While 2016 has brought a myriad of new and innovative releases to the Hip Hop landscape (see Young Thug’s Slime Season 3 and Future’s EVOL for a few notable examples), perhaps nothing across the genre has been quite as rapid and jarring as the rise of Desiigner, a Brooklyn native whose ascent to notoriety has occurred seemingly overnight.
Desiigner’s first release, “Panda,” came out in late 2015 and comes across with a guttural impact immediately reminiscent of an established voice like Future. On Desiigner’s verses his voice is deep, brooding and noticeably weathered; adjectives that aren’t frequently used to describe an artist who’s heavily rumored to be somewhere in their late teens.
When listening to Future on a track like “Where Ya At” or “Blow a Bag,” the product of accrued experience lends itself to an immediate and practically visceral credibility. What’s surprising is that exact same feeling can be evoked from Desiigner, despite being well over a decade younger.
On Desiigner’s viral hit, “Panda” (which as of this moment has racked up over 75 million cumulative streams across YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify), we’re not just accompanied by frenetic backing ad-libs that feel like they’ve been plucked from a feature-length Western, but we also get a look at Desiigner’s general cultural appeal. Sure, he can rap, but he can also deliver his lyrics with a credibility that evokes the depths of imagination:
“I got broads in Atlanta/ Twisting, lean, and the Fanta/ Credit cards and the scammers/ Hitting off licks in the bando/ Black, phantom/ White, looks like a Panda…”
Only a handful of rappers can spit lines vivid enough to procure fantasies straight into real life. Rick Ross is one of them, a rapper whose booming authority has amassed him a fortune.
Supposedly, the lyrics in “Panda” were inspired by the BMW X6, a mid-size luxury vehicle that (at least to Desiigner) resembles the endangered species that’s uttered dozens of times over in the song. But regardless of his age or the content of his lyrics, Desiigner’s spotlight appearance in Kanye West’s “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2,” has already cemented him as a formidable force in the current Hip Hop landscape.
Two verses from “Panda” are picked directly from the original single, appropriated, and placed smack into The Life of Pablo. Not a hook or a standout line, but two subsequent verses that align with the tempo of “Pt. 2” perfectly until it transitions into an Imogen Heap-esque orchestral conclusion and directly into Rihanna’s lead off vocals on “Famous.”
The idea of an “overnight success” is appealing to most in the world of pop culture, as it reinforces the whimsical notion of celebrity, and the idea that by being “discovered” whether at an open mic or on YouTube, life can be instantly transformed. But even more so, the incredible ascent of Desiigner tells us something about a new age of success within the free-for-all era of internet democracy. The right verse might not just get someone into the studio with an admired artist; the verse itself might be sampled, cleared and immortalized fast enough to make “overnight” feel like an awfully long time.