In the wake of his recent recognition by The Source magazine for Best Mixtape of 2014, I sat down with Dolapo Akinkugbe, otherwise known as DAP, to talk about his recent musical success in the wake of his 22nd birthday, getting recognized as an up-and-coming artist, and what it means to be an African in an “African-American art form.” DAP, a rapper and Nigerian native, is now a senior at Brown University but has found unique ways to dedicate himself to both his art and to his studies. He marks a turning point of new insight in hip hop and serves as a reminder that talent comes in all forms. In short, the game done changed.
Check out my interview with DAP below:
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where are you from and what do you identify with?
I’m Nigerian. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. My mother is from across Rivers’ state and my father is from Ondo. I went to boarding school in London from the ages of 11-18 and then I came to America after high school where I attended Berklee College of Music for a year before starting at Brown University.
Talk about your experience as an African rapper. Do you feel pressure as an African operating in what some would call an “African-American art form”?
Not at all. I’m not Afrocentric or anything but I do feel like it was all birthed from forms of music that came from Africa anyway! Rapping to me is like adding another rhythmic instrument to a song but with lyrics and melody and stuff like that. It’s all just the rhythms of a drum, and to me that all came from Africa. In terms of not being African-American, I think it’s just as important as it is for White rappers and Hispanics and anyone else to know the history of hip hop and know their place in it because it’s a very sensitive genre and it deserves proper research and care.
Let’s discuss the thought behind your 2014 mixtape Goodbye For Never. How did you approach this project and what was your thought process?
Goodbye For Never was a sequel to a mixtape I put out the year I left Berklee and came to Brown University. It was called Goodbye For Now and the goodbye was symbolic of me leaving the music which I loved. I was taking a break from the whole scene. Goodbye For Never speaks to the realization that I couldn’t escape music even if I tried. It follows me everywhere, it’s just in my DNA. My whole family is full of musicians and I made more music at Brown than I ever have.
The second meaning is me never saying goodbye properly to a girl that I thought I would never get over. I’m saying goodbye to the corruption in Nigeria. I’m saying goodbye to all of that.
How does it feel to be recognized by The Source magazine?
It feels amazing. I don’t know a whole lot about The Source but I know it’s a well respected magazine, so this is a big deal. Honestly though, my mentality has always been to do it all on my own. I know it’s not the best way but that energy fuels my drive in my opinion because the work I put into making this music is what got me here. My manager organizes it and I’m grateful but he found me because he found my music. I always want the music to be the source (no pun intended) of my recognition, so I try not to trip over stuff like that. For me it’s just validation that I’m doing something right and that’s all I need!
In general, do you feel like you get the love you deserve as an up-and-coming artist?
I could care less. Again it’s all about the music and the work put in. I didn’t get here by worrying about who was noticing me or people recognizing what I’m doing. I got here by keeping my head right in the music and making sure the product is second-to-none. I shouldn’t be able to come out and play and see the world until the music is indeed undeniable. That’s something that lasts forever I feel.
Any advice for up-and-coming artists trying to make it out here?
If you are really meant to do this and genuinely believe that nothing can stop you except for stopping... DON’T. STOP! Playing the piano for 17 years is my biggest blessing in life because it taught me the value of long-term hard work and how thousands of hours can turn into success. What will get you there more than networking, money or scheming is making undeniable music. “They” will always find you!
Focus on the music and keep your head in it always because that’s why you’re doing it in the first place.
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