“People still talk shit now about me being a ‘YouTube rapper’ but I feel like its undeniable at this point. I’m on the radio, I got songs that are gold and getting tons of streams—like what else can I show them?”
Gaining success on YouTube has become more and more of a common thing in the current generation of creatives. There are tons of people who make a living from their YouTube career. Even while gaining tons of views, subscribers and followers, there seems to be a stigma about when YouTube influencers begin to branch off into other business ventures. Lots of people think it’s not a genuine fanbase, they only succeed because their subscribers will support anything that they do, and they don’t think its fair to those who may be starting from the bottom. For DDG, he has seen it and heard it all before, and he isn’t letting that stop him at all.
DDG (also known as Pontiac Made DDG) earned tons on success on his multiple YouTube channels which all currently have over 9 million subscribers combined. Being no stranger to what the fame may feel like, DDG decided to venture off into the rap career and now he is taking it more serious than ever. Despite having to fight the stigma that exists amongst YouTubers and their desires for music careers, DDG isn’t afraid of what anybody has to say about him, and he is well prepared to stand alongside some of the greats that we praise today in rap.
Intrigued by his success story and transition into the realm of rap, I was able to speak with him about it all in depth. Read our conversation in full below!
A lot of people know already who DDG the influencer is, but they don’t know who DDG the rapper is. Tell me a little bit about your background for those who may not be familiar with you?
DDG: For those who don’t know, I have a YouTube channel and I used to do a lot of vlogs and shit. I been doing YouTube for like six years maybe. My rap career started back when I used to do little diss tracks on YouTube, but they used to hit though. I would get five million views here, ten million views there. That’s when I was like shit, I might as well start to taking this rap shit seriously now. I got my first feature with Famous Dex and it went crazy—it got like 400 thousand views in an hour. I remember Worldstar hit me up and they wanted to post it, so I let them post it so I could gain more fans of my music aside from my YouTube subscribers. After that, I dropped a song called “Take Me Serious” that was really on some introspective, telling my story type of deal. Then I dropped another song called “Givenchy”—that one has over 25 million views right now. I dropped a few more songs and an R&B song called “Arguments” and that one ended up going gold. Eventually, I ended up signing a deal with Epic records after dropping all my music independently, and now we here where we are today.
What do you think it was that influenced you to move towards a rap career rather than continue doing YouTube?
DDG: I always wanted to do rap, but I never got into it because I was afraid of the illuminati [laughs]. That shit used to terrify me as a child. You know how you watch those conspiracy theories on YouTube? I used to watch those and be like damn, I want to rap but what if they take me out, type shit. I think now as I got older, I got that out of my head though and started to take it seriously. My dad used to be an engineer for local artists and stuff. My brothers used to be singers too, so I really came from a musical family.
You mentioned that you’re signed to Epic Records now, and I remember you saying in your No Jumper interview that you wanted to keep building buzz before you sign a deal—what were some of the things that happened between that interview and the time you signed your deal?
DDG: When I was independent, I was making a lot of money on my music and my views, so I won’t say that I signed for money. So I don’t want people to think that I signed to get more money. To be honest, I just wasn’t getting the deals that I wanted at the time. Right now, I own my own masters and I got a banging ass deal, so it made sense for me to sign now. It was just something that I couldn’t turn down.
Your project “Valedictorian” came out almost a year ago—how much has changed since the release of that?
DDG: I think I’ a completely different artist than what I showed on that project. Now, I feel like I’m 100 times better. In my opinion, that was a very rushed body of work of mine. It was just too many songs and it wasn’t really thought out that well. I looked at that project more like a playlist than an album. I feel like this next project I drop will be so much better. I actually sat down with this one, been in the mixing sessions, and just making sure everything sounds and looks right. One of my favorite moments on that project is probably the song “Lil Baby”—that’s the one that I’m most proud of. I think that song is what closely resembles some of the music that I’m making right now. It’s almost like that song didn’t belong on that project—it was way before its time.
Earlier you mentioned that you had a few R&B songs out before. Are we going to get more of that vibe on this project?
DDG: I got a couple R&B vibes here and there, but honestly I’m on some rap shit on this next project. Some gritty, hard, club type rap shit. I’m saying a lot of shit on there that I never really said in my older songs too. Like getting a little more personal with it.
There’s a stigma going around about “YouTube rappers” and a lot of them don’t get that credit that they deserve because people feel like it isn’t organic. How do you plan on breaking down that barrier that exists between “YouTube rapper” and traditional rapper?
DDG: I feel like a lot of people are starting to get it now, and if they don’t then they will very soon. I feel like it’s all about just delivering good music at the end of the day, and I’ve been doing that for a while now. Right now, it’s just all about association and showing them that I’m in the same playing field as the person that they’re listening to. This project is all about association. Showing the people that I can live in the same world as the rappers and not just a “YouTuber”.
People still talk shit now about me being a “YouTube rapper” but I feel like its undeniable at this point. I’m on the radio, I got songs that are gold and getting tons of streams—like what else can I show them? I don’t even really look at the YouTube views that much anymore, I’m more so concerned with the streams that my songs have. You know, top 10 in Rap Caviar, number 1 on Most Necessary, song trending on the Top Charts. I just feel like it’s undeniable.
