Dee-1 from New Orleans has a song on his latest release that name-checks his 1998 Honda Accord, the car that’s allowed him to stay out of automotive debt.
Dee-1 doesn’t fit the profile most people think of when they read “rapper.” He graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree and taught middle school in Baton Rouge while he pursued his dream of making music professionally. His songs have a distinct sense of humor and authenticity, but they’re unique by providing a strong message about personal finances. His song “Sallie Mae Back,” for instance, is about the importance of paying back student loans.
His song “I Ain’t Got No Car Note” has the same strong message about making wise choices and getting out of debt on a car loan.
Man somebody messaged me on Instagram
Saying they don’t listen to my music because
I don’t drive a brand new fancy car like a real rapper
Man I’m trying to be smart with my money
And actually I’m in love with my car plus
I ain’t got NO car note, ya heard me?
It’s a message that couldn’t come at a more perfect time. According to the Detroit Free Press, for the second consecutive quarter, Americans were more than $1 trillion in debt on their car loans up, 23 percent from the same period two years before. The average car loan is now $28,381. The percentage of new vehicles financed stands at 84 percent.
Part of the situation is that the price of gas dropped, allowing Americans to spend more on their monthly car note than on gas. The price of a new car hasn’t helped the situation, either. The average price of a new car is now over $31,000. Even used cars are no bargain, with an average price of around $16,000.
More Americans are under water on those car loans. According to the Detroit Free Press, a record number of Americans are now trading cars in with “negative equity,” meaning their cars are worth less than they owe on their car loans. When they buy a new car, they roll that negative equity into the next car, continuing the cycle and guaranteeing negative equity for years to come.
Adding to the problem, Dee-1’s audience — younger people just starting their careers, just beginning to build a credit history, and simultaneously paying off student loans — can generally only purchase a car using subprime financing. Subprime borrowers, with FICO credit scores in the 600s or lower, are borrowing over an average of 72 months, or six years.
Dee-1’s message is unambiguous. Yeah, cars are cool, but being heavily in debt for one is holding his listeners back from bigger things.
I fell in love now I can’t leave cause I got
I used all that extra money to take long vacations
I used all that extra money to stack up my saving
Even if you make more than me I save more than you
I make more out of less and gross what I net
I own this you can never repossess
So what’s Dee-1 drive? The same 1998 Honda Accord that appears in his video for the song. It’s not without its problems, but it’s still providing daily transportation.