Brooklyn MC Dyme-A-Duzin is making his mark on the scene with a dope new mixtape, A Portrait of Donnovan. With this project, Dyme delivers a time-appropriate piece of work that gives us an idea of where this new era hip-hop is going—and things are looking pretty bright.
VIBE got a chance to drop in on the 20-year-old rapper’s busy schedule to discuss the sound of A Portrait of Donnovan, his musical influences growing up, some of his favorite R&B records to zone out to, and the deeper connection between truth, soul, and music. Read on for a look at the “new Brooklyn.”
VIBE: What’s the theme that you were going for with A Portrait of Donnovan?
Dyme-A-Duzin: When creating A Portrait of Donnovan, I actually had the painting created before the music. I wanted to paint a musical portrait after the actual painting so the painting itself, the front it, represented the front that everybody has—from the exterior to the perception of themselves. I just wanted to go deeper. The back cover is actually a stripped down version of that with the paint stripping off. I just wanted to make everyone aware of Dyme-A-Duzin while also giving off this idea that everybody has a front. [People] want everyone else to see them a certain way, but everybody has a inside.
What is the biggest difference this time around as a solo artist compared to being part of Phony Ppl?
I been with [Phony Ppl] for years now, almost five years. We’ve really been sharing musical experiences, as far as performing with each other, doing tours and doing music with each other. There’s really no big difference because we work as solo artists. We have producers in the band, so I work with them on hip-hop stuff. In the same breath, I also work with them on the band stuff. There’s really no difference. We just keep it cohesive and let things flow.
How would you describe your overall sound & style?
If I had to explain it, I would say jazzy and very soulful. I like soulful music in general, and I want something to make me feel a certain way when I listen to it. I try to implement that into my music. Yeah, I’d say soulful, jazzy, fun.
Speaking of soul, what are your top 5 R&B Soul albums?
Confessions by Usher [is a] dope album. [That] spoke a lot of truth & was definitely well-written. His melodies were sick. Thriller by Michael Jackson—hits on top of hits on top of hits. [Production-wise], Quincy Jones is amazing. We can’t keep going with R&B [Laughs]. I gotta throw some hip-hop in there. Get Rich or Die Trying by 50 Cent was actually the first hip-hop album that I ever purchased. That introduced me to rap. As a younger “youngin'” [Laughs], I was never allowed to listen to rap because it introduced me to another kind of soul. The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem is just straight lyrics. His lyrical ability is still not topped in my eyes. He was real funny [on that album]. That [comedic approach] really inspired me. Last but not least, Back To Black by Amy Winehouse. The truth in her lyrics is like—I heard her say she has truths in her music that she would never say in a conversation or out loud, but in her music she felt safe to say that. The common factor in all those albums is truth. That goes back to soul.
How did your deal with Warner Bros. come about?
I was in the studio and Dante Ross stopped by. He’s my A&R at Warner. He stopped by with Action Bronson, actually. Me and Plain Pat had finished our first tape—which came out in 2011 called 20 = X—and we played them the first track off that. Action was feeling it, Dante was feeling it, and a few weeks after that we spoke about a deal. He showed a lot of interest. At the time it was a lot of other labels showing a lot of interest, and at the time I felt that Warner was the best place for me. I made that happen with Dante, and things have been going uphill for me since.
What was the biggest thing you discovered about yourself, artistically, while recording A Portrait of Donnovan?
[I learned] I’m not afraid to take chances in hip-hop. I mean, i knew that because I don’t see why I should be afraid to do anything. Artistically, at the end I really looked at the project and said, ‘Damn, it’s really touching a lot of areas!’ In any song I didn’t feel like I was boxed or had any limitations. I discovered that sky is the limit when it comes to creativity. People are willing to accept it.
Who did you listen to growing up?
I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson was probably like my first musical influence. I remember trying to make a song when i was about 5 years old, and I couldn’t escape the “Billie Jean” drums. Definitely Eminem as far as rapping, as well as Kanye West & Busta Rhymes. I like a lot of Corinne Bailey Rae and Amy Winehouse. They all definitely have big influence on the music I make.
Seeing that you have such a connection to hip-hop and R&B, which genre had the most influence on this album?
Hip-hop of course, but R&B definitely was the most important genre as far as coming up strictly because of that soul element. You gotta make something that people can feel.
If someone didn’t you were from Brooklyn, what would give it away?
If you’ve been to Brooklyn.. I hear a lot of ppl say that we have accents – we got that Brooklyn accent. So certain words I use in my music. If you’re familiar with anyone from Brooklyn you can probably pick up that. I am a Brooklyn dude… you know… if you saw me live probably my mannerisms.
What albums are you looking forward to hearing this year?
I’m a big fan of TDE, especially Schoolboy Q, so I’m looking forward to that. I heard Eminem is coming out with a new project, so I’m definitely looking for that too. I wanna hear Eminem and Kendrick [Lamar] on a song. That would be stupid. If Em has Kendrick on his project, I wanna hear that. Nah, I need to hear that!
What’s next for Dyme-A-Duzin?
The album. I’m continuously working on the album. I’m touring. The mixtape is still very fresh, so it’s still receiving reviews on that. I’ve got music videos to drop. At the same time, we got Phony Ppl working and still making things happen with that. We just got off tour with Erykah Badu. We did a tour with her and The Roots that just ended before the year started. There’s just so much more—much, much more.