In the year 2013, Dave Burd, going by his stage name ‘Lil Dicky’, uploaded a music video for his song “Ex-Boyfriend” to YouTube, amounting to over one million views within 24 hours. His comical rap stylings brought tons of attention, encouraging him to keep writing songs and produce music videos about his wacky ideas which culminated in his debut mixtape ‘So Hard’ before running out of money and turning to kickstarter to fuel the next steps of his musical career. He exceeded his goal of $70,000 with a whopping $113,000. 2 years and thousands of new fans later, the Philadephia rapper released his first ever LP, titled ‘Professional Rapper’, on July 31st, accompanying the debut album with a music video for his song of the same name featuring Snoop Dogg.
The music video was directed by Al Levine and Doug Olsen, and centers around the idea of Lil Dicky getting interviewed by the West-coast rap veteran for the position of a professional rapper. In a hilarious and brilliantly thought-out song, the Philly rapper makes his case for why he should be given a chance.
“Coming out of corporate America, every move I made involved a job interview,” Lil Dicky told Billboard. “So if my next job is being a rapper, I thought it would be super cool to start the album out with a job interview. And who better to be interviewing me for the position than the legendary Snoop Dogg.”
It seems fans and new listeners alike can agree that he should land the job. Burd is a fresh voice in the industry, beginning his rap career for the purpose of getting attention comedically so he could move on to write movies, TV shows, and act. However he quickly “fell in love with rapping” and says he won’t leave until he’s ‘proved his point’. What point might that be, you ask? Well the rapper maintains that his whole style is a response to the egotistical nature of today’s rap industry, saying “I really wanted to embody the exact opposite of that, (hence his name) 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 has 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.” Lil Dicky elaborates on this mission statement in his new music video:
Snoop: “Shut the f*ck up, rap’s like life, if you want to do this you won’t get far acting like a little b*tch.”
Dicky: “Nah that’s my niche! Don’t get offended by this, but that’s the market y’all missed. That’s the target I’ll hit. And that’s the heart of my pitch, I want to do this whole thing different.”
And that’s what makes him so admirable. It’s easy to shrug him off as some goofy Jewish white guy making a joke out of the genre, but he’s part of a much bigger movement taking place. Burd cites his musical inspirations as being Drake, J. Cole, A$AP Rocky, and Donald Glover (otherwise known as ‘Childish Gambino’), saying Glover is a guy “with similar aspirations.” Dicky and Gambino are part of a shift in the rap industry happening right now, known as “anti-rap” or “anti-gangster rap”. The movement isn’t about hating on gangster rap as the name may suggest, in fact many of the leading contributors are actually people who have gang-banging or similar criminal activities as a part of their past, however the style is virtually about bringing love and a more “human” view-point to a genre that is typically dominated by overly boastful and superficial lyrics. Of course, these aren’t the first artists to incorporate lyrics about their doubts, hopes, insecurities, and emotions into their music, but they are some of the few who base their music entirely around it. In my opinion, it’s a very welcomed change in the industry, and its expanding the amount of demographics it accommodates by changing the whole energy that surrounds rap. With anti-rap, you won’t get as many feuds, you won’t get artists shooting each other over gang-violence or drug-pushing conflicts, and you’re given a bigger sense of community as a listener rather than some observer of how awesome an artist’s life is, because you relate to the things they rap or sing about on a much deeper level than you ever could to the desire to party or get with girls with big booties – not that those ideals are completely absent in anti-rap songs, but I digress.
Some notable artists attributed to this new endeavour are Chance the Rapper, Lil’ B, Childish Gambino, Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar, and you could even say Kanye West fits into this category despite how egotistical he may seem in the eye of the media. These rappers try to avoid personas and explore themselves in their songs, touching on their concerns and uncertainty both as a musician and a person, all while keeping a positive outlook and encouraging listeners to follow in their footsteps in becoming more aware of themselves and their environments in a way that breaches the conventions of classic rap. For example Chance and Kendrick both talk heavily about their past and how they’re recovering from their days as criminals and cynics, while maintaining that its an ongoing process. Lil B and Childish Gambino write whatever they want and use very obscure beats, regardless of how weird it may seem in the boundaries of the usual perception of rap. Whatever you may think of their lyrics or styles, you can’t really deny their passion and skills in the art of rapping – with Lil B being the exception as his style is very bizarre, but don’t misunderstand him, the underlying passion and messages are still there.
How does this all relate to Lil Dicky? Well he explains some of it in the Professional Rapper video, clarifying that it’s simply in his nature to make jokes and rap about laughably mundane stuff.
On top of that, he also has a side to him which analyses the very things I talked about in his own unique yet still truthful way:
And while you’re at it, go ahead and check out the song that basically started it all, here:
We need more people like Dave Burd in the rap game. That may seem like a weird statement to hardened rap fans and even people just getting into the genre, but I deeply believe Lil Dicky is going to succeed in his goal of changing the industry forever, as long as people keep listening and other artists continue to support the new direction that rap is going.