The music industry can be taxing on everyone who partakes in it, from artists to journalists and everyone in between. Unfortunately, the Hip-Hop community deals with additional issues that can make the music business even harder to stomach. On November 1, we learned of Takeoff’s passing, and in a year that has also taken away artists like PnB Rock and Trouble, many rappers were understandably distraught. Desiigner was one of those rappers.
“Yo, I’m done, I’m done, I’m done,” Desiigner lamented in a video response to Takeoff’s death. “Why do we fucking do this? I swear this shit ain’t nothing. I’m done [with] rap. It’s done, it’s done, it’s done, it’s done. Not to Takeoff, bro. It’s done.”
Desiigner’s reaction was harrowing and, more importantly, representative of the pain that many of us have felt all year long. For a moment, it appeared that the 25-year-old artist was ready to call it quits on his rap career. Thankfully, he did not because he still has a role to play in the Hip-Hop community. Like it or not, Desiigner — once touted as the crown prince of GOOD Music — is in Hip-Hop’s history books. And that’s not up for debate.
Thanks to the mid-2010s smash hit “Panda,” the New York-bred artist has a quintuple-platinum-certified record under his belt. In addition to those early career RIAA certifications, Desiigner also landed multiple appearances on Ye’s The Life of Pablo. His mentor heavily sampled “Panda” on “Pt. 2,” and Desiigner also appeared on the joyously chaotic “Freestyle 4.”
Desiigner’s presence on TLOP served as a huge co-sign from the artist formerly known as Kanye West. At the time, it was rare for Ye to feature GOOD signees, especially newer ones, on his albums. During his creative stretch from Yeezus to TLOP, Kid Cudi was the only recurring GOOD-affiliated artist on Ye’s solo efforts. Desiigner’s presence on TLOP broke that trend, and subsequently, his life changed forever.
Bringing youthful energy to the seasoned GOOD roster, Desiigner teamed up with his labelmates for “Champions.” The sensational posse cut was the first and last single for the long-awaited Cruel Winter compilation album, and six years later, it’s still a poignant reminder of what could have been.
Nevertheless, Desiigner’s infectious hook work on “Champions” further made him a shoo-in for the 2016 XXL Freshman Class. As expected, Desiigner made it on the XXL cover, appearing alongside industry leaders such as Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, Anderson .Paak, and 21 Savage. Surprisingly, Desiigner was able to dominate a significant amount of the 2016 XXL Freshman buzz thanks to his unforgettable freestyle. After going viral for his trance-like freestyle, Desiigner delivered “Tiimmy Turner,” and the success of that single paved the way for his debut mixtape, New English. A couple of years later, he followed that project up with his debut EP, Life of Desiigner. Unfortunately, his official debut studio album never materialized during his tenure on GOOD Music.
Years removed from the record label that helped make him a worldwide phenomenon, the New York-bred rapper is in a good place. However, Desiigner has his sights set on “Bigger and Bigger” things in 2023. Following a flurry of fiery fourth-quarter singles, Desiigner recently joined HNHH for an exclusive 12 Days of Christmas interview. Throughout our conversation, the Grammy-nominated artist discussed his long-awaited debut album, major lifestyle changes, and his deep love for Christmas music. Furthermore, he shared with us insane details about Cruel Winter, and he also revealed his fondest GOOD Music memories.
Scroll down for Desiigner’s full 12 Days of Christmas interview, edited lightly for length and clarity.
Desiigner joins HNHH for a enthusiastic 12 Days of Christmas Q&A.
HNHH: Today, you dropped “Bigger and Bigger.” How are you feeling about that?
Desiigner: Yo! Feeling amazing. Word man, I’m just now waking up man from the strip club. Just now, man. It was a vibe. It was cool man. I’m happy to drop some more super shit for y’all, for real. And just keeping it going. We supposed to have the video coming up in the next couple of days. Getting that shot, making sure it’s prepped up for y’all. Get that up, word up.
