No one could imagine that the comedy Dave, about an aspiring, neurotic white rapper named Lil Dicky, would become such a huge breakout hit. It’s based on comedian/rapper Dave Burd (aka Lil Dicky)’s experiences, as he tries to become the best rapper of all time, alongside his enthusiastic (and real-life) hype man, Davionte “GaTa” Ganter, who becomes an integral part of the crew. During one standout epsiode, GaTa admits to being bipolar. Here, he discusses the decision to talk about his condition, the response to that episode, and how he feels about this politicially pivotal time.
DEADLINE: Dave is a bona fide hit. When did you realize that people were watching?
GATA: Week by week, as every episode dropped, I could just feel the audience growing. I could see the fan engagement because my Instagram started going nuts. People were just really engaged, just giving a lot of positive feedback. But I knew people were really watching the show when I made it to the LA Times Calendar. They gave me a whole layout and everything; I framed it.
DEADLINE: Fans of Lil Dicky knew you already as his on-stage hype man. How did you start working together?
GATA: So, this is how it goes. I’ve been in the music industry for more than 10 years. And in the first half of my career, I was working with artists like Tyga, Fall Out Boy, Gym Class Heroes. I was on tour with those artists, traveling the world with them. Once that stopped, I kept my relationships strong and healthy.
So, one day, when I was down bad, I was broke, had no money. I was still dreaming and one of the managers that I used to work with, hit me up like, “Yo, I got this new artist that I want you to work with, his name is Lil Dicky.” When I first met Dicky, we met at a recording studio and I’m going to be honest, he really kind of didn’t like my aura. I was coming out of the rap world, [I’d] been around tough stages and worked for Lil Wayne. So, I was trying to hype myself up and come with an image. So, I came with a fake camera man, a fake personal assistant. [Laughs] I was trying to make my image look larger than life.
But for the most part, I really loved his music. He’s a very talented, highly skilled rapper. It just took a while for our relationship to develop. And then fast forward to today, man, we’re best friends, bro, because opposites attract. Me coming from South Central Los Angeles, him coming from the suburbs of Philadelphia. We work well together. That’s my best friend in real life. That’s what’s up.
DEADLINE: What’s the kind of work relationship that you guys have?
GATA: I work very well with him. As far as things like following my dreams and ambitions with my own music, he always teaches me patience, to take your time, don’t rush the craft. Really think about the things you want to say, about the future, about how you want to look to the people years from now. You know what I’m saying?
When I first met Dicky, I wasn’t thinking about the future, I’m thinking about, “We got to do and get this now.” Because where I come from, tomorrow isn’t promised.
So, he just gave me that comfortability and that safety net of, there is a future, you are going to be 80 years old one day. You know what I’m saying?
DEADLINE: And what do you teach Dicky?
GATA: I teach him things about just having confidence and believing in yourself when you wake up and get dressed in the morning. Feel good every day. Don’t be afraid to tell a girl she’s beautiful. Don’t be shy about certain things. I just teach him that attack mode. I go after the things I want. I’m just more in your face, Dicky’s more strategically smart about it. Me, I don’t care, I’ll just say whatever.
DEADLINE: Did you know that he was developing a show and that he wanted to have a character very similar to you?
GATA: He definitely told me that he was preparing to make a TV show based on him being a rapper and it was going to be realistic. And he told me that he was going to have a hype man based around my character. So, to keep it all the way G, I had to audition to be myself. [Laughs] Because Dicky is like the Phil Jackson, Bobby Knight, of his art. He’s really trying to put these things together, so it can be the best possible cast. He wanted to get people that were great at what they do. So, he gave me the shot. And I had to audition to play myself. And I just wound up getting the job. I’m so thankful for it too, man. It wasn’t easy.
DEADLINE: What was it like being around professional actors on set?
GATA: I’m not going to lie, the first couple of episodes I was very nervous, because it’s a new environment for me. I’m used to the rap world. I’m used to, the talent is here, go backstage, drink some champagne, shut up and wait till it’s time to go on the show. But this was really different. I had my own trailer. I had people running around with walkie talkies asking me, “GaTa, do you need anything? Food? You can go lay down over here until it’s time to shoot.” They really treated me like a star. So, I’m embracing it. [Laughs]
But honestly, Dave is my number one priority. I have to do good for Dave, period. I’m worried about his opinion at all times, like, “Hey bro, did I kill it?” But after the ball got rolling, Dicky got in my ear and said, “Bro, forget the cameras, forget all that, just be GaTa.” That’s what made me comfortable. So, I was nervous at first, but I think I’m good now.
DEADLINE: When did you hear about the “Hype Man” episode that focuses on you and your mental health?
GATA: Well, Dicky approached me. He said, “I want to make a well-rounded TV show and get emotional and touch people. Based off your life and your experiences, man, I feel like your story is the perfect story to do that.” At first, I had to back pedal. I’m like, “Hold on, you about to expose my mental… My state of mind. And it’s a stigma around this bro. People going to be judging me, man. I’m embarrassed about this. I wasn’t even comfortable, really at first, telling you about this. So, you about to put this out there.”
