U.K. rapper and singer Donae’O makes party music. This can be a loaded statement depending on who you ask.
In today’s era, someone can get down to a Bruno Mars track just as easily as they can a Migos song. Then one has to ask, how can a new jack swing sound still resonate just as much as a trap beat?
Donae’O doesn’t seem to waste time answering questions like this, or at least, not in front of his audience. With over 16 years in the game, he maneuvers through genres with the skill of a trained veteran. But don’t think his time has come and gone.
The U.K. rapper is just getting started with the release of his mixtape sixteen last year and performances across the globe. His mission is simple — to get the crowd moving.
Growing up in North West London, Donae’O has had a complex relationship with music over the years. His early memories include rappers like KRS-One and EPMD, but the thing that made him big was grime music.
A combination of rapid flows over heavy electronic beats, grime was originally made popular by U.K. rappers like Dizzee Rascal and Wiley in the early 2000s. Donae’O left a mark on the genre as well with his popular release “Bounce” in 2002.
However, with “Bounce,” Donae’O didn’t get too comfortable. Like the many waves of U.K. music, Donae’O evolved with the times.
When the first wave of grime died down, Donae’O eventually made his way to funky house, an electronic genre some might relate to the percussive sounds of west African afrobeat. Donae’O explained the kinship of the two genres. “Before funky house, afrobeat used a lot of natural sounds,” Donae’O said. “And when funky house blew up, the Africans, Nigeria and Ghana, they took the sound [of funky house] and made it better.” Funky house can be heard in the Donae’O tracks “Party Hard,” released in 2010, and “Mami No Like” from sixteen.
As noted earlier, Donae’O doesn’t tie himself down to one genre. Sixteen offers a kaleidoscope of sounds you can dance to, depending on your mood. “I make club music,” Donae’O said. “If it doesn’t make you want to dance, then it’s really irrelevant.”
This is evident in tracks like “My Team,” which has a laid back groove, but has lines you can shout out while flexing in the club. Some might closely align it to trap music.
According to Donae’O, folks who helped bring trap to the mainstream, such as Rick Ross and Waka Flocka, made waves in the U.K. just as much as they did in the U.S. “Giggs has got tunes with Waka Flocka,” Donae’O said, referring to a rapper who has major influences in the U.K. “And so does J Spades,” he continued, adding another U.K. spitter in.
Despite Donae’O’s allegiance to club culture, that doesn’t mean he’s closed off to non-party music completely. When listing U.S. artists he’d like to work with, slower R&B acts like SZA and Kehlani came up. Even in sixteen, you can hear Donae’O soften the mood with tunes like “Alone” and “No Love.”
But in the end, Donae’O is a partier at heart. “There’s so many different variants with club culture,” he said. “I have to go out, rave, and I have to live my life and then whatever I’m enjoying my life to, that then dictates what I create.”
With his fourth studio album on the way, it seems like Donae’O isn’t turning down anytime soon. You can check out sixteen on all major streaming platforms now.