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Shining-Light: Hip-Hop's Cultural Beacon

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Born and raised in New Orleans, Dee-1's story is one of perseverance and triumph over adversity. His unique style and authentic lyrics have won him fans across the globe, and he's one of the most electrifying performers on the circuit. In addition to his musical talents, Dee-1 is also a sought-after motivational speaker, with the ability to connect with audiences across ages and cultural boundaries. He is a 2022-2023 Nasir Jones Hip Hop fellow at Harvard University and has designed and is teaching a course at Tufts University titled The Intersection of Hip Hop and Social Change.

Dee – 1 did not set out to be a hip hop artist although he rapped casually as a college student. His freshman year at LSU four big events took place that changed the trajectory of his life: (1) his best friend was murdered; (2) his roommate began selling dope; (3) he was cut from LSU’s basketball team; and (4) he found out his longtime girlfriend was cheating on him. 

Growing up, he was raised Catholic. “I was very much checking the box and doing what was customary tradition wise,” says Dee – 1. After these life altering events took place, he realized, “I had a knowledge of who God was, but not a relationship with God at all.” All these events broke him down, but instead of running to the streets to do drugs he went running to Jesus and decided the only role model he wanted to follow was Him.

After he graduated in 2008, he was well connected with people in the hip hop industry. His manager was trying to get him a record deal, but he got shot and ended up in jail. This messed up Dee – 1’s plan and he realized he could make an impact with teaching, so he decided to teach middle school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


As a teacher, Dee - 1 saw how his young Black students were impacted by the music that they listened to each day. They wanted to emulate the artists they listened to by how they dressed and how they talked. Each semester Dee - 1 reached 150 students or 300 per year by teaching middle school. He realized how his music, which offered a positive message for young people, could reach many more people outside the classroom. Dee -1 says his mission from the beginning has been, “Platform of a rapper, heart of a teacher.” After two years of teaching, he resigned to focus more on his music.

In 2010, he released his first record, Jay, 50, and Weezy, which went viral. Eighteen months later he shot the music video to the same single. The song attracted national attention with its strong message as he called out three of the biggest rappers in the industry for their lyrics that often-glorified drugs, violence, and the mistreatment of women. He says, “They know better…they could put a different message out there if they wanted.” 

In 2013, Dee - 1 signed with RCA Inspiration and released his first EP, 3s Up. The EP peaked at No. 9 on Billboard's Top Rap Albums in 2015. Dee-1 released Sallie Mae Back in 2016, a track celebrating the payoffs of his student loans. The track received widespread recognition from CNN, ESPN, Forbes and Time magazine. In 2019, Dee – 1 started his own independent label called Mission Vission Music. From the Hood to Harvard, Dee-1's latest album is now available. His pricing model allows you to name your own price so you can listen to tracks which highlight his talent and story.


Dee - 1 has released a total of twenty-one projects in his career. Through the years, many people in the industry have encouraged him to change his music lyrics to include cussing, violence, and sexual content, but he never compromised. His music is part of a bigger lifestyle movement called Mission Vision, which centers around three core principles: “Be Real. Be Righteous. Be Relevant.” Dee-1 says, “I make music to provide the soundtrack to someone’s life who is trying to maximize their potential and walk in their purpose. It’s non-fiction, it’s authentic, it’s lyrical, and it’s relatable.” He encourages people to take his PLATINUM PLEDGE to publicly unify all the people who vow not to create, support, or promote music that glorifies murder, drug dealing & drug use, the disrespect of women, and sexual irresponsibility.

He has been in the music industry for over 14 years and his music is still ascending. He gives God the credit, “I know my path is divine. God orchestrated my blessings to where no one could get the credit except for Him.” 


Recently, Dee - 1 called out rap artists for being inconsistent with their music lyrics. Half of the time they may talk about murder and the other half they are talking about economic empowerment and positive stuff which sends a confusing message to younger kids. He points out that glorification of lyrics that promote negativity within the community is not healthy and should not be fed to younger kids, especially in the Black community.


“I’m not more pro Black than I am pro God.” On a podcast Dee – 1 got some push back from the Black community. “I never want to be more tied into my ethnicity or my profession then I am tied in with God.” The host of the program misquoted Dee-1, but they later worked it out. He caught a lot of opposition from his interview on the podcast. “Flak doesn’t have an impact on me. If I’m catching flak in the name of a stand, I’m taking to represent my God or my Jesus Christ, then that is flak worth catching.”

Although he agrees with wrongs done to the Black community, he is also a voice telling his community to look at themselves as well. He encourages them to, “Look at their current mental and spiritual state instead of taking a victim mentality. At the end of the day there is good and there is evil. It can come from any race.” 

For more information about Dee - 1 and his music, please visit his website:

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