The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life has named hip-hop artist and activist David Augustine, known by his stage name Dee-1, as the inaugural Alan Solomont Artist/Scholar-in-Residence.
The residency was created by Alan Solomont, Tisch College Dean Emeritus, with the purpose of acknowledging the link between art and social activism.
“It’s really a recognition that artists, singers and authors have a really important place in civic life and in social impact and bringing that recognition into Tisch College,” Jen McAndrew, Director of Communications, Strategy and Planning at Tisch College, explained.
Hailing from New Orleans, La., Dee-1 began rapping as a hobby and therapeutic outlet while he was a student at Louisiana State University. He began his postgraduate career as a middle school mathematics and life skills teacher for two years before pursuing rap full-time.
“[Dee-1] is really known for his socially conscious music and lyrics,” McAndrew said. “He actually started his career as an educator … and so he really comes from a place of education and bringing people together to talk about social change.”
Dee-1 told the Daily he aims to challenge themes of violence in popular music by using his platform to bring awareness to more socially and culturally relevant issues.
“Being a rapper and seeing how much disrespect is constantly spewed towards women in the rap game scene, seeing how much violence is glorified in the rap game, I have always been inspired to do what is right, even if it is not popular at the time, and to give people the courage to stand up for what’s right,” Dee-1 said.
Dee-1 outlined how personal growth is important to him and a part of his motto, “Be real, be righteous, be relevant.” These are the three core tenets of his lifestyle philosophy, which he calls “mission vision.”
Another important collaborator in developing the residency was the University Chaplaincy. Reverend Elyse Nelson Winger, the University Chaplain, emphasized the importance of the relationship between the two departments and the connection between religion and civic life.
“These experiences strengthened the synergies between Tisch College and the Chaplaincy,” Winger wrote in an email to the Daily. “We – in both distinctive and common ways – foster conversations and practices that support multi-racial and multifaith democracies where religious liberty, freedom of expression, human rights, and justice are in constant dialogue.”
Dee-1 also has an academic appointment at Tisch College as Professor of the Practice. In Spring 2024, he plans on teaching a course about the social and cultural impact of hip-hop since its inception 50 years ago in 1973.
“I want to basically teach people how to not just be in the game, but how to help change the game, when it comes to hip hop,” Dee-1 said. “And you can do that whether you are an artist, a consumer, or an employee inside the industry.”
Outside of teaching, Dee-1 describes his new role on campus as primarily a mentor and resource for students. He is currently working with the University Chaplaincy to create conversations for students looking to grow in their faith. He’s also planning artistic events — such as open-mic nights — to encourage students to explore and pursue artistic talents.
“I just want to be a big brother for everyone on campus,” Dee-1 said. “I want students to be able to feel comfortable coming to me and just talking and having someone to relate to, but also [I want to] be able to challenge them to grow to be the best version of themselves.”