New Orleans rapper Dee-1 is definitely one to look out for. After grinding for years, the former teacher finally signed to a major label, RCA records in 2013. In 2015 he had debuted his first project on the label, the 3’s Up ep, which had his first major single “Against Us.” Shortly after that Dee-1 released his song “Sallie Mae Back” about paying back his student loans, which ended up going viral and exposing him to an even greater audience. Now he’s getting ready to go on tour promoting his most recently released mixtape, the Slingshot David Mixtape on his first headlined tour of the same name. After that fans can also look forward to his first major label released full album, Slingshot David. Below, Dee-1 gives some insight on how to pay Sallie Mae back, his upcoming tour and album, and more!
How is it being signed to RCA records vs being independent?
So when you’re signed I think that people in the [music] industry respect you more. It’s almost like you’re a part of the click now because you’re signed to a major label. So inside industry circles it’s very sexy to say that you’re signed and people look at you with a certain amount of respect. I think in terms of what’s different about it, there’s a lot more people that you have to get approval from in order to make certain moves when it comes to releasing music. I never worried about sample clearances when I was independent. I never worried about if the A&R liked this song as a single. But now there’s people you have to collaborate with on making these decisions and it can be tough when you’re used to calling your own shots. So I’ve had good and bad experiences with it but through it all I’ve decided that I’m going to be a team player. There’s no use in being signed if you don’t want to collaborate with the staff in any way, shape, or form.
For future goals would you like it better to be independent?
So I haven’t put out my [debut] album out yet and depending on how that album gets pushed [would decide that]. I can push my album on my own because I’ve been doing it my whole career. But depending on how my album gets pushed by the label. That’s going to dictate whether I would prefer to be signed or independent moving forward, it really boils down to that. That’s where you really look for the label to come through like a champ for you.
Speaking of independence, you have artists like Chance the Rapper who is independent and he’s combining some gospel elements with his rap. Since you’re in a space between secular and Christian (maybe even more Christian). How do you feel about combining those elements? And would you work with Chance?
Would I ever work with Chance? Yes. Would I ever work with Kanye [West]? Yes. Would I work with any human being? Yes. I’m not opposed to working with anybody if the song and if the energy is right as far as us collaborating. I prefer to work with people who I’m friends with so if I was to form an organic real relationship, then I would be open to [collaborating]. I just don’t really like the idea of sending a song to somebody I never met before and they just put a random verse.
As far as combining the elements [of gospel and rap], that’s been going on for a while. But combining the subject matter though, I don’t like that. When you think gospel music, you don’t associate gospel music with profanity, you don’t associate gospel music with any lyrics that may be glorifying negativity. I’m not really a fan of combining the content to where you’re doing stuff that may be perceived as gospel but there’s cursing. So if any of [the songs] are doing that, then I’m not a fan of.
In terms of sonically would you incorporate some gospel in your new album?
I’m open to it. I want everything about my album, except for the title, because I [have] the title..but I want everything about my album to be a surprise to the listener. It’s no recycled songs, it’s no songs that you ever heard from Dee-1 on a mixtape or anything that came out before.
Unlike most rappers whom speak a lot of just spending money recklessly, you’re sorta spreading financial literacy through songs like “Sallie Mae Back” and “No Car Note”, what is inspiring this?
When I finished paying off my student loans I just felt…you know I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. So when I feel like a high in life, it’s natural, it’s because of something organic and it’s not being tampered with by any substance or drug. I felt this high, when I finished paying my student loans off to Sallie Mae, and what I learned is, whenever I feel that high, that’s something I need to create art about and that art is my music.
I was talking to one of my partners the other day and he’s in school right now and he literally said that when it comes to getting scholarships and paying for school, he didn’t apply for scholarships because he thought that you’re supposed to try to make good grades and they come after you. So what that showed me was a lot of people are just not financially literate. When it comes to cars, some people, just because we grew up in the hood and all we see is when people get a refund check they spend it all on this car and then they get this car note that’s impossible to maintain. So that’s why I made “No Car Note” off my Slingshot David Mixtape and that’s a song about paying your car note off. That song is going to be huge, we haven’t put the video or anything out yet but that song is going to be huuuuuuuuuuge. But I’m actually going to be doing a lot of touring this fall after my Slingshot David tour in schools around the country talking about financial literacy.
