The music career of Desiigner has been a road winding through peaks and valleys. He was both blessed and cursed by the early and astronomical success he stumbled upon through his 2016 single Panda, which instantly made him a global sensation while dooming him (rather unfairly) to be relegated to the rank of a “has been”. The fall off of Desiigner is one of the biggest misconceptions in music, and particularly egregious considering it’s been spawned
from a level of success he enjoyed early that most successful artists only ever achieve a fraction of. Every casual fan of rap music knows Panda, and most also know Timmy Turner. However, far fewer ever bothered to listen to rest of his New English mixtape. If they had, they might have understood back then that the teenager was not an automatic hit-making machine and adjusted their expectations accordingly. While Desiigner has evolved in the six year period since Panda and the mixtape, the mixtape actually gave a pretty accurate picture of what kind of artist he is. Desiigner is an artist who still sounds unique and can consistently make decent music. A lot of it isn’t super memorable, but in an autobahn era of rap when hot records begin moving into the rearview the moment they’re released, this is not a fault he can be critiqued for exclusively. 80% of the time his mis music is ok, and 20% percent of the time he strikes gold, which is a much higher rate than most rappers who either stay praying for that one illusive hit or are forced to shell out cash for a hot feature to gain an audience. Not every Desiigner drop is great, but he’s certainly released his share of quality music since his initial hit, and if the numbers of Panda weren’t there to overshadow everything then Desiigner would probably be viewed in an entirely different light.
While everything he does will continue to be measured against that impossibly high standard, few will acknowledge that virtually every song that Desiigner has dropped in his career that performed well was dropped solo. To this day, he’s only collaborated with big artists on a couple occasions, and is still capable of drawing massive crowds outside of the U.S. While the breakdown in relations with G.O.O.D. Music sidelined him as his window to follow up on his initial wave closed, he’s still dropped gems since parting ways with the label and it doesn’t appear that the resources he likely no longer has access to has prevented him from finding the right formula at the same rate that he was before and during his major label days. Since then, he’s released Diva, Survivor, Soup, Molly, and Amen among others, which only goes to prove that random chance always plays a part in a song going global, because all of these releases are equally good candidates when the ear test is applied.
One overlooked reason why Panda was so successful was the time of its creation in 2016, a transitional year for rap. This was a time when Travis Scott, Migos, Lil Uzi Vert, and Young Thug were charting a new course for the genre that just a couple years prior would have sounded completely foreign. Desiigner was another member of the ship, and for many served as the introduction to mumble rap and proof that it could be mainstream. When Panda took off, most
didn’t know what to make of it. It was completely different. Comparisons to Future quickly arose, more so because Future was the only artist who sounded remotely similar to Desiigner, although the accusations of being a Future-copy have never been legitimate. Even if Desiigner never makes another hit, he’s already left a permanent mark on the genre.
Fast forward to today, and Desiigner’s latest effort, a three piece single titled 3 THE HARD WAY, is yet another unheralded offering that is unlikely to significantly move the needle, but proves the potential is still there. Desiigner serves up familiar flows and uncomplicated lyrics with vocal production that sounds slightly experimental compared to his previous work in terms of tone, but isn’t radically different from anything he’s done before. Echoing, ambient hums and ad libs complement the main vocals and help the songs feel large, and often strikingly similar to some of Quavo’s work.
Beat selection is one area where Desiigner has never disappointed, and his choices for this mini project are no different. The beats hit and hit hard, making the simple raps that might not get a pass on other tracks almost seem like a blessing. The 808s on F.A.B are huge and relentless when they drop, contrasted by a flute melody that makes the beat impossible to ignore. It has the ingredients of a beat made for Tik Tok but is far less abrupt (thankfully). HOP
OUT is a smoother, catchier track with a thumping and complex drum pattern. It’s slightly more mellow song, but it’s far from calm. The final track, BIG EARTHQUAKE hits every bit as hard as F.A.B while flowing more similarly to HOP OUT. While all three songs are very similar, the final track feels like it finds the middle ground and capitalizes on the likable aspects from the other two.
In summary, 3 THE HARD WAY isn’t a return ticket to the top for the young artist (he’s still only 24), but it’s good enough for those that care to keep paying attention. While the overall sound of rap sounds much more similar to Desiigner that what it did when he first emerged, he still sounds unique and possesses all the qualities needed to make modern hits, and if he continues to roll the dice, then lightening may strike for him a second time. Even if it doesn’t,
he’s independent now and gets to take a home a much higher percentage of revenue from his music, which means he’ll continue to win regardless of whether he finds himself in the spotlight again.