David Augustine’s story is one that needs to be shared nationally. Known professionally as Dee-1, the New Orleans, Louisiana native and RCA Records artist is truly a ‘Walking Revolution.’
From feeding the homeless to ministering at local churches, Dee-1 isn’t giving back to the community for a photo-op or more ‘likes’ on social media; it’s truly his passion to use his platform as an artist to be of service to others.
Dee-1 recently made headlines for turning down a deal with rapper Lil Wayne’s label, Cash Money/Young Money Records. The force behind two of the most successful artists in the industry, Drake and Nicki Minaj because he didn’t want to be “subconsciously influenced” to change his music.
As Dee-1 prepares for the release of his first album under RCA (and a possible move out west) he talks to The LA Sentinel about his unwavering goals to be a role model and symbol of hope locally and nationally.
LAS: When did you decide you wanted to pursue rap as a career?
Dee-1 (D): I attended Louisiana State University (LSU). I knew I wanted to pursue music as a career in my junior year. That’s when I actively started putting all of my efforts into rap. Even though I graduated with like a 3.6 GPA, I wasn’t applying myself as much as I could have in my last two years of school because it really clicked that I wanted to be a full time hip hop artist.
LAS: In your music video “Walking Revolution” you’re making lunches and feeding the homeless in New Orleans. What other community service and philanthropic projects are you involved with?
D: I’m like an ambassador for young millennials in New Orleans. One of my goals is to show people just because you’re of this generation, it doesn’t mean you have to be materialistic or infatuated with glorifying negativity or a life of crime; you don’t have to fall into those stereotypes. There probably isn’t a school in New Orleans that I haven’t visited to talk to the student body. Some schools even bring me in to teach their staff ways in which they can better engage their student body. I speak at churches, book drives etc. just to show people that someone who’s viewed as a local celebrity really cares about our people.
With the music video “Walking Revolution” I took my video budget that should have gone to locations and props, I invested it into a bunch of food and made bag lunches; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hired a cater to supply a full coarse meal for the homeless people in New Orleans because that’s a big problem in our city.
I wanted to show I’m a Walking Revolution not just a talking revolution. It’s an adrenalin rush I get for why I do music. It’s more than just listening to a beat and rapping to it. It’s being able to show you my beliefs and my lifestyle through my music.
LAS: You recently ministered at Cornerstone United Methodist Church. Your sermon: “Ripe, Rotten, or Invisible: What kind of fruit are you producing?” which talked about surrounding yourself with the right type people. How did you are you not become a product of your environment?
D: Because I had goals. I would look at every decision I could possibly make and think ‘Is this helping me get closer to my goals or bringing me further away?’
I also had people around me that were counting on me and expecting me to succeed. When you have people counting on you, sometimes you’re more concerned about letting loved ones down versus letting yourself down. When I was a middle school teacher I had a student who I saw be verbally abused. I watched his grandmother say she didn’t love him, he disappoints her and he was always in trouble. That broke his spirit and I watched that happen. It changed his posture and his attitude about life. That happens far too often.
But thankfully I always had family that expected so much more from me. So why sell drugs? Why drop out of school? Why let Katrina hold me down or hold me back? I have far too many people counting on me and expecting me to be successful.
LAS: Do you think you would have been subconsciously pressured to change the positive messages behind your music had you signed a deal with Young Money/Cash Money Records?
D: “Subconsciously pressured” that’s the perfect way to put it. It wouldn’t have been overt. It’s not like Baby (Co-Founder Cash Money Records) would have put his arm around me and said, “I need thirty curse words in this song you’re about to record. Go!” It’s not like that would have happen…at least I don’t think so (laughs).
But the subconscious pressure is looking at everyone else on the label and seeing that their selling millions of records a certain way and they’re advising you, “Maybe if you did your music a little more like mine…” the pressure would be subtle. The best way to describe it, one of my mentors said to me if you’re a garbage man and you’re put here to rid the earth of trash, you can’t jump in the garbage and get too comfortable.
You have to make sure that you’re always conscious of the mission that you’re on. I rather be signed to a label where they’re going to hold me to a higher standard. When I walked away from the Cash Money/Young Money situation, I didn’t have any other options on the table. I walked away because I’m a man of faith and once I made the decision that Cash Money/Young Money wasn’t for me, I knew that God would provide the right opportunity in due time. It took some time but six months later I signed with RCA Records.
LAS: Why did you decide to teach and how have your students impacted your life?
D: I wanted a job where I actually felt like I was making a difference and doing something where people could benefit from my expertise. I was able to relate to the kids because I’m young and I understand what they’re going through so being a teacher made sense for me. I taught math and life skills. As far as how my students have impacted my career, I’ve probably learned more from them than they learned from me. Even though I was a teacher, I was really a psychologist. Everyday I would study how my students think-how they view life, education, hip-hop etc.
I also learned what they place value in. Teaching really helped me to decide that I wanted to be an artist. I believed I could have a greater influence on this generation as a rapper. As a teacher, I’m isolated to a certain number of students in a classroom for a semester. As an artist, I can reach millions of people and I can be a symbol for something greater than myself.
I told my students that I was leaving to pursue my dream and I wouldn’t have to compromise my beliefs to make it. The fact that I got signed, my students see me touring and living out my dreams and I still don’t use profanity in my music. I’m still the same Mr. Augustine that they saw in the classroom, I didn’t want to let them down.
LAS: How does your faith impact your music?
D: I’m a Christian and I would tell anyone if you want to make music that’s more positive or more GOD centered, don’t do it unless that’s really the lifestyle that you’re seeking to live. Don’t do it because you think it’s a fad. I didn’t choose to rap about GOD or conscious topics until that was the lifestyle that I was actively living. If it’s not something that you can really rationalize, I would discourage someone from doing it.
Just because you can get Protools and have access to a microphone doesn’t make you a rapper. I’m doing this for a purpose, to help change lives, encourage and motivate people. If you’re seeking to do it for the same reasons I welcome you to join me on this journey.