There’s something savagely endearing about Dai Burger laughing quietly as she explains that she will kill you if you pronounce her name wrong. “Its “day,” not “dye,” she says towards the end of our phone call as she reminds to me to let the world – or at least, the readers – know. While the pronunciation of Dai is important, for New York’s up-and coming, raunchy, food-obsessed rapper, it’s the Burger that truly matters. “Dai is just my name and Burger is everything you need,” she says with a natural allure to her soft-spoken voice. “Stacked [and] juicy from top to bottom.”
Born in the heart of Queens, Dai has spent her life hopping from borough to borough. From her start in Queens to living in Broolyn and working as a stylist for designer Patricia Field’s clothing boutique, she became, in her own words, an “all-around New York ass girl,” which might explain the casual death threats she’ll lob at you if you mispronounce her name. Long before the rapper broke out with her raunchy, feminist anthem “Soufflé,” she was dancing backup for Lil Mama after years of dance school.
As with any born-and-bred New York hustler though, she wasn’t content to leave her burger buns to the dance floor. Seven years ago, she eased into the music scene with a project called MyMixxxytape, hosted by rapper Junglepussy. Since then, she’s built a name for herself with the Raw Burger compilation, a self-released project called Dai Burger, and, finally, last month’s debut album Soft Serve.
To say that her music career echoes that of the most devout foodie is an understatement, so it’s only fitting that she let me in on some of her go-to New York hotspots. From New York Fried Chicken and Yummy Taco in Queens to the Bed Stuy Fish Fry in Brooklyn, she was ready to serve up opinions on all the food inquiries I dished out. She loves a bacon and cheese sandwich but, she was quick to add, “the cheese has got to be cheddar. I need that cheddar.” As for ice cream and, specifically, soft serve, the New York native only has one true love – Mister Softee. “That’s the New York classic,” she exclaims when the name of the iconic ice cream truck is brought up. “The truck coming through your block and you hear it through your window. You’ve got to grab your coin real quick and run and catch him before he’s gone. It’s the New York way.”
While the iconic ice cream truck of her youth may seem like the obvious inspiration for her debut album, she explained that the title really just hit her out of nowhere –
albeit with an apt food analogy: “All the beats I started hearing and the ideas I came up with were moulding into this little soft serve blend.” Though with an album cover that features her with ice cream and cash in hand hanging out of an ice cream truck, the homage is still on the rapper’s mind.
With her opening line on the first track, “New Everything,” it’s clear that Dai’s smooth, sugary debut was made ready for mass consumption. “Hello. And welcome to Soft Serve – a package served up nice and tight and ready for you, from me,” she almost purrs on the song. But like any good ice cream connoisseur, Dai isn’t content to stick to just one flavor. She jumps between club bangers on “Slurpee” to slow and seductive on “Tatted Up,” with a touch of her aggressive, city girl roots on the “Chris Rock Freestyle.”
For all of her vocal aggression and raunchy raps, Dai is also making headlines for her new music initiative, ‘Where My Girls,’ which also happens to be the name of one of the standout tracks on Soft Serve, because what good is a philanthropic organization without a powerful theme song to match? As announced last month, Dai teamed up with Brewery Recording Studio that’ll take New York girls aged 12 to 18 from the city streets to the sound booths and recording studios at Brewery. “We’re showing girls who are interested and making them self-sufficient. I never had anything like that. I had to make myself self-sufficient so I can’t help but share my knowledge. I just love the youth and the young girls who want to do stuff for themselves and not just sit around,” she says, before adding with a laugh that she’s “putting on [her] philanthropy hat” with the project.
For Dai, it’s a way to come full circle and inspire a new generation of strong women in the music industry. It’s also a natural extension of her already-established reputation for being unapologetically herself—from rapping about pussy to embracing her own queerness. “It’s who I am. I am a female and I feel empowered just waking up and stepping out of my house and giving no fucks as to what people tell me I can’t do,” she says, casually. “I didn’t grab my picket sign and walk out of the door. This is just how I am and I love that people can relate to it.”
With her debut album out and a new video on the way that she promises is suitably raw to “remind them who I be,” we got on the topic of what comes next for the rising star. She talks about wanting to work with women like M.I.A. and Solange “who don’t give no fucks” and then, almost as an afterthought, she remembers the male producers she could work with one day. “I’ll collaborate with some guys too [but] I can’t help but rep for the ladies. The men have enough going on. Leave us alone.”
For more of our interviews, read our chat with master producer D33J right here.
- Text: Chris Thomas
- Photography: Oluwaseye