We’re in an era right now where the trolling and the online trash talk is at an all time high. How did you learn to not let those negative comments get to your head and lead you away from wanting to achieve your goals as a rapper?
DDG: I don’t really care about the shit talking, because I let my art speak for itself. The numbers are right there, so it’s like if I was really trash, then I wouldn’t be getting the amount of plays and streams that I’m getting on my music. Not only that, but I look at the person who’s typing the comments and all that, and most of the time its just a bunch of kids saying dumb shit. No grown goes online to hate on other grown men doing their thing and living their dreams. It’s mostly the kids, so that’s how I look at it. Just trolling kids that would never say these things in person. I never ever experienced being hated on in person—it was always for or on the internet.
What are some of the differences between the rap game and the YouTube game?
DDG: It’s all a hustle at the end of the day, so they’re both the same in that aspect. But one big difference is that coming up in music takes a lot more time than coming up on YouTube does. I haven’t dropped a new song since “Moonwalking in Calabasas” in July—it’s October now. If you take that much time off on YouTube and don’t upload anything, you already done fell off. Your subscribers leave and now they found somebody else that they’re watching now. Then if your page is dead and you decide to upload on it again, then the views are down because people left. Like I said it’s all a grind for sure, but music is just a lot slower than YouTube.
One of the best songs that I’ve heard from you is “Moonwalking in Calabasas”, and you recently got Blueface on the remix. Tell me a bit about how that came about?
DDG: I released the song and the video, and it started going up like crazy. I think it got like 3 million views before I did the remix. He hit me up and said he wanted to hop on the remix, so I pulled up to the studio with him, pulled the session up and he did his verse right away. After the song was done, we went ahead and shot the video maybe three days after that. The video shoot lasted like all day, but it was amazing.
Every city has their moment where they’re the one city that’s on top of the game, and I feel like Detroit is having their run right now. With you being from Michigan, how do you feel about the run that’s going on right now?
DDG: I love it because I feel like it’s been a minute since we have had these many artists pop off from one state at once. Not only that, but I feel like it’s so much harder to pop off from where we from. A lot of the local music sounds the same, so I feel like we never really got that chance to elevate that much. I give a lot of respect to 42 Dugg & Tee Grizzley, since they made it out with that Detroit sound. It’s just hard to make it out coming from where we from. It’s a rough city to begin with, but there’s not too many studios to record in up there either.
You’re currently working very closely with OG Parker for this next project you’re about to drop—how is that going and what can we expect to hear on there?
DDG: The project is about 60% done right now—currently in the mixing stages right now. I might make a few changes here and there, but it’s about 60% done. Honestly, I expect people to be shocked when they hear it. Just seeing the response from this Blueface collaboration, I feel like people are gonna be more shocked when they hear the project. Just seeing all the different features I got on it, I think it’s gonna be lit. I think it’s gonna change the game and really throw all that YouTube rapper shit out the window. It’s gonna be different. I want to tell you who I got on here but I can’t—I just want everybody to be surprised and I want people to anticipate it. When I drop the track list, people gonna be like “oh shit, this is crazy”. I’m still trying to figure out how I’m trying to roll it out. It would be good to do the mystery track list thing so people anticipate it more, but that annoyed me when other artists did it. The rollout is very important to me because I want to have all eyeballs on me when it drops.
Fans now a days don’t really give artists too much room for failure, and they’re super quick to say something flopped—do you think this is your one chance to prove yourself, or do you think you would have another chance if it didn’t perform the way it was intended to?
DDG: Nah, I wouldn’t say it’s a one chance type of thing, but I will say that this is my time to really show up and show out. I have no doubt in my mind that this is gonna hit because I have faith in myself and my art. I know it’s gonna hit and it’s gonna do what it’s supposed to do.
How do you get in your zone before going into a studio session and under what conditions do you create your best at?
DDG: Lately, I’ve been realizing that I work best when I’m alone. “Moonwalking in Calabasas” I made that song alone—just myself and the engineer in the room. I made my other song “Arguments” by myself too. Besides that, I might smoke a little bit before I get in my bag. I used to drink during my sessions but that’s more so for my hype songs, like my song “Givenchy”. I was damn near screaming in the mic on that one—I was lit during that time. But for the most part, I just been smoking and vibing. When I smoke, I wouldn’t say it makes me more focused, but it definitely makes me think about the shit that I normally wouldn’t think about. It makes me realize shit a lot more.
Time in the game moves super-fast, and a lot of artists come and go. Where do you think DDG will in the next five years?
DDG: In the next five years, DDG will be the biggest artist, if not one of the biggest artists in the game. I’m manifesting that right now. This is how I look at it—for anything that I do, it takes me about four years to get to the top or close to the top. I’m on my third year of making music, so I feel like my time is coming real soon. Even with YouTube, it took me four years to really pop off and start going crazy and making a lot of money. Five years from now, it’s gonna be even crazier. Just watch.
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