Bet. So were they playing “Bigger and “Bigger” in the club last night?
Yeah, word. They played that thing a couple of times. We was in there vibing. No funny, it had to get ran back.
I’m really feeling that one. Of the four most recent ones that you just dropped within the last month, I think that was my favorite one. That one and “Kilo.” I really liked “Star In The Room,” too, but we’ll get to that. Let’s talk about “Kilo” with Slim Jxmmi. Tell me how that one came to be. How’d you two connect?
It was a situation where he was flying into town. He flew in LA, right as I was coming. So when I went to the crib, I told Kyle, KT, and everybody, ‘I’m on my way out.’ When I came back, they was already on the phone with Slim Jxm. They was like, ‘Yo, Slim on his way.’
So soon as I came in, you know, in the studio, I heard the beat. Beat sounded crazy lit, so I was like I need to jump on it. Once I jumped on it, Slim was already walking in the studio. He was tired, you know. Bro was mad tired. He fell asleep, and then out of nowhere, he just got up. Man was on a pen and paper, just writing and getting lit. We partied all night. It was a great celebration after that one. It was cool.
He came correct on that one. It was very reminiscent of the mid-2010s, like how he used to be. I guess since we haven’t had a lot of Rae Sremmurd music recently, it felt really good.
Word, no kizzy. Slim? He go hard, man. We’re working on a project right now. Slim got some shit, man. Definitely, definitely. I feel like he put put some shit on that verse, for sure for sure. That’s a vibe, you feel me?
Gotchu. Did he let you listen to any of Sremmlife 4 by chance?
Ah, nah. I listened to Sremmlife 4, man. But when he was in Saudi Arabia, he was talking about me and him coming back and working in Atlanta. We gon’ put some work in, you know what I mean. There might be Desiigner x Sremmlife vibes, I don’t know man.
That’s exciting. Y’all definitely both got that infectious energy. Well, let’s talk about the other singles. Like I mentioned you dropped four singles in a matter of a month. What inspired you to go on this run?
I just wanted to just give it to y’all. I feel like the game has changed. The game ain’t like when artists could just give the supporters one single and keep driving and pushing. I feel like the game has changed so much. Y’all just want to hear more music and hear your homeboys just dropping heat on a spree. I just love the idea of moving with my brand now. I wanted to have been doing that since the beginning, when I was with Def Jam. But when were you dealing with certain major labels, they just don’t see it like that.
Like they ain’t understand the SoundCloud wave, when we were just going on SoundCloud and throwing that thing up. This was before they were doing the subscriptions, and you could be able to tap in with your supporters. Get a video out later on that week or whatever. Like you could just make sure you could keep it going for your shows and stuff. So definitely, getting back on this was something I always wanted to do. It’s super fun now, super fun. I’m moving like that rather than just trying to promote a record all day. I can promote it and let my people promote it, and then when I go to this club or go to my shows, I can keep banging ‘em non-stop.
I wanted to have been doing that since the beginning, when I was with Def Jam. But when were you dealing with certain major labels, they just don’t see it like that.
Nah, definitely. It helps build up momentum. When I was going track by track, I was like yeah, ‘He’s getting into a groove.’ With that said, each of them has a different vibe to it, especially “Star In The Room.” I would say is the most different of all of them.
Appreciate it bro.
No worries, man. I was looking at the credits. I’m just like a nerd with the music stuff, so I be looking at the credits. You’re credited as a producer on “Star In The Room,” “My Brodie,” “Kilo,” and “Bigger and Bigger.” Have you been getting behind the boards more?
Definitely, man. Produced them, for sure for sure. Being able to put certain things and touches when we in the room and seeing how it’s gonna come out [is important]. I just got that type of air, and I love being part of the lyrics as well as being a part of the production.
Interesting. What made you get into production? Or have you been producing, and we just didn’t really know?
