Donny G is one of the most diverse artist you will come across when it pertains to an underground MC. He not only raps; he also produces, plays multiple instruments, and is also the lead vocalist and instrumentation to Anguish (a death metal project he does with a frequent collaborator in producer, BK Bonez). His hip-hop catalog ranges from vicious and dark to upbeat, introspective and deep. His style could be described as a cross between intelligence and insanity, with a garnish of pain. This gives him a unique plot of land that he stands on, he's not afraid to try any type of style of song or project.
He hits you from a lot of different angles and it is all out of love for his art. He's put his creativity on display for the better part of two decades and he doesn't seem to be slowing down. With the collective of fellow artists, Emerg Da MC, Marz One, and producer BK Bonez; Donny G finishes off the lineup of Grave Wax Music. They constantly collaborate and release potent lyrical gems under a common love for Hip Hop.
TPT: You are from Canada, people don't understand how well versed in Hip Hop Canada is, the province of Ontario is so close to New York City with Toronto breathing on it's neck. How did this influence your embracing of the culture and what makes the Canadian representation of Hip Hop different from New York's?
D: Well, my introduction to Hip-Hop in general was Ice-T in around 1992. The "Rhyme Pays" tape, then "Power" and "OG". To be honest, I never really paid much attention to where the music was from, was more concerned if I liked it or not. A little while after the Ice-T tapes, a family member used to make me mad shitty 6th generation Stretch and Bobbito tapes so that was where I first heard a lot of stuff, then got stuff like the Chronic, Brotha Lynch Hung "24 deep" and "Season of the Siccness", Cage's "Agent Orange", Smut Peddlers, and so on. Back then it took a little longer for the music to get to Canada. I believe Hip-Hop and music in general is universal though, regardless of location.
TPT: What are your main themes that you feel you like to give justice to, lyrically? Why are they so important to you? Why do you feel others should hear it? How do you think you connect to your audience?
D: As far as lyrical themes, it really kind of depends on the song and the dynamics of the beat. It can range from very introspective and personal stuff to more dark and conceptual stuff, to more comedic stuff, to straight punchline stuff, to straight technical stuff. I just try to be diverse, but my music is also based on how I feel at the time. Lyrics are very important to me because I'm one of those guys who really listened to the lyrics my whole life. I feel others can generally relate to most of the things I talk about, at least I hope they can, but either way I don't write for anybody else, I write for myself first. I just try to connect by being a solid spitter and making some dope music that will pass the test of time, my music isn't for everyone but those who like it really like it, so I can't really ask for more than that.
TPT: You are an MC that is quite aggressive in the forming of your rhyme schemes. How do you form the patterns to your rhyme schemes? What inspires your patterns and what drives you to reach a higher level in your schemes?
D: I've always been very lyric oriented, memorizing albums since I was super young, always been very into the lyrical aspect of music. I've been writing in general for so many years at this point, it just always gets more and more technical and keeps advancing, at least when I want it to, but that's the goal with anything. What inspires me to reach a higher level is the constant drive to outdo myself, which is basically a mental illness in itself. I'm just really into words and language in general, I always really liked the super deep references that you might not understand until you hear it 400 times or whatever. I'm also big on breath control and not punching in 50 times while recording verses, not that there's anything wrong with that, just not something I am a fan of, I always like to make sure I can perform every verse live. I just try to do the best job I can. I'm basically trying to destroy the song, the other artists on the song and/or myself on the song. Also, a lot of people don't know I've been a death metal musician and vocalist for ages also, so I'm sure that helps with the aggressive delivery, although I'm not nearly as aggressive as I used to be in my younger days.
TPT: How do you go about writing your songs? Do you work with the producers on the overall idea and does it get changed a lot through to process (meaning the soundscape)? Do you give free reign to the producer to do with it what they will or do you like to have input as well?
D: I just write everyday. Basically at most times, minus the odd hiatus, which is neccessary occasionally. I probably write at least 2 or 3 verses a day, everyday. I'm not really the type of guy who can sit there and write to a beat on loop, I gotta be slightly distracted, for the most part anyway. I freestyle a lot also, sometimes write songs that way, basically whatever I'm feeling at the time. As far as working with producers, if what they give me is dope and up to my standards (which are really fairly strict) I just go in and do my thing. I like to have a little input here and there but I wouldn't tell another producer how to do their job, just little changes or whatever. If I like the beat and it's dope, and if I can vibe with the producer, I'll get to work, if not I probably won't.
