There are very few sounds that are utterly indescribable and instantly recognizable, but Desiigner's "brrrrdiyahh" is one of them. It was the battle cry that came to distinguish the New York rapper from his other Atlanta-influenced peers — by marrying a simple roll "r" with a shout, Desiigner could coax clubbers to stow their drinks and rush to the dance floor, or prompt strippers to find a pole.
The masses weren't the only ones to catch on. Amid an 11-label battle to sign the then 18-year-old, Kanye West, the gatekeeper of good music and founder of a label by the same name, swooped in, sampling the rapper's entire first single on his highly-anticipated The Life of Pablo.
Desiigner was on a fast-track to fame and fortune, following up the track with the equally successful "Timmy Turner." Three years and a XXL Freshman nod later, the Bedstuy native is finally releasing his first formal project, EP L.O.D, an acronym for "Life of Designer," to be followed up by his debut full-length offering in the fall, and if his breakout success is anything to go on — freshly 21-year-old Desiigner is only further cementing his place in hip-hop history.
PAPER sat down with man of the moment to talk mumble rap, soccer mom drugs and making sense of his mentor, Kanye West.
I didn't realize this was your first project. It feels like you been around so long. How do you maintain momentum after coming up so fast? Is there pressure?
No it's no pressure, it's one of a kind to me. You don't really come around too many Desiigners, so it's just like always knowing that and keeping that faith inside me. I just wanted to really put my work out there and make people smile and have a good time.
How did you originally link with G.O.O.D Music?
The link happened through a label, an 11-label bidding war. We were going everywhere, coming in and out of taxis. Kanye winded up hearing it through the labels. He told me one of his homeboys was like playing ["Panda"] on Soundcloud and he was like, "Yo 'Ye this record is hot!" So I guess like in the inside of G.O.O.D Music, they were just already just filling the gap.
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What about him sampling "Panda"?
So at first my Lawyer was asking me like "Yo, they want to sample Panda," at first we thought he wanted to use the *makes Desiigner gun noise* part. At first it was that but then long story short, he came back and he actually wanted to use the whole record. He wanted to do the whole thing. I mean I turned the strip club into an arena.
It is such a strip club anthem.
Exactly, so at Madison Square Garden I wind up meeting Kanye for the first time, you know, in the middle of the record label bidding war. Wind up meeting him when he first played Pablo was at MSG, it was crazy we couldn't even get in the spot at first because it was like a massacre going on. 20,000 people. We start running down there then all of a sudden we just see a godly light on Kanye. He sees me, turned, gave me a hug, and just turned "Panda" on. Man, it was over from there.
How did you know G.O.O.D Music was the one, over the all the other labels?
It was really just that inner feeling of good energy when I seen Kanye he was under the whole team, Pusha everybody. When I came out here everybody came to check on me. So it was just great energy, it was family-oriented. They was teaching, my brother Pusha was always telling me good stories, like, "There's a lot coming just stay focused." So it was like a lot of family vibes outside of music.
How has it been adjusting to the fame?
Adjusting to it was crazy. I'm just a kid from Bedstuy with a dream and now I'm just starting to catch it and hold it in. Like now I have all these artist like Trey Songz, I remember we were in the club and he was like, "Yo, Desiigner, always remember to try to remember everything you do. Try to remember because being an artist, a lot of things come fast." Sometimes you got to just breath and appreciate what you just did. Gucci Mane and Trey Songz. They were like, "Bro you just need to appreciate everything that's going on."
Man, Gucci must have some real wisdom.
He changed his whole personality, his whole way of thinking and I really look up to that. Like Gucci came from just being that all the way gangsta to working out and getting his biceps and getting it in. So it's like Gucci really held me down by telling me to stay focused and when you look back at everything you do just embrace it, hold onto everything. Look at what's happening and enjoy, never look at what's happening and be like, Nah, that's not enough. Be hungry but be able to enjoy what you're doing.
It's such a different time now, our best rappers used to not make it past 30 and now we these amazing gods who are 40, 50-years-old — there's longevity.
Word. Its a new age, people ain't shooting rappers no more. It's all about trying to troll the internet or trying to clout up.
What impact do you think the Internet played on your come up?
