Desiigner, the future of rap
At the age of just 19, rapper Desiigner has achieved overnight fame after coming under the aegis of Kanye West. Signed to the star’s G.O.O.D. Music label, the young prodigy is currently working on his greatly anticipated first album.
It’s a muggy, late-summer afternoon and Desiigner is gamely making his signature grimaces for the camera. Outside the Lower East Side studio where he’s getting his picture taken, a scrum of young kids from the neighbourhood patiently wait their chance to catch a glimpse of the 19-year-old rapper and maybe take a selfie with the hometown hero. It’s incredible to think that a mere eight months ago, Desiigner − born Sidney Royel Selby III − was no different from them, just another city kid with big dreams growing up in Bed Stuy, the same Brooklyn neighbourhood that was home to hip-hop legends like Biggie and Jay Z. Now he’s Kanye’s newest protégé and has signed to the megastar’s G.O.O.D. Music label; he’s got a no. 1 single and song of the summer on his hands with Panda (and a second success, Tiimmy Turner, to prove he’s no one-hit wonder); and he’s working on finishing his début studio album, titled Life of Desiigner, though he refuses to confirm any details. He’s even caught the eye of the fashion industry: Vogue named him “Best Dressed Man” at MTV’s Video Music Awards this year for the blushpink Maison Margiela suit he wore sans dress shirt and accessorized with numerous gold chains.
“Everything is moving so fast,” Desiigner says. “It’s crazy!” In many ways, the same could be said of the young artist’s rapid-fire, occasionally indecipherable − yet no less impressive − flow. During our conversation, Desiigner seamlessly transitions from straightforward answers to rhythmic oratories that sound more like rap freestyles than responses to interview questions. It’s clear he possesses an innate talent for musical form and an ear for beats, rhythm and structure. “All my life I’ve been doing this,” he says. “When I was young, my pops gave me a rhyming dictionary. I used to sit down and spit mad fast and just rhyme every word. This is my talent.” Witnessing this raw, unvarnished talent in person is enough to convince you that criticism of Desiigner − that his slurring flow and husky bass voice are too similar to that of Future and other Atlanta rappers − is nonsense. While every young artist is going to be inspired, consciously or not, by other artists that came before him or her, you can’t fault someone for the way their voice naturally sounds, particularly someone as talented and promising as Desiigner. Besides, when you have one of the most influential hip-hop artists in a generation championing your music, there’s perhaps no better seal of approval or stamp of authenticity.
Recalling the first time he met Kanye West − in a car parked out- side LAX airport − Desiigner describes the wisdom the megastar passed along and how his own ambitions have begun to mirror those of his famous mentor. “[Kanye] was saying that we’re not rappers, we’re artists,” he recalls. “And that was something that I always dreamed of and see myself as.” More specifically, and more immediately, Desiigner says he dreams of performing “in front of millions of fans” and of recording an album that “makes you feel every type of emotion.” So far, he’s already mastered the ability to spark joy and excitement in his fans. His nonstop energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and even critics aren’t immune. “Kill them with kindness,” Desiigner says of his approach to dealing with haters. “If you’re sitting there and I’m dancing and wilding out, you’re like, ‘I can’t hate this dude! He’s sitting there having a good time!’” And so are all of us watching and listening.
The Life Of Desiigner, Desiigner (G.O.O.D. Music), available 2017.
By Abby Schreiber