Dee-1 Is The Blueprint
Written by Patrice on February 27, 2016
We had the pleasure of interviewing Dee-1 nearly 2 years ago, and it is such a beautiful thing to see him gain mainstream recognition from creating the new anthem for people with student loans. If you don’t know who Dee-1 is, let me give just a short introduction. Dee-1 is a New Orleans rapper who had a very unconventional journey leading up to his musical career. Holding a Bachelor’s degree, Dee-1 found himself working as a middle school math teacher by day while pursuing his music career at night. He is extremely transparent and is known for sharing his journey throughout his life. From attending former students’ funerals, to his trip to Atlanta to connect with T.I.’s manager Jason Geter. Dee-1 has no problem laying it all out on the table, while being a devoted Christian, with a lifestyle and frame of mind called “Mission Vision” which is all about what calls #3sUp which stands for Be Real, Be Righteous, Be Relevant.
So, what makes Dee-1 the Blueprint? Simple…
Have A Remarkable Story
He came out the gate with a remarkable story to tell that led him to a successful music career AND speaking engagements. How many elementary school teachers do you know decided to become a rapper and make music that the world (including his students) could listen to? While mainstream has been showing a lot of love to the likes of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, Dee-1 has been on a mission to bring light to the ill-wills our society has faced. He’s even went as far as calling out other mainstream artists such as Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Lil’ Wayne for not using their influence to positively guide the community. Dee-1 is not new, and he’s not an overnight success. He’s been grinding for years.
Bet On Yourself
After 2 years of being a middle school teacher by day, Dee-1 decided to quit and pursue music full-time. He knew that he could have a bigger impact not only on the community, but on society as a whole by pursuing his passion and building a larger fanbase. Lets face it, although the steady paycheck is nice and it provides many with a sense of comfort and stability, there’s only so much one can do while working for someone else full-time. Dee-1 bet on himself by staying focused on his goal, pursuing his goals while employed, developed an exit strategy, and did it.
Create A Movement
#MissionVision is more than the 2 words you see. It’s the foundation to his brand. Notice how he didn’t build his career on “being real, being righteous, and being relevant”. His entire life is built on it. Because he believes in himself and wants others to see the good in themselves enough to believe, he’s created an entire movement around it, which carried over into merch items that he wears and sells. He also gets people engaged by encouraging them to “throw their 3’s up”. Doing that, he lets you know that the movement is not about him, it’s about all of us.
Engage With Your Fans
If any artist wants to step their social media game up, I quickly refer them to Dee-1’s social media profiles. I can preach all day about having a strong social media presence and the steps to take to achieve it, but it doesn’t sink in until you see a fellow recording artist being successful at it. Dee-1 is constantly speaking directly to his fans, letting them know where he’s appearing next, his daily experiences, studio clips, an encouraging word, pics with his industry peers and fans, and merch items that others can buy to show their support and pride in being a part of the movement. Dee-1 has a clear understanding of who his fanbase is and has created a strong community by speaking directly to them and making sure that all of his posts are relevant and consistent. He posts with purpose and substance.
Make Timeless Music That’s Relatable
I did a periscope broadcast a few weeks ago where I started out by playing “Just Got Paid” by Johnny Kemp and stated how that song is still the jam nearly 30 years later. People are still getting paid on Friday and love celebrating the arrival of the weekend. Sadly Johnny passed away sometime last year, but that song will forever be a hit for many generations to come. Dee-1 recently released a song that I feel will have the same effect called Sallie Mae Back, where Dee-1 raps about how he’s finally paid “her” back. If you’re familiar with his entire catalog, Dee-1 always referenced his student loans with Sallie Mae and other educational programs such as free lunches. His consistent message reminds me of the “Old Kanye” where his earlier music were all college-themed. I get that same vibe from Dee-1. People from all walks of life and various income brackets have student loans. Dee-1 has shared that he was able to pay his loans completely off by using the advance from his record deal. That alone is something to celebrate, given that many throw their advance money on luxury items (like Maybachs) as soon as they get it. As people continue to carry the burden of Sallie Mae, there will always be someone who can celebrate paying Sallie Mae Back.
Check out the viral video, Sallie Mae Back, that landed Dee-1 on multiple media channels, including CNN, Huffington Post, BET and more.