Donwill Draws From His Favorite Film for Solo Debut
When rapper Donwill, one-third of Brooklyn-based trio Tanya Morgan, decided to embark on a solo career, he decided to take the road less traveled and go for something a bit more ambitious. Instead of recording an album without a peg, the emcee looked to his favorite movie — the 2000 dark comedy ‘High Fidelity‘ starring John Cusack.
“I’m a romantic comedy guy. I like them a lot,” Donwill explains to The BoomBox. “Music has such a huge role in the movie, music was damn near a whole other character. And then you go through that stage in your life where you’re trying to figure out if you’re on the right path or what you’re doing. That was me with music for a long time.” Donwill used the film to thread the narrative of his aptly-titled ‘Don Cusack in High Fidelity,’ which was released at the end of March via Interdependent Media. He incorporated lines taken directly from the dialogue into songs and structured the record to follow the plot of the flick.
Staying true to the source material, Donwill reached out to a handful of artists to play key roles from the film on the album, with Souls of Mischief‘s Opio assuming the part of Ian (the protagonist Rob’s ex-girlfriend’s new lover) on ‘Ian’s Song,’ Che Grand taking on Barry (Rob’s co-worker) on ‘Good’ and Harlem’s Cash, Peter Hadar and Kay from the Foundation filling in for other characters on the album. And while the cast lends some authenticity to the album’s theme, it’s Donwill’s connection to the protagonist’s messy relationships and rocky personal life that ties the album together.
“My love life was at a chaotic crossroad where I had broken up with the most substantial relationship I’d been in, and I was kind of discovering new people,” he says of dating in the past two years. “It was the weirdest time for me relationship-wise, and then a couple of months after I started recording it, my father had just passed, right when I started doing the album. I was like, I’m going to put this s— into an album.”
Sticking closely to the film’s arc was a challenge for the rapper, so much that he had to take a break mid-recording to crank out his mixtape ‘Laura’s Song.’ “It is very specific subject matter. It doesn’t really allow for the deviation of sorts,” he says of ‘Don Cusack,’ “so I tried to keep myself interested and once I got through the bulk of the recording phase, I just did a whole new EP. Got some beats from this cat Rob Viktum in Texas, gathered a couple of friends and just wrote, recorded that and mixed it down. I don’t care how ADHD or how much you can focus — the tedium of it will eat you. But that’s the way I coped with that, by doing other things in the midst of.”
Now that the album’s a wrap, Donwill is linking back up with his fellow Tanya Morgan members to record their third album and putting his solo career on hold. He admits he’d rather keep the movies on the big screen. “Honestly, this is funny. I’ve thought about this,” he says of doing something similar on the ‘Don Cusack in High Fidelity’ follow-up. “If anything, I would do a soundtrack movie. I would want to take a movie and do songs about the movie, but not cast myself. Like how RZA did ‘Afro Samurai?’ I would like to do a soundtrack for a movie, but I don’t know. This was such an adaptation that I don’t think there’s another film out there that kind of fits my life as specifically as that did.”