Photo: Josefina Santos

The LEVEL Man at 40

Desus Nice Proved You Don’t Have to Sellout to Sell Out

Daniel Baker developed his gifts. Desus Nice gave them to the world. Now it’s time to expand.

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Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting LEVELMAN.com.

When your moniker is Desus Nice, you can’t afford to be mediocre. You’ve got to be quicker, wittier, more aware of and conversant with the surrounding world. You’ve got to be able to distill information, to disseminate your born knowledge to those not as learned or perceptive. You have to speak the language of your audience while raising their bar. A high-wattage smile doesn’t hurt either.

These are the attributes Daniel “Desus Nice” Baker had to accrue in order to make a living being himself. Now, three months away from entering his forties, the Bronx ambassador stands today as one of the most important Black voices of our culture.

Daniel was always supposed to be Desus Nice. He was bred to have a valued voice; to be an intellectual and cultural analyst. Critical thinking was ingrained in him. As was the hustle: His Jamaican parents came to America, like most immigrants, to squeeze more out of life for themselves and their children. The lion’s share of who Desus is today may be accredited to his mother, a librarian who nurtured an environment that prioritized study and discovery. Desus’s father was a principled man and landlord — quite possibly where his son inherited his blue collar work ethic, though that comes in a bit later. The point is, mind of young Desus bloomed so vibrantly that he became the go-to when friends or family needed their computer fixed. It’s actually where his professional name derives. During the dawn of the digital age, D’s cousin would often call young Daniel “Desus” because he was so nice at repairing desktops.

Despite his early digital wizardry, Desus let the right side of his brain dictate his professional aspirations. He started out a religion major in college before switching to computer science, but was teaching himself faster than his teachers, so ultimately landed on exactly what you’d expect for the child of a librarian: English. (Last year’s God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life

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Bonsu Thompson
LEVEL
Writer for

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.