By: Harrison Giza
Radio hip-hop is popped-out shit. Besides a dose of Kendrick and maybe a few Tribe tribute hours, you don’t get to hear any of the great rap artists that bend genres. DONCHRISTIAN is as anti-radio as it gets and that’s why he’s good. With dark hooks and creeping shutters of electric shimmer, the guy has already established that he is an educated-backpacker with an aesthetic more organic than your second-rate conventional hip-hop. He’s a pastor, priest, clerk, as well as bass-in-your-trunk hero.
From Germantown, Pennsylvania, DONCHRISTIAN sounds like DONCHRISTIAN. That’s it. Each song he makes, with every listen I give, has this Lynchian quality of off-kiltered originality. There is no DOOM, NAS, or BIGGIE watermarks on his canvas… and while I mention the canvas, I should also mention he paints as well as he writes.
From his “Paper Dolls” collection
After talking earlier this week, I a good feeling from him off of his feedback. He may speak softly and carry a big stick, but he doesn’t use it to bash your head in with YEEZUS-level smugness or Young Money ca$h. He makes music that is void of celebrity inflection, but with an image of indifference that goes against super stardom. Don’t get me wrong, DONCHRISTIAN is completely glamorous, but I mean, COME ON, the guy reads post-atomic Japanese literature. Do you think Jay-Z has even heard of Tamika Hara?
Even my ears originally didn’t know how to react to his song “Clerk” because his sound is such a deviation from mainstream music. Once I found “My Crew,” I understood enough … and fell in love with each and every word, beat, and Depeche Mode reference.
HG: Who are your influences? Who made you want to make music?
D: My father, my brother, my uncle, The Isley Brothers, Andre, Aaliyah, Cam’ron, Mos Def
☂HG: Tell me what the “early box” is all about.
D: Early Box was in response to some Post-Atomic Japanese literature I was reading for school – the works of Eiko & Koma, Tamiki Hara, and Kyoko Hayashi specifically. It had to do with the passing of time and people – Making an attempt to hold on to those who die before us – to literally wear them around your neck. It is a crematory box that I crafted for my parents, who both are still here with me today…don’t mean it to be morbid (laughs) but rather, a gentle reminder of our mortality.
HG: Where do you see hip-hop going in the future?
D: As I see it, “hip hop” is pop these days. What I consider to be true hip hop is not what’s always being on the radios…not to say I don’t fuck with a bunch of it, but a lot of if functions to me more as pop catchy dance tunes, if not blatant advertisements and propaganda. I see hip hop evolving with acts like Rat King, Lei1f, Sad Boys, JODY, Princess Nokia, Death Grips, Arca…that’s the wave of hip hop I dig. It’s exciting and its challenging, and it’s smart and sexy music.
HG: How long have you been painting and creating art? How did you start painting?
D: Been painting since high school – Quaker boarding school. My art teacher Pam Grumbach was wild talented and supportive and in College my professor Tula Telfair pushed me even further. I majored in Studio Art with a concentration in painting.
HG: Describe your perfect breakfast.
D: IHOP with my godson.
☂HG: When you’re out driving alone, what is the one song you wish would come on the radio?
D: Animal Collective – Fireworks
HG: Tell me about skipping class for MTV JAMZ. Do you remember any particular songs from your ditching days?
D: (Laughs) I had to go to vacation bible school in the summer sometime, but I remember just hanging out in the basement watching BET and MTV, The Box, what have you…definitely remember being too into Busta and Janet’s “What’s it Gonna Be?” vid and Nas’ “Oochie Wally“. My mom got rid of our cable cause i was so obsessed with music videos.
HG: What does the future hold for DONCHRISTIAN? Where do you want to be five years from now?
D: I will be making art and performing songs wherever the fuck they’ll have me. I’m going anywhere and everywhere.
HG: Where did the “Clerk” video come from? Was it all Sam or did you have an idea of what you wanted?
D: Sam is my close friend. I hope I will always work with him in some capacity with him because he is as brilliant as he is a good friend. I sent him the music, had an idea for a lavish dinner sequence, kinda derivative of that scene in Beetlejuice. From there we fleshed it out over long chill sessions and emails and it became what it was – almost a latter half to the My Crew vid. I love it because my Dad and all of my friends are in it and because we styled and art directed the shit outta that piece. I bought that Marc Jacobs and returned it the next day.
HG: How do you write? Tell me about your brainstorming process.
D: I’ll usually start with a rap while I’m on the train, on my phone. Then I’ll hear harmonies, and flourishes in my head, and it becomes this layered thing that I have to get home to record for it to all come out. A lot of it is on the spot. I’ll discard and add verses as it feels right.
HG: To you, what makes Renzo Piano a “romantic album?”
D: I think because all of the words were coming from a very romantic and melancholic place at the time. Hopeful, but melancholic nonetheless.
HG:What were you like as a kid? What experiences from your past stay relevant to you?
D: I was smiley and friendly and “too talkative” as my teachers would say. Sometimes a troll in class. I think those are my fondest memories, trolling with my friends – inside, outside, in class, meeting for worship, church, etc. (laughs)
☂HG: And last… WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE AND WHY?
D: La Dolce Vita – it’s glamour, it’s surrealism, it’s beauty and sadness
PLEASE CHECK HIM OUT