Desiigner's hit single “Panda” spent two weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, 14 weeks atop their Streaming Songs chart and a whopping 17 weeks atop their Hot Rap Songs chart. Additionally, the record has earned Best Mumble Rap Song of 2016 honors, was certified 3x Platinum in August, and, just last week, was nominated for a GRAMMY award in the 'Best Rap Performance' category. Not a bad rookie campaign.
In an interview with Billboard, G.O.O.D. Music COO Steven Victor tried to explain why the song was such a monster.
"I don’t think that “Panda” filled a void -- it just cut through. If you listen to the lyrics, he’s a rapper’s rapper. It’s so unique because it’s really difficult for a rapper to fill in bars like that. Usually they just say nonsense and it sounds good." —Steven Victor
While I agree with Victor that "Panda" was able to cut through all of the noise, the notion that the song blew up because Desiigner is a "rapper's rapper" couldn't be further from reality. Victor's assessment that the song is unique is spot on—I'd give any up-and-coming rapper 25 attempts to try and spit it Desiigner's "Panda" verse flawlessly, even while looking at the lyrics—but Desiigner, as an artist, and "Panda," as a record, is the 2016 definition of nonsense that sounds good.
Oddly enough, Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels argued the opposite point in the interview by stating, "Getting something to be disruptive really needs to happen now, for artists to stand out because there’s so much noise in the world."
In order to truly be disruptive in a stale and cookie cutter recording industry, an artist must be innovative and groundbreaking. Sure, Desiigner has a unique delivery, and he does things vocally that many artists would be hard pressed to duplicate with any success, but upon his wide entrance into the industry earlier this year, the Brooklyn native was largely viewed as a subpar Future clone. In fact, when Kanye previewed The Life of Pablo at Madison Square Garden on February 11, DJBooth scribe Nathan mistakenly identified Desiigner's vocals on "Pt. 2" as belonging to Future.
History says Desiigner is destined to be a one-hit wonder and, despite the relative success of follow-up single "Tiimmy Turner," the verdict is still out on his future (pun intended). But whatever it is that drove "Panda" to its chart-topping success in 2016—cough, Kanye, cough—Desiigner will need more if 2017 his encore performance.