DDG – 2021 XXL Freshman
- GOV'T NAME: Darryl Granberry Jr.
- AGE: 23
- REPPIN': Pontiac, Mich.
- TWITTER: @PontiacMadeDDG
- INSTAGRAM: @pontiacmadeddg
- TIKTOK: @pontiacmadeddg
- NOTABLE RELEASES: Singles: “Moonwalking in Calabasas,” “Moonwalking in Calabasas (Remix)” featuring Blueface, “Arguments,” “Rule #1” With OG Parker featuring Lil Yachty; Projects: Take Me Serious, Valedictorian, Die 4 Respect with OG Parker; Guest Appearances: Tyla Yaweh’s “Stuntin’ on You (Remix)” featuring Dame D.O.L.L.A.
- LABEL: Epic Records
- CURRENTLY WORKING ON: An as-yet-titled joint project with Blueface due out this summer.
- WHO ELSE SHOULD BE PART OF THIS YEAR'S CLASS: “I’m just happy to be a part of it. I don’t feel like nobody should have gotten it or shouldn’t have gotten it. I feel like the people that’s on it, they deserve it in some way.”
- INFLUENCED BY: “I feel like that people that’s on it. Like the obvious people, like the people at the top. I mean, I got influence from 50 Cent when I was younger. That used to be my favorite rapper. I used to have all his merch and video games and all that shit. [He] used to be the only rapper I listened to. Drake for his versatility. I would say that’s really it, honestly.”
- AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL: “[I was] popular. I was a ladies’ man. I was the smartest. I was like the perfect kid. I was the mixture of class clown and getting my work done… I graduated valedictorian in high school. I got a 4.0. Speech and all. I’m the kid from the class that made it. I’m the person they say, ‘I went to school with him.’ Yeah, it’s the brag about. I mean, I don’t think everybody thought I was going to end up making [it] on XXL and being an artist and all that stuff, but people always knew I had some type of goal and that I was going to be something.”
I just been a big fan of the movement and culture behind XXL. I watched every year, back in the day, since August Alsina and Kevin Gates. I’ve been watching who make the list. Every year I’m looking forward to see who made it. To be a part of it is a blessing.
I’m the first generation coming off a different platform. People come from TV, people come from Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, all of that, TV shows. Nobody ever came from YouTube. So, I’m the first to ever do it. This whole XXL thing is powered mainly through YouTube, you know, uploading everything to YouTube and that’s where I came from. The numbers are going to be crazy when people find out I’m on it.
I feel like I’ve been proved my point. OK, the numbers don’t lie. Yeah, I’m doing big numbers. You know, gold and platinum. You know, I’m going on my first headlining tour. Just a lot of people follow me from using YouTube at this point. I’m happy to be here.”—Zoe Johnson
DDG'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN FREESTYLE
Pontiac, Michigan-made rapper DDG is running rampant in a blaze of glory right now. In June, he confirmed on Twitter that he went platinum for the summer-ready remix of “Moonwalking in Calabasas” with Blueface, defeated TikTok personality Nate Wyatt in a boxing match for Social Gloves: Battle of the Platforms, quit his highly successful days of being a Youtube vlogger, and was voted into the 2021 XXL Freshman Class as the 10th spot winner all in the same week.
Now, the 23-year-old entertainer joins the echelon of rappers who became famous before they hit the booth. In the last decade, DDG, formally known as Darryl Granberry Jr., made a name for himself off YouTube vlogs, which were earning him an estimated $30,000 a month. Possessing the advantageous ability to leverage social media, his fans made the difference and voted him into the 10th spot of the 2021 XXL Freshman Class over nearly 100 other talented artists.
“I’m the first generation coming off a different platform,” he boasts in his interview on shoot day. “You know people come from TV… Nobody ever came from YouTube. So, I’m the first to ever do it…”
DD, as Blueface would call him, swerved over into the lane of hip-hop in 2016, with a handful of Zaytoven-laced anthems like “Free Parties” and “Balenciagas,” and the Lil Yachty diss "Big Boat" in 2017, though the two are cool now. A year later, he inked a major label deal with Epic Records in 2018, and made his arrival felt with projects like Take Me Serious and Valedictorian. From the two, tracks like “Givenchy” and the gold-selling “Arguments” showcase his charismatic bar configuration, native to the regional sound of Michigan, and knack for driving home punchlines.
