When the L.A. Sentinel first introduced our readership to rapper, David Augustine aka Dee-1, the New Orleans native was making headlines for turning down a record deal with Lil Wayne’s imprint, Young Money. While many artists would have compromised their beliefs in order to be an “overnight success,” Dee-1 has continued to run his race at his own pace and his star is continuing to rise.
In 2016, Dee-1 broke the Internet with his song, “Sallie Mae Back,” where the former math teacher boasts about paying off his student loan debt to the infamous creditor, Sallie Mae. Based on the video reaching more than 1 million YouTube views, Dee-1 performed the song on the talk show, “The Real.” He’s also partnered with Sallie Mae to teach minorities about financial literacy and was tapped by ESPN to create the theme song for their website, “The Undefeated.”
While headlining a national tour, Dee-1 spoke exclusively to the L.A. Sentinel on how his ability to discern “God opportunities” from “good opportunities” has been his saving grace.
LAS: In a vlog you shared that you passed on an acting role where your lines would have included profanity. You mentioned that friends thought it was a good opportunity because Dee-1 the rapper and the actor should be separate entities. However, you thought it contradicted what your brand represents. What’s the difference between “good opportunities” and “God opportunities”?
Dee-1: Good opportunities are beneficial to you by the world’s standards, but God isn’t content with just goodness, God wants us to be great. So a God opportunity is something that resonates inside of your spirit and you jump up and get excited about the prospect of being a part of it. I was cast in a role on a prominent TV show and at the last minute, I was given another role that I hadn’t auditioned for and the character had some profanity in the scenes I would have been a part of. No doubt it was a good opportunity, but I think the fact that I was so conflicted, I didn’t feel like it was a God opportunity, so I passed on it and what came about afterwards — I believe my obedience was rewarded heavily with other opportunities that blew [the initial opportunity] out of the water. So I felt the need to share that with my fans because in life, you’re going to be placed in similar situations, but you have to discern if that good opportunity is really a distraction from a God opportunity.
LAS: What are your thoughts on paying your dues in the entertainment industry? There are a lot of people who’s strategy is to take whatever is presented to them so that they can get their foot in the door then revisit their morals or their standards once they’re in a position of power.
D1: That’s a trick of the enemy. When it comes to acting, I’m still at the beginning of my career. I only have one film and one television role under my belt, but I don’t feel pressured [to say ‘yes’ to everything] because you can’t erase your track record. I would hate to have to look back and have people say, ‘I thought you stood for this, but in 2016 you were on TV saying xyz.’ I don’t want to have to reply with, ‘No, you don’t understand, I was just getting started so I had to compromise.’ I’ve never had to do anything outside of my character in my music and look how far it’s gotten me. People have definitely told me, ‘Bro you’re only gonna go so far if you don’t do this or that…you have to jump all the into this box and define what you do.’ When God tells me that, I’ll do it but God told me to just keep going, be patient and perfect my craft–Just get great at what it is that you bring to the table.
LAS: As a former educator, teachers are often underpaid for the phenomenal work that they do. How do you encourage others to walk in their purpose when they feel as if they can’t because of their bills?
D1: I was an educated broke man when I first stopped teaching. I had my degree and I had the intellect, but at that time I hadn’t gotten paid to do a show. I remember the first time I got paid to perform, I made $150 and that was a big deal for me because it was more than I made for one whole day of teaching. I began saving at a much more aggressive rate, so I had some savings when I initially stopped teaching to become a rapper.
LAS: What would you tell your younger self about where you would eventually be in your career with continuous perseverance?
D1: When I first started rapping in college, I wasn’t trying to do it professionally, so the first thing I would have told my younger self is master your craft because oftentimes, we want the rewards from the grind without actually mastering our craft first. There are many people we can point to that aren’t necessarily good, but they’re all over the radio. Don’t compare yourself to other people; just take pride in doing a great job. Focus on those 20 or 30 people that have come to see you perform. When you’re a good steward of those opportunities, the bigger opportunities will present themselves. Don’t measure your successes based on what other people are doing because there’s always going to be another artist with more followers and more fans doing it bigger and making more money. So compare yourself to your former self. The man I was in 2014 – I didn’t have a nationwide tour, I was opening for people, now I’m the headliner. I wasn’t on ESPN or “The Real,” I didn’t have millions of views on my videos and I didn’t have a corporate partnership with Sallie Mae where I go around the country educating minorities on financial literacy. So if I compare myself to years past, I’ve been moving on up. So the only person I need to compare myself to or compete with is my former self.
LAS: How has your faith in God been tested and become more resilient?
D1: I’m resistant because I’ve been through some potential life ending tests. I’ve gone toe to toe with some demons, I’ve hit rock bottom mentally and just in terms of my confidence, I’ve experienced all of that and the fact that I’m still here; that stuff could never defeat me because I’ve lived to see another day so I’m more resilient than I was before having gone through those tests.