Fire Starter: Dee-1
Dee-1 is no dummy. The New Orleans native and Louisiana State University grad picked up rapping as a hobby in his college dorm room and devised a plan to get paid. It may have taken a little longer than expected but the former middle-school teacher left the classroom and has learned a new hustle through hip-hop.
“I first started wanting to rap as just a hobby when I first started college. I didn’t really have anything better to do with my time, so I was like, ‘Let me just freestyle around my dorm room with my boys,’ ” Dee-1 told Mixtape Daily. “But once I realized I was good at it, I started to take it more serious. I was like, ‘You know what? I have a voice that can be used to entertain people but also to inspire change, in a good way.’ ”
Dee-1 took his yearning for change and applied it to his 2010 outspoken single “Jay, 50 & Weezy.” In the song, the young MC holds an imaginary conversation with Hov, 50 Cent and Lil Wayne, questioning their subject matter. The track helped put him on the map partly because of the sheer audacity that he displayed by calling out three of the game’s biggest rappers, but mostly because of the song’s strong message. “I wrote that record when I was still teaching middle school, so every single day, I’m face to face with the kids who are influenced by these brothers. I see how much they want to walk like them, talk like them, just be like them,” he explained.
Through his experience as a teacher, Dee-1 saw firsthand that rappers are in fact role models. Bold? Yes, but Dee stops short of labeling the track a dis record. “I don’t know if you can tell by looking at me but I’m not an intimidating type of guy or violent dude, so I wasn’t gonna write it as a dis song to try to go at their necks,” he said. “But I’m also not a scary man; I’m very bold and very confident in the person that God made me.”
That confidence has translated to his work. In March, Dee-1 dropped his fifth mixtape, I Hope They Hear Me, Vol. 2, to much online fanfare and he recently toured with Killer Mike, Young Dro and Pac Div. The grind is paying off so far, and the N.O. representative has already taken meetings with Universal, Jive and Atlantic, though he’s in no rush to sign.
“The patience comes from having a purpose, and my purpose is to have longevity in the game,” he said. “If I was desperate for a check right now, like if I just wanted a $100,000 to put in my pocket, I might have signed by this time. But I’m not that desperate and I’m not hurting for money.”
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