried to rape me. That made me more determined to succeed on my own without having to give up my body.
[The music industry] was very misogynistic then. Every woman that went to a music conference wore a skirt up to the top of her thighs and a blouse buttoned down to her navel. Many women were using their bodies to get ahead.
Although I am not sure whether I was the “first” woman to start her own label, in those days, I never met another woman that started her own record company. I knew women that created labels with their husbands like Monica Lynch who was married to Tommy Silverman and she started Tommy Boy Records with him. I did it all by myself, and that was another reason I had difficulty being taken seriously as a business woman.
Since being nice did not get me anywhere I started to be aggressive and tough. People did not like me, and I did not like myself either. I had to learn to manage myself in a way where men could take me seriously without having to act like a perennial bitch. In fact, many of my lessons in my book Nice Girls Can Finish First come from my experience learning to carry myself in a way in which people would like me and also know that I meant business.
Many young professionals today continue to struggle with finding a position that will make them feel empowered. Sometimes they think that in order to obtain that appropriate role, they have to change. What do you say to this?
I focus on this a lot in my writing. Women often feel like they have to play on a man’s level and usually that does not work. Men don’t like women that act like men. While several men might easily be excused for behaving abrasively and aggressively, yelling and screaming, and using inappropriate language; a woman that behaves in this manner is not accepted. A woman has to walk that fine line between asserting herself and making sure people still like her.
Women also have trouble separating doing favors for people and charging money for their services. A young professional, for example, may know how to build a website, but everybody wants to have one created for free. Many women struggle with saying “this is my livelihood and I get paid for it.” I see this happen all the time.
In my personal experiences, I hear from individuals trying to break into the music industry or write a book, and they will approach me and ask me to read their manuscript. I will say “all right, here is my fee…”
Women must always remember their needs to understand there is a personal and business side of themselves.
In addition, many young women who cannot obtain that one position that will empower them actually start their own opportunities. However, even the most entrepreneurial individual might be afraid of not making enough money, being creatively restricted or coming to a dead end job. What do you say about these fears?
If you face your fears, they go away. It is a matter of passion, drive and desire. You have to want it [that position, job, record deal, raise, etc.] bad enough to face your fears.
In my book I Don’t Need a Record Deal, I ask many people “Do you truly want to do music or do you want to be a rock star?”
Sometimes you cannot always do what you want, especially in the beginning. I will advise musicians “play a couple of weddings and Bar Mitzvahs because it’s really good money.” I received responses like “I don’t want to play covers” and I [rhetorically] ask “isn’t that better than waiting tables?”
Musicians can still do music and make some money, and most importantly, they can make contacts along the way. Doing this also gives them the freedom to make original music when they are not working.
Whether it involves singing back-up at someone’s gigs, going on tour, being a music teacher, or playing on someone else’s tour, musicians have many opportunities to earn money. They might not be making their own music, but they are still getting paid to do music, practice, sing or play, and they have the chance to meet people.
This also applies to people searching for any careers. Some company presidents start in the mailroom of that company. For them, that’s where they learn about the business, and that’s where it all begins.
Many of the musicians I interview on Music Historian have second jobs to support themselves; whether it is teaching, singing at weddings, or a second profession.
Music has always received a reputation as a tough career choice. But now that I think about it, there is something difficult about every career path.
Absolutely, you have to earn a living. I never tell anybody not to earn a living. You must willingly give up certain things in order to enjoy the things you love, and you have to make time for what you actually want to do.
If you want to tour, you have to give up your free time to do that on the weekends, even if you have a day job. You might dedicate your vacation to touring instead of simply enjoying yourself.
Since writing is my passion, I make time to write. Every time I travel, I take my laptop along. I schlep it everywhere I go. On vacation, whether I am at the beach or in the mountains, I take that time to write peacefully. There is nothing else I want to do except off-shoots of my writing, like speaking.
Since we are on the subject of your writing, tell me a little more about the 31 Days of Self-Love Commitment on your site HowDoILoveMe.com.
