Ahead of D.O.’s album release party in Toronto on April 11, 2014, I got the chance to catch up with the rapper to talk about his new album Down Home, what he’s listening to and Canada’s basketball team, the Toronto Raptors. In true fashion, you know I had to ask what D.O. is a BestFan of too. Check out the interview below! Photo credits belong to Tarisai Ngangura.
Kalem McSween: So, how are you doing tonight?
D.O.: I’m doing incredible, man. I feel like a million dollars plus tax.
KM: Congratulations on the release of your fourth album coming out soon. How does it feel to be celebrating with your fans tonight?
D.O.: It feels great. As I say on the “Intro” track, it feels great to be still in it and release parties are great because it’s an opportunity to interact with fans, friends and family in one of the most beautiful cities in the world – T. Dot, our home, so it feels great.
KM: I was reading that you weren’t sure if you still wanted to do music so what motivated you to keep pursuing it?
D.O.: For me, when I had my son, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be on the road a lot because as an emcee you’re going to be travelling a lot. Also, you get a little frustrated at the business – I was one of the people that was successful in the music business so it was like do I just step back and focus more on the music business side of things? But I think the thing about rapping is it’s in your veins and you love it so I just still wanted to attack mics and I felt a new hunger, a new drive and passion and that’s why I had to get in there and deliver this album.
KM: What’s your favourite part of the whole music production process?
D.O.: It’s definitely making the music because for me that’s the easy part. You can make a song really quick, but can you make a song good? Can you make a song great? Can you make it last? So when you’re collaborating with a producer and working with other artists it’s cool because you’re just sitting down and there’s not too much stress, there’s not too much pressure because you’re just “vibing” out. That’s my favourite part – just trying to create the best songs possible. Coming up with rhymes, throwing those rhymes away, coming up with hooks, throwing those hooks away and when you actually get what you want and everybody is in the studio jamming, there’s no better feeling than that.
KM: What sacrifices did you have to make while making this album?
D.O.: It’s like I say, you can’t spend it before you get it because homie that’s bad business. The greatest feeling my son rapping his dad’s lyrics because now my son raps on my lyrics, right? So the sacrifice is just determining what you want to do with your career and for me it was I’m going to go away and tour at this time of year, but be back here and creating a balance which is difficult to do as a musician, it’s difficult to do when you’re an entrepreneur and essentially that’s what you are as a musician. It’s tough to create that balance, but it’s great when you can.
KM: You have a number of great collaborations from Saukrates to Classified, who produced the album. Who haven’t you collaborated with yet that you would wish to in the future?
D.O.: Kardinal Offishall. I mean Kardi is an emcee that I grew up listening to and it’s great to be able to view him as a peer, as an emcee, but he’s definitely, to me, one of the livest performers in the whole game. I’ll never forget the first time I was in Taiwan and I walked into the club and they were playing a Kardi track and that night I heard four Kardinal songs and that just showed me how international he was, too so it would be a blessing and an honour to do a track with him.
KM: You mentioned Taiwan, so you’ve toured the world and shared the stage with the likes of Snoop Lion and A$AP Rocky, but how does that compare to performing on home turf?
D.O.: You want the honest answer? It was really cool like when I had the opportunity to perform at the Fresh Island Festival in Croatia, to be at a beach festival where everybody is just wilding out and really responding and I find that Toronto is a great training ground. One of things we noticed was I toured across the country at first, in Canada, and the crowds were wilding out and jamming every time we came out and performed. And then we came to Toronto and did the exact same show and everyone was just standing silent. But because I’m from Toronto I know that’s not a bad thing, I know that doesn’t mean they don’t feel it. I just wish that Toronto would get down! I’m starting to see it a little bit more, I mean they call it the “screwface capital,” but it’s just amazing that you can be in different places in the world and people will really respond like in Taiwan, Amsterdam, Sweden and London. Toronto, it teaches you to deal with adversity.
KM: Now if I’m correct you have two Canadian homes – Ontario and Nova Scotia – which one is the best?
D.O.: I have about seven Canadian homes.
KM: Oh, are there more?
D.O.: I was born in Saskatchewan. Yeah, yeah it’s hard to keep track! I really consider Nova Scotia my other home though because I grew up in so many different places that Nova Scotia was a consistent place for me; every summer I would go back and visit my family. So it didn’t matter where I moved to I always had my family there, my cousins and my friends there and that was always my connection. It was great that I got to do this album because I get to make music in the day and then I got to go see my cousins and family at night and get that home-cooked meal.
KM: Let’s shift to your resume now. You’re a rapper, motivational speaker and record label executive. When do you sleep?
D.O.: I make sure to sleep because I think it’s really important to take some rest. Especially when you take power naps, like I take a really good 20 minute power nap and rest up. But I got two kids now so it’s difficult to sleep at night.
KM: How does music influence your motivational speaking and vice versa?
D.O.: When you get a chance to interact with kids that’s the toughest audience because they’re going to be the realest with you and I deal with them for an hour, so if I’m not genuine and I’m not on my A-game, I’m going to lose them and that’s going to be ugly. What I really notice is that when I perform my music to kids I can see what songs connect better with kids versus ones that don’t. But it’s really great when you do see that connection because for a kid, they’re going to really get down, they’re going to sing the lyrics with you, they’re going to throw their hands in the air so it definitely influences the type of music that I make.
KM: What song/artist are you jamming out to right now? What’s on your iPod?
D.O.: Right now I’m really liking Drake. “Trophies!” That’s my favourite song right now. I like Drake, but I’ve never been the biggest Drake fan. He’s not always in my iPod, but I think he’s coming really hard right now; I really think he’s doing well. It’s also good to be able to say that you’re representing somebody from your city.
KM: Take me through the nine hour rap that broke the Guinness World Record?
D.O.: How long do you want to go through it!?
KM: Was it a dare or was it something that you wanted to do?
D.O.: I grew up in places where there weren’t rappers – most rappers grow up with other rappers, so when you rap it’s a cypher (I rap, you rap and then so on) whereas I was the only one who rapped. People would just throw me topics and my friend said I bet you can set a world record in that and so we sent an email to Guinness. It wasn’t so much a dare, we just wanted to see if it was possible. We didn’t take it seriously and it was a couple months before they responded, but they sent us the rules and the guidelines if we wanted to do it. And from then we were like why not give it try. The rest is history.
KM: I saw a picture of you wearing a Toronto Raptors jersey, so are you a Raptors fan?
D.O.: Yeah I’m a Raptors fan! It feels good to be able to say that with pride and not have other people laugh at you now. It’s been a long 10+ years.
KM: What do you predict for their post-season?
D.O.: I’m hoping for a first round win, I think that would be a big boost for the club. I’m hoping that they don’t get killed too bad in the second round if they make it out the first round, but I think the best part is that you have core nucleus of players, guys like DeRozan and Valanciunas, have a huge upside and Lowry’s stepped up – he might even be all NBA this year. You gotta give it up for the Raptors, they’ve over-achieved. Toronto deserves a winner because within all sports it’s been a long, long time.
KM: And lastly, What are you a BestFan of?
D.O.: I’m a BestFan of travelling. I love travelling because I love seeing new experiences and I love to fly because that’s just a peaceful place for me just being in the air. And I love going to a place that I’ve never been before, so I’m a BestFan of exploring and seeing new experiences and scenery.
KM: Do you ever miss you’re family when you’re travelling?
D.O.: Oh every day! But I’m also a BestFan of Skype! Skype is beautiful because you can see people’s faces and it don’t cost you any money, too. You know? WiFi connection, I’m a BestFan of WiFi and good WiFi at that because I hate being in a hotel with terrible WiFi. That’s the worst thing ever and then you gotta go try and find a coffee shop. So those three things: I’m a BestFan of travel, Skype and good WiFi and then I’m straight!
KM: What’s in the future for D.O.?
D.O.: I’m really excited to be touring in Asia next month. I’m going to be touring in Taiwan and then my group Art of Fresh is going to be performing in Singapore. I got a chance to do it last year and it’s always crazy over there so it’s going to be a fun time.
KM: Thank you so much for talking to BestFan.
D.O.: Thank you, I appreciate it.