Dee-1 Talks Studio Time With Mannie Fresh, Touring With Lupe Fiasco & 2014 Goals [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Dee-1 has a million reasons to be excited about the 365 days that make up 2014, but his claim to fame has always been to take things one day at a time.
After years of pushing through stereotypes and notions of what a New Orleans MC “should” sound like, the 26-year-old can celebrate inking a new deal with RCA Records. He can also say that he and the incomparable Mannie Fresh have recorded countless tracks including the crowd favorite ‘I’ll Pay For It.’
“I just put it out but that song’s old,” Dee-1 tells The Boombox. “I got so much music dealing with Mannie that we just been waiting on the right time to put it out. Now that I signed a deal we’re really gonna start putting it out now because we’re gonna have a big machine to help us push it. ”
Seems like a solid formula: now that certain things are in place and the iron is hot, Dee-1 is ready to strike. The fact that he’s been forging strong relationships with the hip-hop elite over the past few years helps some. It’s not something that he’s been necessarily working towards on purpose -- for instance, the first time he met Mannie Fresh was at an automotive parts store in 2006, just after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city the two call home.
“Really, shortly after I started rapping is when I met him,” Dee-1 reveals. “It was in an unexpected case. Like, I met all these people and I don’t meet them at industry events.”
“I met Manny at Auto Zone while buying oil for my car -- a little hooptie I had,” he recalls. “I handed him a demo. Talked to him. Told him who I was, told him I would be the next big thing. I don’t think he believed me. Four years later in 2010, he must’ve finally listened to it, or saw my buzz get bigger because he gave me a call and said he wanted to work with me. He said he remembered me from Auto Zone, so yeah, ever since then it was on and popping.”
Listen to Dee-1's 'I'll Pay For It'
Not only does it help to have Mannie Fresh behind the boards, but knowing that the impact of having him there will undoubtedly push Dee-1's career into the consciousness of a whole new audience is simply the icing on the cake. “Mannie validates me to a whole generation of people from New Orleans that are used to one specific type of sound,” Dee explains. “They’re used to No Limit, Cash Money, gangsta, street rap from New Orleans.”
“So for Mannie to co-sign me and say, ‘Ayo, Dee-1 is that dude. He’s the one that got next from our city,’ it makes the city and the industry say, ‘We gotta respect it, because Mannie don’t just co-sign anybody,’” he adds.
Without having to compromise his standards -- most of them more wholesome than those of your favorite rapper -- Dee-1 is using his connects to do even more than ever before.
In late 2013, he toured with Lupe Fiasco on his Tetsuo & Youth Preview nationwide stint. Dee-1 scored that achievement due to their mutual friendship. He met the Chicago MC during a chance meeting on a flight back in early 2012. “You know how you run into somebody who does what you do so it’s like y’all are peers? It started off like that,” he says. “We met on an airplane and after that just kept staying in touch and really at this point he’s really like a big brother to me.”
While Dee was in Los Angeles filming a movie with Cali rapper Murs last year, Fiasco suggested spots for him to visit. He returned the favor when Fiasco visited New Orleans.
Watch Dee-1's 'Failure Ain't An Option' Feat. Murs & Tabi Bonney
Dee-1’s cashing in without changing himself -- sticking to certain values that he deems necessary. “I know that a lot of people in this world, even leaders, even they had to follow someone,” he shares. “So I just wanna be a good leader and set an example for future leaders. I don’t do this stuff because I was just born this way.”
“I have good parents,” he continues. “I come from a two-parent household, where both of them got up and went to work everyday, they’re honest people. I had good examples set for me through my parents and grandparents and that’s all I’m trying to do for these [kids] now. Set a good example.”
The ‘Psalms of David II’ creator is watching it all come together now after years of putting in work. The signing came first, then there was the release of the mixtape in November, and his movement has been steadily gaining traction. The rapper says he can see the effects while on the road with Fiasco, claiming that every night has been just as great as the previous one.
“It’s cool,” he says excitedly. “I’d say every night I just [fell] in love with each crowd for a different reason. Denver was real dope. I had fun with them! I jumped out into the crowd and did a New Orleans Second Line during my set. It was crazy. I [was] just out here shining on this tour.”
Sometimes, instead of running to look ahead it’s a great thing to take a moment and reflect on what’s been accomplished thus far. These days, things move so quickly, artists don’t usually have much time to smell the roses -- not Dee-1 though. He counts the tour, the signing and ‘Psalms of David II’ as three noteworthy points of 2013. “Those are three major wins,” he enthuses. “God is blessing me right now and I can see it in front of my face.”
“[In 2014], I wanna be a household name,” Dee-1 adds. “I want everybody in the country to know my name. Straight up. And that may come from a hit song or a hit album. Just delivering big time music that can’t be ignored.”
After all, failure isn't an option for him.