INTERVIEW: Donald Jenkins | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Pictures by Bish

Words carry power in every medium. Donald Jenkins has previously explored this through spoken word, but now is branching out into rap and hip-hop. This new journey comes in the form of a soon to be released EP, entitled Late Bloomer, in which he discusses age, the culture of his genre and the politics of our future.

There’s an ongoing discussion in hip-hop about whether or not it’s an ‘old’ person’s game, whether it’s acceptable to have a 30 or a 40 year old rapper.” Donald commented when discussing his own journey into music. “It’s uncommon for someone my age [44] to start rapping… So [describing myself as a Late Bloomer] is just me kind of pre-empting that. But hopefully, I come with some life experience and I’ve got something to say as a result of it.”

Donald explains why he tackles the subject of our future on his EP. “I’m concerned about how we’re breeding generations of people who seem totally disengaged from the political process. We are split into different groups, and we’re arguing over identity politics, but we find very little common ground to unite us…None can agree on what is real. I feel that we need to be more politically aware, but at the same time, it’s also about me as well. I have to acknowledge that it’s okay and fair enough for me to argue and move on.”

I’m concerned about how we’re breeding generations of people who seem totally disengaged from the political process

As an artist who creates music in the hip-hop genre, Donald continues to break down why he does not consider himself part of contemporary hip-hop culture. “People need to be aware, if they’re going to be a part of hip-hop culture, they should also have some idea of the roots, acknowledge its root as a Black music form that people like me are in a position of privilege to be part of.”

Donald’s music not only carries the consistent and smooth beat typical of hip-hop, but also electronic sounding elements reminiscent of retro gaming, creating a blended genre of electric rap. One thing not lost throughout the rhythm of his words is his Geordie accent, which adds local familiarity to the worries he shares lyrically.

Some may already be familiar with Donald as the initiator of spoken word night Born Lippy. He discusses the transition into rap: “I just love words! I got involved in spoken word about 15 years ago, and discovered another thing in addition to hip-hop. I’ve always listened to hip-hop and when I first started doing spoken word I saw myself as possibly trying to do rap, although not very well and not very good! It was mostly about adapting and changing something to reach a new audience that might not engage with my poetry.

It was a learning curve, because it is different, there’s a lot of different skills involved. Spoken word is all about long pauses and breaks, whereas rap is a lot faster when you’re trying to fit within structures of beat. It’s been a great exploration of extending my own ability as someone who loves manipulating words, looking at how that can be expanded.”

Donald Jenkins launches his debut EP, Late Bloomer, at Zerox in Newcastle on Friday 9th September with support from Kema Kay, HB, Tom 23 and DJs Pegz and Riddla.


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