Although it earned him the side eye from his peers over the years, New Orleans rapper Dee-1 has never made apologies for doing the right thing, especially when he decided to change his career path from education to music.
He said that the unique decision was a result of him following the “higher calling” on his life, to lead others to peace and fulfillment through his powerful lyrics. For more than eight years, he has made inspiring messages go mainstream, his newest single Against Us featuring Lupe Fiasco and B.I.G. Krit is no exception.
We recently spoke to the artist about his success, faith and ministering through his music.
Made Magazine: A few years ago in another interview, you mentioned that people felt it was OK to ignore you because of the type of music you’ve made. Has that changed for you at all?
Dee-1: No, I don’t think it’s changed at all actually. Ever since then, it’s been my mission to make my presence felt, my music more powerful and my visibility more widespread. I’ve definitely made progress, but I’m not quite there yet.
MM: Your viral single Sallie Mae has attained tons of attention and your newest release seems to be headed in the same direction. Is there a specific formula that you and your team use when producing your work?
Dee-1: There’s no real strategic approach to my movement, other than making authentic music that I know for a fact will resonate with its listeners. I try convey my message of righteousness without coming off as preachy. I think my imperfectly perfect style is relatable enough to garner the attention I’m looking for.
MM: In the past, you’ve mentioned being in a good space in your career as opposed to a great one. How do you feel about your trajectory thus far? What advice would you give to those that feel the same you did professionally?
Dee-1: Those were difficult times for me. I wasn’t at peace with myself and I was the victim of allowing comparison to rob me of my joy. Since then, I have made a transition as a man and have become more confident as an artist. I’m also learning to follow God’s will which directly leads to the avoidance of over-thinking.
To get over the hump, you have to realize that no one is going to hold you back from your success but you. Belief in your abilities is the first step to moving away from that place of idleness.
MM: How did Lupe Fiasco and B.I.G. KRIT come on board for the remix of Against Us?
I’m actually really good friends with Lupe so everything happened really organically. I played three songs for him in the studio, one being Against Us, and he agreed because he really loved it. 45 minutes later, he laid down a verse and that was history. The same goes for B.I.G. Krit; I approached him on a red carpet, told him Lupe was involved and he immediately agreed to be apart of it.
MM: You’ve mentioned that J. Cole and DMX both have similar spirits to yourself, which is surprising since they seem to be polar opposites. How do they parallel your personality?
Dee-1: All of us are extremely vulnerable–very transparent and that’s translated into our music. Before I even met them, I heard their spirit through their verses. When I actually met them, it was confirmed. DMX, for instance, is an external, extreme version of the struggles I deal with internally. They’re both unbelievable artists and I aspire to connect with my fans in the ways that they have.
MM: This is a cliched question, but how do you manage to keep your faith so strong in an industry that seemingly reveres the opposite?
Dee-1: I constantly remind myself of why I’m here, who I’m doing it for and what I hope my legacy will be once I leave here.
MM: A few years ago, your mixtape, ‘Separated at Birth, ’a reimagining of some of Lil Wayne’s most popular hits, was banned by Cash Money Records to which you responded, ‘there’s no filter on negativity but there’s one on positivity.’
Have you gotten a chance to speak with Lil Wayne since that happened?
Dee-1: I haven’t spoken to anyone from his camp yet but I’m optimistic that I will soon once they realize that I want nothing from him other than understanding. My project comes from a place of pure positivity and admiration for him as an artist. Again, I haven’t gotten that sit down with him yet, but I have a feeling it’s going to happen in the near future.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Dee-1: Yesterday is done and tomorrow hasn’t come so win today. This was inspired by one of my friends that lived a pretty normal existence until his mom died. She offered him that advice, and he carried it with him, using it as a source to strength to continue live in the present despite your current circumstances.
MM: When do you think you will feel like you have MADE it?
Dee-1: When I take my last breath on this Earth and honestly say I’ve used my God given talents to better people’s lives, I know I’ve MADE it.
MADE by Jasmine Browley