Sunday, February 15, 2015

Artist Spotlight – Dorian

This Chicago-based, Indianapolis native has experienced more in the first third of his life than most will throughout their duration. Born on an Air Force base in Abilene, TX, Dorian moved 7 times before he was 10 years old and 11 more times as an adult. This well-travelled Producer/MC comes from a middle-class two-parent home, has two college degrees and at one time was a Division I college basketball coach. Why hip-hop?

1.) What attracted you the most to music? What elements and/or characteristics made you say to yourself that you wanted to do music for a living?
The absolute freedom of speech. I’ve always been a dude that speaks his mind and I’ve been very cognizant of social issues from a young age. I have too much to say and music, specifically hip-hop, is the only time you have someone’s undivided attention.

2.) Did anyone influence you to do music? If so, who? Influences? Role Models?
My parents had me when they were 21 and 22 respectively so music was always a big part of my childhood. They are from Dayton, Ohio where funk was huge. I heard a lot of Bootsy Collins, Lakeside and the Ohio Players growing up. When the G-Funk era came around, I was already familiar with the samples without even knowing it. That’s why there is a lot of West Coast influence in my music even though I’m from Indianapolis. Dre, Cube and definitely Tupac. Nas, Kanye and Eminem are my favorite rappers of all time. Cole and Kendrick are the two dudes I listen to the most when I’m not making my own music.

3.) Unfortunately the music industry is full of talented individuals who just don’t get any recognition for their talent and/or work. What do you plan to do to make sure you stand out and get noticed?
I think people underestimate how much hard work it is to make it in hip-hop. There are hundreds of thousands of cats trying to rap, but how many of them really study the industry… the business side? How many have looked at the trends of what works and what doesn’t? I’m not saying go with what is hot, but everything in life is cyclical and music isn’t any different. Everything I’ve gotten in life has come from my work ethic. I was a Division I college basketball coach because I busted my ass. I sent over 800 cold e-mails and made 1300 cold phone calls before I got my first coaching job. Working hard is the only way I know how to work. That’s why I make my own beats. I didn’t want to wait on someone else. I didn’t want their laziness to dictate my success. In addition, I place a huge emphasis on my lyrics. Most cats today are trying to strike lightning in a bottle with a hot single. That shit won’t last. That’s why I’m making a lyric video for every song on the album. I want people to really pay attention to what I’m saying.

4.) Do you think that the traditional music industry model as we know it is dead? Why or why not?
The days of death being 360 deal contracts like Toni Braxton’s? Yeah haha. But major labels will always be the best way to go in my opinion. Today you have more opportunity than ever to make a name for yourself independently. You can build a fanbase and reach thousands of people by grinding out from your bedroom. And labels pay attention to that. But to reach the masses, the major labels have the distribution channels that an independent artist just can’t get. Our goal is to build a solid fanbase and then sign with a major label who is going to market and distribute our art in ways where we didn’t have a reach. We are going to remain independent until the right label comes along that fits our goals artistically and economically.

5.) How do you think the internet and social media affected the music industry and how musicians are able to market themselves?
It rewards people that want to work hard. No longer do you have to wait on a label, you can build your fanbase organically. You can do your own research, find your target audience, segment them and feed them the art that’s the most appealing to them. That definitely wasn’t an option 7 years ago. We strive to do a great job feeding our fans. I’m not a big fan of Instagram. I think it’s corny and a bunch people putting on façades for people they don’t know, but it’s a necessary evil. Soundcloud and YouTube are the best mediums for independent musicians.

6.) Social media is obviously an extremely important element in today’s world, especially when it comes to business, branding, marketing, etc. With that being said, do you think an artist will be able to survive in today’s music industry if they’re not social media savvy?
Definitely. If your music connects with people and you pound the pavement. Using relationships with DJ’s, attacking campuses, talking to people, I think you still can go that route. There’s no one size fits all to this shit. Either people like your music or they don’t. You just have to be able to consistently feed them once they let you know what they like.