[Laughs] I did “Tiimy Turner” with Mike Dean. Y’all probably just don’t really know. Yeah, Mike Dean did the pianos and stuff at the end. He was dope, and he was impressed that I even had some beat cadence like that. Dean was like, ‘Yo, man, that was fire.’ He liked it. And so he was like, ‘Yo, bro, I ain’t gon’ lie — you go hard. But I’mma put some saucy on it for you.’ And from then on after “Tiimmy Turner,” we were locked. Our relationship built after that, from that creation we made.
That’s dope. Well, since you’ve already dropped these singles, what else do you have planned for the rest of 2022? Because I know you’re not finna stop.
Oh yeah, man. Nonstop. Word, what else we got planned? We got this video coming out, like I said for “Bigger and Bigger.” Definitely tryna hear about some merch. I’ll probably have some Christmas vibes or some coming up for y’all. Going into 2023, man, we just going hard. I’m thinking about restaurants I want to open up. Thinking of live centers with games where kids could come over there and stream live. I’m thinking about a whole bunch of things. I’m putting it together step-by-step, but it’s all gonna get accomplished.
New Color. The new album’s called New Color. I’m working on it right now.
Nah, for sure. Well, one of the things that I think a lot of people may be interested in is your debut album. You’re kind of like a path similar to Jay Electronica, with how it’s been a long wait for your debut.
Yeah, word man.
New English was a mixtape.
Life of Desiigner was an EP.
So yeah, we’re waiting, man!
New Color. The new album’s called New Color. I’m working on it right now. It’s fire. I got some features on it already. It’s lit. I’m just putting it together. Shout out to a couple of great producers, like Rich Skillz, ATL [Jacob]. You know what I’m saying, people like that.
New Color, you said, right?
Yeah, New Color, man.
Gotcha. And what has that process been like putting it together? Because it’s been a long time coming. Does it feel like you’ve got a lot of like weight going into it? Are you just having a good time with it?
Um, I feel like it’s cool. Even with me just thinking about the color, like the color of the cover. I’m really trying to bring out a new color, something that we haven’t seen before. Bringing that and making it aesthetically match with the music and having that paired with the music right is gonna be dope.
Gotcha. Yeah, that sounds lit. Listening to you talk now compared to when I was watching interviews from when you first came out, I can see your growth. You’re 25 now, so how are you approaching the game differently from when you were 19?
I’m just approaching the game more comfortably, you feel me. P Diddy told me like, ‘Yo, it’s gonna take like five years before you get really comfortable in the shit.’ And word, it just took that. That and yoga, breathing, and understanding balance in life. When you get in the fast lane, you just got to understand that balance. It’s not the same as when you was a kid and you could just say, “Ayo, I’m outside. I’m gonna go turn up, and we will come to the crib and go to sleep. You really got to have this shit organized. You got to make sure you got your stuff together. You’re growing up, maturing, and you are a business. So yeah, become more mature and understand that this is given. I’m appreciating it and knowing that it was given to me. I’m just moving like that, you feel me?
Yeah. So how did the transition from like Def Jam and GOOD Music to independence influence your maturity and music as well?
There were executive decisions that I had to make. I had to adopt the standpoint of whatever I’m saying right now, I’m standing on it. And I gotta make some out of it. I can’t it and then be going back to the hood. That ain’t gonna happen. I got to make sure whatever I’m doing right now is gonna push me 20 steps ahead. Thinking like that and knowing that I had to make decisions like that in my career and my life always kept me [focused]. Breathing. balance. Vibes like that.
Speaking on what you just said about saying stuff and standing on it, I have a question for you about the “Letter to Ye” song that you dropped last year. In that song, you rapped, ‘They let me through the doors/now it’s time to live it up.’ And you’ve been standing on that. You’ve definitely been going hard this year. But tell me about the whole idea and conceptualization behind “Letter to Ye.”
I really just wanted to speak about it. I felt like I never really got to talk to Ye at that time. We met each other, but we hadn’t really like met each other. We greeted each other, but we hadn’t really met each other, you feel what I’m saying? I wanted to meet him and really speak to him and understand each other. Because that’s the type of artist I am. Every artist works differently. I like to have conversations with people and build, and as we talk, I’m generating the song. It really wasn’t like that with him.
It was more like, I’m signed to bruh, and bruh was just like, ‘We in the stu, do what you do.’ I wanted to hear something, like bro, you’re Kanye West. I wanted to hear some of that Kanye vibe that’ll inspire me to [go off]. But yeah, moving with Ye, it’s helped me. It’s helped me focus on that thing that I got. Become more mature and know that I do have the executive decisions, again. I gotta make sure what I’m standing is straight because ain’t nobody around gonna lead you. You got to make sure what you’re doing is sturdy.
Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, you stood on what you said in “Letter to Ye.’ You went crazy this year. Even at the beginning, you dropped “BAKIN” with Slushii and DJ Whoo Kid.
Word up, man. Shout out to Bob Saget. Yeah, RIP the goat.
How did that connection come about? I know Snoop was in the video, but like, was that connection really through Snoop Dogg?
Not that connection was through DJ Whoo Kid. Whoo Kid knew Bob Saget.
Oh, okay. I was not expecting that answer.
Yeah, it was a vibe man. Whoo Kid, Bob Saget, man it was all chill. He was over there turned up too, slapping the booty on a stripper and all that. [laughs]
Ah, RIP man.
Word up, man RIP the GOAT. Full House, man. If anybody don’t know Bob Saget is, if you’ve seen Full House, you’ve seen that guy man.
Man, I used to watch that show all the time on Nick at Nite. It’s so crazy looking back. But someone else who we lost this is Takeoff. I mean, we’ve lost so many people this year, it’s really tragic. But with Takeoff, specifically, you had a reaction to his passing online. I know you’ve worked with Quavo on champions, but like I’m you’ve probably worked with all of the Migos behind the scenes and we just haven’t known it. So what was your relationship like with Takeoff?
Dope, bro. It was amazing. My first time coming out to Atlanta, I went to go see them. I took my niggas out there. We was chilling. It was a movie meeting bro. Next time, we always linked up. I can’t say every time, but bros know the vibes. Those were my boys before “Bad and Bougee” blew up. I was over there chilling with them, Teyanna and Shump. We all had that family understanding.
The Migos and Teyanna were like my go-to’s in the beginning of the game for me. Even towards the end of bro life, like at Hennessy’s birthday party. Me and Takeoff, we were over there chillin’ and talking about how we shrooming it. So yeah, it was that type of bond with my boy. Every time I seen my boy, it was good vibes. Sturdy, sturdy. Heavy in the A. And he was one to talk like, ‘Yeah, you got it twin. Yeah, you got it.’ 100%
Man, rest in peace to the Rocket for real.
No funny. We taking off forever.
Speaking of the connection between you and Migos, let’s go back to “Champions.” That song was just such a big moment. But on the real, was Cruel Winter ever actually close to becoming a real thing?
Yeah, honestly, it really was. Honestly, we was in studio, and we was working on it. Ty Dolla, all of us. Word, Nicki. Yeah, everybody was on that joint man. It was about to be dope. And Ye was just doing his thing. Ye had things, [grunts] other things he was working on at the time, and it just never got finished up. But word man, we still got our verses in our phones and a lot of verses in them studio files.
Ah man, it always sucks to hear stuff like that. I was kind of hoping you were gonna say, ‘Nah, it was just in the early stages.’
[Laughs] You just don’t know when it comes down to Kanye, man. Bro might just say, ‘Yo, let’s all get back in the studio for something.’
I don’t know for certain, but I think I was the first one to start with the seven, in the gang. I wanted to give y’all something with different vibes. Then when I heard bro was doing sevens, I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s crazy.’
