Dee-1 Talks Business, Branding & Team Building
Written by Patrice on July 23, 2014
Dee-1 is one of the most unique and inspiring artists on the scene. Growing up in New Orleans, one would assume that he would be the next southern rapper talking about gold chains, fancy cars, and women. Not Dee. His rhymes are filled with purpose as he strives to encourage others to pursue their dreams and motivates them to win the game of life.
I recently came across his official music video of a song he recorded in 2010 called “Jay, 50 and Weezy” where he’s calling out these well-known and highly successful recording artists on how their music has influenced our culture and most importantly, the youth. It was refreshing to hear such profound lyrics from a man with the New Orleans swag and the intellect that could challenge any philosopher. He’s not ashamed to say that he was a middle school teacher before he became a recording artist, and how he wanted to make music that would inspire his students. I was not only impressed by his humbled beginnings, but also by his career path and growth. Check out what Dee-1 had to say about how he transitioned from being a teacher to making music full-time, the importance of developing his brand, and what he looks for in those who want to be a part of his team:
It’s known that you’ve worked as a teacher while funding your career as a recording artist. During your journey, when did you realize that it was time to pursue it full-time?
Dee-1: My 2nd year of teaching. It was October or November and I had already used up all 10 of my vacation days the school gave us each year. And all 10 of mine were used for music-related activities. That on top of me averaging like 3 hours of sleep that year because juggling music and full-time teaching was taking so much out of me. That’s when I knew it was time to pursue music full time. That’s where my heart was.
How did you prepare financially to pursue your dreams full-time? (ex. savings, investors, record deal, etc)
Dee-1: I’ve never had an investor and didn’t have a record deal of any kind when I stopped teaching to become a full-time artist. I saved my money I was making as a teacher and lived below my means. And once I made that transition, I hustled hard on the microphone. The same hustle people apply to school, to the streets, to their jobs…. I applied it to hip hop.
You’ve branded yourself as being “Righteous, Real, and Relevant” (Throw them 3s up!). How important was it to identify your brand? Do you think you would have been as successful without it?
Dee-1: It was important to identify my brand because this industry is full of pressure to be this way or that way or follow this trend or sound like that person….. But defining your own brand allows you to control that conversation and carve out your own niche and make moves.
There are many independent artists who are seeking management to “fund” their career. Could you share what the purpose of management is for you?
Dee-1: The purpose of management is to help put you and your music in places you can’t get it in on your own. It’s to help establish and execute your vision for your music. It’s to connect you with people you don’t have relationships with who make sense for your brand. It’s to play offense, not just defense. Management is like a marriage, so as intense as a marriage is, that’s how an artist-manager relationship should be.
At what point in your journey did you realize that you needed management? What are some of their duties?
Dee-1: I’m still seeking management right now believe it or not lol.
It’s obvious that you have a team of supporters (MVPs=Mission Vision Posse) who believes in your mission. What about the team of people behind the scenes; what roles do your team members play in assisting you?
Dee-1: My team members behind-the-scenes help put together and keep my calendar, consult with me on business decisions, anything. There’s no limit to what we do together.
I recently wrote a blog about how building a team is the key to growth. What do you look for in a person for them to be a part of your team?
Dee-1: 1. Passion for my music 2. Trust/Loyalty 3. Accountability 4. Skill. What are you great at and what do you want to be great at. 5. Good morals.