If there is one thing Lil Dicky seems to be good at, it’s stirring up controversy.
Last spring the internet went aflame when the self-proclaimed “Jewish rapper” teamed up with Chris Brown to release “Freaky Friday,” a downright catchy, yet decidedly problematic tune with an accompanying NSFW music video depicting Brown and Lil Dicky dealing with the implications of waking up in the other’s body. Egregious portrayals of women and people of color aside, the release was a viral success, going on to top charts throughout the summer and earn a 3x platinum certification — not bad for a guy who admittedly started rapping with his bar mitzvah savings.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Dicky AKA Andrew Burd started rapping in 2011 after graduating from the University of Richmond. He eventually left his day job at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, a large advertising agency in San Francisco, to pursue rapping full-time. In 2013, Burd released his first mixtape, So Hard, in 2013, which notably featured Lil Dicky and Hitler competing in a rap battle on the track “Jewish Flow.”. The release of his debut studio album, Professional Rapper, in 2015, again reaffirmed Burd’s identity as not just a rapper, but for better or worse, as a Jewish rapper. O – on “$ave Dat Money” Dicky explains his frugality, at one point threatening to “get on Yelp in a minute and review this piece of shit place like only a kike know how” when he’s overcharged at a restaurant.
This year, Lil Dicky returned with another controversial anthem, “Earth,” but apparently this time around it’s for charity: The proceeds raised from the project will go towards the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which funds a variety of environmental initiatives.
You may think the idea of Lil Dicky tackling global warming is a bit absurd, and you’re right. “Earth” depicts 30 superstars animated as singing plants and animals, only recognizable by their voices. Lil Dicky and Leonardo DiCaprio also play themselves (a la 1997 Titanic) and Kevin Hart plays Kanye West. Like most Dicky projects, and unlike most charity anthems, “Earth” fails to take itself that seriously. Ed Sheerhan is a koala, Zack Brown is a cow, Sia is a kangaroo, and Snoop Dog is a marijuana plant. Brendan Uri is a pig and Lil Yachty is HPV. Wiz Khalifa is a skunk and Lil Jon is a clam. Chris Brown didn’t seem to make it into the video (thank God). Justin Bieber is a baboon who tells us he’s “like a man, just less advanced, and my anus is huge.” Ariana Grande is a zebra who sings out, “Am I white or black?” and Lil Dicky, as himself, forgives Germany during a stop on his trip across the globe on the back of an eagle.
However, somewhere along the way — actually, about six minutes into the video — reality does seem to set back in. Ariana Grande makes a reappearance to ask listeners, “Have you ever been to Earth?” to which Dicky responds, “Everyone who is listening has been to Earth, Ariana. We’re not making music for aliens here.”
Justin Bieber also reappears, asking “Are we gonna die?” and Lil Dicky simply lays it out for him: “You know what Bieber? We might die. I’m not going to lie to you. I mean, there’s so many people out here who don’t think global warming is a real thing, you know? We gotta save this planet. We’re being stupid.” This happens to also be Justin Bieber’s way of announcing that his hiatus from producing new music is over.
Pan to Leo, who Lil Dicky describes as a guy who “knows more about the Earth and how we’re fucking it up more than anybody,” urging those watching to learn more about climate change through checking out welovetheearth.org.
Ultimately, the music video itself seems to miss the mark when it comes to educating viewers on what is actually happening to the environment — again, the singing animals and butt jokes take up the majority of its content — but the website, which features an additional number of short, humorous videos of Lil Dicky explaining global warming, green energy, and sustainable farming solutions, is pretty humorous and informative. Unfortunately these videos only have a fraction of the views that “Earth” has, though.
According to an interview with Ellen, “Earth” was not even originally intended to be a conscious effort to raise environmental awareness — it turns out that, at first, Lil Dicky simply wanted to make a video with singing animals, telling Ellen that he “didn’t really know the details or the facts at hand,” at first. He went on to add, “We have 12 years to completely change the way we do so many things on Earth before the damage is irreversible. And like, within our lifetime, well within our lifetime, crazy things are going to start happening: floods, food shortages, bad air, millions of people will have to relocate.”
Perhaps it’s too soon to say whether or not Lil Dicky has started taking tikkun olam very literally or if he’s just trying to produce another viral sensation before his (still untitled) comedy show produced by Kevin Hart drops on FX in next February. But Lil Dicky using his growing fame and influence, plus that of Leo and friends, to promote climate awareness, at least has me optimistic in the meantime.
Image of Lil Dicky by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival