The inscrutable rise of Desiigner, the teenage rapper from Brooklyn who shot to fame after a sample on Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’ album helped him to a US Number One single with ‘Panda’, has showed over the past few months that sometimes it doesn’t necessarily take originality to be talked about, you just need a hook, element of intrigue or the ability to fill news feed inches.
A lot of criticism has been aimed at Desiigner for how seemingly derivative his brand of Sizzurp-flavoured, Atlanta-indebted trap is. When many first encountered ‘Panda’, the viral hit that earned the then-unknown Brooklyn upstart a business meeting in Kanye West’s limo, they thought it to be a Future B-side. That’s just how similar the rapper’s intonation is to one of the biggest rappers of the moment. And yet, with his debut single, Desiigner has proved to be more successful than Future ever has. The topic is such a contentious one in hip-hop circles that both artists have struck an impasse and refused to speak about the other in all interviews.
Such scepticism has led to the communal feeling that Desiigner’s career will be a brief one, a passing fad remembered for one song, helped generously by Kanye’s Midas touch. When NME spoke to the 19-year-old in May, he appeared unworried and unconcerned about such a scenario. Instead of rush-releasing a follow-up to ‘Panda’, Desiigner milked the spotlight for all it was worth. He even shot two separate videos for the one track, the former featuring himself and Kanye joyriding and the latter inexplicably starring a Vogue supermodel strutting down a New York street.
Last month, when Desiigner finally bequeathed more music to public, with his debut mixtape ‘New English’, it’s safe to say that the general response was underwhelming. None of the 13 tracks that preceded the chart-topping closer shared the same sense of youthful urgency, hunger or so-wrong-that-it’s-right feel of ‘Panda’. This is what made people so surprised when the rapper delivered his much talked-about XXL freestyle, which would later form the basis of this new single ‘Tiimmy Turner’ (yes, that’s with two iis like in Desiigner). Mysterious, mesmerising like car-crash TV and, quite simply, rather strange, it raised that previously unthinkable question that perhaps Desiigner hadn’t bombed after all.
The full-length version dropped yesterday (July 21) following weeks of Snapchat teasers and co-signs from famous friends such as Pusha T. But does it live up to the hype? Is it actually any good? Will it be as big as ‘Panda’? The answer is yes to all. ‘Tiimmy Turner’, reportedly written about the character from 2000s Nickelodeon cartoon Fairly OddParents, shares all the elements that made ‘Panda’ irresistible: the hypnotic repetition, confounding vocal idiosyncrasies, nonsensical lyrics and the sense that anything can happen within those three or four minutes. It shows growth too – just as the song reaches its climax, Mike Dean’s maximalist production pares back, key shifts and Desiigner sounds more euphoric than ever before. It shows that there’s still uncharted territory for the rapper to explore with a sound admittedly inherited from others. It might not be as big a hit as ‘Panda’, but ‘Tiimmy Turner’ is certainly a hit no less.