Students who do cool things: Dolapo Akinkugbe ’16 (DAP)

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DAP–that’s pronounced ‘D-A-P’–is a junior at Brown; he’s also a student who does cool things. A producer first and a rapper second, DAP has established himself as a force to be reckoned with, and is rising in his renown on campus and off. After studying for two semesters at the Berklee College of Music during his gap year, Dolapo came to Brown. An enthusiastic piano player since he was a child, DAP has a natural predilection for bringing different sounds into his production style. He matches this with his flexible lyrical delivery (“flow”) and many ideas about the world and his place in it.

A couple of Fridays back, DAP rocked a crowd at Aurora in downtown Providence. The following Monday he dropped his fourth mixtape, GoodBye For Never, which demonstrates his versatility as a musician (he casually produced every track on the album, by the way!) and great ability as a lyricist and thinker.

This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with DAP and asking a few questions about his music and plans for the future.

Who are your main influences?

Kanye West immediately comes to mind, simply because he’s a complete artist. I also think he’s the best performer of all time, alongside Michael Jackson, and maybe James Brown, Beyonce. My favorite songwriter is Drake, the best rapper and lyricist in my mind is Kendrick Lamar. And I’d say Ab-Soul is the most intelligent rapper. I can tell that he’s both book smart and street smart.

And then I’m influenced by anything immediately around me, like A$AP and Gucci Mane, and I’ve taken influence from The Beatles and Motown, Stevie Wonder. For example, I’m going to a Stevie Wonder concert in a couple of weeks, but in a few days I’m going to Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Bibby and Jeezy concert. And I’m also going to YG and A$AP Ferg. So anywhere I get inspiration from I take it.

What are you studying at Brown?

Classics and I’m hoping to double concentrate with Music.

Would you like your style to evolve and if so, how?

One thing I make sure I never do is get boxed in — but that’s immediately in my nature simply because I’ve been playing the piano since I was 4, the classical piano. And now I’m making hip-hop beats and producing, that kind of stuff. So I’m already not fitting into any box. But in terms of my development recently I’ve been starting to listen to a lot of house, a lot of lounge house music. I’m always trying to pull other genres into the hip hop category; I’m interested in these sub-genres.

I’m also listening to a lot more James Blake and Bon Iver. I’ve come through Nigerian highlife and afro-music, and being in London for 8 years, house music, lounge house, UK garage, grime. So I’m looking forward to more songwriting basically, because I never wanted to be a rapper in the first place. I want my style to develop sonically because I’m a musician first. And I want the sounds to become very organic and different: ‘keep you on your toes’ kind of thing.

When do you feel most fulfilled as an artist?

Being on stage. I haven’t performed a lot because I haven’t developed too much as an artist yet. But anytime I can perform and share my music with other people, I’m really happy. And hearing people play your piano chords out and add lines or melodies to them, that’s one of the best feelings.

What would you like to see more of in the music scene at Brown?

Peer support for music and art in general on campus. At Berklee I collaborated with one kid, maybe two. Here I’ve collaborated with six. The a cappella groups are strong. The school groups, like Jazz Band, Orchestra, and Choir are as strong as well. But individual kids are amazing here, as good as some of the musicians I knew at Berkleee. People know them more as extensions and extensions of friends though—it’s not people really seeking out good music and supporting each other. So I think there needs to be more knowledge of who the musicians are on campus, especially if they’re doing it off their own back, without the school’s support and stuff like that. Clyde Lawrence for example, who was on my last tape, goes to Dartmouth to play shows with his band. With publications like Unhemmed Magazine and events in the Underground, we’re starting to get a little more drive now. Word of mouth is the strongest thing. People talking about things, telling their friends.

Random fact about DAP?

I’m as obsessed with football (soccer) as I am with music!

If you could collaborate with one artist who would it be?

Kanye West, every time, all day, every day, because like I said before, to me he is the most complete artist of all time—in terms of performance and actual performance technique. Visually too—he directs all his videos, and works down to the tiniest part of his album artwork, and down to the tiniest snare on every track, to make sure everything is perfect. He’s as much of a perfectionist as I’ve ever wanted to be. Just pure artistry in every single part.

You’ve finished your EP. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a 5-track EP with my boy from home Shane Chubbz. I’m flying back to London during Thanksgiving for the release show for that. It’ll be, we’re hoping, at this dope art gallery called the Saatchi Gallery in Central London. Same kind of vibe as The Jay-Z video for Picasso Baby. Besides that just a lot of collaborative EP’s: I’m looking to do a compilation with four separate, smaller, 3-4 track EP’s, each with a different concept, or sound or vibe. What I’m trying to do is divide my sound up. Because on this tape [GoodBye For Never] there’s a lot of sounds, but sometimes it’s a lot to take in, so I’m trying to find a way to structure all that. Thinking to do one with Ryan Glassman, maybe one with Clyde. Sooner rather than later we’ll link up.

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And this post would be incomplete without a note on DAP as a person. If there’s one thing that he hasn’t gotten from Kanye, it’s an idea of himself as perfect. DAP said himself that he knows he has “a long way to go.” With soulful deliberateness he delivers his music, and his humility is steady as it is natural. This quality gives a friendly equilibrium to his artistry, one that’s sometimes hard to come by.

Look out for DAP! We have a feeling he’ll be making more waves in hip hop. And give him a follow on Soundcloud here if you’d like.

Artwork by Danny Sobor ’15.

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