There once was a time when gaining fame through YouTube was a rare feat. However, thanks to millennial avant-garde Soulja Boy, the video streaming platform has become a portal for YouTubers to blossom into something more than just a “vlogger.”
Now, 15 years later past the “Crank That Soulja Boy” era, new-age pioneer Darryl Dwayne Granberry Jr. — or DDG as his massive 2.53 million YouTube subscribers call him — is redefining what it means to be more than a YouTuber.
Upon his recent 25th birthday (Oct. 10), the Michigan native reflected on how far he’s come since his consistent vlogging days on YouTube. The “Moonwalking in Calabasas” rapper has already earned Platinum status, collaborated with some of the most popular acts in Hip-Hop, has now gone public with superstar girlfriend Halle Bailey, released his sophomore album It’s Not Me, It’s You, and even dropped a deluxe version of the LP.
“I’m big on versatility and just wanting to experiment and have fun making different types of music, so I just put a bunch of different feels on there,” he said about the makings of INMIY.
VIBE caught up with DDG in New York to talk about his evolvement as a rapper moving away from the “YouTube Stigma,” public loving Halle, his influence on the next generation of entertainers, and of course, his latest album.
VIBE: How would you describe your overall evolution as an artist / businessman and more since signing to Epic Records?
DDG: I feel like I evolved as an artist. I feel like I make great music a lot better than before. I’m just learning the ins and outs. I’ve been around execs and legends and artists I look up to and stuff, so I feel like it’s just preparing me for my own career.
Listening to your song “9 Lives” on the album, I feel that this song talks about where you came from and where you are now. Is this one special to you?
It’s just one of my most vulnerable songs, but I get a little nervous in a way when I talk about personal themes like that, especially on the internet because it’s like the internet is ruthless; they don’t really care. I just be careful when I talk about personal stuff like that. But I opened up on that song, for sure.
This album, It’s Not Me It’s You,’ feels like you’re getting rid of emotional baggage and the people attached to it. What do you say?
I feel like this album is gearing up for my breakthrough in a way. I got a lot of good feedback. Everyone that listened to it loved it, and they feel like I didn’t make one bad song on there, which is really a goal. My goal is just to keep putting out great music and feed it to the people that want it.
On the album and deluxe, you have a few features on there that are surprising. How was it teaming up with some of those artists and getting them on board to come on the album?
It’s hella organic. I don’t really like working with too many people. Unless you’re a huge artist and it’s like, “It’s a good business move or an investment to work with you,” I’d rather work with somebody that I know personally, than [someone] I meet through a business type of thing.
You moved to L.A. from Michigan. With everything that’s been going on with the robberies and the murders and things like that in Los Angeles, has that made you more paranoid about who you work with or bring around you?
Yeah. I feel like that’s everywhere though. It’s just more broadcasted in L.A., that it makes L.A. look like it’s a terrible place or whatever. But it depends on where you be at. If you’re an artist with a bunch of jewelry on and all of this, you know not to go to the hood. You know what I’m saying? People out there, they’re looking for a come-up, but that’s with any of it really. For sure, I just move smarter. I’m not going to go dolo by myself nowhere with a bunch of chains on and expensive watches on when I know I haven’t got no protection.
I don’t invite nobody to my house, first. Only family comes to my house, maybe a few insiders that might know somebody that I know. I feel like I can trust them. But I’ve got a very, very small circle and I feel like it’s good and bad. Maybe I should open up a little more, make more friends and stuff, but I don’t be trusting people like that. If I’m supposed to be friends with you, it’ll happen naturally.
On the album, you get in-depth about “Relationship Issues,” specifically with an ex-girlfriend. You’re now publicly in a relationship with Halle Bailey. Can you speak on the mutual support you have for each other?
I feel like it’s just … I don’t know … very, very organic, and very natural. I know probably to the internet it looks like, “Oh, relationship goals,” and stuff like that. It is, but it is really regular. This is how we really are. I don’t feel like I’ve ever been this intimate in public. What do you call it? PDA? I’ve been doing PDA on accident, not even on accident, but …
You two are in your own world.
Yeah. We be in our own world. Then when I see the stuff on the internet, I be like, “Oh, that’s cool.” But I really don’t like the pressure they put on it and all the public stuff, but that comes with it. But this is definitely a very, very happy place for me, for sure.
