It’s no secret: New Orleans artist Dee-1 isn’t your average rapper. He’s the brainchild behind the viral sensation “Sallie Mae Back,” a song about becoming debt free. Its unique message, which easily stands apart from the lavish raps listeners have been flooded with for decades, have earned him a spot on CNN, appearances on daytime talk shows, and various other speaking engagements. “I was asked to speak at Clark Atlanta University on a panel about financial literacy. Do I cancel something solid that’s in line with what I believe? Or do I go in a lane that’s opening up other opportunities?” he questioned during his visit to STASHED HQ.
The other opportunity he was referring to was an acting role on a popular New Orleans TV show. The Christian artist landed the role he auditioned for, but the casting director switched him to another character. The new script had curses, causing Dee-1 to rethink the offer. “What am I going to look like getting on the big screen acting, and I’m cursing? I don’t even curse in my own music. I felt kind of hypocritical,” he openly told fans in a self-made video.
It’s these types of beliefs that have carried the artist thus far. He backed away from potentially signing a deal with Cash Money Records due to the “energy feeling different.” With RCA’s backing, he’s on a mission to fulfill his hometown’s legacy.
He encourages his listeners to “Be righteous, be real, and be relevant.” Those words can be heard clearly on his powerful remix to “Against Us” featuring Big K.R.I.T. and longtime friend Lupe Fiasco.
In this STASHED exclusive, Dee-1 reveals the original ending of Lupe Fiasco’s “Against Us” verse, his feelings on competition in rap, and how he’s moving the culture forward.
STASHED: In an Instagram post you mentioned Lupe Fiasco testing you by cursing in his verse. What was that actual conversation like?
Dee-1: When I asked Lupe Fiasco to hop on my song, he was totally cool with it. I’m in the studio with him and as he’s recording he’s freestyling, he’s not writing. He’s doing his thing in the booth. He knows that I don’t curse and that I don’t have profanity in my music. On the last bar, he said “My kind and they logic is like 99 of their problems with no B–.” He said that and came out of the booth.
I’ve struggled in the past with existing in this industry. I wanted to be different. I feel it in my heart to be different. I’m still of this, but I want to show that I can come from this and be different. It’s a struggle sometimes when you collaborate with people who might not adhere to what my vision is or they curse in their music so they’re just like whatever. So I’ve had trouble speaking up in the past about that because I don’t want to tarnish my relationships with people. I actually tried to speak up about certain collabs that I was on the verge of doing and it’s always led to tension or friction with the artist and me. With Lupe, I’m like Oh boy, here we go [laughs]. Do I speak up and create this awkward moment in the studio or do I let it ride?
I decided to speak up and we had a little conversation about it and he was cool with removing it. That Instagram post came from real live footage of us kicking it, of us seeing each other after a few months. We talked about the collaboration. He was telling someone else at the time, “He don’t know it, but I cursed on his record on purpose just to see what he would do.” I think he was testing me to see how strong are my convictions, and what I believe in, even when it’s not convenient. Even when it’s not the convenient thing for me to speak up, and speak what’s on my heart, and about what my true mission is, will I do it? And I did it with one of the most difficult people to do it with. He’s a man I look up to in a lot of ways.
STASHED: Was there a lot of competition between you, Big K.R.I.T., and Lupe on that song?
Dee-1: If it was, I didn’t feel it. I think we set our own bar, our own standard for how hard we want to go. It doesn’t feel like that. I think we’re all in the game for similar reasons, which is we want to bring our best to the table at all time. We want to put out a healthy message that’s going to empower people who listen. With that said, we weren’t overly concerned with outdoing each other. But no one wanted to have the weakest verse.
There are politics of this industry to where a lot of people really don’t like each other but they’re doing stuff just to try to tap into each other’s fan bases. It’s not worth the amount of stress. You don’t really like me, but you’re texting me to tweet out the song. And I don’t really mess with you but I’m sitting here posting pictures of us together as if we’re really cool. I’ve already done all of that. I’ve been through all of that. Life is too short to be faking the funk. And this industry is too fake for me to go along with the status quo.
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