By Geoffrey Rowlands
Inspiration from a teenage favourite film has brought smash hit success for American rapper Lil Dicky.
Real name David Burd, Lil Dicky combines rap with comedy. He initiated his rap career in the hope of gaining attention as an actor and comedian.
“I grew up listening to rap and rock,” revealed 30-year-old Dicky. “I lived in Cheltenham Township which is a solid middle-class community on the northern border of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There weren’t too many rebels in my school.
“I began rapping in the fifth grade. I was kind of awkward-looking but I was like the class clown. Combining humour and rap got me through school without too many problems and I actually got good grades.”
He is being modest in describing his grades as good. After leaving high school, Dicky attended the University of Richmond from where he graduated summa cum laude (with the highest honours). This academic success earned him a position in account management at the San Francisco advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
Unlikely as it might seem, it was here that Dicky’s rap career began to blossom. He reimiagined a monthly progress report as a rap video. The company realised his talent was wasted in account management and Dicky found himself promoted to the creative department.
“I began developing the songs for my debut mixtape, So Hard, while I was still working at the advertising agency. That’s one of the reasons why it took me so long to make. I started work on the mixtape in 2011 and didn’t release the finished product until 2013.”
He promoted the mixtape through social media releasing one song per week over a five-month period. He also created a series of music videos. One of these, for a track called Ex-Boyfriend, went viral. It registered more than one million YouTube views in just 24 hours.
“I didn’t have the kind of childhood and teenage years that most black rappers had so my songs cover totally different subjects. For example, Ex-Boyfriend was about the awkwardness of meeting your girlfriend’s former boyfriend. I also wanted my songs and videos to be humorous so that they might help me towards my objective of being a comedy actor and writer.”
While most of his songs were well received, some of Dicky’s satirical humour drew a less than favourable response. His song, White Dude, came in for particular criticism within the climate of racial unrest in modern day America.
“It’s crazy how some people can’t understand the concept of comedy and music. It’s like they have to be mutually exclusive. I sometimes feel a little annoyed by the people who don’t get it. At the same time though, I kind of like that they don’t get it because it’s new. That’s kind of cool.”
Rather than seek out a conventional record deal to further his career, Dicky used a Kickstarter campaign to fund his 2015 debut album, Professional Rapper. His target was $70,000. It raised $113,000.
uccess of the Kickstarter crowdfunding effectively vindicated what I was doing. People wanted to hear more from me and were prepared to donate their money towards that end.”
Professional Rapper proved massively successful. It topped Billboard’s Rap Albums, Independent Albums and Comedy Albums charts. It also peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200.
Two singles, the album title-track and $ave Dat Money, hit number one on Billboard’s Comedy Digital Tracks chart. Another, Lemme Freak, reached number three. But $ave Dat Money was the only single to crack Billboard’s Hot 100 peaking at number 71.
The quality of his work was noted by hip hop tastemakers. Dicky was surprised but delighted to find himself featured among XXL magazine’s prestigious Freshmen line-up for 2016. Others in the list include now famous names such as Lil Yachty, 21 Savage, Kodak Black and Lil Uzi Vert.
“It was nice to be recognised for my ability as a rapper. My style is the exact opposite of the egotistical nature of so much rap today. I think people are appreciating this. There hasn’t been a voice for normal dudes. A lot of rap is escalated to a place where many people can’t relate to it. My niche is I’m so ordinary and normal that people can relate to the subject matter in my songs.”
Crazy as it might initially sound, exactly the same is true of his current smash hit single, Freaky Friday. Inspired by the 2003 fantasy comedy film of the same name in which a mother and daughter magically switch bodies, Dicky wakes up in the body of singer Chris Brown while Chris has become Lil Dicky.
“Who hasn’t wanted to be someone else at least at some time in their lives. Chris Brown came to mind as the perfect person for the idea of the song. He was great to work with and there is one scene in the video where we do a choreographed dance routine. That was definitely a bucket list thing to do for me.”
After Dicky and Chris have switched back to their own bodies, the video concludes with Dicky also becoming Ed Sheeran, DJ Khaled and Kendall Jenner.
“That was just some fun to end the video. I couldn’t be happier about the response to Freaky Friday. Chris said it would be a hit when we were recording the song so that thought has always been in the back of my mind. But to have it top the UK chart and go top ten on the Hot 100 is absolutely amazing.
“I do something unique with the type of comedic elements I fuse into my songs. Even though I knew Freaky Friday had potential, I couldn’t be certain. It’s validating to see the song be so successful in the mainstream charts while being so quirky and weird. This has always been my goal as an artist. I’m immensely grateful that so many people have been so supportive.”
Atlanta rapper 21 Savage is becoming known as much for his acts of philanthropy as his music.
Real name Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, he recently set up his 21 Savage Bank Account campaign to help high school seniors from poor families cover the cost of attending university. He launched the programme last month by donating 21 scholarships in partnership with officials at the Get Schooled organisation.
He has now paid the funeral costs for three-year-old T’Rhigi Diggs who was killed by a stray bullet while sleeping in the back of a car being driven by his mother, Roshonda Craig. 21 Savage, who has three young children, knew the family and took care of all the burial expenses.
Meanwhile, his most recent music venture is a freestyle over the DJ Paul-produced beat from Three 6 Mafia’s Who Run It. This is the latest in a string of vocals delivered over the track in recent weeks. Artists such as G Herbo, Drake, A$AP Rocky, Dave East, Juicy J, Trippie Redd and Lil Yachty have all rapped to the beat.
The official audio for 21 Savage’s track is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M0CgQfBO38.
A fall at her Nashville, Tennessee, home last November left country singer Carrie Underwood with a shattered wrist and facial injuries which required more than 40 stitches. But the 35-year-old star made her eagerly anticipated return to the stage with a performance of her new single, Cry Pretty, at last Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards show.
“I’m doing pretty good these days,” Carrie stated. “My wrist is almost back to normal and my face has been healing pretty well. I definitely feel more like myself than I have in a while.
“One of the silver linings for me in this healing process is the time I’ve gotten to spend with (husband) Mike (Fisher, the Nashville Predators ice hockey star) and (young son) Isaiah. I’ve been calling it ‘forced relaxation.’ Sometimes I think things happen in order to make us slow down.”
Cry Pretty is the lead single from Carrie’s forthcoming sixth studio album. Her previous five have all hit number one on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. Three have taken pole position on the Billboard 200 while the others peaked at number two.
The official lyric video for Cry Pretty is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG9yQ8PXf6o.
Veteran rapper and entrepreneur Styles P, real name David Styles, is offering fans yet another free mixtape. Nickel Bag is an EP containing five songs. Three of the tracks feature guest artists, Flowboy Vegas, Whispers and Dyce Payne.
The EP can be heard and downloaded at www.datpiff.com/Styles-P-Nickel-Bag-EP-mixtape.890991.html.
Styles P’s previous mixtape, Ghost Kill, was released last December. Housing eight songs, three of which feature guest artist Nino Man, it is still available to hear and download for free at www.datpiff.com/Styles-P-Ghost-Kill-mixtape.874986.html
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