How "Panda" Became the Country's No. 1 Song, Explained

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First of all, what is “Panda"?
“Panda” is a song by an 18-year-old rapper from Brooklyn named Desiigner, who is signed to Kanye's G.O.O.D Music label. It is also now the No. 1 song in the country, dethroning Rihanna and Drake’s infectious “Work,” which had been No. 1 for two solid months.

Wait, “Panda” is the No. 1 song in the U.S.? How?
Sheer repetition. “Panda” is for the most part you falling in love with a beat of hyperactivity and being able to make out one single word of it. That word? “Panda." Kind of like how Bauer’s “Harlem Shake” became a viral thing in 2013. “Panda” is everywhere. There are people dressed in Panda suits trying to set off explosives in Baltimore. There were Pandas dancing at Coachella. Shaq even used it as entrance music at WrestleMania. Somehow, that beat and that word have turned into instant adrenaline for people.

It’s also the first song from a New York rapper to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 since Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” in 2009. Yes, Desiigner is now forever tied to Jay Z in the history books.

Wait, I thought you hated “Panda”?
I did and still do. I even said that by this time next month, you would probably even forget it exists and that Desiigner looked like a facsimile Iman Shumpert.

Then why are you giving it props?
Because unlike most people, I can admit when certain things are not just inevitable, they’re also unavoidable. Up until a few years ago, I wasn’t a super-huge Beyoncé fan. Then Beyoncé in 2013 happened; which again, to me, was the equivalent of LeBron scoring 48 points against the Pistons in 2007. She had arrived for me. Beyoncé since 2013 has been an unavoidable meteor of pop-culture phenomena and magic for women everywhere. When Beyoncé does things, black girls are instantly happy. I suppose the same thing occurs when Taylor Swift creates a pop smash or Adele ropes women in universally when singing about being heartbroken.

I still will contend Desiigner looks like a facsimile Iman Shumpert and, like Travis $cott, isn’t a great rap performer in the traditional sense, but can work up a crowd pretty well.

That’s fair of you. So wait, I thought people disliked Desiigner because he sounds like Future.
He does. He even said his next single was going to be called “Pluto,” the same title of Future’s very first album.

Wait, really?
Yes. Desiigner is either aloof or in on the joke. He’s fully aware that Future is an idol of his, although Future did come out recently in concert and tell a group of non-excited fans that they were either Desiigner or Ciara fans.

Ouch, that’s gotta suck.
I mean, kinda of. If you’re Desiigner, Future knows of your existence and your actions, and that is kind of a win. If you’re Future, you’re now officially annoyed that some random kid from New York has ascended higher on the Billboard charts than you have so far in your career. That’s even considering a monster 18-month stretch when you released three straight No. 1 albums.

Plus, roping Desiigner in with your ex-fiancé with whom you have a ton of hurt to let go of is super-petty.

Shouldn’t the real winner be Menace, the producer of “Panda”?
Yes. Menace, a UK producer who initially put the beat on YouTube in 2014, eventually sold it to Desiigner for a measly $200. What he’s probably made back from the song, since it also appears on Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, is in the hundreds, if not thousands (hopefully). He created something that is perfect gym music, perfect EDM shout-rap and something that would tell an exec at G.O.O.D Music to make a Panda the official mascot of the first quarter of the year.


A photo posted by Desiigner (@lifeofdesiigner) on

So it's not because of the Kanye West co-sign?
Yes and no. Yes, you know of Desiigner more because of Kanye and because it's part of "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2." However, just because it's on Life of Pablo hasn't given "FSMH 2" the same amount of pull. That particular song peaked at No. 73 on the Billboard Hot 100. So yes, thanks to Kanye, people not immediately plugged into hip-hop culture know of Desiigner. But it's not explicitly because of Ye that "Panda" is so popular.

So why are people still mad about “Panda” existing? Or being No. 1? Aren’t they concerned with trying to decode “Becky With the Good Hair?”
People are mad because Desiigner sounds like a completely jacked version of Future and rode it to a No. 1 single. Plus, there’s a longstanding thing with regionality and New York rap that makes for a ton of jokes on social media. And they really shouldn’t be concerned with decoding “Becky With the Good Hair” because it’s the most minor of subplots in the figurative field of plots from Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

Also, “Becky” isn’t a racial slur. It’s more like a colloquial term for a bunch of different mayo-like things who cannot register what other things are. For example: Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” video has a “Becky” in it, a clueless white woman who doesn’t understand the power of a big butt. Let’s stick to the main topic at hand.

So what are you going to do about “Panda” now?
Not a thing. Its stay at the summit of the Hot 100 may be brief solely because it ascended right in the middle of a pop storm known as "Drake and Beyoncé Both Released Albums in the Same Week." Drake has got the closest shot so far with the global-tinged “One Dance” already sitting at No. 3. Plus, he’s still pissed off that Adele’s “Hello” denied him his first solo No. 1 with “Hotline Bling."

So is Desiigner officially a thing now?
Until he creates a second hit, the jury’s still out. Remember, we said the same thing about Fetty Wap when “Trap Queen” arrived, and then he managed to become the most played non-Future/non-Drake/non-J.Cole rapper of 2015. Which is to say this: Nobody can really predict what the hell may happen with Desiigner, but I ask only one thing: May he never throw up in the middle of his own set and continue performing.

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