It is noon in Vegas, and the 19-year old MC is on his way to the airport. Desiigner’s in Vegas because he performed at the nightclub 1OAK last night, riding the success of his breakthrough single, “Panda.” The tune rose to Number One on the Hot 100 in April, powered by a bullying beat and the slurred rapping of Desiigner. The beat, it turns out, was made by an European kid named Menace, who Desiigner never met – he bought it for $200 online from him, in what needs to be one of pop’s all-time greatest returns on an investment.
(The tune’s sonic and thematic resemblances to the music of Future have been identified by admirers and haters alike. Desiigner routinely brushes off the comparisons: “God gave him a blessing, but he gave me a blessing too,” he’s said.) “I got a whole lot of slugs in the chamber. Music is everything. I’m like a big-butt music note with arms and legs!”
He was born Sidney Selby III and grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “My father worked on ambulances for a while; my mother had lots of different jobs with the city,” he recalls. He’s loved music as long as he can remember. I was in marching band. My mom and pops listened to Funkadelic, Michael, Aerosmith – I fucked with rock & roll. You’d be surprised what you had catch on my playlist.”
For Desiigner, music wasn’t just a passion but a means of escape. “I tried selling drugs – it didn’t work,” he says.
“I fucked with rock & roll. My grandfather is a blues musician. …”
While working on new music a big rap artist called. It was Kanye, who had caught wind of “Panda”, asking Desiigner to meet him in L.A. Desiigner shortly signed with G.O.O.D. Music, Kanye’s imprint at Def Jam.
In recent weeks, Desiigner has called a studio in North Hollywood home. His camp tells me he will be releasing a mixtape soon, but when I ask him what he’s got coming, he is whimsical: “I’m working on a whole lot of bangers. I’m making movies, you feel me? The album will come out perhaps the top of next year – but I am a true artist. I might drop an album tomorrow!”
When I ask how he fete “Panda” going to Number One, he laughs. As some lyrics on “Panda” suggest, he is partial to mellow drugs. “I just smoke dope – only the herbals, maybe a little lean here and there,” he says, and any time he spends in clubs is as a performer, immediately shown the door the instant he is done onstage. “I am 19!” he reminds me, getting prepared to board his plane. “I must turn 21 so I can stay in these nightclubs!”