Dee-1

Grown Folks Music caught up New Orleans rapper Dee-1. Over the years Dee-1 peaked the attention of hip-hop fans and the media with the release of singles like Jay, 50, & Weezy” and “Sallie Mae Back,” which garnered the attention of outlets like SiriusXM’s Sway In The Morning, Billboard, CNN, Okay Player, XXL among others.

Dee-1 talked with us about his latest album, finding his “slingshot”, or the gift that enables him fulfill his purpose, encouraging the youth, respect from other rappers, and his epic 5 Fingers of Death freestyle rap session on Sway In The Morning. Read and enjoy our interview with this insightful young artist.

GFM: For many of the Grown Folks, this is an introduction to you. We’re trying to debunk the myth that there’s nothing good coming from young artists, so we’re going to talk a little bit about your journey. You went from being a college student to being a teacher to being a rapper full time. Talk a little bit about your journey please.

Dee-1: My journey was very unique because I never wanted to be a rapper. I just wanted to connect to whatever God’s purpose for me in life was. I was always just trying to figure that out and learn how I could be useful to God with my time on Earth. In college, I think that’s the period where you explore your skill sets. You’re learning yourself and that’s what I was doing. Teaching became something I realized I was good at and that I was able to have the impact that I wanted to have on the world. For me, rapping just became another form of teaching mixed in with entertaining. I think KRS-One helped to coin the term edutainment back in the day. That is something that I feel like my music does. My music is able to teach people as well as entertain them. It felt like a natural transition from teaching and rapping for me, because I see a lot of similarities between the two.

Slingshot David

GFM: The album is Slingshot David. You cover a lot of ground on this album– God, the reality of the hood, the dynamics of black culture, growing pains, black intelligence, etc., etc. Talk about this album.

Dee-1: This album is my life story. I tried to condense my life story into 13 songs and I think I did a great job of it. This is the full experience from elementary school on up to present-day Dee-1. Everything that I’ve have gone through I was able to shrink it down into ultimately being on a quest. What I’ve learned in life is that we all have a slingshot that we need to find. Once we find our slingshot and figure how to properly use our slingshot, then we can defeat the Goliaths that are in our lives. My story details my journey and my exploration to find my slingshot, to figure out how to use my slingshot properly, and then to defeat the many Goliaths that exist. So, for me that was figuring out that I had a love for hip hop. Then, figuring out how to use hip hop– how to actually use the music that I make and use the platform to bring some light, some love and some more positivity to this world… and then to empower others to find their slingshot and use it the right way.

The JoJo Skits

GFM: You have a sub story also woven throughout the album where you’re talking to a ten-year-old boy. It’s just as important as the tracks. Talk about that and why you chose to incorporate the skits.

Dee-1: I appreciate you for acknowledging the importance of that aspect of the album. I look at that conversation as being so crucial to the album because: 1. To tell my life story, I couldn’t do it in just songs. There were a lot of holes that needed to be filled in. So, that’s why I did short interludes after each track. It helped to build a bridge and fill in some of the blanks that the songs left people wondering about. 2. I’m essentially telling my life story to a ten year old. His name is JoJo. The dynamic of our relationship throughout the album… you can kind of see it’s on some big-brother-mentor-to-mentee type of stuff. We’re doing everything from being serious, to him being inquisitive, to us laughing and joking, to his attention span being short at times and me having to reengage him. This was all natural though.

The last and final part that makes the dialogue with JoJo so special is who JoJo is. JoJo is my best friend’s nephew. My best friend was there for much of my life story. He got murdered a few years ago. I just knew that JoJo had the perfect receipe for success because he has all of the qualities that my best friend had that made him dynamic and charismatic. He has me around now to help steer him in the right direction. His uncle, who was my best friend, really got caught up in the streets. [He] really was an example of a person who knew what his gifts were, but he wasn’t using them for the purpose God intended. That subplot is important as well, because JoJo is not just a random kid or a random person I got to be on my album. There’s huge significance there.

