If there is one thing that DDG has proven with his journey, it’s that the rise to music stardom isn’t linear. Darryl Dwyane Granberry Jr., also known as PontiacMadeDDG to his former YouTube following, has arguably broken away from the ‘traditional’ method into the rap game. Although the art of music discovery has shifted due to the introduction of streaming services like Soundcloud, the majority of hip-hop/rap artists have established themselves as musicians before reaching fame. But what happens when someone with a cult of personality, rooted in influencer culture, enters into a new industry?
The Floor: It’s been a long road to music for you. You’ve gone from gaming to vlogging and much more. So my question to you is, was music always part of the plan?
DDG: Yeah music is definitely something I always wanted to do, I just never really dived into it fully. I was doing YouTube at the time and I was having a lot of fun with it and making a lot of money with it too, it was just my main focus at the time but I always knew this is what I wanted to do.
Following on from that, you cleared all the videos from your YouTube channel and uploaded one last time with the title, ‘i retire’. In it you spoke about wanting your new fans to know you for the music, which I really respect. Was that a tough decision to make?
Not at all, it wasn’t a hard decision to make. I mean, I kind of did it before and said that I was done before but it’s been worth it. I still get the same love, the only difference is I’m not posting on YouTube. The biggest downfall is that sometimes I just get bored and have nothing to do. A whole chunk of my life was taken up by recording videos and making vlogs. So right now, it’s about me sacrificing or substituting that time for the studio.
There seems to be a common theme in breakthrough musicians giving themselves ultimatums in order to show their level of commitment and resolve. For example, Lil Uzi Vert’s first face tattoo was a promise to himself that he would never go back to working a ‘regular’ job because of the stigma towards them in employment. However, DDG’s risk was one that threatened his livelihood and career but was it worth it?
4 projects later (1 album, 1 mixtape and 2 EPs), it is safe to say DDG has cemented his place as a representative of the new school sound. And rightly so. He has matured sonically alongside his career with every project made standing as testament. Not only has he shown his versatility through his discography, merging trap, r&b and hip-hop elements - he’s also demonstrated time and time again that there is artistry, depth and serious thought in his creative process. It’s clear from monitoring his career that he has a chip on his shoulder. Instead of letting it dilute and cloud what he has to offer, it acts as a fuel to artistic fire. It’s evident that doubters have become his motivation, especially through his latest album title,
I wanted to ask why you named your latest project, Die 4 Respect?
I wanted to name it that because respect is the most important thing to me and I think I wasn’t respected enough in the music industry. And I also feel like the person I collaborated with, OG Parker, wasn’t respected enough as a super producer. The name summed up both our situations perfectly. I also wanted people to really listen to me. But moving forward I’m in the space where I want to make some serious turn-up music, but Die 4 Respect was really about people respecting everything I can do and everything I can make.
Speaking of OG Parker, one thing that stood out to me is that is known mostly for his tracks with Migos which have a certain vibe to them. But with your album he gave you a lot of variety that I wasn’t expecting. So how involved were you in the selection process?
Yeah I’m extremely involved because everything starts with the beats. To be honest, if the beat I hear is fire, then it’s my job to create some lyrics that bring the beat to life. I feel like I was very very hands on. It was actually very easy because he’s my homie. It’s not like it was a new producer that I didn’t really know. So it just made everything about working together more organic and smooth. But for me it was really fun, creating the album was really fun.
DDG’s most notable project (before Die 4 Respect) was his 2019 release, Valedictorian. The differences between the two bodies of work comes in the focus, or lack thereof, in genre and theme. Valedictorian is far more cohesive in terms of its slow trap vibe that is infused with rnb over heavy-hitting production. On the other hand, his collab with OG Parker puts DDG’s range on display that many fans and critics might not be aware of and the features on Die 4 Respect are a prime example. YoungBoy NBA, Coi Leray and PnB Rock differ greatly in their sounds as well as what they bring as features. On the flipside, Valedictorian only has three tracks with guest artists that have far more in common with each other when it comes to creating similar sounds.
You had Coi Leray and 42 Dugg on the album and all three of you made it to the 2021 XXL Freshmen List so congratulations. What does the achievement mean to you?
It means a lot. It’s something that I personally looked at every year to discover new artists for myself. So for me to be on the list it’s just a blessing. I'm a new person that people are going to look up after they see the cypher or my freestyle and it’ll lead them to my music. It’s a big cosign. I think it’s a big step in the music industry.
Traditionally there’s a big focus on the cyphers and freestyles to judge the quality of the freshmen class, especially with legends making their name as part of the Freshmen List. That being said, was there any pressure going into yours?
I mean at first there were a little bit of nerves but it was really lighthearted in there so everyone was just having fun. It’s a big platform so you don’t want to mess up, you know? But I got comfortable real quick and I did what I had to do.
Although we have witnessed many unconventional paths into music in recent years, DDG’s entry is a standalone case altogether. Apart from paving the way for other social media personalities to break into the rap scene, he also has the talent to back up such a bold move. He may have named previous works Take Me Serious (2018) and Die 4 Respect but his achievements have made it hard for the music industry to ignore his true worth and potential.