TPT: Not only do you do projects with different producers, you are a producer yourself. What makes you produce a project over choosing to do one with a particular producer? What is different in your approach when doing a project with a producer over doing it all yourself? Do you prefer working with a producer over doing it all yourself?
D: I've been at production and beatmaking since around 1997 (about the same time I've been playing in bands), so I have produced most of my own music for a lot of years and still do a large portion of that, as well as production for many other artists in various genres including my wife, Dee. I don't really work with many other producers on my own music to be honest, other than BK BONEZ, Oz Tha Don, and a few others from time to time, unless it's a feature thing. Me and my good friend DJ DAVE ILLEAGLE do team production under the "ILLEAGLEGENIUS" moniker also, and that's always a good time. Go peep the album "Dieaneticz" we produced for RATEDRCNY, one of my favorites. I would say working with other producers can be slightly easier at times because it alleviates some of the pressure of doing every aspect 100% myself, but it can also be more difficult, just depends if the lightning is being captured properly. I like both working with producers and self-producing though, can't say which one I like more.
TPT: What was the hardest project you ever made and was there ever a point that you thought you might scrap it? What made you continue on with the project and were you satisfied with the end result? How did it change your approach towards making music? And did it change your mindset towards music in a positive way?
D: Oh, I've scrapped tons of stuff. Various full albums, group projects etc. Maybe not completely scrapped, something might get used for down the road or whatever, but at the time the feeling just wasn't right. I always try to remain positive with the music though, can't have a good idea until you have 10 bad ones sometimes. You might have 10 good ideas right away also, you never know how it's gonna work. Getting discouraged and saying you wasted your time or whatever isn't really productive, just move on and try again. Some of the stuff will always see the light of day at some point anyway! It's all part of the progression. Sometimes albums don't do well in the early stages of the release also, I try to not get discouraged by that. Music is timeless. Fuck views, sales matter.
TPT: Where do you see music taking you? What are the goals you are trying to reach through music? Is it all for the love or do you have other ambitions? What ambitions do you stay away from to keep you sane during the process of being an artist?
D: To be completely honest I never set out to do music for any type of fame or anything like that, I've achieved a lot of stuff in my time doing this and I'm forever grateful for that and forever grateful to all the people who support and buy stuff to keep me going. I always say, you gotta do it for the love first, then sink the money into it, believe in yourself and the other stuff happens on its own, or it doesn't. I'm proud of what I have achieved in music, I could have quit years ago and been happy. I'm not that dude that was after a big major deal or anything like that, never been interested in that path. As far as staying sane being an artist, I really just try to avoid listening to people too much and just stay focused on the craft and continually build. I've never been too concerned with what others are doing, never been into trends, just trying to do something that I like first and something that has some longevity, which I believe I have achieved. Never tried to make music that sounds like whoever is "in style" this month or whatever, that's not for me.
TPT: Out of Toronto you have Drake his whole movement that has brought a lot of success to the region and then you have Thrust who is an OG. How does Canada receive their OGs or do you feel they stay in the here and now as most fan bases do around the globe? What factor do you feel keeps many of the OGs from getting the respect they deserve? Who are some of the MCs you grew up with that you admire?
D: For sure, lots of OGs from Canada as far as MCs and producers. I'd say a lot of them do get the respect they deserve, I mean I hope they do at least. As far as Canadian Mcs i grew up rockin with, didn't really know of too many Canadian dudes back then but some like Meastro Fresh Wes, Mathematik, Organized Rhyme, Shad, etc. I like some newer mainstream stuff too, they got some catchy jams. As far as my favorite MCs in general though, I gotta say CAGE, Brotha Lynch Hung, X-Raided, Ice-T, Kurupt, Rbx, Mr. Eon, Sean Price, Masta Ace, Nems, Lady of Rage, Rapsody, Kool Keith, Tame One, Nas, BDK, Lord Infamous... ah too many others to name. As far as people I know and have worked with some of my favorites are Illtemper, L.E.O, Rated R CNY, Marz One, Emerg da MC, Isis, the Cult Music fam, Scott Bluntz, Zillah, Chuck Nasty, Kabal.... so many dope spitters.
TPT: You did a project with BK Bonez, Corridors of Rhyme that is an ode to one of the greatest games of all time, Chrono trigger. What made you do that project and how did you guys formulate the soundscape? There are so many samples from the game as well as themes...it is a lyrical masterpiece. How did you guys go about plucking your samples from that? Why didn't you produce it yourself? What made you choose BK Bonez? The artwork is sick, what brought about your selection of Grant Hatfield (Filth Effigy)? How did he come up with the concept of the art used and did you have anything to do with it?
