The Curse of the Major Co-Sign: Here’s What “Panda” Rapper Desiigner Should Avoid Under G.O.O.D. Music
Though many hip-hop purists won’t admit it, we need the occasional one-hit wonders and viral sensations in rap. They break up the monotony, allow us to have a dance-break away from in-depth critiques and overly thought-out bars, and help define cultural moments for the year in review (although it pains me to admit it, Silentó’s “Watch Me” was everywhere last year).
Yet, the second that moment turns into an extended career attached to a major deal, that fun novelty wears off—especially when it’s a younger artist. We collectively watched from the sidelines with grim skepticism as Bobby Shmurda inked his deal with Epic and artists like iLoveMakonnen allowed the smash-hit spotlight to be stolen from their clutches. It’s hard watching industry juggernauts ride the new kid’s “wave” just to absorb their cool, depleting a new artist of their appeal like some sort of twisted Rogue mutation. While the lure of a deal and promise of fame are both tempting, it often doesn’t end well.
At just 18 years old, G.O.O.D. Music’s latest signee, Desiigner, is under that same pressure. He’s got a lot to learn, and fast if he wants to have a career and not just a moment. Lucky for him, some of his predecessors have already laid out the path of what he should avoid, should he choose to take heed.
Gimmicks have an expiration date.
Trinidad James had a solid run from 2012 into 2013 with “All Gold Everything,” but once the Martin Lawrence/Jerome comparisons got old, his deal was cut short. If Desiigner wants to make the most of this partnership, he has to let his next releases showcase an identity outside of the Future similarities. It can be done—Shyne shook off the Biggie resemblance and came into his own after his guest spot on Total’s “Sitting Home (Remix)” in his Bad Boy Records days. Now that Desiigner has the world’s attention, it’s time for him to go completely left of everyone’s expectations and use every forthcoming opportunity on wax to prove his worth. That doesn’t mean adapting Kanye’s style and dressing like a Yeezy Season 3 extra, either. Individuality is going to be key if he’s going to hold his own against the likes of Big Sean and Pusha T.
Don’t use the G.O.O.D. name as a crutch.
If it’s two things hip-hop fans love, it’s consistency and a steady stream of music. A lot of one-hit wonders fail after going major because of a lack of new, worthwhile material being properly pushed. This is where establishing a fan base outside of the major imprint and handling business without depending on G.O.O.D. are going to be crucial for Desiigner. I can’t help but think that if Makonnen had kept this in mind, sharpening his craft and pushing tape after tape with his own selected producers, he may have been even bigger by now. Signing a deal doesn’t mean you’re set for life—it means there should be an added boost (ha, you’re welcome adidas) to get you in the studio, even if you’re in sessions on your own. In fact, producing quality product without the features will earn Desiigner respect.
Now would also be a great time to simultaneously get his song/hook-writing credits up a la Trinidad James’ inclusion on Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” It’s important to show the listening public that you’re serious and don’t need the major backing to maintain a unique presence in this business—a mentality that seems to have worked for artists like J. Cole, who didn’t lean on “the Roc” for success. Desiigner is so brand new that he hasn’t even had time to develop a core following yet, so now is the time to feed fans more content and build from the ground up, especially in his New York City home base.
Learn the game from your co-signer.
If anybody is determined to master the entertainment business, it’s Kanye West. Why not utilize this time around him to absorb his industry knowledge and orchestrate movements to take your career to the next level? Chief Keef had this opportunity briefly when Mr. West jumped on the remix to “I Don’t Like” and brought some rap heavyweights to the Chi, skyrocketing Sosa’s name from the groundwork he had already laid on his own. Yet, while producing some momentum thereafter, Keef was still surrounded by a street life that overshadowed the music. Bobby Shmurda and Rowdy Rebel of GS9 both fell victim to the same fate, dimming their destined starpower way too prematurely. Since Kanye is a champion of “listening to the kids,” Desiigner should use that as an opportunity to align closer and elevate his artistry.
Image: Michael Anthony