NME Radar: Breakout

Dreya Mac: all-singing, all-dancing TikTok triple threat lays out plans for “world domination”

Following viral team-up 'Own Brand Freestyle' with FelixThe1st, the London-born artist and dancer is now making a bid for the mainstream

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

There’s always the curse that once your song goes viral on TikTok, your career is just reduced to one derived from the popular social media app. However, with west London’s newest hotshot being Dreya Mac — recognisable for her trendy dance moves, and a role in Stormzy’s ‘Vossi Bop’ video — the BRIT School alumni (previous students include Amy Winehouse and Adele) wants longevity beyond what she does on our tiny screens is more than just some spontaneous content creation.

When the pandemic meant a lack of training and performance opportunities as a dancer, Dreya turned to music. Since that decision, she’s gradually embraced the viability of a potential musical career, even more so when Mac and her pal FelixThe1st went viral with their hit pop-drill track ‘Own Brand Freestyle’, where Dreya’s verse starts with the now-familiar lyrics: “I’ve never been with a baddie / She calm, so I add her to the tally”. Her infamous lines (and the ensuing viral dance challenge) gained traction around the world, but now the 21-year-old is ready, willing and able to show the full array of their creative arsenal.

You recently made a TikTok about moving out into your own space. How’s it like adjusting to such success?

“It feels great, really. I’ve been working super hard over the past two years, and I just feel like it’s paying off. I don’t like to be too boisterous. Humility is embedded in me from how I grew up, but, at the same time, I feel my hard work is finally paying off. I grew up with two older sisters and my mom was a single parent. I was brought up with a lot given to me and encouraged to start a new hobby, but I had a lot of friends that weren’t able to do performing arts, and weren’t able to apply for things like the BRIT School, so I was quite privileged in that sense.

“I didn’t really want to be an artist or anything like that: I just wanted to be a famous dancer. And it’s been kind of a blessing that I got to start music because of COVID happened and dance performances were at a standstill. It’s beautiful in a way because I never expected to do this fully. I always wanted to make music, but I didn’t know how serious I was gonna take it. I’ve been able to start writing and be creative, and I think it’s started to pay off.”

How is it like being a BRIT School alum?

“For me, it was kind of different, because you weren’t really allowed to work during breaks, but I was doing a balanced job. I was touring and doing stuff with artists — I was doing big boy jobs — and they knew about it. They weren’t too happy but they’re not gonna stop your shine. It was a lot of pressure because you’re around so many people fighting for the same spot as you. A lot of people there changed their perspective and created their own lane, so there’s enough spots for all of us at the top.”

Do you ever feel the TikTok stigma is hindering you and your progression? 

“Before TikTok, I did live shows, I did a COLORS show and I was already performing at festivals, because I’ve created relationships with my supporters. I’ve never thought that the app could be the reason for my success. Also, even if people want to think that, I’d say the person pushing that was me. If something blows up on TikTok, it’s instantly labelled a TikTok song – I understand the logic, but ’Own Brand’ was out a couple of weeks before it started blowing up. TikTok wasn’t the basis for my success. A lot of my true supporters will know that.”

“I love being a representation for Black queer women. But I don’t want that to be highlighted over the art, you know?”

Did you and FelixThe1st think that ‘Own Brand Freestyle’ would be such a hit?

“I think I can speak for both of us when I say we definitely did not think it would be one of the most known songs in the world at one point. You never think that far. At the same time, I did know it was gonna be a banger. When we made it in the studio that day, I knew that TikTok was going to eat up this song. I feel like I manifested it as well, because I just kept saying that ‘TikTok is going to eat up this song!’

“Watching the covers is crazy because so many different trends that have sparked up underneath the sound and I really love seeing them. It’s crazy the influence the song has.”

There was discourse on TikTok about you as a Black queer woman blowing up on the app, is there added pressure to be the representation you want to see in the world?

“I’m always about normalising sexuality a lot more. I don’t actively try and set out to change people’s minds or opinions or open their minds, but it happens naturally. And I feel like collectively, as humans, we can actually contribute to normalising different representations of sexuality more, by not making it a thing. I get why it’s important to talk about sexuality but it’s so conflicting in my head because I would never want something that you can’t change or have no choice over to overshadow something I’ve worked for, and be at the forefront of my career. I love being a representation for Black queer women, because I didn’t feel like I had any other like me. But I don’t want that to be highlighted over the art, you know?”

Where do you want your music and artistry to take you in the future?

“I want to be known for my music, obviously, like, that’s what I want to move the world and my artistry as a whole. Every bit of art I produce, I want it to be appreciated more than anything else. But I also want my personality to be appreciated. I want people to love the person I am as well. And, being a public figure, it helps with getting your personality out there. I can do that through music and through dance or whatever, but I want my art and I to be the main focus.

“I want my career to take me around the world. Continue my world domination. That’s what I’ve been putting out there; world domination. I don’t necessarily want to pinpoint where I want it to take me because the possibilities are endless. I’ve always had that mentality in life, in general. I just want everything to take off, really.”

“I’m currently working on my second EP. I will be dropping a couple of singles beforehand, and I’m really excited for my next single coming out very soon. I feel like I’m quite genre-fluid. You cannot pinpoint what I might come out of. I’m excited for people to hear what I can give outside of ‘Own Brand Freestyle’, and I feel like they’re gonna appreciate the variety.”