Bed-stuy, Brooklyn-born Sidney Royel Selby III, who goes by the moniker Desiigner, was shot when he was 14. “I was a bad kid,” he tells CR. “But it made me realize that wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing—it changed my whole life around. Today, seven years later, the rapper—who, smiling from ear to ear at 6 feet 4 inches, is quite literally a friendly giant—releases his debut EP, aptly titled Life of Desiigner, by surprise. Covered by wild postings of Selby as a young child, the musical release is the artist’s long-awaited follow up to his singles “Panda,” which Kanye West sampled on Yeezus, and “Timmy Turner.” For Selby himself, it’s a deeply personal milestone, of course. “L.O.D. is the story of my creation–what it was like to basically grow up as a celebrity. I started at an insane pace, you know, being 18-years-old and number on the Billboard,” he explains. “This was me taking my time to tell my own story.” In advance of the drop CR spoke with young rapper about the project, turning legal (today his is 21st birthday), West’s mentorship, and Paris Hilton.
Today is a big day for you in more ways than one, how are you going to celebrate?
Heck, yeah! The big deuce-one and the L.O.D. EP. I’m gonna have a party, man. It feels so good to be back home—you know, this is my city. The whole town has gotta go nuts.
You grew up in Brooklyn. What are some of your favorite things to do when you come back home?
Honestly, just enjoying the weather outside when it’s a great hot day like today. Get some nice pizza, chill out if I can, vibe out, and just think about some more plans. Back in the day I used to head over to Rosco’s on Dekalb and Tompkins. It used to be Lex and Tompkins, but it moved. So many things have changed but yet still feel the same.
How does it feel returning home in such a different place in your life?
Man, it feels dope. I’ve seen the Gotham of the city. I’ve seen the dark nights and seen the action, you feel me? I’ve lived through the action. I got shot when I was 14, and having just lived in the city as a teenager—being a minority and dealing with bills and problems—being at this level now feels so amazing, man. It feels amazing. And it feels like I kind of have to go back and help all those millions of kids still there. I’ve got a lot of kids that look up to me from my neighborhood that are just waiting. So now it’s my time to show them and everybody else, “Come on, you can make it, too, you dig?”
What was the process like for you creating and finishing Life of Desiigner?
It was beautiful. I worked with Mike D, Heavy Man, in Hawaii in the same room Ye worked in for 808s & Heartbreaks. We were in a big house on the beach. I ate shrimp salad every morning. I didn’t wash up for five days—I just keep going. Every single piece of energy–from arguments to breakthroughs—was put into the project. God spoke to me, musically and energy-wise, and just boosted up me melodically and creatively in Hawaii.
What has been the best or maybe not-so-best piece of advice has Kanye given you?
Oh, man. Kanye always gives good advice when he’s talking to me. I’m the baby of the team. He says certain things—I’ve seen Kanye flip, of course—but Kanye is definitely a dude that lets you know like, “We are here as artists.” And that’s what made me want to design. It wasn’t about anything else. He’s always taught me as an artist I have to be myself, and to know that you’re here to stay when you say so.
Other than the fact that L.O.D.‘s release was unannounced, do you think that people will be surprised when they listen to the full body of music?
Yes, yes, yes! They will be surprised. I can’t wait to see what everybody’s favorite record [is]. I am so proud of the entire thing—from the songs with super-high energy to the melodics to the in-between. The EP comes at you from so many different angles. I’ve also got many more surprises up my sleeve. I’ve got movies out—Ocean’s 8—so stay tuned on that. Steve Aoki and I have been working together on an album—I’m about to head out there to his crib. I’m in the EDM world—shoutout Paris Hilton, she’s lit. I’m building a new fan base. Straight from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, like I said, if you all don’t know me, I’m from New York.
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