Speaking of that — I’ve been having this theory for a long time as well — but was L.O.D. kind of Ye’s unofficial start to the album every week thing in 2018? Because that project, Valee’s project, and 070 Shake’s project were all like six or seven tracks like the rest of the GOOD albums that came out that summer. Was GOOD Music just obsessed with like, short projects at the time? Or what?
[Laughs] You know what it was, man? I don’t know for certain, but I think I was the first one to start with the seven, in the gang. I wanted to give y’all something with different vibes. Then when I heard bro was doing sevens, I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s crazy.’ The whole team was working on the same frequency. Since we’d be around each other so much at that time. We would just pick up each other’s things. Like I’m doing seven, and then you’ll hear that Kanye is dropping and doing an album with seven songs next week. It was like, ‘Okay!’ Everybody was just moving in that moment, and we was doing the same shit. It’s crazy how you can share ideas like that.
Yeah, that’s really interesting. One more question about GOOD. When looking back at the entire experience you had with that label, what was your favorite memory?
That Summer Jam moment. I’m not gonna lie, bro. No cap. It was me Travis, and all of us on stage. We were supposed to have a GOOD Music tour coming.
That would have been crazy.
Crazy. It was about to get crazy, but something happened where couldn’t do it. But them times when we were performing together were the best. Even that night after the time when we flooded out the city. Yo Gotti came out. Qua came out. Travis. Lil Yachty. They was talking about it on like Complex, how we just turned up and was jumping in the crowd. It was a movie, bro. To see all of us in one spot, but it’s just a whole nother party.
That’s beautiful. You could probably write a book with all the stuff that you have witnessed and just how insane that whole time period was. I definitely feel like mid to late 2010s was a different time.
Word, man, it was. It was turnt. It was sturdy, man. No funny. It was good vibes with everybody coming out. We just wanted to turn up, man. We were more in the club action around that time.
Speaking of clubs. You appeared in the video for a very popular club song last year. “She Make It Clap.” When I was watching it for the first time — because I actually was writing about for work — I was like, ‘Is that Desiigner?’ So what’s the story behind that? How did you end up in that video?
Oh, that’s my brother, man. Me and Soulja be on Live frequently. We be talking, that’s my boy Draco. I had to pull up on my boy. We linked up, he hit me in the DM and was like, ‘Yo D, pull up on the video.” He’s been fucking with me since I was a kid. I’ve been fucking with him, of course, since we was kids. So I was like, ‘Aight, bet bro.’ It was like me and my older brother, just chilling out.
He put me on things that he was doing. And it’s like, Soulja get bread bro. I ain’t even gon’ lie. He got so much shit he be doing. I like that shit. Being around bro, he be putting me on things.
No cap, I feel like he’s kind of like the rap Ray J. Both of them always got some type of venture going on.
You feel me? [laughs]
So with all these iconic artists that we’ve mentioned, who would you say are some of your favorite people that you like collaborating with? And who are you still trying to collaborate with in the future?
I like how me and Soulja be collaborating. Cause we be chilling. It be jokes, it be laughing. We can play the game all while making mad shit. And Jay Critch. Pharrell. I love me and Pharrell collaborated. Damn, Rick Ross. I got so many people, man, and I don’t want to miss any names. But heck yeah, I love when me and Swizz Beatz collaborate. The energy with Swizz Beatz was different. So many dope legends. When you’re around the legends and they’re working, it’s a whole nother vibe. I love being around the GOATs and the young up-and-coming artists. Lil TJay, that’s my lil bro. When I’m around the young guys, it feels good to see them being in the space where I was at right before I blew. Seeing that shit never gets old.
I wasn’t the kid who got everything on Christmas that I wanted. And I ain’t never asked for much because I didn’t think we could get it all. I was a kid with a little tree, big Christmas.
Gotchu, respect. Well, I got some Christmas questions for you since this is our 12 Days of Christmas thing. You celebrate Christmas?
Aye, word man. Little tree, big Christmas.
What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?
