Turns out it also was good for his career. “Earth” debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became Lil Dicky’s fifth song to top the Comedy Digital Track Sales chart, the most among soloists. But it’s all a bit wild, really, that the polarizing 31-year-old is an environmental messenger, especially when considering that the rapper’s last major moment came more than a year ago via his controversial Chris Brown collaboration “Freaky Friday.” The song peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100, and its video -- in which the pair swaps bodies -- also drew criticism for its lyrics, which, among other things, brushed off Brown’s history of troubling behavior. Lil Dicky is also the guy who on his 2013 breakout hit, “Ex-Boyfriend,” panicked about how his genitals compared with those of his girl’s former flame. But Blanco believes Lil Dicky’s humorous approach to music is exactly why he is the right person to tackle more serious subjects. “You’re listening to the song, and it’s a joke and it’s funny,” says Blanco. “But at the same time, you’re like, ‘Wait, I’m really [thinking about] something important.’?”
Scooter Braun, Lil Dicky’s co-manager, says he learned of the ambitious idea during an early-2016 hot-tub hangout at his house with Lil Dicky and Blanco. “When they tell you they want to make a song for the environment and every single superstar in the world is going to play a different animal, you kind of look at them like they’re insane,” says Braun, who had just started working with his client. “It sounds like something someone says as a joke, but Lil Dicky made it all happen.”
At the time, Lil Dicky was already in the studio with Blanco, working on what became “Freaky Friday,” when he decided to hash out the earliest concept for “Earth” during those sessions. In the interim, he and Blanco started recruiting the song’s two dozen-plus guest stars, tapping Charlie Puth first and methodically going from there. But it was Braun’s quick thinking that helped them land more guests than ever expected. While at Wango Tango in Los Angeles last June with his client Grande, who was headlining the festival, Braun turned his trailer into a makeshift recording studio where Lil Dicky and Blanco posted up. It was there that everyone from Shawn Mendes to Backstreet Boys dropped in and recorded their parts. Braun says he approached almost every artist billed on the lineup, explaining how he was involved in a new song that would raise awareness about the environment; a portion of its proceeds are being donated to a variety of environmental charities, most notably The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. He would then play them a 30-second clip and hear what they thought. Everyone was in. “Dave’s reputation precedes him,” says Braun. “People are excited to be a part of whatever he does.”
Born in the leafy suburbs of Philadelphia, Lil Dicky was raised on 50 Cent and Jay-Z. He studied business at the University of Richmond and graduated with plans of being a comedian. But when he released the now viral video for “Ex-Boyfriend” in April 2013, which raked in more than 1 million views in its first 24 hours, he decided to pivot to music instead -- even after his closest friends and family staged an intervention to persuade him not to be a rapper. “I couldn’t live with ‘What if?’?” says Lil Dicky. The day after the video went viral, Mike Hertz signed on as his co-manager. And once Lil Dicky independently dropped his debut mixtape, So Hard, that May, Hertz helped him ink a distribution deal with Commission Music/BMG.
Lil Dicky has released only one full-length album to date: 2015’s Professional Rapper, which featured Snoop Dogg on its title track and had Rich Homie Quan and Fetty Wap swapping verses on “Save Dat Money,” which became Lil Dicky’s first song to enter the Hot 100. But not for lack of trying. “Sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t just go into the studio and come out with an album,” says Lil Dicky, but he’s a firm believer in taking his time rather than rushing anything to completion. “I know each song and idea deserves to be perfectly executed,” no matter how long it takes.
Speaking with unpretentious self-assurance as he drives through Los Angeles on a recent afternoon, Lil Dicky says he has always had a “Kanye-esque” belief in himself. “I willed myself into this career. When I go back and listen to my old music, it’s ridiculous that I even had this level of belief, ’cause it kinda sucks. It’s almost like there must be some level of delusion to me -- but thank goodness, because as you ride that delusion, the more time you put in. Logically, you’re going to continue to improve.”