Lil Dicky is making waves. Hip hop, at its core, is about expression. While the purveying idea of the genre still conjures images of rough and tumble inner city youth rapping as a means of letting the outside world know about the Hell in which they fought to live, hip hop began to evolve over the past decade and a half, becoming acceptable and more appreciated as an art form beyond the urban street sect, and, as usually happens with music forms in America, has transcended from being a means of communication and commiseration for the disenfranchised African-American community to being embraced by White America.
One could argue that the transcendent nature of hip hop exploded in 1999 with the release of Eminem’s debut album, The Slim Shady LP. Ironically, the man born Marshall Mathers III would not only kick the door open for white rappers but perch himself on top of the genre as arguable the best ever, was given the opportunity to do so by another man who helped transcend hip hop a decade earlier, Dr. Dre. When Dre signed Eminem to Aftermath, he gave the rapper a platform to showcase his skills, blossom artistically, and create a mythology for himself.
In 1999, a young music artist of any type, but especially an unknown white rapper, needed a gutsy boutique label like Dre’s Aftermath to afford him or her such a platform. Now, in 2015, all you need is a smart phone and an internet connection.
Which is how artists like Lil Dicky have managed to emerge, not merely from obscurity, but from literally nothing and they can seemingly overnight create a mythology for their own, launching their own careers and changing their entire lives.
Twenty-seven-year-old Lil Dicky, born David Burd, grew up a funny kid in an upper middle class neighborhood on the outskirts of Philadelphia. By his own admission on the single for which his debut album was named, Professional Rapper, which features rap legend Snoop Dogg, Lil Dicky didn’t have the same hard luck upbringing that had become synonymous with most rappers. After graduating from the University of Richmond, Dicky relocated to San Francisco and took up work as an account manager at an advertising agency. After rapping one of his monthly progress reports, the company moved Dicky into creative, where the Dicky began making the turn toward the pursuit of artistic expression.
Dicky told Ambrosia For Heads that his first musical influences were Green Day and Kid Rock. He became enamored with the hard rock sound of Green Day and found the perfect blend of rock and hip hop in Kid Rock. Citing Jay-Z as his favorite rapper, Dicky worked for two years before releasing his mixtape, So Hard, in April, 2013. Dicky began releasing self-made music videos to YouTube utilizing his creativity and marketing experience. The video for Dicky’s single, “Ex-Boyfriend,” went instantly viral, receiving over 1 million hits inside of 24 hours. It was at this moment that Dicky realized he had a potential career on his hands, as he explained to Elijah Lamont at HipHopDX.
“I had never had anything online so I felt as if this was the first time I was putting myself up to judgment so to speak. And I didn’t know if people would be okay about hearing a guy rap about another guy’s d**k for a whole verse. Once that blew up immediately, I saw that there were people who shared my sensibilities.”
Steve Annear of Boston Magazine describes Dicky’s style as, “material from everyday occurrences and everyday experiences. From there, he crafts his videos around those topics to create a visual narrative that accompanies his talent as an emcee.” As evidenced in, “Professional Rapper,” in which Snoop Dogg interviews Dicky for a position in hip hop against harsh scrutiny and warnings of further expectation, Dicky knows that his comedic style of eschewing the typical indulgences of hip hop and purposefully steering away from false street bravado in the favor of more relatable, everyday happenings will catch some heat, but remains steadfast in the confidence that his approach will resonate with the masses. So far, that expectation has been met.
“I really wanted to embody the exact opposite of that, and I think people are appreciating it. There just hasn’t been a voice for that normal dude when it comes to rap. I think a lot of rap is just escalated to a place that many people can’t relate to. My niche is that I’m relatable. I don’t rap about going to the club and popping bottles.”
Professional Rapper, which dropped in July of this year, was self-funded thanks to a successful kickstarter campaign run by Dicky whereby his $70,000 goal was well-exceeded, earning $113,000. Upon its debut, the album, which also features cameos from the likes of T-Pain, Fetty Wap, and comedian Hannibal Buress, sold over 20,000 copies in its debut week, landing it atop the Billboard rap, independent, and comedy charts. His success landed him a touring agent, and while Dicky readily admits that he initially got into the rap game as a stepping stone to comedic writing and acting, Dicky now admits that he has fallen in love with the genre, and as opposed to his mix tape whereby Dicky states that he sounded like, “a comedian who could rap pretty good,” Professional Rapper displays the talented MC’s growth of talent, and sounds like, “a pretty good rapper who is also pretty funny.” And while, certainly by comparison, Lil Dicky’s ascent appears to have been practically overnight, to him, it’s just the beginning of a long road toward where he wants to be.
“To be honest, the last two and a half years I just feel like I have been working so hard, that internally, it feels like it’s going super slow. I don’t think that it could be going any faster. The way I see it, I’m just always very forward thinking, and thinking about where I hope to be and if I’m not there yet or until I’m there it feels like it’s not there yet. If you know what I mean.”
[Photo Image: Lil Dicky / YouTube]