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Dee-1 honed his lyrical skills while balancing two careers, teaching middle school kids by day and performing at rap shows at night. But the New Orleans native's love for hip-hop was born in his college dorm room during a year of turmoil filled with grief and heartbreak while attending Louisiana State University.
In 2005, Dee-1's world was first rocked when his best friend was fatally shot in a car robbery following a flag football game. He experienced heartache after a five-year relationship abruptly ended with his high school sweetheart. He watched his hometown of New Orleans being ravished by the catastrophic storms of Hurricane Katrina. Then, his life flashed before his eyes when he was held up at gunpoint. In all, he saw the series of dramatic events as wake-up calls, ultimately convincing him to rededicate his life to God.
After being cut from the LSU basketball team as a walk-on, Dee-1 whose real name is David Augustine Jr. felt the need to find another hobby to fill the void of his hoop dreams. So he started to write about his tumultuous times, hoping to find therapy through writing rhymes about his collective experiences. But the hobby soon turned into something serious after Dee-1 took the stage at a talent show on LSU's campus at the popular "Showtime at the Cotillion" where he performed his New Orleans-themed song "Rep da Big Easy" and the socially conscious "Let Me be Your Voice." He didn't win the competition, but those two songs earned him a standing ovation from everyone in attendance, which helped a normally shy kid get over the nerve-wracking mental hurdle of performing in front of large crowds.
Once Dee-1 graduated from LSU in 2008, he decided to teach at a middle school in Baton Rouge as a fallback plan if rapping didn't work out. He knew his blue-collar parents, who taught him to take education seriously, would expect no less. As a teacher, he wanted to be viewed as role model for students, hoping to keep his rap identity as secret. But it didn't last long. While in class one day, a student of his asked whether he heard of Dee-1. He initially denied that he had, but reversed his decision and told the entire classroom the truth.
"I didn't really want to admit to it," said Dee-1, who spent two years as a teacher before pursuing his rap career full-time. "I didn't know how everyone was going to act toward me being a rapper. But I got a lot of positive responses from other teachers, asking if they could have an autograph. I felt like Joe Clark (the character from the 1989 film "Lean on Me"). Word spread fast once the kids in my classroom knew about me being a rapper... That's when everything took off for me."
Dee-1 is a true talent with a unique ability to deliver thought-provoking messages about overcoming life's obstacles. He's not afraid to rap about his past mistakes, supplying inspirational curse-free rhymes filled with Christian values that are backed by well-produced beats. He often preaches this motto: Be Real, Be Righteous, Be Relevant. It stems from his "Mission Vision," hoping to relay the message of "keeping God in your life, using your special talents and creating a better existence for yourself and loved ones."
His motto certainly came into effect after he released his outspoken music video, "Jay, 50, & Weezy" in 2010. The breakout single called out three of hip-hop's biggest names: Jay Z, 50 Cent and Lil Wayne, questioning their subject matter in songs. The video received positive reviews after being aired on MTV Jams and received close to a million views on YouTube. He went on to win Artist of the Year at the NOLA Underground Hip-Hop Awards during the same year, earning acceptance from politicians, college professors and teens.
Dee-1 continued to gain success and recognition from many in the music industry, touring with the likes of Macklemore, Lupe Fiasco and Lecrae. His online buzz sparked interest from various record labels including New Orleans based Cash Money Records, however Dee-1 opted to sign with RCA Inspiration in 2013.
Last year, he took part in the coveted BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher. His verse on the cypher took social media by storm and opened the doors to additional opportunities at the network. Dee-1 headlined a BET Music Matters Showcase and was selected to perform on BET's 106 & PARK's popular segment, The Backroom. Recently, he was tapped to host the red carpet for the 2015 BET Honors—where he interviewed honorees and celebrity guests like Usher, Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole, Anthony Anderson, Ben Vereen and more.
"I'm the rapper that wants kids to walk away from my music motivated to finish high school. Or people to say that a Dee-1 song helped me when I was contemplating suicide. I just want to play a positive role."
"3's Up" will be released on February 17, 2015.