7.) What made you want to get into the music business in the first place?
I’ve done the corporate America thing. I have two degrees. I was in an exciting career working 100 hours a week as a college basketball coach. I need to speak my mind at all times. And I want to help people become the best version of themselves. That’s the part I loved about coaching was the relationships I had with those kids and helping them get to a place that they couldn’t get to by themselves. That’s what makes a great coach. And that is the same feeling I bring to my music. I talk about that on “All For You (Ode to Motivation).” I don’t want anyone who’s experienced anything remotely similar to what I have to ever feel like they are alone. Shit sounds cliché, but it’s real. People kill themselves everyday because they feel like no one truly knows them or understands their daily dilemmas. I do. I been broke to the point where I couldn’t afford an 88 cent bag of chips. I have 170k in student loans. I been engaged and it broke off. I’ve had two abortions. I’ve lost family members and friends to every vice possible. You ain’t alone in this shit and I want my music to represent that.

8.) Would you rather be on a major label or would you rather stay independent? Why or why not?
I’m a control freak so independent is the best route for us right now. I write, make the beat, perform, direct and produce the lyric videos, decide on the marketing schemes, edit all the lyrics on My business partner helps out too, but I’m in control so I ain’t ready to relegate to some label just for a check that ain’t going to be shit after taxes. We will eventually go major when the time comes, but independent is doing us just fine right now.

9.) What is the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in life and has that had any effect on your path to becoming a musician and if so, why?
I’ve spoke about it a little bit earlier. There’s no one thing that ranks above all. Losing a family member hurts. Being lied to by someone you love hurts. Knowing someone you love who is going to prison for who knows how long hurts. Break ups hurt. Losing a job hurts. Seeing your car catch on fire when you are in the process of moving to a new city hurts. I mean… life happens. The day things stop happening is when you die. The more successful I get, I know there is going to be more negative shit that’s thrown my way. But I focus on the positive. I’m big on people’s auras and how they emit energy. I’ve been cutting chicks off left and right lately because their energy is all fucked up. I love living. And part of living is being challenged. I know most people don’t think like me and that’s why I make music. To help those get through their own bullshit.

10.) If you could compare yourself to an already established artist, who would that be and why?
Nobody is like me. I have an aggressive delivery. I’m socially conscious without being too backpacky. I’ve already made history with “Please Listen (Ode to Smug gums).” No one’s ever done what I did in that second verse. At least to my knowledge. I’m a college grad who worked in corporate America and grew up middle class, but we ain’t rich. I got my dad in my life, but he didn’t have his so I get both perspectives. My folks been married 31 years but I ain’t even got a main girl. And I produce. Who in hip-hop is like me? Seriously? Tell me? Nobody.

11.) Since a lot of popular artists are forced to conform in order to please the general public, is this something you plan to do in order to make money or do you feel that you can be successful by just staying true to who you are?
This is a loaded question. Of course everybody is going to say stay true. But you don’t know where your music leads you. If you “stay true” but the radio picks up on one of your songs, labels it Pop or Top 40 and it becomes the number 1 song in America, did you sell out? I have huge songs in my chamber. Industry shifting tracks. But they won’t be released until I have the proper distribution channels because goal is to just help people. Billions of people. That is where my heart is always going to be. One thing I won’t do is hop on these trends that go on in rap. If the trend happens to come to me in some organic capacity, ok. But I aint doing what everyone else is doing just make an extra $1M or $2M. I got some intelligent fans and they will call me out. Be ready to fight if I did some shit like that.

12.) When you do music, what do you think your listeners get out of your music?
The real life of the middle class struggle. Someone who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable. Hip-Hop tends to focus on the lower class or the upper class. The middle class gets forgotten when that is the biggest class in our country. Middle class is who buys all the damn albums. But you got middle class cats either trying to be hood or claiming they got Walton Family money because there’s no music that relates to them. Most middle class families are one phone call away from being back in the hood. I know. We were that family and the shit almost happened a few times. But there’s also things you have to navigate when you are newly middle class. A first generation college student. No one tells you shit. You have to figure things out by trial and error. Corporate etiquette? Those things are covertly taught in the upper class. The new middle class doesn’t learn until they embarrass themselves. People are going to get that I am secure in myself. Always have been and it ain’t because I’m successful and more is to come. It’s because I’m truly happy with how I was made and the situations that have come my way. And I feel everyone should be happy with who they are. Quit comparing yourself to everybody. Physically, Financially, your occupation, material things… none of that shit matters. That’s why I love the song “Kappa Kappa Gamma (Ode to Misconceptions)” so much. I speak on all of that by telling two stories. A dope hip-hop track with great storytelling lyricism. Be happy with what you have and where you are going. You beat 300 million of your twin brothers and sisters to get here. Your Daddy could’ve flushed you down the toilet. Appreciate life.

Connect w/ Dorian

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