Originally published with Smile Politely on April 10, 2015.
The descriptor “white Jewish rapper” doesn’t exactly fit in with the picture of contemporary rap MCs. Yet, throw the word comedy in for good measure and suddenly things make a lot more sense. David Burd, aka Lil Dicky, has always been comedically attuned to life’s absurdities and inanities. And, like any good comedian wishing to share those insights with an audience, he found a unique way to go about it. For Burd, a strong beat just so happened to accompany his jokes.
He began rapping when a boring requirement at his 9-to-5 creative agency job gave him an opportunity for some fun. Since then, he’s created a slew of songs detailing the average guy’s daily struggle. From well-endowed ex-boyfriends to preferring a Friday night at home to his suddenly flourishing sex life, Lil Dicky raps about life as he sees it.
Burd is as much a visual comedian as he is a lyrical one, providing fans with music videos that only heighten the laughter. It’s no wonder he has television in his sights, because he seems bred to be a breakout star in that medium. Look no further than his music video “Ex-boyfriend,” which garnered more than 1 million views in 24 hours upon its release.
With an album set to drop this summer, Burd is on a spring tour and will be performing in Urbana this Saturday at The Canopy Club.
Smile Politely: Let’s just jump right into the offensive. When I think of a white, middle-class, Jewish guy doing music, I’m wondering why you didn’t pick up an instrument. What was it about rap that attracted you?
David Burd: So basically I started rapping to try to get attention for being funny. It wasn’t really a musical endeavor. Like, my goal was never to be a rapper, it was to be a comedian, but then I learned that I was better at it than I thought.
SP: How do you balance the comedy with the rap? So much of contemporary hip-hop is about hard personas, and comedy would seem to undermine that.
Burd: I just try to be myself as much as possible. The way I live life, I make far too many jokes. If you spent a day with me, I’d be trying to make you laugh. So from a logical perspective, I’d be wasting my biggest skill if I didn’t incorporate that. That’s where I differentiate.
SP: So you started off in account management before jumping into rap?
Burd: Yes, in a creative agency.
SP: How did that transition take place?
Burd: Ironically enough through a rap song. I worked on the Doritos account, and I had to take all of their chip sales, the data we got, and create a little five-page document about, like, how our advertising was impacting their chip sales. And it was a very boring thing that I did every month, and nobody cared, but I still had to do it. So this one time I said, “I’m just going to do this as a rap,” and it was really well-received. The head of the creative department, he brought me in to talk to me, and he soon learned that I’d be better served in the creative department.
SP: That’s exciting. And now you’re rapping full-time?
Burd: Yeah, it’s just rap right now, but as soon as I put my album out, I’m working on a TV show as well. It’s very much on hold until my album’s out, but once my album’s out it’s going to be my priority.
SP: Do you think your comedy will always be tied to your rapping? Or do you see yourself doing stand-up?
Burd: I want to do stand-up one day, but I think it’s the hardest form of comedy and I’m not ready for it. I started the rap thing to eventually get my TV show to show my point of view on society, I suppose. And then now that I have this rap thing, I mean, of course I’m going to use that as an element on the show because it’s such an entertaining backdrop. So now I’ve started this show with my perspective on society, but while I’m doing that I’m at lunch with Rick Ross. It’s much more entertaining.
SP: A lot of what you rap about it is already your perspective on daily living, these issues that come up with being in your 20s and 30s in the world.
Burd: Exactly, but I think it will be a lot easier for me to do that when every joke doesn’t have to rhyme. So, yeah, I’m beyond excited. Truthfully, I wish the album was out tomorrow and I could start that, because I think it’s going to be surprising how natural it comes to me.
SP: And when is the album dropping?
Burd: The date isn’t set yet, but it’s looking like summer.
SP: And then how soon after that would the TV show follow?
Burd: Well, first off, even if it started, like, hardcore, like even if it was signed off and bought by a network, it would still take 18 months from that moment to get on air. But I’m going to go in hard. I really want in, like, three years to have only half of my career be music. Whatever Lena Dunham is to Girls, I hope to be to my TV show.
SP: I’m excited. I want this to exist already.
Burd: I do, too. I think it’s going to be great. I don’t even know if I can act yet. I’ve never even acted, but I think I can.
SP: I think you can, too. I mean, just based on what I’ve seen you do in your music videos.
Burd: I mean I don’t think I could act like anybody else, but I can act like myself.
