Before Yeezy essentially remixed Desiigner's "Panda" for his album the song was firmly entrenched in regional buzz territory, getting some spins in NYC clubs where it likely would have stayed, along with Desiigner. But Kanye's "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2" put Desiigner's voice in the ears of millions and in turn "Panda" exploded. It's currently the number two song in the country, passed only by Rihanna and Drake's "Work," and giving Desiigner a far bigger mainstream hit than his doppleganger, Future, has ever had.
Today, Billboard reported that Desiigner had signed a potentially lucrative publishing deal, which in many ways is a more powerful sign that the music industry thinks he has staying power than his record deal with GOOD Music*. Publishing is all about songwriting, so if "Panda" gets used in a commercial or a movie, that's publishing money. If Desiigner writes a hit song for someone else, that's publishing money. Anyone can have a hot song, can get hot, but a publishing deal essentially says, "We believe this person can create more hit music, even if their name or face isn't directly attached to it."
Is that a safe bet? Will Desiigner be able to write more hits? On one level publishers would have to be insane to pass up on a deal with Desiigner right now. It's like a baseball team signing a high schooler who can throw a 95 mph fastball. When someone's got a hit this big you have to roll the dice. If they don't pan out later, fine, it happens. But if they end up becoming a huge star and you passed on the chance to lock them up early on you'll hate yourself forever. There were undoubtedly some publishers who thought Fetty Wap wouldn't have another hit beyond "Trap Queen." Four top 10 hits and a number one album later, they must get nauseous every time they overhear "My Way."
Just like Fetty was able to translate Atlanta's harder trap sound into a more melodic style the radio ate up, Desiigner feels well positioned to grab Future's flag, strip it of its darkest elements, and flip it to a younger generation who also grew up on Atlanta music, even if they were also born and raised in New York City. Desiigner may eventually prove to be a one-hit wonder or he might become the new Fetty Wap, but he's clearly here to stay for the immediate future. He's got a lot more throwing up on stage to do before he fades.
* While the record label deal and publishing deal were completely separate for much of modern music industry history, in 2016 labels now routinely also take a cut of publishing, or also operate as publishing companies themselves (like Artist Publishing Group).