2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented By Shell - Day 1

Source: Erika Goldring / Getty

Rapper Dee-1 shares his reflections on the events and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on his hometown city, New Orleans. 

I only started rapping because of Hurricane Katrina. The devastation of the storm brought a pain that I had never experienced in my life. I saw men in my family crying, spirits broken. I felt the pain of realizing the government forgot about our city. [Kanye West’s remarks during a charity telethon] “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” didn’t feel like a publicity stunt, it felt 100% true. Thanks Kanye.

So I picked up a pencil, a pad, downloaded some instrumentals from online, and began rapping about what I was feeling. What others were feeling. Pain. Left out. Deserted. Confused… We needed hope.

I’m still on that same mission today. I’m only in this game because I feel like I’m needed. This industry sucks, there are a lot of things I could do without. But the platform that comes along with it is unparalleled. Everyone I know in jail has told me that they felt “hopeless” at one point, and soon after, they turned to a life of crime. Same reason why so many people commit suicide. I’ve been there myself. So Hurricane Katrina gave birth to Dee-1, the Hope Dealer.

Katrina will not win. My city is full of fighters, souljas, resilient warriors who have not quit on life. The spirit of a New Orleanian is beautiful, complex, and firm. We are one of a kind. I hate that parts of the city like my area, The Eastside, and the Lower 9th Ward, are still looking like Katrina hit yesterday. We still have work to do, and we are not afraid of that work. But we need leaders who care about the revival and betterment of the city. I’m no politician, but I feel equally as powerful because I have the ears of my people. There will be no selling out. No watering down of my message. Nope, not me. Katrina gave birth to a hope dealer named Dee-1, and I won’t stop until I’m a kingpin.


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