It’s a Wednesday morning. Costa. In NW London. Donae’O (I challenge you NOT to sing his name! I can already guarantee some of you already did!) comes down the stairs, black and white coordinated outfit, dope sunglasses and a laid-back energy. We got lost in conversation about Top Boy and Power before getting down to business.
Chellz for PRDN: I’m here with Donae’O! So, let’s start by taking it back (for anyone that’s checking into your new stuff right now but…) you’ve been here for a while with choons like “Party Hard “, “Devil in a Blue Dress”, “African Warrior”, “Move to the Gyal Dem”…
Donae’O: Man said “Move to the Gyal Dem” ya’nah!
Yeah man! That was one of my favourites! “Move to the Gyal Dem” and “I’m Fly”. So, obviously you’ve been consistent over the years and well respected in the music scene from early and I just wanted to explore like, what was your or who were your musical inspirations when you first started? Just to get a bit of background.
Originally, it was like KRS, Biggie, people like that, and then that was like my first introduction to Hip-Hop… and then music wise, I say rapper wise was like Biggie, Tupac, Eminem, Jay-Z. Production wise, I was into Kanye. I was heavily into Neptunes, DJ Premier… I liked Dre. Yeah, those are all like my mains – Dre, Kanye, Neptunes and Timbaland.
So, say is that from like the musicality point of view? Or the lyricism?
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Just what I enjoyed. Cos you get older and you kind of realise everything is about perception and like, I couldn’t tell you that those guys were better than anyone else. I can only tell you that I enjoyed them the most.
Yeah… Do you feel like you incorporated that into your own sound?
A hundred million! You can’t NOT man because the feel – when I make music, I want my songs to make me feel like how those moments made me feel.
Aight cool! Cos from when I started listening to you personally, yeah… You was very dominant in the Funky House scene. That was you! You could NOT go to a club or an event and not get gassed when you heard “Donaaaae’O!”. It was literally – that was it! You knew that you were going to have a good time! Did you expect that type of impact that early on?
Or was you just like “I’m gonna see where this goes. I’m just gonna enjoy it” ?
I wasn’t even trying to see where it goes! I had a job at the time. I just wanted to… I wanted to do my job and just make a bit of money on the side. I wasn’t really interested in music at that point.
I’m sorry… WHAT?! This musical genius really just said that out loud?! I was NOT expecting that answer. At all! He is SO consistent, makes it look effortless, never fails to spice up a feature… and he was never fussed to blow?! I am confusion! And aren’t we glad he did blow?! Cos I am confident that most of you have a rave memory and attached to that memory – is a Donae’O soundtrack! Tell me different and I will call you a liar!
It’s funny how things happen! So, in August you gave us “Bonita” with Stylo G… slight reggaeton, type Carnival feel. Was that your idea / Stylo’s influence?
Nah it was more Jonas Blue. Like we were in the studio and came up with a record and I really liked it, so I jumped on it. And then my project manager was like “We should get Stylo on the record”.
Was it intentional that you released it at that time? With it being like the end of summer?
I don’t really think about when to release a record. I just release it and hope for the best! “Party Hard” was released in November. “Devil in a Blue Dress” was released in November. Those are cold months! And everyone will be like “Ah but you put out a party choon in the summer!”. But I released them in November.
“Party and Bullshit”. You released that on the 25th of October. And that is Sarkodie’s track featuring you and Idris. Obviously, I’m asking you this question as opposed to Sarkodie, but was it an intentional thing for him to include – cos you come from a Ghanaian background as well right? Was it his intention to have it fully influenced by like, you know, that type of cultural vibe?
Nah… Like, we all just happened to be Ghanaian! I don’t think he thought “Ah I’m gonna get 3 Ghanaians on a record!” Idris approached HIM about doing music. Done the record and then he holla’s me like, “Can you turn this into something?”. I mean, I did the hook, got my producer to reproduce it. And then it grew in something… but it was a coincidence that the 3 of us are Ghanaian.
What was it like working with those two in particular?
Banging! I mean, I’ve got hits with Sarkodie anyway like “Move to the Gyal Dem” or “Jump on the Challenge” remix with Patoranking… and Idris is just a gentleman.
So you’ve got “Back Down” coming out next week? (15th Nov). And I had a cheeky listen. Very different from “Bonita” / “Party and Bullshit”… and they’re coming from the new album, right? I don’t know what the new album is called yet. I don’t know if I should ask you. I don’t know if it’s a secret!
I don’t know what I’m calling it yet! What do you think of “Back Down” ?!
I’ll be honest, I listened to that on the bus coming and I was bubbling. I’m the type of person to bubble in public, I don’t care if people are watching! That for ME, gave me throwback vibes to, as I say, when I was in the club listening to the “Party Hard”, etc.
Great! Yeah, that’s what I wanted!
Yeah, cos I can hear the slight elements of hat funky feel! So when I listened to I was actually like “YES! THAT’S the ‘Donae’O’ I know, get what I’m saying?!
Good good! That’s why I did that record!
I’m glad to hear that!
Cos I’m going back to doing that! I’m gonna focus on that. Like, even at the studio, I’ve told all producers.. NOW when I come in the studio have records ready at 128 BPM! They don’t have to sound like typical – like “Back Down” is a funky house record but it’s not a typical funky house record. But it’s 128, right? Because that’s a funky house tempo. That’s all my songs on 128 / 124… but I just keep it at 128.
You was doing music for about 16 years before you signed to Island Records. Do you feel that was the best move for you?
At that time? Yeah. Yeah defo!