What tip would you give someone on how to pay Sallie Mae back?
Well you have two people. You have the people that have taken out loans already and are done and [they] have to figure out how to start paying it back. Then you [have] the people who are still in the process of being in school or they haven’t gone to school yet, so for those people I would say be conscious of how much you’re taking out because my rule of thumb that I came up with was, whatever you’re going to school for, whatever the starting salary is, my advice is don’t take out more in loans then what your starting salary is. So if you’re going to school to be a teacher, and the starting salary is $45000, don’t take out $100000 or even $90000 in student loans if you’re going to school for a job that’s going to start you off making $45000 a year. Because it’s going to make it very hard to pay back those loans and pay back the chunk they’re going to want you to pay back. If you have a $45000 starting salary, [and] take out $45000 or less in loans I guarantee you that if you get your first job whatever amount you have to pay back every month, you’ll be able to handle that because of how much money you make. But for people who took out loans already and you’re in the workforce now, you just got to hustle and you got to budget. If you’re in debt, it’s like you’re trying to come from behind in a basketball game, if you down by 16 points and it’s only three minutes left,you got to start shooting three pointers. So you might need to get a second job. You might need to do whatever you need to do, legally. After you hustle, you have to budget, you have to start breaking your finances down to what are necessary expenditures that you need to live on. The things that you may want that you might not necessarily need, you have to learn to sacrifice those things.
Being a fan of your earlier work like The Focus Tape, I’m noticing the absence of Mannie Fresh. Can we expect more from ya’ll two on the album?
I don’t know where that man at. I tried to call him the other day. It’s no beef, but he’s hustling I guess, he’s busy, so we haven’t done music together since…the beginning of 2015. We did a couple of songs that I have, that I’m sitting on right now but we haven’t made music together in probably like a year and eight months. It’s still all love, like it ain’t no beef but no we haven’t been in the studio in a minute.
Did the Separated At Birth mixtape have anything to do with him not being on more work? And do you think we’ll ever hear anything from it?
Oh no not at all. [Mannie] Fresh didn’t have anything to do with that. That was totally a Cash Money Records and a Lil Wayne thing. In terms of if ya’ll ever going to hear it. That was a difficult time in my life because I spent two months out of my summer of 2015 working on that and it came out real dope, it was real creative. And right before I put it out, I went through all of this foolishness being told that I couldn’t put it out and it was all of these threats being made against me and my record label. Honestly I could have still put it out if I was just like forget what everybody talking about but by me deciding not to put it out, at this point, it’s kind of old to me now. Like I’m listening to the new music I just put out, the Slingshot David Mixtape, and that music is so new and so fresh and so current to me that if I was to put other that stuff out it would just feel like I was just stepping back. But people ask me about it every day so I might figure out something that has to do with that whole project because people are interested in what really happened and how it all went down and they want the music.
For some reason, there hasn’t been a lot of coverage on the flooding in Louisiana. Since you’re from there, have you been down since the flooding? Has anyone you know been effected by it?
Oh yea, it’s bad in Baton Rouge. New Orleans, ironically, didn’t get hit with any of this flooding but in terms of Baton Rouge it’s almost like Hurricane Katrina part two. Baton Rouge went through a lot of the stuff that New Orleans went through during Hurricane Katrina. It’s actually funny that, when Hurricane Katrina hit, I was living in Baton Rouge, because I was in college, but when this flooding occurred in Baton Rouge, I’m living in New Orleans, so I thank God for that. I was a middle school teacher and I taught in Baton Rouge, so honestly a bunch of my students whom I still keep in touch with, they have been effected and they lost everything. So it’s very real to me and I’m taking part in the relief efforts to help bring money as well as donations, and all type of perishable goods to the people in [Baton Rouge].
Hip-Hop used to be a way for people to speak about what’s going on in our communities. Now with all that’s going on, it seems like not a lot of rappers are speaking out or they’re being real P.C. Why aren’t more rappers speaking up? What do you think your role in that is?
