For Atlanta emcee Donnis, it took making a trip with the military to Tokyo, Japan to realize his dreams. Now back in the states, Donnis has established himself as a budding artist thanks in particular to his acclaimed mixtape Diary Of An ATL Brave.
DXnext got the chance to talk to Donnis about his latest 10.Deep-sponsored mixtape, his work with Florida-based producers J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, as well as his debut album Basic Training. Make no mistake; this is an underdog you definitely don’t want to bet against.
Influences: OutKast, Goodie Mob, Kanye West, John Mayer.
The Tokyo Experience: “Tokyo really opened my eyes to a whole new way of doing things than when I was living in Atlanta. There was a totally new music scene, and a totally different way of life. I was there when street wear really started popping off, like Bape. Tokyo showed me how the world views Hip Hop and views America. I love Tokyo; that’s my second home.”
10.Deep X Donnis: “After [Kid] Cudi’s project [A Kid Named Cudi] was a smash and Wale’s [A Mixtape About Nothing ] was a smash, for me I had to make my project feel like an album; it had to make a splash and make people be like, ‘Wow!’ So I got on the phone, I went to the streets and I made all the necessary connections to make Diary Of An ATL Brave a success.”
Doing Justice With J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League: “They have their ears to the streets and they’re a super-talented group. Meeting them kind of brought everything back to life for me 'cause I was searching and searching for beats, and I was able to get five from them. Dealing with J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, it was like, this is where I wanted to go with the CD, this is the heartbeat of Diary Of An ATL Brave, and everything else would help to function it. Those songs were core songs for me that really stood out on the CD; I got the chance to go in and really tell who I am and what I’m about.”
On His Single “Gone”: “It was supposed to come out earlier but we pushed it back. We’re looking to officially release it [with Fools Gold Records] at the top of the year, then go ahead and knock the music video out. We figured it best worked out this way cause the music industry tends to shut down at the end of the year.”
“The fans really chose ‘Gone’ as a single. Everywhere I turned people were like, ‘Yo, I love the mixtape but that song right there is my favorite,’ and after that it just kind of stuck. I feel like it’s a good street introduction. It’s a down south song that has a bounce, and it’s real smooth as well.”
On His Debut Album Basic Training: “This is the introduction for people to learn who I am, so I felt like, let me go into my past and give you the whole story. With the mixtape they didn’t get the whole story, only a taste but not too much. With Basic Training it’s time to really start my story. I’m working with a few of the same producers from before. Needlz is definitely going to be on there, as well as DJ Khalil.”
“For me, being in the military, you come in and they sit you down and say, ‘This is everything you know, this is everything you’ve seen. But all that shit don’t matter. This is your new life, and were gonna change everything, now follow me.’ That’s what I’m about to do for my listeners. You know about the south right now, you know about my single “Gone” and that’s cool, but I’m gonna change up everything you expect from the south.”
The Underdog Effect: “I’ve been doing this just as long as my counterparts, just as long as a Cudi or a Drake. I’ve known all these guys, including The Cool Kids, since before their deals. It felt like everyone was getting a deal before me. I was working just as hard and just as long within the same circles, so I didn’t understand it. I constantly felt like an underdog.”
Don’t Underestimate The ATL Brave: “I’m bringing a new sound for my city, the south and just Hip Hop in general. I’m not following the same formula on the radio. People are already expecting a lot; they expect you to do a song with so-and-so because so-and-so is hot, and I’m sick of that. I’m not gonna get on a song with T-Pain because T-Pain is hot. I’ll stick to my guns and bring a bigger sound to music, and I’ll go anywhere or try anything to be inspired.”