Oh man, really just mackin’ out, being with my homeboys, being with family, and just chilling Like I said, I was a kid with a little tree, big Christmas. So just having that mindset of wanting to see us all chill. I wasn’t the kid who got everything on Christmas that I wanted. And I ain’t never asked for much because I didn’t think we could get it all. I just wanted to make sure I can just be happy and chill out.
No, I like that. This is the first time I’ve ever heard that — little tree, big Christmas. I like that though. Well, what’s your go-to when it comes to Christmas music? Like who are you playing first?
Oh man, son. [Sings “Jingle Bell Rock]. But we playing everything. Michael Jackson, we listening to that Mariah Carey. You know she gives the good Christmas vibes every year. Honestly, no funny shit, I listen to everybody, man. My house is old. My moms is 65, and pops is 66. So it’s just a vibe, you know.
Yeah, they got the best Christmas music to be honest with you.
You feel me! Word up. We was listening to the Isley Brothers, man. Before you know it, by the time it’s about six o’clock, Isley Brothers was on. Earth, Wind & Fire done got played!
[laughs] Then the James Brown creeps in.
The boy James Brown! Can’t forget the big stepper, the grandfather of this shit for sure.
Well, I’m curious. Since you have like a distinct voice, have you ever given any thought to like doing a Christmas song or Christmas album of your own? I’m thinking something like DMX’s “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” would be crazy.
I’ve thought about it, for sure. Definitely, after X put out that album for Christmas, I thought about something like that.
Gotcha. Well, what’s the word? Is it something that you think you’re gonna make eventually?
Come on! Come on, man! I might just gotta put together right now. Drop a little something on the SoundCloud, take you back there real quick.
We can’t hoard everything, bro. We become hoarders and try to collect everything, thinking we’re like leveling up on material. But as a person, your mind and your mental is everything that you need.
One more Christmas-related question for you. Even with all of the fun and festive stuff that comes with Christmas, this time of the year can also be really like sad for a lot of people. When watching some of your recent interviews, I noticed how you were talking about taking care of your mental health following Takeoff’s passing and your homies’ passing around the same time. What are some mental health practices, tricks, or resources that you would suggest for people who may be struggling mentally during this holiday season?
My advice for people at this time is to really enjoy your life beyond these material ‘needs.’ Really enjoy what you got and what was originally given to you, and that’s your fresh air, your breath, your legs. Really take the time to embrace that, you know what I mean. If you’re around people, hopefully y’all share that y’all care about each other that day.
Tell each other how much y’all care about each other that day because — like you said, bro — we lost people towards the end of the year. We lost brothers; we lost friends. And it’s real. People need to understand that we got to share these times. When you with your homie, explain how dope bro is. Tell your friend that they’re smart, you know. Because you don’t know when the last time we might be able to see each other. Even with us having this conversation, it’s the last time we gon’ say it with this type of energy again, so just really appreciate things in time.
We can’t hoard everything, bro. We become hoarders and try to collect everything, thinking we’re like leveling up on material. And you gotta just level up with your relationships, your time, you. Understanding yourself, and that’s when you can just tap back into this realm and be like, ‘I want this, I want that.’ But as a person, your mind and your mental is everything that you need.
Respect. It’s been great talking to you, and I appreciate you taking the time. One more question before you go. What do you want fans to know about Desiigner going into 2023?
Oh, man, we go up. We getting [sings] “Bigger and Bigger!” Word man, we getting bigger and bigger man. So stay tuned. We got merchandise dropping, new jackets keeping us warm outside in Desiigner fabric. We got restaurants, like I said, dropping. I got gaming streaming libraries that I’m trying to open up for the kids so they can stream there and link up there. You know, more places where young men can go and get our knowledge and stuff. I feel like our knowledge gets lost. I’m tryna find ways to for men to learn something without trying to incorporate violence so much.
Preciate you again for your time, man. It really has been great. Stay safe and enjoy the holidays.
Heck yeah, word up. Peace!