A Soundtrack for the Youth and Mission Vision

GFM: Around Grown Folks Music we like to talk about bridging the gap. Talking to you bridges the gap, because as I mentioned earlier there are some mature listeners who just don’t think anything good musically is coming out now right now. Also, the skits with JoJo– that’s a bridge to the youth. How are you using your platform for the youth as well?

Dee-1: The music I make is providing the youth a soundtrack to be able to live their lives to. All too often the only music that they can dance to… or they can get some cool lyrics from and some cool wordplay from… or hear some real dope beats from is the music that’s glorifying all the negativity in this world and all of the things that are holding us back ultimately. I cater my music towards the youth because I wanted to able to be relatable for them and also be aspirational, because I want them to see, ‘Wow, this dude can really relate to us as we can hear through the music. But, we also see the success he has achieved and how he is has achieved it– by being positive, by not compromising his morals that he believes in, [and] by glorifying God first and foremost at all times.’ That’s what’s important in terms of how I’m able to reach the youth and be of service to the youth.

For me, it is a lifestyle. Social media is another outlet that I’m able to reach the youth and just be a beacon of light and an example for them. It’s a lifestyle. It truly is. My music isn’t just music. It’s what I call Mission Vision. Mission Vision is my movement. Mission Vision is all about knowing your purpose in life, glorifying God at all times, using your gifts for the purpose they were intended, and doing what I call, be real, be righteous and be relevant in everything you do. So yeah, it’s a lot that I’m on a mission to do for the youth.

Lead With Love

GFM: You seem like you feel comfortable in who you are. When you first came out how do you feel the industry or other rappers responded to you? Did they know what to do with you? I know were signed at one point with RCA Inspiration, but I also know that you almost had a deal with Cash Money [Records] … two very different labels, but [it’s] still the [music] industry. I’ve heard you talk in the past about [having] some trepidation about rapping about God versus rapping about what the people want or what you think they would listen to. Right now, you seem like you’re in a space where you are comfortable with who you are and what your purpose is. How do you think other rappers take or see you?

Dee-1: They respect me. You’re always going to respect a man who’s bold enough to carve his own lane out. That’s exactly what I’ve done, so I have the utmost respect. I’m in Mannie Fresh’s car the other night leaving an event talking with him about some grown-man, real-life stuff. When I see these rappers in passing it’s always mutual respect that I feel. It’s respect. It’s not anything else. I lead with love so that’s the other thing. People don’t feel like, ‘because Dee-1 raps about something different than what I rap about we have to beef with one another.’ People are able to feel through their interactions with me that I lead with love. that’s what I’m on a mission to do. I’m like, ‘God, why did you make it to where I have a such a rapport with all these different artists who are rapping a whole different message than what I’m rapping?’ I think that’s why– because I have the ability to show them something different than what they’re used to seeing from artists– and give them the courage. Ultimately, the goal is to give them the courage to be able to feel comfortable glorifying some stuff that’s righteous and positive.

5 Fingers of Death

GFM: I can’t let you go without talking about the 5 Fingers of Death. I know you’d been on Sway [in the Morning] before, but was that your first “5 Fingers”?

Dee-1: It was. It was my first “5 Fingers” and I had no prior knowledge about it. That morning when I was in the lobby the deejay came out. He was going to get coffee or something like that and he was like, ‘You know you’re doing 5 Fingers, right?’ I was like, ‘Huh?!’

GFM: Talk about that. How did that feel?

Dee-1: It felt like I conquered a Goliath honestly, because that’s something that can be a game changer in terms of how people look at you and what level of respect they have for your skills. So, I felt great. I felt like I conquered a serious Goliath that day. You gotta understand, this is what I do at this point in life. It’s something to where you’ve gotta celebrate your victories, but I can’t look at it like, ‘Yo, my whole career was all about that one moment.’ Just like I conquered that and I did my thing and I killed that, I’ve got something else I need to conquer next, so I need to celebrate that success and look forward to what’s next.

GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?

D1: Music that inspires you to be the best version of yourself.

Connect with Dee-1:
On Instagram
At his Official Website

Kimberly Kennedy Charles

I have questions. Artists have answers.