||Last Updated: May 30th, 2008 - 11:49:13
When Donnie came on the scene back in 2003 with The Colored Section, many were tiring of the senseless neo-soul vs. r&b discussions. Following the old Duke Ellington adage that there are only two kinds of music—good or bad—The Colored Section was simply good music.
Not lost within all the good vibes was the fact that Donnie was very comfortable thinking out loud as he did on tracks like “Big Black Buck” (musical accompaniment perhaps to Bill Rhoden’s $40 Million Slaves) or the brilliant “Beautiful Me” where he stridently asserts “I’m not a nigger, I’m a Negro/When I become a nigger, I’ll let you know”. Donnie’s outspokenness about the world and the industry were clearly on display when I sat down with him by phone late last year during the recording of his latest recording The Daily News, which is being released June 19 by Soul Thought Entertainment.
MAN: How do you feel about the new release?
Donnie: I love it, I just can’t wait ‘till it comes out. I’m ready for it to drop. I’m ready to tour—all that kind of stuff.
MAN: For this project, producer Steve Harvey connected you with Craig Brewer at Soul Thought. What’s your label situation like this time?
Donnie: Some things are better about it. They haven’t had the chance to promote it, so I can’t say that it’s better in that sense. But I know, as far as doing what I want musically, it’s better. .
MAN: What are some of the differences between The Daily News and The Colored Section?
Donnie: The Daily News sounds more like today’s music. One thing I did not like [about] the last album, it was too 70’s sounding. I told them, I am an artist of today. And though my song writing is classic, I want it to sound like today. I want it to sound more hip. It was too warm and 70’s sounding.
MAN: With the release of The Colored Section, many wanted to include you among the cadre of Neo-Soul Arists. What’s you thought about that label?
Donnie: Just a name. People think that you get a Wurlitzer and a Rhodes, that you got neo-Soul. I like music. Period. .
MAN: Black Radio never really warmed to The Colored Section. What’s your feeling about the state of commercial radio?
Donnie: Sucks. I’ve never been a follower. I really don’t care. There are other ways to get exposure. And the regular way that everybody else is used to going, I’m just not into that at all. Radio? It sucks. What [radio] calls music is nothing but product. All songs sound the same. Outkast. Goodie Mob, people like that, they don’t all sound the same. They’re artists. They not just guys who used to sell drugs that want to get out of drugs so they start rapping. But, on the other hand, I’m glad they’re not still selling drugs. People complain about their music, but they stopped selling drugs to do music.
MAN: How would you describe your musical sensibilities?
Donnie: I went to a school of performing arts for a year-and-a-half. From there, I learned some music theory. I grew up in church. I grew up very religious. Very Pentecostal, very eccentric the religion I was in, which was a mixture of Judaism and Pentecostalism. Hebrew Pentecostal. That where I got it and of course, just looking at the world. We all live in this world and if you look at the news, all of us got one thing in common; We live in a f---ed up planet. Nobody really wants to talk about [the world]. Nobody wants to say that the world we live in is f---ed up. Everybody wants to deny. .
MAN: What are you suggesting with the title The Daily News?
Donnie: I just wanted to put music to our everyday culture, especially as Americans, because nobody’s news is like ours. America is bad. I see somebody die and get murdered, beaten, every single day. And that s--t don’t make sense.
MAN: Talk a little bit about your singing style?
Donnie: I come from gospel—where male singers [draw on emotions] on the regular. In gospel, male singers don’t sing like stereotypical males. I believe men are taught how to be men, instead of naturally being men. It’s very fake. I come from Rance Allen, James Moore, John P. Kee, Daryl Coley—all of these men in gospel sing and draw emotions and make [folk] move in the audience.
MAN: Who are some of your inspirations and influences?
Donnie: If you take Daryl Coley, Marvin Winans, Fred Hammond—of Commissioned, Stevie Wonder and Donnie Hathaway and John P. Kee, you’ll get Donnie. And of course with a tinge of Aretha Franklin and Mahalia, just because I love their singing.
MAN: What are your expectations for The Daily News?
Donnie: I really want it to bring me money. I want to do a lot of things artistically and I really, honestly don’t feel like being under other people’s power. I feel like working with people but I hope it brings people some type of joy and it makes people think about what they are doing every single day, especially Americans.
Mark Anthony Neal is a professor of African-American Studies at Duke University and the author of four books including the recent New Black Man. He is currently completing the TNI Mixtape which will be published next year by New York University Press.
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