Life is good these days for Sidney Selby III, a 19-year-old from Brooklyn better known as Desiigner, who parlayed a $200 beat from a British producer in 2014 into the hit track “Panda.”
The song, not about a cute bear but a white BMW X6, propelled Desiigner to No. 29 on Pollstar’s Elite 50 Artists (now expanded to 100) in total music consumption April 21 despite the young rapper’s lack of physical record sales. In fact, he had only signed on to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint in February.
A South by Southwest performance in March, made memorable less by his performance than the fact he vomited in the middle of it, got people talking. And by May, Desiigner was delivering a frenetic performance as a featured artist on the BET Awards broadcast.
But Desiigner’s most important endorsement may have come from his label boss.
Yeezy heavily sampled the “Panda” track as a centerpiece of “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2,” the second half a song suite from The Life of Pablo, and featured Desiigner on another track, “Freestyle 4.”
Despite despite the significant boost from West, Desiigner may owe New York-based radio personality and manager Zana Ray the biggest debt of gratitude. Ray encouraged him to complete a mixtape Desiigner was holding on to, which made its way to an A&R rep working with West.
An invitation to meet the mercurial Kanye in Los Angeles ended with a signing to his G.O.O.D. Music imprint, which was announced at Madison Square Garden.
At about the same time, his agent, Cara Lewis, was hanging her own shingle as CL Group and she signed on to book the new protégé.
Desiigner spent much of the summer honing his stage performance with a series of festival looks and radio shows, which will continue into fall.