New Orleans rapper and motivational speaker David “Dee-1” Augustine, Jr. is having a Déjà vu moment. Upon taking his seat in the WatchLOUD studio he recalls the energy in the room. “We had a very intense conversation here,” he says of his previous interview. It was late 2014, just days after his appearance on the BET Hip-Hop Awards Cyphers. It’s the type of moment most rappers dream about, but Dee-1 was decidedly pensive about his experience.
“I been through a lot and I’m in a space where more people know me than ever, but I feel like I should be further along and that’s been messing with me lately,” he told us then. “I done ran through different teams, people done stole from me, but I also feel like I’ve been blocking some of my own blessings. God is using me to change people’s lives so he ain’t gonna elevate me to where I’m supposed to be if I mess it up. I think that Cypher was the last straw because the way I felt after that, I felt I might just quit if I can’t go to the great level. Being good is cool, but I could be great at being a Middle School teacher. I didn’t get to the four-yard line to get stopped. I’m ready to score that touch down.”
Fast forward to 2016 and Dee-1 has definitely scored. After signing his deal with RCA he took part of his advance and paid off his student loans. It was a fiscally responsible move not heard of in music since singer Montell Jordan did it when he signed to Def Jam back in the ’90s. Dee-1 felt so good about erasing the debt that he channeled it into a song and video, “Sallie Mae Back,” that resonated with thousands of students and grads dealing with the same struggle.
“Graduated wasn’t making Quite enough to pay em back
Went in default, messed my credit up check my Equifax…”
The song’s video gained hundreds of thousands of views and even prompted the loan company (now called Navient) to leave him a congratulatory message on his Facebook page. Now Dee-1 is on a Sallie Mae Back tour, speaking to young people about financial literacy.
“I’m talking about what people are living, and that’s why they relate to me.” Watch the full clip above.