And now you’ve got your own…? “Moving Anti”.
Well, they gave they gave me the “Moving Anti” label WITH my own deal.
Has that caused any, not complications, but like, any challenges with you being an artist and then also overseeing business aspects or potential talent coming in and that kind of thing?
Nah.. not really, like, I’m quite comfortable where I’m at. I’m secure in my place in the world. So I’m comfortable to bring in others.
What was the reason for the name – “Moving Anti” ?
Cos I’m quite an anti-social person. I’m uncomfortable with social scenarios. If I like someone or I’m comfortable around people, I’ll express myself. So around certain environments – I’m an introvert, type thing. So, like, majority of the time, I feel comfortable with certain scenarios and I just keep to myself because to other people I know that’s seen as being anti. It’s not really anyone else’s fault. Sometimes it’s the other person’s fault. But most of the time, it’s me not liking the environment I’m in and not taking to you… you haven’t done anything wrong, I just naturally don’t take to much people.
Do you see “Moving Anti” being your potential future artists ‘safe place’?
Yeah! It comes out in my life like I’ve always moved anti. I’ve always moved in my own way. And when I’ve thought about it, I was like “Rah!”, as much as I moved anti that has saved me. Like, when there was no labels, I just worked it out myself. I didn’t listen to what everyone else had to say. I believed it was a certain way. And I did it a certain way and that’s what I want the label to be on. I want it to be a safe place for artists that wanna do it their way. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Yeah! What kind of talent is going to fall under the Moving Anti label?
Rappers ,singers, producers…
Any particular genres that you’re looking for? Is it literally just passion that your seeking?
I mean, like UK urban music. I want Moving Anti to be a go to place for best UK urban music in the world.
So you’ve got three tour dates coming up in December – The Deaf Institute in Manchester, 02 Academy 3 in Birmingham, Village Underground in London. What can we expect from…?
I can’t give too much away! If you like my music, you’ll have fun.
So are we’re going to be hearing stuff from the new album or just the singles you’ve got out now? And then the throwbacks?!
Hhmm, a bit of both… yeah yeah a bit of both.
I’m looking forward to the throwbacks! That’s slyly why I was asking! I want to hear some of the…
Yeah ya gonna get some REAL throwbacks!
Aight cool… special guests?
Uh uhm I think my audience, they like ‘Donae’O’. I’ve started to learn, again, with the Moving Anti thing… you put energy out into the world, the energy comes back and I found that my audience just want ‘Donae’O’. They don’t want anything else in between.
Nah not this time. I will probably eventually when I feel it’s right but right now I really like the club environment of a DJ and MC. And like, that’s rap as well, like that’s hip hop, you know what I mean? That’s what I want. I want to come in I want the kind of club warehouse environment for the concert. And I want just the DJ and the MC vibes and I want everyone to come and dance. I don’t want it to be like you staring at me. There’s probably going to be like two sections, like a hip hop and r&b section and then a funky section. I get with hip hop and r&b bit you guys want to like take pictures. That’s your thing? But when funky Donae’O comes on – GONE! I just want raving!
Any international shows coming up in 2020?
Just come from Amsterdam. Erm, a couple things have come in but nothing’s set in stone yet.
Alright, because we don’t know what the new the new album’s called yet – what’s the inspiration behind the new album though?
I was inspired by one thing and now I’m like, I feel like I need to start by going back to my roots. No, not even that! Because my roots are actually Grime. But what everyone resonates with me the most is Funky and I need to… I feel I need to go back to that core and work out what the balance is between Donae’O now and Donae’O then.
The formula was right! Donae’O back then in that funky era. It was fresh. It was new and unique. For me, you literally dominated that scene. And then you had a few hard hitters like Crazy Cousins and Black Coffee and that but.. THAT was YOU! Do you feel like that same formula can hit just as hard now? Because I dunno if it’s like a generational thing, an old skool…
Alright, boom! Not the SAME formula, but you could always take elements. Like I worked it out with “My Circle”. That was the first time I worked out how to mix the two worlds together. I mixed what I was in love with what I’m listening to now. So I’m listening to loadsa trap now. So I know the cadence. I know the sounds, I know the style, I know the mood. I also understand Funky, in and out. I understand that, I know the cadence, the mood, the style, the sounds. So I blended those two worlds together and came up with My Circle. That’s the medium. That’s the balance. My Circle was the first balance then I put out Polo, then I put out Black. And, like, now I’m starting to see like “okaaay!”. And every time I talk about funky it’s gas but I’ve noticed that, like, I’ve done a mix that’s coming out Friday and I thought to myself, like “what do people want from the Donae’O?” because I feel like everyone wants me to do funky house but there’s a Donae’O style of funky house that everyone likes. So when I compiled the mix, I just compiled a mix of songs that I think people would associate to a Donae’O style of music. And that is the type of music I want to make now.
In short DONAE’O IS BACK!! If you are an 80’s baby like me then Funky House would have connected with you the deepest when we were raving in our teens / early twenties. To hear Donae’O is infusing that essence back into future projects – gives me shivers! If you haven’t already, make sure to go pree “Party and Bullshit” – Sarkodie ft. Donae’O and Idris Elba (out now). Listen out for the compilation mix that Donae’O dropped 8th Nov and stay ready for “Back Down” which is out Friday 15th Nov! For all you long time supporters and old skool ravers – don’t forget to grab tickets to one of the 3 upcoming Donae’O tour dates in Manny, Brum and London. I’m already deyaaah! *
Interviewed / Written by Chellz |Photographed by Omar TKIF
Stream Donae’O’s latest below.