SP: Sure, just a hyperbolized version of you.
Burd: Exactly, exactly.
SP: In terms of the videos, how do you come up with the storyboard? They really do add a whole other level to your comedy.
Burd: Sometimes it’s extremely self-explanatory. Like, if I’m rapping about being in a bar talking to a girl, I couldn’t see that happening any other way.
SP: I’m thinking about how on “Ex-Boyfriend” you include an animated penis with a six-pack. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Burd: Honestly, that joke about a guy’s dick having a six-pack, I’ve been holding on to that joke since I was a 10th grader.
SP: That’s amazing! I’m so glad we got that benefit.
Burd: I know. Like, literally, I said that joke when I was at overnight camp, and I’ve been waiting for a public forum to display it.
SP: I love it. You’re the reason why we should never ever throw out ideas.
Burd: Oh yeah, my notepad is everything.
SP: Where does the name Lil Dicky come from? I mean, obviously I know what you’re playing with here, but why that name?
Burd: Well, to be fair, it was the first name that came to me when I got my Macbook Pro. The first day I got it, I spent the whole day banging around in Garage Band. I made some bullshit little song, and I called myself Lil Dicky that day, for whatever reason, not thinking that it would actually be my name down the road. And then when I thought about my attempt into comedy and what my best bet was and I decided I was going to become a rapper, I made a whole list of names and none of it beat Lil Dicky. I think there are pros and cons to Lil Dicky, don’t get me wrong. For real, when I walk into a room, I will never introduce myself as Lil Dicky.
SP: [Laughs] Why not?
Burd: It’s ridiculous. Pretty much any rap name is ridiculous. Like, I’m going to call myself Dave. I’m a human being, you know what I mean? Like, I’m not going to call myself a noun.
SP: But I just love the idea of Lil Wayne calling himself Weezy, because then I hope that he actually wheezes. I want him to be congested.
Burd: He probably does just looking at his lifestyle from afar. But, yeah, I wanted the name to be memorable, which I think it is. And I wanted it to represent the antithesis of current mainstream rap.
SP: So if you could have any “hard” rap name, what do you have any in mind?
Burd: I think “Yung Man” would be a great alternative. Like, in my TV show, I might call myself Yung Man instead of Lil Dicky.
SP: Oh that’s good. What’s the response been to the live shows so far?
Burd: Great. I think it translates well live. I think it’s like you said, I’ve never done stand-up but I think I carry myself well between songs, like, a conversation, making jokes. So I think it’s interesting, it’s not like a typical rap show.
SP: It couldn’t be. It seems like your personality comes through in this whole other hilarious way.
Burd: Like, I start the show with a Powerpoint presentation.
SP: [Laughs] Well there’s your advertising side coming back into play.
Burd: Exactly, exactly. For sure.
SP: [Laughs] What the hell do you present on Powerpoint?
Burd: Well, it’s just…I try to show people what they can expect: what they can expect from other rap shows, what they can expect from this one, why this one is interesting. I have bar graphs showing my sex life, showing how since becoming a rapper there’s been a spike in the number of girls I’ve had sex with.
SP: Well sure. In your overall mission, are you primarily concerned with doing commentary, or comedy, or commentary through comedy?
Burd: I don’t like being a preachy person. A lot of time my commentary will come through comedy. If I have commentary it’s more about trying to inspire people to not get stuck in the typical life that is handed to you, and go make your own life. Sometimes I’m just trying to be funny to be funny, sometimes there’s not a bigger message. I believe in the joke. I have pride in making something that people find funny.
But I’m always trying to convey my perspective, even if it’s on unimportant things, like the fact that iced coffee should always be a free refill. Just cuz there are ice cubes doesn’t mean there should be an extra charge. Even if it’s a Macklemore type of issue, I still feel like commenting on it. That’s what I prefer, as opposed to, like human rights.
SP: I’m thinking of your song “White Crime.” I couldn’t help but think about the specific commentary you’re making on what white people get away with.
Burd: For sure. I think it’s half that, and I think a lot of commentary is just about the rap genre in general. To me, it’s like how many songs have you heard where people are just bragging about their criminal activity, and we’re so numb to it that we just accept it?
SP: Of course. “Oh yeah, you murdered five people? Cool!”
Burd: Yeah, and we just cheer about it. It’s mind-blowing. And society turns its head on all of that for whatever reason, so I want to be allowed to take part in it.