With some of them, I just feel like some of these issues are not important to them, so they’re not going to talk about what’s not important to them. People talk about what’s important to them, that’s why most of these rappers rap about money, cars, material possessions and getting a bunch of girls. That’s what most people rap about because that’s honestly what they value, that’s important to them. And they talk about themselves, because you know we all think highly of ourselves so a lot of people like to rap about themselves. The other part is, you have some people who may want to speak up, but they don’t feel like it’s a good look for their brand. Now you have people who may feel like this does need to be spoken about but they feel like their fans don’t want to hear that because they’re in the club every night performing for a thousand people who just want to hear about popping perks and they just rolling off of pills and all that type of stuff; they’re sipping lean and because of that they feel like man I’m going to become boring to my fans if I start talking about this stuff that’s going on in society too much. A lot of these rappers have a lot better heart than what people give them credit for but they’re afraid to step out there and be bold about what’s really on their mind.
So you do feel a social responsibility as an artist?
Of course, that’s one of the reasons I got into the rap game, to bring light to the issues I don’t hear being covered enough by hip-hop artist. Especially artists where I’m from.
Can we expect you talking about police brutality & black lives matter on your album?
So the good thing about me is because my musical content is a reflection of my life. My everything from what I speak about, when I have to do public speaking engagements, they all line up with one another. So my thing is I’m going to incorporate the social ills we’re suffering from right now into everything. So of course it’s going to be in my music, but it’s also going to be in my social media.It’s also going to be in what I’m speaking about. I never want to do it in a way that feels forced but when I feel I have something new to bring into the conversation, that’s when I jump into the conversation.
What are your thought’s on the police shootings of African Americans? Do you believe the narrative of black on black crime?
I don’t believe it I see it. My best friend got killed by a black man and my other boy who I grew up with, he got killed by a black man. My student I used to teach, he got killed by a black man, who happened to be another student I taught. This girl I taught, she just got killed by a black man, so I don’t believe it, I see it. But I do think that it’s a separate conversation from…it shouldn’t be lumped into the conversation about police killings because that’s a different conversation. But here’s the thing, if we’re talking to the whole world, it’s like leave that out because we’re talking about a different conversation from police killing black people. But when we’re amongst ourselves, when it’s just black people, it’s almost like family business. If it’s just us talking we do need to talk about the fact that we got to love ourselves, and we have to show the world that we love ourselves too. Because it does look bad that we make a fuss about this stuff [police involved shootings] but we are so numb and desensitized to when we kill ourselves. I would say that behind closed doors to other black people but I wouldn’t say that in public to the masses. I don’t think those conversations should be trivialized and minimized into one conversation.
So what can fans expect from your first headlining tour, performance wise?
Oh I’m probably just going to be crying every night honestly. I have been through a lot to get to this point. I’ve opened up for other people on tours. I have had ups and downs in my journey as a man and as an artist but now that it is to this point regardless of how each show turns out, the fact that I’m here, it is an emotional time for me. I’m just going to pour out those emotions, so people are going to see the biggest smile that they have ever seen from me, the most passionate performance, they’re going to see…like I said I might fool around and be crying at some of these shows, who knows, but I’m just going to give it my all every night. I’m going to come in there with a full tank and I’m going to end the show on E every night.
So what’s next? When can fans expect some visuals from the Slingshot David Mixtape and possibly a single for the upcoming album?
The mixtape right now is actually about a month old, so it’s actually a month young, I call it, because it just came out. So the mixtape is something that anybody who doesn’t have the Slingshot David Mixtape, they need to go and get that ASAP, that’s what we’re pushing , and that’s a lot of songs I’m going to be performing on the tour are from this brand new mixtape, because the mixtape has a lot of bangers on it. I have a few more videos dropping from the mixtape and I do have my first single [from the album] done, it’s all done, and I’m meeting with my label on Monday to discuss of when we’re actually going to put the single out from the album. So it’s coming.
Go here for tickets. Listen to Slingshot David Mixtape below.