And then I had to think about it. I have the support system of [my manager] Michael Hertz, my mom, my sister, Dicky all telling me like, “You’re going to be inspiring people. You’re going to be touching people. There’s a million people in the world just like you.” So, with them reinforcing that, that’s what made me want to share the story. But I’m not going to lie, at first, I didn’t want to do it.
DEADLINE: How close is it to your life, especially when you explain your bipolar disorder?
GATA: Yeah, that was based on a real-life experience. Dicky takes his rap career very serious. Unlike other rappers, he has a rehearsal hall that he rents out for weeks at a time, so we can perform our songs and make sure we’re on point.
One day, I came to rehearsal, and I was a little bit lethargic, lazy, I wasn’t there, I wasn’t focusing, because I was so heavily… I don’t want to say it… I was on my medicine. My medicine still had affects from the next day and they saw that. So, I had no choice but to open up and tell my team the truth, because I’m here to do a job. I’m here to be a hype man, but right now I’m laid out on the couch, I’m about to pass out or whatever the case may be. So, I just had to open up to them, man. That was a real story. I really lived that moment.
DEADLINE: When it comes to reliving that on set, how hard was it for you to do that scene for the camera?
GATA: I did the take probably like twice. And every time I delivered it, I feel like I was even more emotional. Because you got to think about it. You got this kid from South Central LA, who grew up not knowing his real father or his biological mom. I was taken out of foster care, and you’re telling him that he’s about to be on TV with his best friend that he’s traveled the world with… So, I was really happy and sad at the same time, because I was digging into my future, and digging into my past. It was just me thinking about all the stuff I’ve been through, and the places that I’m going, man. That’s just a hundred percent it.
DEADLINE: What kind of response did you get to that episode?
GATA: Man, I feel like I touched so many Black people that look just like me. I’m getting emotional right now because, when the episode came out, I’m in my neighborhood on Crenshaw and 120th, where I grew up at. An older Black lady comes up to me, she’s crying, and she’s telling me like, “Yo, I was going to commit suicide. I watched [Dave] and your episode touched me.”
So just, every day I wake up, man, it just makes me feel good, bro, because I was embarrassed at first, bro, to take this medication. It made me feel so good, man, to share my story like that.
DEADLINE: I’m guessing more people are coming up to you to share their stories.
GATA: Yeah. I feel like the ghetto’s Dr. Phil. [Laughs] I just feel like, people just open up to me, and they just want to tell me their whole life, man, just because I put it all out there like that. And it makes me feel good, man. When I go to the ghetto man, when I go back to my old neighborhood, the kids, they look up to me, they say, “I love you, GaTa. You cool, bro. You make me want to be myself, bro.”
DEADLINE: One of the other things about the “Hype Man” episode is that we see you have a really great relationship with your mother. Is that also based on your personal experience?
GATA: My mom and my sister are my everything, man. They are actually my auntie and cousin. Like I said, I didn’t know my real mom and dad and I was in the foster care. So, my auntie came and got me. That’s my mom. I love her and I’ll do anything for her. They believed in me when I didn’t have a job and didn’t kick me out the house and be like, “Yo, you got to get your life together.” Instead they said, “Man, keep rapping. Keep doing what you want to do.” And that’s the reason why I just want to make it so bad, because I really want to give back to them.
DEADLINE: Is it true that of all the rappers out there, Da Brat was the MC that inspired you to be a rapper?
GATA: Yeah, man, Da Brat is the reason why I wanted to rap as a kid. Not because I saw Snoop Dog or the other ballers doing it. Because at the end of the day, when I saw Da Brat rapping, I’m like, “Hold on, this is a female and she’s better than the dudes.” She made me really want to do it even more. So, shout out to Da Brat, man. She’s a big influence on my life, for real.
DEADLINE: We are going through a very pivotal moment with the Black community. How is this political time for you?
GATA: I went to protest because it’s a mind-blowing thing for the world to wait this long to shed light on something that’s been happening for over 400 plus years. Historically, the system in America is just so f**ked up. So, it really makes me sad.
Me growing up, I was never raised to be racist. But coming from where I come from, how the cops harassed people of my color, it instilled a little bit of fear in me. I would be kind of scared to get pulled over, even if my license was legit.
I’ve been lucky, I’ve been around the world and I get to tap into so many different cultures. But at the same time, it really does hurt me as a Black man, to see our life not valued the way it should be. And it sucks because I’m on a path and I’m perceived as a successful Black man, so white people don’t see me as a threat no more. And that’s what kills me. “Oh, if I wasn’t on TV, or if I wasn’t next to Dicky, or if I wasn’t [featured] in the LA Times, you would be looking at me like a threat.”
DEADLINE: It’s early days, but has there been talk about the kind of storylines you’ll have in Dave Season 2?
GATA: Well, right now, everything is on hold. Especially with all this stuff that we’re going through right now, we’re really focused on the people and what’s going on out here. We always got time to be great, but we really need to save the world right now.
Honestly, we haven’t even really put pen to paper, but we’ve got a few great things we’re thinking about already. Me and Dave have been through so much over these seven years, we’re going through so much right now. We’re making content for the show just with the stuff that’s going on in the world. Just know that it’s going to come together and it’s just going to be dope, bro.