Dee-1: Hip Hop Icon Makes God Smile
By Kimberly Dilosa
David Augustine, Jr. is the product of two blue collar working parents born and raised in New Orleans East. He is a young man who, in spite of his environment, beat the odds and graduated from Ben Franklin High School and then Louisiana State University with a degree in marketing. Armed with a resolve, “I just want to make God smile,” Augustine has evolved into Dee-1, an international hip hop icon who has taken the world by storm by creating popular music based on his truth. “I majored in marketing in college to learn how to market products. I am a product. Many rappers become “successful products” by telling lies about their lifestyles. I decided to market myself based on my real life. I’m not going to hide that I’m a Christian. I’m not going to hide that I went to college. I’m not going to hide that I’m a positive black man.” He says, “Our family didn’t have a lot of money, but I had two hard working parents. Just watching them every day showed me you can have your desires and needs met if you are willing to work hard.” Dee-1’s truth has resulted in international success.
The 20-something year old rapper has appeared on HBO’s Treme, and has worked with music industry royalty including Mos Def, Mannie Fresh, Juvenile, Master P, Murs, and Lupe Fiasco. He has toured in Canada and just completed a 50-city USA tour, performing in every state in the nation! Dee-1 inspires audiences from the heart because, he said, “I don’t ever want to be in a position for God to ask me, ‘you had 20 million people loving Dee-1; how many of them did you point in my direction?’ I know this life is temporary. I want to bring people closer to God; He is my inspiration.” Obviously he loves the Lord.
Dee-1 makes crowds move to conscious lyrics set to funky beats. His arsenal of motivational anthems includes hits that make you think while you rock: “Failure ain’t an Option,” “Heart of a King,” “Proud of Me,” and “Bye to the Broke Days.” Dee says, “I want to motivate people to follow their dreams. Don’t be stopped by naysayers. Identify why you are here on Earth and pursue your mission in life.” Dee-1 continues to break barriers in the music and acting realms by incorporating his real-life experiences into his music. He spoke about his friends that came up in crazy circumstances. “My two best friends were murdered. I rap about what led to the killings. One was robbed. They were in pursuit of money (which is the root of all evil). My other friend gave in to peer pressure. He didn’t want to be seen with books, he didn’t want to be ‘the smart boy.’ He started doing things that would ultimately result in going to jail or death.” Both of his friends were good kids with outgoing personalities.
When he is home, he is dedicated to the grassroots community organizations with which he volunteered before his career skyrocketed. He is inspired by Charles Anderson (founder of United for Peace and director of Ceasefire). “This dude is not from here and still fights and connects with our struggle in New Orleans.” He goes on to say that he is also inspired by my passion, always willing to work with the YOUTHanasia kids “like we used to do at the Teen Center.” Reflecting, “Cats like Ben Brubaker, founder of Hip Hop for Hope, urges us to use our collective voices for change. I’m a member of the 2-Cent movement. We started at the same time, I’m the rapper, and the other members are the production and community organizing members.” In spite of international success, Dee-1 is a New Orleans native son at heart.
Dee-1 wakes up with a resolve to win every day. He ended the interview with his inspirational lyrics, “Yesterday is done; and tomorrow hasn’t come…SO WIN TODAY!” Job well done young man….Yes, (I believe that) God is smiling on him.