I tried to get all the hottest girls playing my music. In the DMs man. If you go back to these girls they'd be like "Yo man Desiigner would be in my DMs asking to play his record." I was just reaching out, like "I need that, I need that ASAP." And it was Facebook at the time. One time I sent it to my homeboys he had wind up giving his girl the record. His girl is like the hottest chick in Brooklyn at the time. So when she played it, we were just going crazy.
How do you feel about Brooklyn now? Do you still feel really embraced?
I can say I came from the era, from Brooklyn Brooklyn, before the turning point. I got shot two blocks away from my house like being in the streets. I just always pray better for Brooklyn. If you walk down the street you're cool now, but back in the day if you were walking in Brooklyn, you were looking over your left shoulder. But I feel like every place needs to change because Brooklyn couldn't be like that forever. It's just famous because a lot of great people came out of there [Laughs].
True! It's interesting that for so long the New York rap scene was stalling, which feels like a borough divide, like, Oh I'm from Queens, you're the Bronx, this isn't going to work.
A lot of things that happened in the past, a lot of OGs didn't know how to let go and then the youngins you were all, "Oh, my older peoples don't fuck with him" and which made a divide that carried on. It's also kind of that energy because of the "king" idea — everyone wants to be that king. I feel you can have that confidence but don't be trying to throw it all out there because it's just going to get people mad.
What's your take on the mumble rap come-up? There are the Ebros saying, Fuck these dudes where are the J Coles?
It's new and it's warming up, hip hop is evolving and this is what's coming out of it. We young guys are listening to y'all music and we building it and making a newer way so it's just like building. Like when they say "mumble rap" I be like, Yo, listen harder man. I speak the truth and I speak real things with my music too so I'm on both sides. But I always say, if your song don't make me dance, I'm not listening to it. So you got to have that great feeling come out of a record, that's what I want.
You are of that generation of rap where there's a lot of artists consistently popping xanax and molly, like Lil Peep-
R.I.P Lil Peep.
How did Peep affect you?
I never really knew him, but I got a couple friends that does drugs. Take those type of routes and it kills you. I done seen people that was slim that was on my XXL cover, but got a gut now because they sip too much lean. And it's like I come around them and I be like, "Yo, bro you got to chill with that because I seen the worst." We had some of the greatest artist that was coming up and passed away from it.
Drinking and weed used to be cool, now its these guys are doing soccer mom drugs.
It's the Internet. It's like it went from the gangsters being in the streets to the gangsters on the Internet — that's the only thing they can show off. Like you can't be on the Internet murdering people or you'd go to jail, so now they just on the Internet showing something they think is cool or think is gangster to look. Like not every artist does lean, not every artist does drugs or does syrup or pop pills.
But you're around that type of stuff.
I'm not really. I smoke weed, I do smoke weed. I don't want to mix in with everyone else doing xans and all that.
Well Cynthia Nixon is running for New York governor, are you going to vote for her?
I'm not too much into the politics world but-
She wants to legalize weed dude!
Okay, I might need to see Cynthia! Tell her pull up.
I have to ask you about what's going on with Kanye shit, it must be hard watching your mentor being hammered like this.
It's different. Seeing who he is now, I'm just learning a brand new 'Ye, just how everyone else is learning. I'm not in his mind, I don't know his thoughts, but all I can say is he's a big role model and we have to be careful with what we say. His influence is crazy so you can't just say everything. You have people who love you who don't have nothing, that's homeless and still want to care for Ye so you got to support them too and not just speak those things out there.
This month he said slavery was a choice.
It's crazy. You got to have respect for both sides. Like I can't just call out gay people gay, even though I didn't grow up with a lot of gay people. You have to have respect for the fact that there are a lot of gay supporters out there who love you. I hope 'Ye just picks the right option and know there's certain things you can't say. I don't hate 'Ye after he said that, but what I do say is just be wise with what you say.
Do you feel like you're always monitoring how you move, too?
Definitely. I don't want to offend anybody. I really don't want to offend anyone. I want to just bring inspiration and bring motivation to people. You got a million listeners and got to make sure what you're saying is for everybody to enjoy. I ain't gonna lie I be saying some crazy things in my record too but I say it to have fun and I say it so that everyone can have fun and enjoy it.
It must be strange as a young artist to always have another artist's name attached to you.
Yeah, but it's is a blessing it is a blessing. Being a part of American history, we are American history, this is what we do. Just being apart of that and what he did and his legacy is great.
Photo Courtesy of Desiigner