How Martin Luther King, Jr. influenced Dee-1
Dee-1 didn’t have Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off this year.
Enlisted by the mayor of New Orleans, Dee-1 delivered a speech this morning at the town’s 29th Annual MLK Day Opening Program. Hours later, he will have performed at the closing celebration of the holiday weekend. Late last week, he moderated a panel discussion on ending police violence at Dillard University in New Orleans.
Dee-1’s actions displayed how much of a leader he is this past week. And the leader who these events were dedicated to, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired Dee-1 to be this leader — not only for his city, but also hip hop.
“I looked at myself as the Martin Luther King of New Orleans,” Dee-1 told Rapzilla, “especially because I’ve always felt the need to be a leader in hip hop. I looked at how he was able to galvanize the troops and unify the people he was speaking to. I looked at how he dealt with the resistance and setback. I definitely learned lessons in leadership, and I just applied them to my career as a hip-hop artist.”
Dee-1 is signed to gospel label RCA Inspiration, but when he started to pursue a hip-hop career, he didn’t sign up to be a gospel rapper. He’s not only toured with Lecrae, but also Macklemore and Lupe Fiasco because he wants to be a leader in broader hip hop — which is the only reason he even pursued this career.
“I saw lack of leadership [in hip hop],” Dee-1 said. “I saw this big, gaping hole, where I felt like God put me in this industry and put this on my heart to fill in this gap. We didn’t have enough leaders who stood for something positive and godly. That’s the reason why I was led to hip hop. I never forced this. A lot of people really forced it because being a rapper is a cool thing to do right now. You can make a lot of money, but I never really forced this. I really felt called to do this.”
King’s legacy has served as a reference for Dee-1 on how to be a successful leader.
Dee-1 grew up reading about King in textbooks and seeing him on posters in school, but he became more interested after he graduated high school.
As a student at Louisiana State University, Dee-1 traveled with a group to Memphis, Tennessee for the National Civil Rights Museum, where he got a copy of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In college, he bought T-shirts with pictures of King on them. Since then, he’s participated in several marches on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
“[King’s legacy] was always something that I knew, but in college, I went through this stage of extreme curiosity,” Dee-1 said, which is when he fully grasped, “[King] is really a symbol for something greater than himself. He was ahead of his time.”