He continued to build his stock with freestyles, singles and features, allowing plenty of momentum going into the 2021 release of Die 4 Respect, his joint project with producer OG Parker. On the effort, DDG stands as a musical chameleon who can slide on any beat with any artist, whether that be YoungBoy Never Broke Again (“Hood Melody”) or Coi Leray (“Impatient”). The biggest breakthrough point of his career came with the Blueface-assisted rework of “Moonwalking in Calabasas.” The track has upwards of 130 million streams on Spotify, peaked at No. 81 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is now certified platinum. Their soon-to-come collaborative project, due this summer, should make some noise as well.
Many people might say that the sky's the limit for DDG, but that’s only the view for the rapper, whose flavor is influenced by the gangsta content of 50 Cent and the versatility of Drake. “I'm going more for the commercial route,” explains DDG. “... I want to win a Grammy...I'm going for the big leagues.”
Now, he's a 2021 XXL Freshman. The Midwest native was among many artists considered for the class in the past, but the timing had to be right. “I was excited because I have been trying to get on this list for about two years now so finally that I’m on it, I feel like it’s good timing that I’m on it," DDG shares. "I got a hit song out. So, you know, my face is way more known. It’s not like I’m coming on here like, ‘Who is this?’ They already know."
He's got big ambition to be taken serious as a rapper now that he's left his YouTube career behind. Surely, DDG has something to prove in his Freshman freestyle. In the mere 35 seconds of it, he punches in by still verifying himself as a mack who’s not easily impressed by the women who want to court him. Then, the rising rhymer lets it be known that his hands and body are nothing to play with if static is the topic of conversation. “Way richer than the first time you met me/Sent the addy if you wanna address me/Internet shit’ll never affect me/If you smart, then you’ll never a test me,” he spits off the strength of one inhale.
Short and everything but sweet, he wraps up things by blowing off temporary characters in his life and shouting out his slain brother: “I can’t trust no ho, they just come and go/R.I.P. my bro, we ain’t broke no mo’.”
Catch DDG’s Freshman Freestyle, powered by BODYARMOR, above.—Kemet High
DDG crowns himself the first rapper to cross over from the YouTube space into hip-hop and make it big. The 23-year-old artist has gone from successful vlogger to platinum-selling rhymer in the matter of a year. His 2020 track "Moonwalking in Calabasas" solidified his place in the game, proving he could make a lasting hit and follow that up with consistent releases. Listen to DDG's Die 4 Respect joint project with OG Parker, and "Impatient" featuring Coi Leray to hear solid bars and sharp production. At this point, the 2021 XXL Freshman 10th spot winner's self-assurance permeates each record, video and social post he makes. That confidence comes into play as DDG moves through his version of XXL's ABCs.
In four minutes, the Pontiac, Mich. native shares everything from the story behind his rap name to the fact he was valedictorian of his high school as he hits the 26 letters of the alphabet. DDG starts off with a bit of a flex for A. “AP,” he says, mentioning the Audemars Piguet timepiece worth $75,000 on his wrist. In the same breath, he flexes the baguettes he wore to the Freshman shoot, which took place in Atlanta in May, for B.
As DDG continues through the first half of the alphabet, he explains the meaning of the acronym for his name. “D, DDG, I’m the greatest," he expresses. "Some people think it mean like 'Drop Dead Gorgeous,' some people think that it mean like a group. But it’s just me, it’s my initials...” He also reveals his nickname at the same time.
When entering the second half of his ABCs, the YouTuber-turned-recent boxer begins to boast about his success with the letter J. DDG claims he'll have a bunch of haters in the YouTube comment section of this video. “J, jealousy, a lot of people jealous of me," he conveys. "They in the comments right now.”
For O, DDG talks that talk. "Original, I feel like I'm the most original person on this list, you know what I mean?" he boasts. "But you know, I fuck with everybody on the list, but I feel like I'm very, very original. It's nobody doing what I'm doing as in terms of crossover and coming from a different platform to this platform." His YouTube fam likely agrees.
His thoughts for the letter T are rather spicy. The Epic Records signee dubs himself a toxic lover. “T, toxic," DDG admits. "I’m very, very toxic, ladies. So, before you get involved with me, do your research." Take heed.
