“I feel like respect is the most important sh*t ever,” 23-year-old rising rap star DDG firmly proclaims over a mid-day Zoom call with Uproxx. “I feel like being respected is better than being loved. If you ain’t gonna love me, you at least gotta respect me. Disrespect is not tolerated on my side.”
Today, the Pontiac, Michigan-bred rapper is celebrating the release of his latest project Die 4 Respect with legendary producer OG Parker. From the sound of their 11-track collection of songs, respect should be on the way.
“I feel like OG Parker don’t get enough respect,” DDG further asserts. “He on the radio every day, people don’t even realize it that this n**** — he’s a G.O.A.T., he’s a genius.”
Alternately, many may know DDG from the YouTube space. However, he’s fully aware that the idea of one of the top Black YouTube creators transitioning into the music space to become one of the biggest stars in the world, is an idea that may take some time for people to get used to.
“Just because I come from this different platform don’t mean that I don’t deserve the same respect as a motherf*cker that went to jail 10 times and got out and made some songs and got lit,” he says.
DDG isn’t necessarily asking for anyone’s respect, though. He’s simply taking it.
With nearly 10 million combined subscribers on YouTube and a loyal base of supporters who show up for DDG at all costs, that should be easy. It makes even more sense when the music aligns with the talent and that’s what DDG delivers on Die 4 Respect.
Getting to this point has been a windy road. In 2014, he lost his older brother Darion Breckinridge. He recalls being woken up at 4 o’clock in the morning with the tears of his big sister telling him the heartbreaking news. He raps about the moment on the track “Hood Melody” featuring NBA Youngboy.
“A lot of people don’t make it out of Pontiac,” he says. “That’s why when you search for Pontiac, I pop up. Not to sound cocky or nothing but DDG is Pontiac. That’s because not a lot of people make it out that motherf*cker. That’s why I keep it in my name. I keep PontiacMadeDDG in my Instagram name, in all my social media handles because I like to let people know where I come from and that sh*t made me who I am. It made me change my ways and it made me want more for myself. It made me want to get my mom out of there.”
For Darion’s funeral, a fund was set up for people to donate. With some of the leftover funds, his mom asked him if he wanted a car or a camera. He ultimately chose a camera with a combined effort to focus on school so that he could make it out the city.
“I was always heavy into the school side,” the high school valedictorian admits. “I used to stay after school. I was like a little nerd and into robotics. I was like a cool nerd. I had all the girls.”
While working at TJ Maxx in high school, he quit after making his first $200 check from creating videos and having fun on YouTube.
“I’m wondering if I can make $400,” he remembers. “I’m wondering if I can make $1,000. Then I got to college, freshman year, it got to a point I was making like $700 a month, which is nothing. But I’m in college, that’s crazy. I’m 18 and it get to a point where I’m making like 10, 15K, 20K a month. This was before I really got into music. I did a song with Zaytoven before I even went to college. That was like when I was 17 years old, and I just never really took music too serious. I was focused on YouTube.”
While majoring in Broadcasting at Central Michigan University, he was rocking expensive threads like Bape hoodies and Yeezy attire on campus. Much like quitting his job at TJ Maxx, DDG made the decision to drop out of college after reaching over $10,000 a month in revenue.
“It was an 8 a.m. class and I had to pass it for my major,” he says of the moment he decided to longer go to school. “My major was broadcasting and my minor was acting because that’s what I wanted to do. I’m like, ‘Man, I don’t want to wake up for this no more. It’s sophomore year, I’m making 15 bands a month.’ So I’m like, ‘I’m done going to class.’ Let’s see, let’s take a leap of faith. I’m sitting in my dorm and I skipped class for three weeks straight. You know college, they don’t call you, they don’t care if you come to class or not.”
It was around the time that the killer clowns phenomenon was going viral on social media that he began to make that type of money off his own killer clown videos.
“I’m the hottest Black creator there is,” he says of that moment. “There is nobody that’s more lit than me. I’m on some other sh*t. Whatever is lit on YouTube, I’m doing because I’m making money. 2017, I’m dropping diss tracks every week and I’m beefing with my buddies. But it’s not like real beef on my side. I really don’t care. I’m just finessing. I make a diss track on Lil Yachty.”
The diss towards Lil Boat came about after hearing the Atlanta rapper spit, “S, K, T, D, D, G,” in a freestyle to Tay-K’s “The Race.” Though DDG knew Yachty was not talking about him, the clever creative chose to take things full-throttle with not only a diss track but with an accompanying video that he also edited himself.