Also, with being in the public eye, it kind of opens the floor for people to voice their opinions about you two, whether it’s positive or negative.
Growing up and being in the world of social media, being a public figure, I feel like it’s something I got used to, just dealing with people’s opinions. I really just look at it and keep scrolling. I don’t really soak in it. Somebody that’s new to the game will probably look at it, “What’s going on?” This person DMing me this. I’ve got hundreds of hate comments, hundreds of DMs. People hate on me. But for you to really go to my page, click on the direct message [button], and send me something [negative], knowing I got five million followers and I might not see that, you’ve got to be a fan.
Can we expect a song with Halle?
Yeah. Maybe in the future. Actually, a lot of people don’t know this, but my music video that she’s in for, “If I Want You,” she’s got a whole verse on it. But it didn’t come out because she hasn’t dropped her own solo music yet. I wanted it to come out because it’s really, really good. It makes the song even sound 10 times better. Wish you all could hear it, but …
I feel like for years you’ve been playing with this idea of not being on YouTube, but then you always come back to the platform. Why do you want to get away from the YouTube-rapper stigma?
I mean, I kind of embrace it in a way, because I still do YouTube. But I understand where people come from where they don’t want to listen to my music or they decide they don’t want to support it because it’s like … I use this analogy: “I’m a cousin that you know that’s into music.” They know me personally and stuff, so I feel like I’m a relative that you know that do music, so you’re like, “Oh, he’s doing music. That’s cool.” But I feel like when people finally listen to it, they be like, “Oh, this sh*t is hard.” I feel like people know me so well and they know so much about me, that listening to my music might be a little more difficult for them.
I think of Queen Naija… Soulja Boy, who have both successfully created a music career outside of YouTube. Can DDG do that, too?
I feel like Soulja Boy — he never vlogged though. He wasn’t a daily vlogger. Me and Queen, we was really vloggers. For real, for real. YouTube sh*t. When I think of people that crossed over from YouTube to music, I think of me, I think Queen Naija. There’s other artists out there, but American artists-wise… I feel like me and her is the main people that crossed over to traditional media.
I feel like I could embrace it. I could call myself a “YouTube rapper.” This is who I am. But at the same time, I just feel like that would set me back because there’s a lot of people that don’t even know I do YouTube — a lot of people that just know I do music. I’ve got fans over here, fans over here, and then I got fans in the middle.
Do you think it’s possible for people to not ever associate YouTube with DDG?
Probably not, because even if I shut my channel down, deleted all my videos, which I did it before—I removed all my videos and all of that—you’re still going to see me in a video with my nephew [Woo Wop], or you’re still going to see me in a video with my brother or something, because we all do it. It’s a great source of income. Everyone loves when I do it, so why not keep going?
I’m glad that you did mention Woo Wop. I feel like he’s becoming this bigger internet sensation right in front of our eyes.
Woo Wop is actually really smart. He’s a professional content creator. He knows exactly what’s going on. He knows exactly what to do when the camera comes on. When the camera comes off, he goes back to being a regular kid. But that’s just how he was just raised. We treat him like he’s a regular human. We don’t treat him like a kid.
What do you tell him, as far as advice and guidance, when it comes to being a content creator?
I just talk to him a regular person. We just have kid conversations. He’s still a kid, so it’s like he can just focus on playing video games, buying new Fortnite skins and stuff, doing regular kid stuff. It’s just when it comes to making content, I always tell him he’s going to be richer than me one day. He’s going to be bigger than me one day. I just always tell him that and you’ve got to always appreciate and say thank you, stuff like that.
You just turned 25, what do you feel is the biggest life lesson that you’ve learned so far?
My biggest life lesson I would say is believing in myself. It might sound cliché or whatever, but I feel like it’s an underrated thing to do. I feel like it is very, very important to believe in yourself and whatever you’re doing. Especially with social media being so crazy, you can get to feeling like you’re not doing good enough because you go online and you see people’s best moments.
You don’t really get to see people when they’re down and when they’re going through the same stuff that every human goes through, and then you feel like you’re doing worse than what you’re actually doing. You’ve just got to believe in yourself, and that’s what I’ve been doing.
Check out DDG’s visual for “Remember Me” from It’s Not Me, It’s You below.