D: Well BK Bonez and I are very good friends and have collaborated on many projects in a variety of genres over the years. We have our Death/Doom band CHASMDWELLER, just recently released our 9th project "Festering in Aural Trauma". We have definitely done a lot of music together. BK also helped me a lot with my solo blackened death metal project Anguish, of which I recently released the debut self-titled 7". We are basically always working on something, both fairly like-minded people. We are also both big fans of the game so we had been kicking around the Chrono project idea for a while. When the time came when we decided to get started, BK basically just started going heavy making beats as he usually does. Once we had a stash, we picked the ones that would be the best for the project then I just started writing, which was actually a lot easier than I thought, considering I have been playing the game basically at least once a year since 1995, haha. I think we completed the album start to finish in about a week. I appreciate you saying it's a lyrical masterpiece too, that really means a lot! I'm a big fan of BK's work and his whole approach to beatmaking so obviously I was really happy with the production work he did on this, I really think it's some of the best stuff going. Him and I have both a very similar and a very different approach, so it always ends up amounting to something fresh and interesting, sound-wise. As much as I love producing, I don't need to produce everything myself, sometimes it's great to just focus on the rhymes. As far as the art, Grant (Filtheffigy) is someone we have been working with on various projects for a while now. He has a really unique and dope style, and is also very easy to work with. He also happened to be a big fan of the game and the art style, so it worked out perfectly. BK and I came up with the concept based off the original box art, Grant ran with it and it turned out amazing. Big shout out to Grant for blessing us with so much amazing work, he's a true artist. Hit him up. I also have to give a big thanks to everyone who rocked with us on this project, it really means a lot to us! First hip-hop album in history that is 100% inspired by, sampled from and about the greatest game of all time!
TPT: What are you looking to accomplish in the future in your music? Are you pretty methodical in mapping out your journey or does it just come to you and you work on each step as they come?
D: I would just like to continue making dope music. Pushing my physicals, pushing merch, rocking sets, producing, working with dope people with similar mindsets. I like when labels fuck with me, if they have something to offer that I can't do myself, but thats never been mandatory or anything. Sometimes I'm methodical with aspects of the journey but other times I just wing it to some degree and see what happens. Always good to have some sort of plan though.
TPT: What is your next project coming out? What if anything about it makes you anxious to release it? What tells you went a project is done and what is your next step that you take after a project is done? How do you go about releasing it? And do you get any help or do you do that aspect mostly all on your own (and with the people that are a part of it) or is there other outside entities that you call upon to help you with your releases?
D: I currently have a bunch of stuff on the way. A new solo 12" "Malachi", a second collab album "Graphic Dezign 2" with my long-time homie and collaborator ILLTEMPER, an EP "State of Panic" with the late great Scott Bluntz (RIP) , my wife Dee's 2nd 12" "Fresh Air Fantasy" that I produced (some of my best and favorite production work ever) as well as various other projects that I have produced, features, etc. Me and BK BONEZ obviously gonna have something new soon also, as usual, as well as various collabs and features with the GRAVE WAX MUSIC fam. I'm sure I'm forgetting some other stuff too. I don't really get anxious to release anything, as long as its proper. I'm a stickler for quality, so once it gets to that level, it's good to go. As far as my solo stuff, I do most aspects of releasing it myself, other than some promo or whatever, but dope moves itself!
TPT: Is there anything that will make you stop doing music or do you feel like it will always be a part of you? What does the music creating part of your life do for you and why is it so important? What do your past experiences do for your music? And how do they influence it as well?
D: I don't think I could ever stop doing music, even if I didn't release anything I would still make music everyday. Can't really stop that. I was in a bad car accident around 2016 and got a pretty significant head injury so that kinda made me step back for a little while, but then I probably did some of my best work to date after that, which helped me to stay on the path. Music is my main outlet to vent, I basically do it so I can avoid going down the wrong road in life again, getting caught up with bullshit, cases, bad judgement, ya know? Without the music to vent the rage, I'm not sure what I would do, it really is one of the most important parts of my life. As far as my past experiences in life, I've been through a fair amount of bullshit just like most other people, so I'm sure it has helped influence a lot of the most personal aspects of the music. Gotta write what you've been through and stay honest with yourself first.
D: I'd like to thank you for doing the interview, I'd like to thank anybody who's ever bought or listened to Donny G product or anything else I have been involved with, I'd like to thank everybody who I've had the chance to work with, my amazing wife Dee, my family and friends, and I'd like to thank life, suds and smoke for providing me with the great inspiration. Stay peeled for new music. One.
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