New Orleans native Dee-1 is unlike many hip hop artists we’ve ever met. He’s a college graduate, former middle school teacher and he’s practicing abstinence. His music focuses on positivity and uplifting the African American community. He turned down a major record deal with Cash Money, and he’s since vowed to stay true to his craft. If you know anything about his music, you’re probably familiar with his mantra. Be Real. Be Righteous. Be Relevant.
But sometimes being real means admitting faults, struggles, challenges. Dee-1 or Mr. Augustine as his former students called him, has had his own struggles. Despite his constant words of positivity. In 2014 he thought about committing suicide. “2014/2015 were hard years for me. I struggled with some serious depression. I thought about quitting life. Contemplated suicide,” says Dee-1. His transparency touched on a very weak spot in the black community. Depression. I wrote about it previously in an article titled The Life of Pablo: Decoding Black Depression.
In spite of his challenges, I admire his courage to walk blindly in faith through an industry that tends to over-sexualize almost everything. Awhile ago, he made a conscious decision to completely change his lifestyle. He stopped having sex. “It’s important to me to openly preach abstinence until marriage because as a Christian, that is what God teaches us to strive for. I have fallen short and I am not a virgin, but at this point in my life I want to do it the right way, God’s way.” And as more success comes, I can only imagine that living up to this can become more difficult, but he’s not budging.
A few months ago, his song ‘Sallie Mae Back’ went viral, and currently sits just shy of 2 million views on his Facebook page. The song is just another way that he’s made himself relatable, grasping the attention of millions of people around the world. People who all have a similar struggle, including me. “When my video for Sallie Mae Back went viral, I knew that I was making history, because I had never heard anyone make a COOL, exciting song about being fiscally responsible. But paying off my loans was one of the best days of my life, so i decided to do a song about it.” Messages like this give me hope, but more importantly hope for my community. Dee-1 one realizes the influence of music can have a larger impact on people’s lives. “I still drive my 1998 Honda because I want kids in the hood to see a rapper who does not have to blow his money on expensive cars just to “fit in.” I drive what I want to drive, and I like driving my 98′ Honda.”
Photo Courtesy of Dee-1
And while he didn’t exactly leave a luxurious lifestyle behind, he did however leave his job to pursue music. Something he credits Curren$y with. Mr. Augustine was a rare thing in the classroom. According to an article released earlier this year by The Slate, only 2% of teachers are Black and male. “I think that very few black men enter the teaching profession because we’re focused on providing for our current or future families. And honestly, teaching is definitely not the most lucrative career.”
Although Dee-1 is no longer in the classroom, he’s teaching people in a different way. His music. He’s in the middle of embarking on his first solo nationwide tour. The Slingshot David Tour. Tonight, he’s in Houston. Tomorrow, Austin. Saturday Dallas. But despite a pretty successful song earlier this year, he’s got a lot to prove and he knows it. “On this tour I’m going to share stuff that people have never known about me, and the connection I make with the crowd will be something that changes lives, literally. I have a chip on my shoulder so it’s going to brong the best out of me.”
The Slingshot David Tour is named after his latest project. I ask him the inspiration behind the name and what it means to him. “David defeated Goliath with merely a slingshot and a stone. My 1st name is David and my slingshot is my pen and my pad. Those are the weapons I use to write songs, and my songs slay demons and defeat evil everyday. Therefore I am Slingshot David.”
I’ve always been a fan of the underdogs. Dee-1 is no different. I can’t say that he’s fully aware of what he’s up against. But if Chance is any sign of what’s possible in the music industry right now, he’s certainly headed in the right direction. For more information on his upcoming tour dates, click the link here.