Diary Of An Atlanta Brave is the fire mixtape from last year. Today brings XXL cover photo shoots, a deal with Atlantic Records, binge drinking at the Grammys. ATG caught up with Donnis to talk his quick ascent, his Freshman 10 buddies.
Donnis: Grinding out the tour, so far so good. All of us on stage performing is a nightly highlight. "Gone" is the song getting people amped up, it's hitting radio, people are starting to know it. My first real tour and it's nice to feel like a successful band.
ATG: You've done lots of work with A-Trak. How did you guys become friends?
D: We've known each other for a long time; he's been kinda guy who always knew what I was capable of. We talk all the time.
ATG: Besides yourself, which of your XXL Freshman 10 cohorts do you see maintaining a long, successful career in the rap game?
D: J. Cole. That's simple. He's good. We were at the Grammys together; I was drunk outta my mind. But he's humble, he's good people.
ATG: Tell me about that XXL Freshman photo shoot? Who did you bond with the most? Were there cliques?
D: Nah, I chilled with Pill the most. He's my boy, we've seen each other come up. I'm real cool with Freddie Gibbs. Fashawn was quiet and cool. I text my boys all the time.
ATG: When did you find out you made the list and what was it like keeping it on the low?
D: I was in New York, my manager asked me, Do you wanna be on the cover?
ATG: Tell me about signing with Atlantic, what strings come with the major label?
D: We had labels bid. One of the hardest decisions despite the great moment. Think it was a good day, I spent years sleeping on couches chasing dreams, just wondering. When I got signed I had my dad on a webcam, literally signed the papers, celebrated with champagne and a few weeks later I got a big check
ATG: Speaking of the Atlantic deal, message boards have ripped you for only making XXL list because Drake, Nicki Minaj and Jay Electronica reportedly passed and also because of your management. How does the criticism drive or affect your work?
D: When it comes to management, I mean I don't have a famous cosigner. I'm a kid from Georgia. I don't have a Kanye or Jay or Cudi or any of that shit. I'm on the outside. I'm like a T.I., doing my own thing. He's my role model. I don't feel like I need that. I don't care about negative associations; I've worked and I control my destiny.
ATG: What is the album going to be like? Who are you working with?
D: It'll be a cool record. For now it's just an appetizer. Needlz is my main producer, he's the guy from "I'm Going In," the Lil Wayne record. He's my go to guy. Clinton Sparks will be there, Drummer Boy will be there.
ATG: You have your first SXSW next week and are scheduled for handfuls of crammed shows. You ready? You're on bills with all the buzz guys - Gibbs, Pac Div, Freeway - how are you planning to stand out as a live performer?
D: It's actually my second time out. You now, people come to see Donnis they get Donnis, energy and a party. It's great because right after me they see Gibbs and get gangsta shit. It'll be fun.
ATG: And post-SXSW?
D: Touring and the album; thing is now I can't talk about it album too much because I'm signed. But we're doing what we been doing. The title will be Basic Training, fans can expect more of my story; mixtape was, Hi I'm Donnis and now it's expansion, my story of coming up. Hoping to make an album like ones that inspired me: Late Registration, Trap Muzik, The Blueprint.
I'm still a young rapper in the game. But I know to work. To check vices. Focus on music. I realize what my label expects and wants. I'm doing 20-hour work days.
- Evan Daniels