Interview: Dee-1 Talks Partnership And Tour With Sallie Mae

New Orleans rapper (and former OffBeat cover artist) Dee-1 has made no secret about his passion for education. After all, the former teacher regularly speaks to students across the country about the importance of attending college. He also knows firsthand the importance of paying for higher education and being financially responsible with the debt students often incur on their paths to academic success. With that in mind, he has partnered with financial institution Sallie Mae for the second year in a row for “Dee-1’s Knowledge for College Tour” to teach students the importance of planning for tuition and expenses.

The partnership came about after Dee released his song, “Sallie Mae Back,” in which he celebrated successfully repaying his student loans. In addition to garnering him national attention, it also caught the attention of the organization he name-drops in the title, prompting Sallie Mae to reach out to him via social media.

“I was most surprised I was getting love from Sallie Mae themselves. They reached out and congratulated me for paying off my loans and they told me how much they loved the song,” he tells OffBeat. That initial contact eventually led to Dee-1 visiting Sallie Mae’s corporate offices in Delaware and several conversations later, he realized they both had the same goal in mind: providing students and their parents with the tools to successfully plan for college.

Admittedly, he was shocked to find that the organization wasn’t quite the big, bad wolf the public has often perceived Sallie Mae to be. In fact, after branching off from its loan division, Navient, Sallie Mae is no longer responsible for servicing federal student loans and now operates as a private company.

“Sallie Mae is passionate about making sure that students are aware of all the scholarship opportunities that are available to them,” he continues. “They are much more than that surface definition that my whole generation had of Sallie Mae where all they do is hound you to repay them. I started to realize that this is a living, breathing organization of real individuals who really have a heart for changing the world for the next generation.”

Those conversations and his newfound understanding of what Sallie Mae’s current mission is eventually gave way to the “Knowledge of College Tour,” which kicked off this week in Cleveland, Ohio. As part of the tour, Dee-1 will travel to cities such as Atlanta, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Houston where he will stress the importance of proper college planning to high-school students by highlighting Sallie Mae’s free tools like Scholarship Search and the College Planning Calculator. He will also encourage students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be eligible for federally funded grants, work-study, and student loans.

At each tour stop, one lucky student will receive a $5,000 scholarship courtesy of Sallie Mae. Students who aren’t lucky enough to attend one of the tour stops will still have a chance to win scholarship money, too, thanks to the newly launched #StunDee1 contest. Hopefuls are asked to submit either a rap or spoken-word video via Instagram in which they explain why college is a part of their mission, for a chance to win up to $3,000 towards school. Submissions will be accepted until Sept. 27 and the winner will be announced on Facebook Live on Oct. 3 at 8p.m. EST.

“Dee-1’s Knowledge for College Tour” isn’t the only thing that is keeping him busy these days. He’s also putting the finishing touches on his upcoming album, Slingshot David. The album, due out Nov. 10, is a particular point of pride for him. “I’m so excited about pushing it out and letting the world hear,” he says. “I’ve never been this excited to put music out in my entire life.”

In the meantime, Dee-1 will continue spreading his message and stressing the importance of proper college preparation. Learn more about his mission and about his partnership with Sallie Mae visit here.