26-year-old New York City rapper Desiigner has two platinum plaques and two Billboard Music Awards to his name. But, his way to the top and fight to stay at the peak of hip-hop has not always been smooth sailing.
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Whether it entailed disputes with the label that aided his success, run-ins with the law and mental health bouts, or underwhelming album sales, Desiigner’s career has been quite a roller-coaster. But first, we should start with how his commercial debut single skyrocketed him to acclaim right off the bat.
Starting with Panda
In December 2015, Desiigner unveiled “Panda,” his second release since switching his stage name from “Dezolo” and his official debut single. The song gained a ton of traction on SoundCloud at first, which was, at the time, a burgeoning platform for underground rappers to build youthful fanbases. With his slurred flow, baritone voice, and eccentric ad-libs, many listeners likened his style to Atlanta trap music icon Future, while some even mistook “Panda” for being a Future song upon first hearing it.
I got broads in Atlanta
Twistin’ dope, lean, and the Fanta
Credit cards and the scammers
Hittin’ off licks in the bando
Black X6, Phantom
White X6 look like a panda
Desiigner would use the momentum “Panda” conjured to ink himself a deal with G.O.O.D. Music, the label founded by Kanye West and run by Pusha T, two months later. That same month (February 2016), West would include Desiigner on two tracks on his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo.
Along with portions of his “Panda” verses being included on the LP’s third song “Pt. 2,” Desiigner also contributed to a verse to TLOP‘s eighth song “Freestyle 4,” truly showcasing he had more catchy flows at his disposal. Thanks to the West co-sign, “Panda” would reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 2016, making him a shoo-in to be a coveted XXL Freshman that year.
“Timmy Turner” and More
Joining in for the XXL Freshman festivities, which include cypher with fellow freshmen, an interview, and a solo freestyle, Desiigner used this opportunity to keep elevating. Along with putting out his debut mixtape New English the same week as his XXL honor, which included bops like “Monstas & Villains” and “Jet (feat. Pusha T),” he would deliver a freestyle for the ages.
With a wildly unorthodox flow referencing iconic Nickelodeon character Timmy Turner, Desiigner’s XXL freestyle went viral, now sitting at 15 million YouTube views. A month after New English, he would reprise the freestyle to make the highly-anticipated follow-up single for “Panda.”
In July 2016, Desiigner dropped “Timmy Turner,” including his Timmy-Timmy-Timmy Turner, he be wishin’ for a burner hook. Along with earning a remix with West, “Timmy Turner” would peak at No. 34 on the Hot 100, officially making Desiigner a name to keep an eye out for. However, subsequent EP releases in the years to come would see the exciting rising star come back down to earth.
After his 2019 L.O.D. EP only reached No. 161 on the Billboard 200, Desiigner would depart from G.O.O.D. Music in 2019. In an interview with DJ Vlad in 2022, he explained that his rift with West and Pusha T stemmed from the mental health struggles he was facing at the time.
“The reason why I left Ye is ’cause I was going through a little mental thing,” he said. “I was just coming up out of high school, my pops just went into a coma. While I was on tour, I was having a great time but I just knew something at home was happening with my mom and my pops health and s**t… I couldn’t express myself, what was going on at the crib to my label mates… I was young, I never was taught not to keep your emotions out the game.”
Although 2020 and 2021 saw Desiigner put out two more EPs, he was never able to reclaim nearly as much popularity as he had in the mid-to-late 2010s. But, as 2022 came to an end, Desiigner revealed that he was finally working on his debut studio album, dubbed New Color.
While he has put out a few promotional singles for New Color, Desiigner has not finalized a track list or release date for the LP. In fact, as he worked to prepare the album earlier this year, he suffered from a major set back. While on a flight back from Asia after performing at Rolling Loud Thailand in mid-April, Desiigner was arrested for indecent exposure on the plane.
Subsequently, he released a statement saying he was going to check himself into a mental health facility, as this was just the latest shortcoming in his years-long battle with mental health issues. It’s unclear if Desiigner went through with his promise to seek help, but since the flight incident, he has put out another single for New Color titled “Timmy Turner 2.”
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