Check out a clip from his valedictorian speech, why he feels he's underrated, knocking down the chatter that he's not nice and more in DDG's ABCs below.—Zoe Johnson
DDG'S TOP FIVE FAVORITE RAPPERS
It's hard for any artist to claw their way into the top five of being the most talented people in their profession. There will always be competition, which means evolving, staying ahead of the game and remaining focused is a must. The idea of a "top five" permeates pop culture, and is most prevalent in sports and hip-hop. As part of the 2021 XXL Freshman Class this year, we asked all of 11 artists who their top five favorite rappers are. This time, it's DDG's turn, who names both legends of the past and modern day, as he goes through his list of top five picks.
The first rapper DDG names is 50 Cent, the Queens rap star-turned-TV mogul, who has made his mark on both the mic and the silver screen. "Grew up listening to 50 Cent," DDG shares. "If you're listening 50 Cent, I need that verse." At just 23 years old, this rap newcomer was a child during the start of Fif's run. 50 Cent's early 2000's prominence off the strength of his singles "Wanksta" and "In Da Club." As huge as Fif was at the time, it comes as no surprise that he left an impression on a much younger DDG.
Up next, DDG name-checks Drake, and thanks him for his guidance through music. "He got me through a lot of relationships," DDG says. "I felt like he was in the same relationship I was." After leaving the acting world—similarly to how DDG is leaving the YouTube world—Drake built his persona as the rapper who was vulnerable and honest about the ups and downs of his love life, he reeled in a lot of fans by just being himself. The OVO leader's impact continues to be felt, as he's still resonating with supporters who grew up to become rappers themselves like DDG.
Check out the video below to see the rest of DDG's top five favorite rappers, and stay tuned for his surprise choice at the end.—Robby Seabrook III
DDG'S TOP FIVE FAVORITE HIP-HOP ALBUMS
Every artist wants to make a great album, or even just a set of songs that really resonate with their fans, and stand the test of time. While every rapper won't get to that point, it doesn't make it a bad goal to shoot for. Every rapper has albums they love. These projects were most important to their growth and listening tastes as young adults on the come up. This year, we asked all of our 2021 XXL Freshmen about their top five favorite hip-hop albums. They helped shape their tastes, styles and approach to music. Here, DDG shares his selections.
The 23-year-old Pontiac, Mich. rapper kicks off his choices with Drake's Take Care, regarded by many as a classic album. "Flawless album, it's a no-skip type of album," DDG says. "Drake also came from acting and crossed over to music, sorta, kinda the same space I came from YouTube and crossed over to music." With both of their paths beginning outside hip-hop, it makes sense that DDG would draw inspiration from Drake and love his music. The Toronto rapper is a modern-day superstar, and seeing his success play out has surely inspired a lot of artists, including DDG.
Keeping it in the Cash Money/Young Money world, DDG also names Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III in his top five favorite hip-hop albums. "I feel like every single song on that album became a single," is how DDG chooses to describe this classic, career-turning LP. "Lil Wayne has been a big inspiration on my career, for sure." Wayne's name loomed large over hip-hop at his popularity peak, and he can still keep up with the younger generation of rappers who grew up on his music. As DDG explains, Weezy was also a commercial success, and just had a knack for making hits.
Watch DDG show respect to some classic hip-hop projects below.—Robby Seabrook III
DDG, LAKEYAH, MORRAY AND COI LERAY'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN CYPHER
The 2021 XXL Freshman cyphers are finally here and best believe that they’re starting off with a bang. The first group with the task of showing and proving why they landed a spot on the coveted cover consists of 10th Spot winner DDG, Quality Control Music signee Lakeyah, soul crooner Morray and social media savant Coi Leray.
Each of the four acts use bull-ish bars and no-Auto-Tune warbling to skate through an enchanting beat, twirled with assuaging key melodies and pounding bass drops. That soothing foundation is set by none other than Internet Money creative Nick Mira, who serves as this year’s Freshman beat curator. Nick, who recently launched his own Mira Touch record label, produced the beats for each cypher along with a few Internet Money producers.
Michigan’s own DDG is the first rapper on the starting blocks with a domineering verse about toting clips longer than Jamaican hair, turning the cheek on his haters and running up the digits in his bank account. “Niggas switch up for the dollars/I be tryna be positive, but the drama/It be constantly following on my mama/But I guess it’s the side effects of the commas,” he delivers in a brash tone.