I founded The Self-Love Movement™. I grew up a doormat and felt immensely unhappy and disempowered. I hated myself growing up [for several reasons]. I didn’t think I was good enough because I was not slim.
When I was in middle school, and elementary school, every student had to be weighed in gym class. That to me was traumatic because the teachers would call out everybody’s weight. Since I am big-boned, my weight sounded gigantic to everyone else. Everyone teased and laughed at me the moment they heard my weight.
That started it, I just felt so big and fat, and this made me set limits for myself. I never talked to the cute guys because I didn’t think I was worthy enough.
I never honestly liked myself for years. Then in my adulthood, I started building good self-esteem by doing music and being successful. I began to be kinder to myself, and that motivated me to take care of myself.
I built self-love through showing myself kindness, and doing nice things for me that made me feel good. This included exercise or doing something I have always wanted to do. By saying “no” to someone, you are saying “yes” to yourself. As a result, I created the 31 Days of Self-Love Commitment, a pledge to do something kind for yourself for 31 day.
I launched The Self-Love Movement™ in the Fall of 2012 and have given away almost 10,000 copies of my book, How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways, so far.
Do you hope to take on any additional projects in the future?
My eventual goal is to get The Self-Love Movement™ program into colleges. I have many Self-Love ambassadors. Now I’m looking to recruit young self-love ambassadors that are involved in sororities and student unions at their schools. I believe they can encourage other students and their colleagues to sign the 31 days of Self-Love Commitment.
These young self-love ambassadors will go to a representative stationed next to a computer, and they will sign their name digitally. Afterward, they will receive a pass code within an email. They can then go onto the website, HowDoILoveMe.com and enter this code to download a free copy of the book.
I feel that self-love can really help the many students experiencing depression, eating disorders, or thoughts of suicide.
I am also working on the plans for a video that will spread the word about the movement. I plan to use Hoobastank’s song “The Reason.” At the moment in the video when the following chorus is sung I found a reason for me/ to change who I used to be/ a reason to start over new/ and the reason is you, the actors in the video pick up mirrors and see themselves. I’m working on getting sponsorship, and I am really excited about finding someone that will make the video for me.
Based on your research, why do you think people have a difficult time loving themselves?
We don’t learn to put ourselves first or to feel worthy. A majority of this stems from childhood. They receive a lot of criticism when they are young and don’t feel accepted. They might not feel good enough, or they might not get what they want because their parents withheld what they desired.
Dysfunctional childhoods come in many forms, and children usually grow up not loving themselves. In my case, body image issues played a role. And many women experience this issue.
I have women in my workshops often saying they need to lose weight even though they are slender. I’m just astounded. I see women that constantly exercise at the gym or resort to eating disorders to stay thin.
I actually interviewed a model for my book, and she expressed to me, “If you want to know how lousy you could feel about yourself, try being a model and then having your picture airbrushed because your body is not good enough.” You can be slender and think you look really good. Then, they [the editors] air brush you. [Often] we compare ourselves to images that are not even real.
Many women feel happiness is based on having a lot, whether it is money, food, many beautiful physical features, a ton of things…
It’s a band aid. Feeling the need to make a lot of money, overeat, or overspend is a band aid. They look to soothe themselves with food, or overspend on retail therapy. And the same applies for guys too.
I knew this one man years ago who would work from 8 in the morning until 8 in the evening. One day, he came to my office very late because he was busy all day completing jobs for other people. While he was working on my computer, he was constantly answering his phone and making appointments for later in the evening.
I asked him “is this your every day?” and he said “yes. I just run from one place to another.” I asked “why?” He made decent money, and he was exhausting himself.
Then, he opened his bag and inside he owned every tech toy. “I need to have the latest smart phone, laptop, iPad, I need to have it…” he explained. Again, I asked “why?” He just looked at me and said “because I have to.”
I thought to myself, “You are one unhappy guy.”
Finally, how do you define success?
If you are happy with what you are doing, that’s success. It also means doing something meaningful and satisfying for you.
Personally, I think I will feel successful getting the word out and the message across further about The Self-Love Movement™. Having a happy life is success.