Think of your favorite rap song. Chances are the lyrics to that song mentioned a new whip, securing a bag, or partying. Can you think of a song that centers around the importance of finishing college and paying off your student loans? If the answer is no, then you’ve certainly never heard of New Orleans rapper Dee-1.
Dee, whose viral hit “Sallie Mae Back” celebrated how he paid off his student loans, has not only been touring schools and delivering his music with a message, but he has also partnered with Sallie Mae to give away thousands of dollars in scholarship money for deserving students.
Like many artists, Dee’s music career started as somewhat of a fluke.
“I started doing music as a college student, I was cut from the basketball team, broke up with my longtime girlfriend, one of my best friends was murdered and I was facing a lot of turmoil,” Dee told BET News.
“So I turned to music, it was like my therapy. It was just a hobby in college though, so when I graduated I got a job as a teacher and did music as a side hobby. It wasn’t until music started taking off for me that I decided to quit my job and pursue music.”
Dee not only wanted to see how far he can go as a rapper, but he was also excited to see how his music could be used to send a positive message to others.
“I try to make sure I’m inspiring and empowering people, not just entertaining them,” Dee said.
Eventually, Dee noticed how young people connected with his music not just for the beats, but for the way it motivated them to push further in their academic career. When it came time to record a new single, Dee knew that he had to speak about how he was able to pay off his debts using his record deal advance instead of blowing his money away.
“I never heard anybody say they used their money from signing a deal to pay their loans off,” Dee said. “And I thought that needs to be the subject of my next song.”
Unlike buying a Lambo or having a neck dripping with ice, paying off student loans is not a sexy topic in hip hop. Dee not only thinks that should change, but he also feels too much negativity is influencing media.
“People who are glorifying drug use, people who are catching cases, or people who are fighting at fashion shows get front page press,” Dee said. “I thought let me try to do everything in power to make the best music but make sure some of the positive stuff gets more attention.”
So how’s he doing that?
Well, Dee 1 has partnered with Sallie Mae’s Bridging the Dream Scholarship, which is offering seven $25,000 scholarships to high school juniors and seniors this fall for a total of $175,000.
The Bridging the Dream Scholarship Program recognizes students who have excelled both inside and outside of the classroom, but whose financial circumstances or other obstacles in life may not allow them to pursue a college education.
Additionally, Dee-1 is on the road with Sallie Mae for “The Bridging the Dream Tour. During the tour, he'll be talking to students about how he fulfilled his music dreams and share his financial tips.
“Separate your wants from your needs, and save some money to prepare for your future. Also, make plans, we make plans for everything, what time we have to leave to get to work on time what are we going to wear to the On The Run Tour, but we don’t really make financial plans,” Dee told BET.
“Also, have conversations about money, it’s not something we really but it really helps to keep track of your money,” he added.
In addition to trying to inform young people about how to better take care of their money and responsibilities, Dee-1 wants remind his fans that they also have a responsibility to vote.
“I’m not anti-voting, if I am going to be a citizen of this country and if my ancestors died for the right to vote, I should take that seriously as well. And I hope my fans do as well.”
Dee-1 also just dropped a music video for his track “Intelligence," from the Slingshot David album.
(Photo: Josh Brasted/FilmMagic/Getty Images)