Donald D is one of the original Hip Hop artists to emerge from the Bronx in the 1970’s. He performed with Jazzy Jay, Afrika Islam and met up with Kool Herc in those initial days of blockparties and breakbeats. He was one of the first to join Afrika Bambaataa’s fledgling Zulu Nation, and in 1988 went over to Los Angeles to became a part of Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate, touring the world and experiencing Hip Hop’s global takeover first hand. We met Donald D in the infamous squat de Vrankrijk in Amsterdam center, just before he was about to perform for the underground Rauwe School party, and it was a pleasure and honor to hear the personal stories from the early days of Hip Hop culture, and a clear vision of the evolution of Hip Hop, from this pioneer and long-lived artist.
What brings Donald D to Amsterdam, Europe?
Donald D: Just to share my Hip Hop knowledge with the Hip Hoppers in Amsterdam. My man DJ Reci-P got me out here and we just going to rock the house tonight!
Lets speak about what Hip Hop means to you ..
Donald D: Man it means everything to me! It means the history, all the blood sweat and tears of people like Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Flash and the Furious, Theodore, you know, all the early pioneers and legends that paved the way for all the artists that eat great today. Thats what Hip Hop is to me, just how the culture has been lost within the media, within the corporations of America and worldwide. How we as the foundations of Hip Hop don´t really have control over it no more and there is some brothers still trying to fight for our right to bring it back to where the true art form still exists. That´s Hip Hop to me.
The time span that you’ve seen, the evolution of Hip Hop culture ..
Donald D: I’ve seen it from the beginning as a young kid going to the parks and seeing Kool Herc, and Bamabaataa and the Soul Sonic and all the Zulu Nation in Bronx River Center. Seeing how it started to where it is today, it seems like Hip Hop just got lost in the art of the rap, the part of making records. Where today’s rap artists don´t have a clue and no knowledge on the history of their ancestors or who created it, how its created, where was it created. They have no clue, and there’s so much information out there for them to grasp it. It’s on the internet, you can go on YouTube and learn the history of Kool Herc and Zulu Nation, and it’s a shame that today’s artists are blinded by the money, the fame or whatever maybe that they don’t take time out to learn the history of what true Hip Hop is about.
How do you see the role of the Zulu Nation in these times?
Donald D: Zulu Nation is still strong, still worldwide, it hasn’t changed since day one. Bamabaataa’s whole thing was each one teach one to reach one.
He didn’t just make it a black thing or latino thing, he made it an every culture every race thing to where we have Zulu Nation chapters all over the planet. Like I said, I wished today’s generation of especially the rappers would come and be more involved. We have Zulu anniversaries every year in New York and you don’t ever see none of today’s artists coming to show their support of the music and culture that helped make them millionaires so I wish there was not such a big bridge between the oldskool (as they may say) with todays newskool.
Let’s get together ya’ll and bring back the true culture of Hip Hop and make it our own and stop doing all this nonsense and listening to what corporate America is telling you what Hip Hop is.
Word, on that point… with IBMCs it’s all about the global aspect of Hip Hop culture, when did you first realize the global impact. The fact that it wasn’t just New York (anymore) it wasn’t just the states, now there’s people rapping in every language, there’s graffiti everywhere. When did that first hit you?
Donald D: For us it was like a thing that was more in the inner city of the 5 boroughs of New York. My first knowledge of when it got global was when the movie Wildstyle came out and Afrika Islam came over to Europe with the Rock Steady Crew, Phase 2, Fab Five Freddy and Busy Bee. When he would come back to New York he would tell me stories about how people in England knew all about the culture, about what we were doing in New York City.
That right there showed me that Hip Hop was no longer in the five boroughs, it was worldwide. Then the first time of me witnessing it was when I came over here with the Rhyme Syndicate with Ice T and Hijack, Nat the Cat all of us guys, Henry G, Evil E, it blew my mind that our music was well known all over the world, I was amazed.
You already saw this international reach of Hip Hop. Nowadays a lot of people just know about the artists from their own country and US rappers, they don’t realize there are (Hip Hop) scenes everywhere and there is dope Hip Hop everywhere..
Donald D: I see it because I travel all throughout Europe and get to politick and even collaborate with a lot of rappers and MCs in these different countries. It’s amazing that something that was so innocent in the Bronx in 1973 has become this worldwide phenomena where you got the b-boys, graffiti, DJs and MCs. For me, I’m happy to see how Hip Hop has grown from our community to worldwide! It’s lovely!