Next is Milwaukee seed Lakeyah, who picks up right where YouTuber-turned-rapper DDG leaves off. The self-proclaimed “Female Goat” takes a no-mercy approach to the beat as usual, and offers a hot rhyme about beating the odds to a pulp. “How the fuck she a Freshman when she dropped out of college?/And how the fuck she go so hard when she look like a model?/Buy a bitch life, legally I can’t even buy me a bottle/They know I’m a problem,” she spews briskly in just under one minute.
After cosigning Lakeyah's verse preceding his with an accurate “fucking fire,” Morray slides through with a sing-song flow that’s heard on tracks like the gold-selling “Quicksand.” Truly off the top of the dome, the Fayettenam stepper has in fact arrived with a chip on his shoulder and a strap on his hip. “Fuck it, don’t gotta write it/Fuck it, I rather spit it/Niggas talkin’ ’bout toilet bowls, bitch I’m shittin'/Like, whoa, what you mean you want the dough?/And you niggas talkin’ bullshit, but I’m the one with the flows,” he declares matter-of-factly. “Off the top bitch this shit is hot, what the fuck you niggas know?/When I come outside the strip club, I’m coming with the poles.”
Boston and New Jersey reppin' Coi Leray swaps her red cup with the mic and drives things home with a quotable ballad about camaraderie and commas. “C-O-I, love it when he say my name, yeah/Low-key, that my little sneaky link, aye/Yeah, I love when he fuck me to the beat, aye/He a freak, fell in love with me, let's go” she spits. Showing off her versatility, she croons during the second half of her rhyme before busting out into a mini twerk session.
Her last few lines are built around the phrase “We all get money,” which Morray uses as a base to dip back in with his church-grown harmonies for the outro. The beat fades as he salutes his group for their performance: “XXL, we in this. Aye, DDG, we did this/Lakeyah! Yeah, we did it,” he stamps, feeding confidence into his fellow Freshmen.
Watch DDG, Lakeyah, Morray and Coi Leray’s 2021 XXL Freshman cypher, powered by FX’s Dave, below.—Kemet High
DDG, LAKEYAH, MORRAY AND COI LERAY'S 2021 XXL FRESHMAN ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW
The surreal feeling of turning a dream into reality is unmatched. Those pivotal moments are often filled with feelings of anxiety, peace and motivation, all wrapped up into one. 2021 XXL Freshmen DDG, Lakeyah, Morray and Coi Leray reflect on that during their post-cypher roundtable interview, along with their thoughts on what went down in Atlanta on the day of the Freshman shoot in May, their influences and their shared mindset of growing even bigger and better in the future.
DDG turned years worth of YouTube vlogs and social media leverage into the foundation of his budding rap career. Though he’s recently switched lanes to focus on rapping and left his YouTuber life behind, he defends the fact that he earned his spot. “It’s important to be a XXL Freshman ’cause I feel like I put the work in," DDG shares. "I feel like I’ve been working extremely hard. I put the numbers up, put the plaques up. So, I feel like it’s my time.”
It hasn’t even been a year since Lakeyah signed to her dream label Quality Control Music and made her way into the rap game. Reflecting on how she earned a deserving spot on this year’s cover, she acknowledges that though it’s just the tip of the iceberg for what’s yet to come, the big cosign feels unreal. “I’m a newcomer," she says. "I been in the game eight months, so, this is like crazy to me... I’m just working and I’m here.”
Morray echoes that sentiment as someone who similarly is now hitting an unavoidable stride. “No cap, I’ve been wanting to be a Freshman for a long time,” he adds. "I feel like this is more than an opportunity, it was something that I watched my whole life and now I get to be here... You get to see people on TV, but then when you meet them, they’re actually dope-ass people, so.”
Platinum-selling artist Coi Leray offers insight from an artist perspective on how low-key the entire process had to be along the way. “This is some secret shit, y’all don’t know about this shit," Coi reveals. "XXL don’t fucking tell us nothing, bro. They just tell you a time, show up, wardrobe, dressing room, whatever it is, but they don’t tell you who’s on there, like. They don’t give you none of that shit.”
Well, everything has been brought to life now.
Watch DDG, Lakeyah, Morray and Coi Leray’s 2021 XXL Freshman roundtable interview below.—Kemet High