Two months after Desiigner released “Panda,” he was signed to G.O.O.D. Music. Many rap fans were quick to claim it a hasty move on the part of Kanye (and G.O.O.D. president Pusha T), to sign the 19-year-old Brooklyn rapper — who sounded a bit too much like Future — off the strength of one song.
Indeed, Desiigner has been a controversial rapper from the outset. Many have criticized him for a lack of lyrical competence (and being flat-out impossible to understand at times), the gun shot ad-libs that run rampant throughout his music, and his insanely energetic live performances, complete with wild facial expressions and sometimes even mid-song vomiting. His XXL Freshman Freestyle, “Tiimmy Turner” was subsequently remixed countless times in addition to its release as a full-fledged single — Kanye himself jumped on one, and so did Tara Strong, who does the voiceover for Timmy Turner in the Fairly Oddparents cartoon. Most recently, he was arrested on drug and weapon charges, though the gun charge was eventually dropped and the drug charges will most likely follow.
Over the months, there has been both good will and hostility towards Desiigner. Though he’s been a hot item in the news, we haven’t gotten to know the Bed-Stuy native on a personal level. But with the release of a new documentary from Def Jam, titled I Am Def Jam, Desiigner takes us back to his roots.
In between shots of his community, parents, and family, Desiigner offers his perspective, discussing how he was a bad kid — he was shot when he was 14, which was the same age he began rapping — what he’s learned while making music, and how he wants to help his neighborhood. The video offers a more introspective side of the rapper we don't often get to see. "I always saw myself as being an artist. Being able to create things, and put things out for people to enjoy and for people to watch, that's me," he said.
"I was definitely in a lot of trouble before I was doing music," he explains. "I was in the wrong places, the wrong timing. I got hit, I got shot. So I just came down, like I can't sell no drugs. I'll sell music. Music definitely saved me and took me out. My community is rough out there. My job is to come back to my community and change, and show there are other things to do."
Desiigner also offers his own advice, putting a heavy emphasis on the importance of family and telling aspiring musicians to “take your time” with their practice.
Def Jam’s intention was to show a softer side to the Brooklyn rapper, and with this video, they were successful. Finally, we see a more down-to-earth Desiigner, one who cares deeply about his family and the future of his community. It’s satisfying to know that he still has a personal stake in the city that raised him.
By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Def Jam