A word on vinyl? How do you see the importance of vinyl nowadays? A lot of people these days bringing it back…
Donald D: That’s good! See corporate America, the major record companies were the ones to start shutting it down. For me as a youngster growing up in Hip Hop it was an honor to go on record hunts with Bamabaataa, Jazzy Jay, Afrika Islam and Red Alert back in the days. When we were on tours we had our instrumentals on vinyl then all of a sudden slowly but surely record labels start eliminating (vinyl), they start putting out music on DAT tapes so the DJ didn’t really have no say in the show. Everything was mechanical, you had to play it through tape and all he had to do was press the button and scratch over it. I looked at it to where it changed to CDJ and everything started changing so when Serato came out I was kinda happy that now the DJ can be a DJ again and still have the feel of the vinyl and still be able to rock the house! I meet many people all over the world and they be like ‘Yo when are you putting you music out on vinyl, we want VINYL!’
This generation of rappers or Hip Hoppers don’t really know the essence of what the vinyl means. When you can get an album, you read it, you look at the photo, you can read the credits: who produced the song, who wrote the song. For me, when you download an MP3, how do you really inhale the essence of what went in to the creation of that song. You don’t see that vision because it’s just a file. I’m glad that Hip Hop is bringing vinyl back, a lot of people are bringing vinyl back. I just did a project with my man MC B who lives in Germany and the project we did they printed on vinyl so it’s good, then there’s my boy Red Venom in Manchester. I did a song with Craig G on his album, and it’s going to be on vinyl. It’s good that a lot of people still want vinyl.
You seem to have a pretty strong opinion about corporate America.. How do you think you can reach the new kids, the new generation and get the message across, many people seem to be lost..
Donald D: lost in a freestyle.. Well for me, corporate America took something that they didn’t want no part off, when we were first doing rap songs and Hip Hop in the parks, to where they felt that they could make millions of it and they took control and for me it’s a sad situation when you get a rapper, to me the greatest of all time, Melle Mel, has to really get permission from some corporation or record company to make his music be heard, that’s a sad situation. We all gotta fight for our right to keep doing what we doing. It’s hard to digest when right now we have these kids in college who are going to be these music execs one day coming out of college telling us what is Hip Hop, dictating to us this is what Hip Hop is. Then they have every rapper programmed to do the same old song to rap the same way. In our era you could tell the difference from a Kool Moe Dee to a Rakim to the Treacherous Three to Bamabaataa to De La Soul to Tribe Called Quest. None of us sound the same, none of our music sounded the same so you had different divisions within the music. The record companies and corporate America were willing to take that chance and put out what we felt we wanted to do from the heart. Now it’s like rappers come straight up to make mainstream songs and I think they watered down the lyrics to where a rapper like Rakim would be too complicated for the audience today. Let’s bring back the real, for real!
Thats your message to the people ..
Donald D: Wake up! Let’s get it straight. They need to wake up! Also the rap audience needs to be loyal. It’s like we don’t have loyalty within the rap game no more. It could be within any of the 5 elements of Hip Hop, they just gotta stay loyal to artists and to the culture and not be so quick to change artists. We are artists and when you do a song.. like I did songs from 1983, I can’t be the same artist as a person in ’83 and write the same things in 2013. The audience has also be able to grow with the artist but in today’s music it seems like the major corporations don’t want an artist to grow. If you have a hit record out but you can’t duplicate that they going to kick you out the door and bring in the next artist to do that (duplicate the hit record). They don’t care about that this is something you love, it’s your art, something you’re doing from the heart.
They got to be able to let the artist grow. I think Hip Hop music is the only form of music where they treat us like that. Look at the pioneers and legends, to where the culture is basically invisible to most of this generation because the people that are in charge refuse to let it grow. You don’t see MTV promoting these artists, but in any other form of music, the rock legends live on forever, the jazz musicians live on forever.
When you ask a kid today ‘Yo, you know Melle Mel?’ They dont have a clue. ‘Do you know who created Hip Hop – Kool Herc?’ They be like, ‘who?’ I teach Hip Hop history throughout Europe in high schools, youth centers and universities and I teach them about the beginning of Hip Hop. Most of these kids when I say ‘whats oldskool to you?’ They get right back, ‘Eminem, 50 cent’. ‘How many of ya’ll know Kool Herc?’ They have no clue. I’m one of the few just trying to educate the youth on what’s the Hip Hop truth!
Thanks, keep teaching!
Donald D: You’re welcome. Trying to hold it down. Its a never ending struggle for me and a lot of my comrades from the oldskool and from the golden era.
By: Delta9 | IBMCs