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FUSICOLOGY: Where do you get your inspiration?

DONN T: It is because of my particular upbringing – that I gained a deep appreciation of music from a very broad perspective. My dad, an artist on Chess Records  and my mom a tap dancer who studied with legends The Four Step brothers and Charles “Honey” Cole stacked the family music library with everything from soul to classical. That library remains my  first great inspiration. It exposed me to all music styles. It’s why it’s pretty easy for me to call my debut album Kaleidoscopic.

F: “Kaleidoscopic” means?

Kaleidoscopes, intrigue me, I have a few. This tube toy that with each rotation reflects light and color.  That idea fits me and fits my debut album. Donn T Kaleidoscopic has a  broad spectrum of styles that take you from 70’s 80’s post disco New York to underground clubs in Chicago and continental Europe. It deals with electronic stripped down  London-funk and tecky, minimal Berlin-soul.  It’s definitely a tecky album with retro mystique.

F: Where do you see the music industry going?

Oh boy,  (laughing)my inner geek revealed…I recently read a digital music study, put out last year, that said digital sales made up 18% of the American music market. But now, in 2009 that figure has jumped to 33%.  And the projection is – that by 2013 41% of music bought in the US, will be downloaded. I feel that the music industry, in general, is headed to a more virtual place, from the way that music gets made and distributed, to the way artists maneuver within it.

With my  debut album Donn T Kaleidoscopic, I had the benefit of being in the same  room with French DJ and Producer Simbad. We wrote, recorded and mixed the entire album in a 8 days. That’s unusual. We had the benefit of time. But, time is a premium. So many artists juggle multiple projects. Which means, artist and producer may be creating and recording the song apart from each other, on different coasts or from different  countries.

Within that idea, I definitely I  believe I represent that shift to virtual. I am based between LA and Philly.  More About Music (MAM), my management is based in the UK. My label Still  Music is based in Chicago, with distribution thru K7 (Germany). But, with Skype there is 24hr full-on access. No one’s ever in the same room well, hardly ever. There’s a world between us so, everything’s accomplished with an air of intentionality. We’re a well –  oiled machine. Label negotiations? Very futuristic. Paperwork from London, going back in time to Chitown during precise hours so, it could get re-sent forward in time to Germany before end of day. This went on for a month. Sounds like chaos. But, it was so synchronized. My team definitely has that Charlie’s Angels 3009 vibe…“Good Morning, Charlie….” – is  how I answer my Skype  (laughing).

F: Tell us about your local music scene

I’m a Philly girl who spends as much time in LA. My hometown is all about the hybrid right now…that mix of  genre ‘n style. Electro Alternative is on the rise for sure and the category  is real broad. What I love is, Philly’s fully supportin’ the artist that’s  bringin’ it in a new way – that may be hard to categorize but, that  has some nice musicality. Folks like Tu Phace, Elevator Flight, Spankrock,  transports like Santigold (Philly, Brooklyn based), and Willieisz.  (Philly/GA, LA based).

Eavesdrop Radio (WKDU  91.7) is a strong supporter of the new music trend. King Britt’s Back2Basics  Monday party at Silk City is as well. Lee Jones’ Sundae.  Party is killin’ it. For summer, it’s an outdoor event at The Piazza. Insane  location. Capacity is probably 1000 people. House music, hula hoopers,  rollerskaters, plus bring mama, y’ mama’s mama, y’ baby mama, the baby and the dog. The idea is so left…it completely works.

F: Prior to your debut album Donn T Kaleidoscopic, what other projects  have included your work?

I’ve been doing work behind the scenes, writing  songs that have gone to TV/Film for a few years, plus writing for other  artists. I co wrote song “I Am Music” (Common’s “Electric Circus”  MCA), I did voiceover’s for Chappelle’s Show (Comedy Central), I was  featured on Exit Music: Songs with Radio Head “Morning Bell”  with The Randy Watson Experience (BBE).  My song “Beauty” appears in  film “Cougar Club” (Open Sky Entertainment), song “Rainy Day” featured on  UPN’s “Kevin Hill” (Taye Diggs) drama series, “Love” is the single from the  BAADAAASSS” (Sony Pictures) BBE soundtrack, and in radio ads. Five songs  were included in the 2nd season of Showtime’s “Street Time”.

As a performer, I’ve supported or shared the stage with Alice Smith, John Legend, Alice Russell, Nelly Furtado, Jill  Scott, J Davey, Amy Winehouse, Zap Mama, Les Nubians, Floetry, Graph Nobel, SA- RA.

F: And you’re the sister of The Roots front man Ahmir “Questlove”  Thompson?

That would be a “yes ma’am.” (smiles)


Special thanks to Mark Potts for granting the interview

  1. BEST DRESSED: Manchildblack & Monstah Black followed by Wunmi (she makes her own clothes!),
  2. MOST GIGS ALL WEEK: DJ Spinna followed by Rich Medina & Daz-I-Kue
  3. BEST DJ SET: Rich Medina (@ The Joint Boat Party), Simbad (@ Raw Fusion), DJ Karizma (All Sets)
  4. BEST LIVE SHOW: Amp Fiddler & Eric Roberson (ROOTS NYC/BEHRINGER event) and all the acts at the Direct Drive TV Event: Leroy Burgess, Exchange Bureau, Jeremy Ellis aka Ayro with John Arnold, Julie Dexter, Angelique, Nadia Harris
  5. MOST TALKED ABOUT PERSONALITIES: Erykah Badu (Giant Step @ Delano), Common (Pool Party @ Shelbourne with Talib Kweli, Biz Markie & Jazzy Jeff) and Russell Simmons at Fashion Week visiting various WMC events
  6. NUMBER 1 SONG OF THE CONFERENCE: “Bounce!” by Ayro ( +DJ Spinna remix) – original mix found on our Fusicology 2008 Spring Sampler
  7. PHRASE OF THE CONFERENCE: “I am feeling myself!”
  8. BEST OLD SCHOOL PERFORMANCES: Leroy Burgess & Amp Fiddler
  9. BEST NEW SCHOOL PERFORMANCES: TK Wonder & Taylor McFerrin
  10. BEST PARTIES OF WMC 2008: James Brown Tribute, Libation, Bugz vs Jazzanova, Stones Throw, Miambient, Om Records, Roots NYC, 3º/ King Street 15 Year + Co-Op & Raw Fusion @ Club Jazid (our favorite venue) – Cop-Op & Raw Fusion really took the cake!

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