As a difficult kid, Daniel James Rutstein was only soothed by rap legends like Run-DMC and Ice-T while his father drove aimlessly through the streets of Brooklyn. Eighteen years later, the viral virtuoso is chasing big dreams of becoming New York’s next hip-hop icon.
The 18-year-old, better known as Lil Dee, has already racked up over a million views on social media, while attending the Roc Nation School of Music, Sports & Entertainment at Long University Island in Brooklyn.
On January 6, he pays tribute to his hometown heroes with new track “Set It Off,” name checking Notorious BIG and Jay-Z, among others. (“You rappers JV ballers/ I’m Shaq, 8 feet taller/ You get JC Penneys/ I get Jay-Z bucks/ And I won’t stop rocking/ Until Jay-Z scream”, spits he.) And Lil Dee’s effortless freestyle flow has already turned the heads of rap stars like Redman and Talib Kweli.
“From the day I was born, I was just in the golden age of hip-hop,” Lil Dee told The Post in an exclusive interview, referring to those definitive car rides with his dad, Darren, who works in advertising. “As time went by, I picked up the pen myself, just to mess around and see if I could do it.”
Rutstein, an only child, is a proud Coney Island native who often walks the neighborhood’s iconic boardwalk for inspiration. He is well known along Mermaid Avenue, where as a young boy he rapped for anyone who would listen, and he still lives in his childhood apartment with his father and mother, Teresa, who works for the Ministry of Health. New York Education.
Lil Dee wrote his first rhymes at the age of nine – “I’m home to you, Jason Voorhees/ I’m picking you up/ You know the stories/ Always a winner, just like Joe Torre” was one of the first lyrics .
He later wowed his sixth-grade classmates at a holiday concert at Park Slope Collegiate, and video shows the pint-sized emcee oozing confidence despite a cast on his right foot. At 12, Lil Dee turned his part-time hobby into a mainstream habit, posting verses on YouTube and Instagram.
Today, he has nearly 100,000 Instagram followers, including Brooklyn’s Kweli and Buffalo rapper Benny The Butcher, who both spotted Lil Dee at a show at the Lyricist Lounge in Manhattan in 2019.
Earlier that year, as a freshman at Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, Lil Dee performed at Radio City Music Hall alongside Vanilla Ice — a “dream come true” — in February after meeting the 1990s hip-hop star years earlier online. .
“I got a video of, like, his best friend, and they were eating Chinese food,” Lil Dee recalled. “And Vanilla Ice was like, ‘Yo, what’s up, Danny? I love your music, you do your thing, the sky’s the limit, keep going.'”
At that same show, he met legends Slick Rick and Biz Markie.
“That was awesome, I love Biz,” Lil Dee said of Markie, who passed away in 2021. “I got to rap for him, he gave me all kinds of advice. It’s something that I will keep with me forever.
Another of Lil Dee’s hip-hop heroes, Ice-T, praised him last month on Instagram, bolstering the young rapper’s eclectic freestyle verse with several fire emojis.
“That means a lot coming from you, legend,” Lil Dee replied on Nov. 16. “I’ve admired you all my life.”
Ice-T applauded Lil Dee’s complex rhyme scheme filled with witty double meanings and eclectic pop culture references like retired NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski and Mike Wazowski, the green Cyclops of “Monsters, Inc.”
“It’s the mafia, Capone / It’s not Kevin Costner, not Pixar / If I use the ink / Then I’m a freak”, quips Lil Dee in a clip, posted on TikTok, which has already been viewed over 1.1 million times. “I take the mic/ No Wazowski/ You get robbed like Gronkowski/ This is my house/ It’s falling apart without me.”
Lil Dee is now on the hunt for the “right record deal” and is entering the books as a college freshman majoring in music production.
The independent rising star who will be ready when that industry leader inevitably comes calling.
“I would like to be mentioned as a New York legend one day – someone who carried the hip-hop culture of New York and Brooklyn,” Lil Dee told the Post.
“I’m here for longevity. I don’t want my 15 seconds of fame… I just want to be here forever.