So So Def's newest member talks upgrading from the browser to the big time
VIBE: You were a YouTube sensation before Jermaine Dupri looked you up. How did he find you?
Dondria: People were telling him, “Yo, look at this girl on YouTube. She’s singing other people’s songs. She has a following.” At first, I think his reaction was, “No. I don’t want to see a girl sing other people’s songs. What is that?” I think that all my subscribers are the reasons he eventually gave me a shot.
Whose idea was it for you to do your Duets mixtape?
J.D. came up with the idea to do a mixtape and remix some guy songs. So then we looked at the Billboard charts and picked out the ones people would want to hear most. I wrote all the material for the mixtape. I was a little vulnerable with that.
The image I got from you before the tape was very innocent. But it shows a bit more grown and intimate side of you. What reactions have you gotten from others?
One of the videos people still look at on YouTube was one where I was introducing myself as an artist at 19. So some of them haven’t put it together that I’m not 19 anymore. They’ve been saying, “You’re too young to be singing those lyrics. What happened? What are they turning you in to?” I’m 22. I’m not necessarily going to sing about these things on my album. Sometimes you just have to do what’s hot. It’s a mixtape.
What kind of music are we going to get when you drop your debut album, Dondria vs. Phatfffat next year?
A lot of R&B. Right now, I think a lot of the stuff that’s out is R&B/pop or R&B/hip-hop, but this going to be R&B. And a little bit of R&B/soul. My single, “You’re the One,” it’s very soulful.
So your goal is to go pop on your own terms?
Yeah. But you know I love all music. I’m not saying I’ll never do a pop song. But I do want to be recognized for what I know how do best.
How have you changed as an artist since you signed to So So Def in 2007?
I’ve just learned to push harder. The last few songs I’ve recorded are nothing like when I first got here. I’m pushing. I’m hitting higher notes. I’m holding them longer. I’m just challenging my voice now. And at the same time I’m conditioning it so that I came sing the same note next time.
What track off the album are you excited for people to hear?
I love a song that I just did called “Born.” It’s a love song basically about how, “I was born in your arms.” It’s really deep and has a crazy guitar in it. It’s going on the album. I’m making sure.
Being so young, where do you pull the inspiration for making songs about a topic as deep as love?
I’m currently in a relationship. We’re about to finish up three years. Well, not finish. We’ll be three years in April. [Laughs] He’s been here through all of this, since before I got signed. A lot of the stuff I’ve written has to do with him.
Have Johntá Austin and Bryan-Michael Cox played a big role with your album?
Johntá as written a few songs for me and he’s also on featured on the album. And Bryan produced my single with J.D.
Jermaine, Nelly, Johntá and some others made up a crew they call “the Ocean Boys.” Are you an Ocean girl?
[Laughs] I’m not an official member. I’m kind of like the Ocean’s little sister. I’m watching and learning. I’m going to be like them one day. ––Brad Wete
So So Def’s R&B princess, Dondria, drops Dondria vs. Phatfffat next spring.