A couple of months ago, Jermaine Dupri sent the internet into a tizzy of debate over his comments that female rappers — of which the rap game has seen a recent boom — are “all rapping about the same thing.” Cardi B weighed in. Numerous female rappers and even some R&B singers weighed in. And while JD halfheartedly retracted his statement with a promotional opportunity for himself, the criticisms and arguments he received were largely valid — especially when many observers pointed out that he had the perfect counterexample right under his nose.
Baltimore rapper Deetranada — born Diamond Barmer 18 years ago — had been rapping her whole life, posting freestyle videos to Youtube at the age of 13, but got her big “break” when she was selected as a contestant on the third season of JD’s Lifetime reality competition The Rap Game. Sort of a precursor to Netflix’s Rhythm+Flow, The Rap Game specifically highlights teenage rappers. Dee finished in second place, following up with the release of a mixtape in 2017, Adolescence Swim, and an EP in 2018, A Bunch Of Nada.
Now, in 2019, she has released of her debut album, DeeVsEverybody!, and is pumping out a steady stream of well-received singles, including the recently released “Beep Beep!” the video for which she is debuting today exclusively on Uproxx. The young rapper has since garnered a strong buzz online, both from the reaction to her onetime mentor’s comments and to her freestyle Connecticut Youtube outlet Bars On I-95, which went viral thanks to her rapid-fire flows and clever visual homage to fellow rapper Leikeli47, donning a bandana mask in the style of the “Money” rapper. Uproxx connected with Dee via phone to talk about “Beep Beep!,” DeeVsEverybody, The Rap Game, and yes, Jermaine Dupri. Check it out below.
What can you tell me about “Beep Beep!”? It came out Friday the 13th and you’re debuting the video on Halloween. Where’d the inspiration for that come from?
The reason I made that song is because during the process of my album — I’ve been working on it for well over a year now — I started writing and all that, but there was a point in time where I was stressing myself out. I was overthinking things. I was trying to be too vocal, to a point where I wanted to show my rapping maybe too much and I felt like people were expecting a lot of me at one point and I was just stressing myself out. So I was like, ‘You know what?’ I’m going to step into the studio, I’m going to do the song. I’m going to just make a banger. I’m going to just have fun with this one.’ So, it was real fun for… the process of it. It was real fun to me.
You are a great rapper.
You seem to really be focused on those heavy-hitting, complex rhymes. What makes you want to take that path less traveled?
The reason I make the music I make is because I’m not making music for a certain crowd. I’m not trying to appeal to anybody. The only way I feel like I’m making music that I love is if it resonates for how I was feeling at the moment. So, any song I put out is a reflection of how I felt the moment I stepped into the booth.
I can feel that because as a writer I always want to stand out a little bit and when everybody is doing one thing, I want to go the other way. Your debut album, DeeVsEverybody, is out now. What can you tell me about that project? What’s it about?
It’s a real special project to me, it’s going to be my debut album. It’s different from all the music that I’ve been putting out because now I feel like I have complete creative control over what I put out. At first, when I first came into the game, I was expressing myself, but in a way that people could understand. Now I don’t care if they understand it. I’m doing a whole lot of experimenting and there’s going to be a whole lot of different sounds and textures that I bring to the game. I’m just really, really, really excited for it to come out.
That’s dope. So the way that we got connected in with you guys was that my man, Andre [Gee], was working on a piece about the best freestyles of summer 2019. Which when I first saw it on Twitter, I didn’t get that the mask was meant to be a tribute to Leikeli47. So I kind of was a little skeptical. But then I listened to it and I was like, “Oh, okay. I see what you’re doing.” What made you want to do that freestyle and pay homage to another MC that maybe other people aren’t necessarily aware of?
I woke up that morning and… Sometimes, if I stress myself out too much, I start breaking out. And my face was like a huge zit, like hives. And I just wasn’t comfortable with it, coming out with my face looking like that. Knowing that I was about to do a freestyle and be recording and all that. So I cut holes into a bandana and then I put it on and I looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘You know, I’m reminding myself of somebody.’ I’ve got to find this girl because I remember the look.
I was like, ‘I know this from somewhere.’ And I looked it up and I was like, ‘Oh Leikeli!’ So I made sure when I posted I was like, ‘Yo. Shout out to Leikeli’ for the face mask idea you showed me.’ I’ll do it for me when I was breaking out. But that freestyle was different for me because was big for my music career and my life and it got like a whole lot of buzz. It got like 20K in tweets on Twitter. Cardi B tweeted it. Trippie Redd posted it on his thread. I was just getting a whole lot of love. It was real special to me.
So, that was how I first got exposed, but I actually missed my first opportunity to get exposed to you because of your appearance on The Rap Game, which I was really reluctant to watch. But, after your freestyle, I went back and researched you and I was really impressed. But when Jermaine Dupri said what he said, it almost felt like he had forgot that he had two really phenomenal female rappers on his own show [Deetranada and Mulatto]. Did you feel any kind of way? Did you feel left out? Or did you see where he was coming from?
I didn’t feel left out because he knows exactly who I am. He still follows me on Instagram, still checks up on me, whatever. I just felt like him being in the position that he is, his heydays were early 2000s with Mariah Carey. And I feel like it was a tactic of his to kind of stay relevant in a sense. Because he’s aware… he shook hands with Rapsody and he knows about Tierra Whack. He knew about Mulatto. It’s a lot of dope female rap, he just decided to put a spotlight on the ones that he doesn’t quite like. I just felt like, that day when I saw that on Instagram, I didn’t really have to say anything.
My name was blowing up on Twitter but it was just a whole lot of convo. It could help me in a sense. You knew that I was here and I’m just as dope as these other male rappers that are in the conversation. But when it comes to me being a female in the rap industry, it’s already a misogynistic rap industry. So when a girl comes along, she got to have a catch to her. She got to have sex appeal, or she got to have a crazy gimmick to it. So him saying that, it was just like, ‘I guess.’ So. Yeah. It was good.
So, with your debut album coming out, of course you naturally want to see it do well, but everybody’s kind of got their own definitions for success. So I like to ask, what is your definition for success?
I just want to make sure that my fans, all the people who support me, listening to my music, people who aren’t so sure of themselves, find themselves within my music, if that’s possible. That they love themselves more and they just use my music as a gateway for self love. Of course, I want someone to come along to help my mother out, help my family out. My little brother want to be a basketball player, want to make sure he gets to be one. Just a life that I always wanted to have when I was a little kid. So me growing up my goals for my career is just to fulfill my childhood dream.
DeeVsEverybody is out now via M.D.M. Entertainment. Get it here.