“The sh*t gets 12 million,” he recalls. “It goes crazy, like the biggest video I ever had.”
Yachty actually ended up responding to his diss track by hopping on Twitter to deny any knowledge of who DDG is. Now the two have a song together titled “Rule #1.”
“Me and Yachty cool at this point,” he tells me. “I DMed him, I’m like, ‘Man, I’m just messing, bro. I know you ain’t shout me out. I’m just finessing. Don’t even mind that sh*t.’ I got that squared away.”
Soon after, YouTube had a devastating crash and his monthly income went from 50k to $8,000. Not one to panic, he chose to adapt and made the decision to focus on music with the understanding that people may not take him too seriously.
“I know they ain’t gonna rock with me off the jump because I’m this full-blown YouTube dude,” he says.
Once his song “Lettuce” with Famous Dex earned 5 million views on Worldstar Hip Hop, he began to turn things up a notch.
Among other songs he released during this point in time is the track “No Label” where he boasts about all the labels after him such as Atlantic among others, being on his line offering him million-dollar deals.
“I’m in my bag. I’m lit right now,” he says of that time period. “So I was just feeling myself and I knew where I was headed. I knew where I was going. It was just I always know where I’m going. I know I’m going to be the biggest artist at some point. It’s just about me being patient and making sure I follow all the steps to get to that point and not lose sight of the journey rather than looking at the destination.”
In that song, he raps about copping a Wraith, which he eventually manifests in 2019.
“When I made that song, I couldn’t afford a Wraith at the time, but I knew I was on my way,” he says. “I knew how much money I was making and I knew as long as I saved up for a little bit, I was going to get that Wraith.”
“I go ahead and I do a song called, ‘Take Me Serious,’ shot in downtown LA, shot the music video,” he remembers. Next was his R&B record “Arguments,” which was the song that got him signed to Epic. The song was part of debut album Valedictorian to which he admits to being disappointed in.
“I just think when Valedictorian was coming out, truthfully, I felt insecure about my music,” he laments. “I felt like, ‘I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough to work with these people yet. I didn’t put in the groundwork to work with these people yet.’”
One thing he learned about his process in making Valedictorian from his process in making Die 4 Respect is that making music takes time. It can’t be dealt with in the same rapidness that he creates his YouTube videos. Especially if he wants to be taken seriously as a rapper in this game.
“I already put the groundwork in, man,” he says of his journey so far. “I went on two solo tours and I’m headlining both of my own tours and I’m selling it out. It’s like at this point, nobody can tell me that they don’t take me serious. Nobody can tell me that I’m not an artist. It sounds dumb. I just wanted to prove people wrong at this point. I’m more impactful than a lot of rappers that’s already lit because I got kids on lock. Every minority kid, every minority teenager know who I am. That was my goal. That was me at one point. I want these people to look up to me. I just got a cult following.”
The burgeoning star has a staunch army of supporters who show up for him for not just entertainment but inspiration. He knows that he’s spawning a generation of Black kids who are vlogging because of him and he takes pride in that.
Before our conversation, he recounted how he was recently on Instagram live motivating his fans and said someone had sent him a DM, thanking him for helping them to become a millionaire.
“If I ever met 50 Cent when I was a kid, I would’ve cried and now people look at me like I’m 50 Cent,” he says. “The little kid that I used to be is my supporters. They look up to me like I used to look up to him. I’m their favorite like he used to be my favorite. So it’s just a dope feeling, man.”
DDG himself gathers inspiration from those he looks up to the most and if he can help it, is on his way to becoming just as great. After all, he’s barely getting started and already has two gold records under his belt including his breakout hit “Moonwalking In Calabasas.”
“I’m going to be lit,” he proclaims. “I’m finna to be him very, very soon and I’m excited for that. I want to know what it feels like to be Meek or Drake. I want to know what it feels like to be Diddy. I want to know what it feels like to be 50 Cent. I want to know what it feels like to be Lil Baby, to be on top of the rap industry. I want to know what that feels like and I’m chasing that experience and I feel like that’s what really keeps me going.”
DDG is confident and poised to win at this juncture.
“I really feel passionate about it to the point where I’d die about this sh*t like you gonna respect me at the end of this,” he expresses. “At the end of my road, everybody gonna respect me. That’s how I feel.”
Die 4 Respect is out now via Epic Records. Get it here.