Sitting in his childhood home surrounded by his closest friends 19-year-old Sidney Selby is inharmonious with the wildly gesticulating, perpetually up performer known as Desiigner. Sprawled lazily on a body-absorbing, L-shaped couch he discusses the finer points of a successful haircut — a topic likely prompted by his barber setting up temporary shop in the outside hallway.
There’s also plenty of good-natured clowning because even though Desiigner is officially signed to G.O.O.D. Music and Kanye West sampled his debut single in the song “Pt. 2”, to his friends, he’s still Sidney. Translation: When it comes to talking about who does and does not have ashy feet and ankles he is not exempt. The proof is in the lotion bottle that ends up getting tossed his way amidst ribbing about being photographed with crusty feet.
Selby acknowledges that while he seems to be hurtling toward fame, money, and a completely foreign lifestyle, not much else has changed. “Before I was Desiigner I was Win Boy, Sid the Kid and Designer Royel. I went by a lot of different names but I’m still the same dude. I’ll always be the same dude.” It’s a lofty promise to make so early in the game, but it’s said with an earnestness that makes you want to believe it.
Same dude or not, the fact remains that at this time last year Selby had more in common with his motley crew of friends who have cut classes to congregate at his home than before his new reality took root. He went to school, talked sh*t about everything and nothing, made eyes at cute girls, and created music he hoped would one day take him to the same level of stardom of his favorite artists. After the snowball success of “Panda”, which is currently staving off Drake’s “One Dance” for the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, it’s happening. Now, instead of high school or college there is media training, managers, press runs, tour schedules, contracts, lawyers and a host of other obligations, necessities and realities of newfound fame.
Even Desiigner seems to find it surreal, “I didn’t even know what was going on,” he says of a recent trip to LA to meet with Kanye West about a record deal. “My manager wound up telling me I was going to Cali to see Kanye or whatever. I just thought we were going to work on music because that’s what I do regularly.” Instead, he walked away part of G.O.O.D. Music and received a powerful cosign when “Panda” found its way onto The Life of Pablo album. Even then, Desiigner’s homage to black and white BMWs was steadily acquiring buzz in New York, but West’s Yeezy Season 3 live stream marked its global debut.
When the dust from the presentation settled, and the Kanye think pieces and album reviews died down, questions cropped up: What was the broads in Atlanta song?; Was is Future?; If it wasn’t Future who was it?
The uncanny similarities between the two further thrust Desiigner into the spotlight. Before long he was fielding the Future question in every interview, so much so we were politely asked to avoid “the Future thing” if only for the sake of cutting him a break. And then even Future seemed to address the rap neophyte stating, “There is only one Future ’round this muthaf**ka and I’m really the plug,” during performance in New York.
While it’s true Future contributed to the current popularity of the Southern trap sound it’s hardly something he can stake exclusive claim on these days. Desiigner is more than a pale imitation of an original, he’s evidence of how completely a genre has disseminated. What was once a hallmark of Southern rap found its way to a teenager in Brooklyn who then bought a $200 trap beat from an unknown producer in the UK — a beat that many mistook for a Zaytoven creation on first listen — and flipped it into a viral hit that is currently poised to change his life.
Desiigner perhaps puts it best, “Shit,” he says with an undertone of disbelief, “I went from eating Philly cheesesteak to eating crab and lobster in the best restaurants.” It’s certainly not the same as going from ashy to classy as another Brooklynite before him put it, but we still get the idea.