Rapper Lil Dicky Talks Stereotypes, Expectations, and Battling Hitler in a Music Video
When it comes to being considered “cool” in the rap industry, a commodity that’s the backbone for most mainstream artists who constantly flaunt flashy watches or expensive cars, David Burd, better known as “Lil Dicky,” doesn’t come close.
But he’s comfortable with that.
“If we’re evaluating cool to the way other rappers appear to be cool, then I’m not cool at all,” he said. “But I think there’s value in being yourself.”
Lil Dicky is painfully self-aware of where he stands in the “rap game,” but that’s what makes the elements of his style believable and relatable in a sense. Paired with his mop-top “Jewish curls,” as he calls them, and haphazard outfits reminiscent of a college student that just rolled out of bed, his rhymes are unconventional to say the least. But all of his lyrics offer a lot of comedic value, which is exactly what he was going for from the onset when he launched his career as a performer less than a year ago.
Ranging from topics like the advantages of “being a white dude,” to the disadvantages of having a small penis, Lil Dicky’s approach to a genre of music that is dominated by stereotypes and braggadocio comes off as refreshing to his fans.
“I love rap, and part of hip-hop culture is being excessive and absurd, and I can’t be excessive and absurd without sounding corny. So I have to do it in a very truthful, weird way,” he said.
And that truth is evident in both his content and appearance. All of his impressionable features are embedded in his skill to manipulate words at an excessive speed, and weave rhyme patterns together in a way that’s funny while also making viewers want to rewind parts of his videos.
Nine months ago, while searching for a way into comedy, Lil Dicky posted a video called “Ex-Boyfriend,” which tells the story of his encounter with his significant other’s previous lover while on the street, only to discover he is better than Lil Dicky in every way possible.
It was an instant hit and went viral almost immediately, setting Lil Dicky on an unexpected path in the music industry. “It’s as mind-blowing to you as it is to me. But if you listen to stuff I made like a year-and-a-half ago? It’s honestly not good. It’s not good. You would be so unimpressed. It’s very bizarre how it happened,” he said. “As cheesy as it sounds, I wanted to be famous in some capacity for being funny, so I had been trying to think of the best way to break into that scene. I started rapping for that reason in 2011, and I had no interest in becoming a professional rapper. But I thought, ‘I hope the guys from SNL see this and think I’m funny,’ and then I could write for SNL, or that kind of thing.”
What followed “Ex-Boyfriend” was a series of other videos that covered similarly average everyday experiences—songs about staying in for the night, songs about being a Jewish kid—he even has a rap battle with Adolf Hitler in one of his videos. “As crazy as it sounds, the rapping really caught up to this comedic end of things. It works the way a sport works. The more you work at it, the better you get. And I don’t think I anticipated that,” he said. “I now have a lot of serious integrity and pride in the actual musical element of things.”
Content-wise, Lil Dicky comes up with his material from everyday occurrences and everyday experiences. From there, he crafts his videos around those topics to create a visual narrative that accompanies his talent as an emcee. “It’s like a comedian. They are out in the world, and writing things down,” he said. “You just start rapping, and you have your best items, and your second best items—it’s one big jigsaw puzzle. But I’m always thinking. New ideas come all the time. I’m my brain’s messenger in a sense. When they come, I make note of it. I can’t force them. They just have to happen.”
The rapper thinks a lot of his popularity has to do with the fact that he makes music at his own expense, which bucks the trend of how artists in the rap industry usually perceive themselves. He just doesn’t take himself too seriously, and it all seems to fall into place.
“Everybody likes someone who is self-deprecating, obviously. But in rap, when people are hearing a song, they’re trained to react to it the way they have to every other rap song they’ve heard their whole lives. And every other rap song they have heard is egotistical, ‘I’m the man’—they talk about how big their dick is, and how many girls they [expletive]. It’s like, we get it,” he said. “I really wanted to embody the exact opposite of that, and I think people are appreciating it. There just hasn’t been a voice for that normal dude when it comes to rap.”
Calling himself a “voice for the voiceless,” Lil Dicky is getting ready to embark for the first time on a tour to select cities around the country, including Boston, never having hit the stage for a live audience before. The upcoming tour is something even he calls “insane,” and “mind-blowing,” considering the strong fan base he already has. He’s also working on a full-length album, funded by Kickstarter.
“I’ve only existed on the Internet [as Lil Dicky] for nine months,” he said. “It’s crazy, I don’t know how [this is all] possible.”
Leaving his full-time day job behind, Lil Dicky plans on continuing to use comedy to produce rap while maintaining a focus on getting noticed by the television elite in hopes of snagging a job. Comparing his musical trajectory to that of Donald Glover, one of the stars from Community who simultaneously launched a successful rap career under the name Childish Gambino, Dicky said he has two main goals: “I want to have two concurrent careers…where I’m a rapper, and just as much as I always have, I have comedic ambitions. I’m beginning to write a TV show, I want to write movies, I want to do standup at some point—I really just as much as always value the comedic side of things,” he said. “Nothing has changed. I still want that.”
When asked if he fears he will be seen as just a Lonely Island-type performer, Lil Dicky seemed unfazed. “I wouldn’t say I feel pigeonholed. I think an ideal mix is if I put an album out, there are 12 songs on it, six of them are really funny, and six of them are dead serious. I think there’s value in both of those things,” he said. “Because I feel like I can do so many different things, and people like my music for different reasons, I don’t feel pigeonholed. I think people are always going to appreciate whatever direction I take.”
Lil Dicky is performing at the Brighton Music Hall on February 22, at 8 p.m.