Hailing form Tembisa, i.e. “the 1632” as rapper Don V affectionately refers it as, when he introduces himself with great vehemence and ferocity before his battles. The man formerly known as Don Volatile is renowned for his aggression and stage presence when battling. He took the time to chat with us at Lavatory Records about his take on battle rap, music, the industry and about his crew ATP (Audio Timeless Productions). He also explained the reasons behind his name change to the current moniker, “Don V”.
Ever since the emanation of his rivalry with battle rapper “Anti Bulls***t”, who famously made reference to Don V’s face in a battle he had with Jake Baker, battle rap followers and social media trolls have made memes of Don V’s face. Could this been a universal sign that he not only might be a known name, but a face that many will know and not forget? In line with the signature catch-phrase and to get into the interview without further ado, “let’s roll soldiers”!
Lavatory Records: What’s the meaning behind the name “Donny V”?
Don V: Honestly, there’s no specific meaning to it, some of us “emcees” come up with names that don’t even define our style of rap. In my case I had a lot of “AKAs” before I called myself Don V. I found the name “Don” from 5 years ago in some cartoon article that portrayed a war between Greek gods. On the article “Don” was depicted as the god of battling. At that time I used to engage in freestyle battles in my hood. So Don was the perfect word to use and I felt like it represented my passion for battle rap. As for the “V” it used to stand for “Volatile” (laughs), so a lot of cats everywhere I went just started calling me Don V. I ultimately then liked the name because it’s simple and catchy.
Lavatory Records: How did you start out in the music game and where did it all begin for “Donny V”?
Don V: I grew up in a family of people that loved music from Jazz, Kwaito, Soul and RnB. I always loved music because of the influence and my surrounding. Though with Hip Hop, my love for it only started in primary school when I was doing Grade 7. Back then I was bumping Eminem, 2Pac and a bit of local cats like Skwatta Kamp. However as soon as I went to high school in 2006 that’s when I started writing my own (rap) scripts, participated in cyphers and attending Hip Hop shows in my hood. The influence and passion was intense then. I wanted to learn so much especially when I got introduced to other overseas acts like Canibus, Immortal Technique and Jedi Mind Tricks. From 2006 until now, Hip Hop has been the genre of music that connects with me and I chose to follow the culture because it’s beautiful and liberating.
Lavatory Records: Tell us more about Don V as a person. What do you do on a day-to-day basis and for fun?
Don V: Yo! Don V on a day-to-day just has a conventional 9-to-5 (laughs), you know…from Monday to Friday. During the weekends I chill with my peoples and have fun. If I have a performance I just go and do my own thing you “na mean” (know what I mean). I like chilling with my people if there’s no Hip Hop shows to do, that’s about it.
Lavatory Records: How did the ATP crew come about?
Don V: With ATP I’m just going to cut the story short. Eternalkev our producer is the founder of ATP. Las Digit used to go to the same high school with Eternalkev and I met Kev via Digit. Las Digit and I were in a clique together called Mind Apokalypse. Since Kev was making beats, we just decided to connect with Kev and make music together. The more we hung out and talked about Hip Hop, the more I realised we on the same page. Our visions connected and that’s how ATP was formed in 2013.
Lavatory Records: Do you see forests or trees? In other words, are you a bigger pictured person or more detailed orientated?
Don V: I can say I’m a bit of both. I’m one person who visions success a lot but I also focus on the details that guide on how to get to the end state of my vision. I don’t just picture success and do nothing about it. I act it out and I try to be detailed about what I’m pushing for.
Lavatory Records: What do you see yourself more as, a battle rapper or a musician?
Don V: Honestly, both battle rapper and musician. I don’t focus on battle rap only but I also love writing songs yo! I love doing musical performances as well.
Lavatory Records: Where do you see the direction of the music industry going, especially with the internet changing the dynamics within the game?
Don V: Simply and concisely put, these days online presence is the key for any artist. For example, Twitter and Facebook have catapulted the fan base of musicians. It’s amazing how a song can have a buzz on social media without any radio airplay or a music video. These days you just push your music through YouTube, music sites on the internet and as an artist you can make enough money through sites which enable people to download your music. The internet’s power has made things easier for musicians, especially independent ones to push their music and brand as well.
Lavatory Records: Which artists or producers have you worked with or shared a stage with?
Don V: A popular artist I worked with was one of the best battle rappers from KOTD (King Of The DOT) in Canada, named 100 Bulletz. We did a collaboration last year on a track called Bravery of the Knights produced by Eternalkev. I’m glad a lot of cats loved the joint and up to this day, they still bumping it. I haven’t worked with a lot of producers. Though I did work with Death Star who produced a track that I released in 2013 called “Certified Lyricist”.
” Bravery of the Knights we pull the card of war on the mic/It’s that warrior type lethal bars fully packed with a dynamite/The stage gets blown to shreds and emcees are targeted/The C3PO army in one stage take charge of armaments/ “
Lavatory Records: Talk us through your battle rap career and the most memorable moments.
Don V: My battle rap career started way back in 2006 although I was first recognized in the days of Art of War at Grayscale. I once battled there with Rhymesmith but unfortunately the battle was never released. I also battled on Scrambles for Money which is one the biggest battle leagues in South Africa right now. My buzz as a battle rapper escalated from there. I don’t really have memorable moments but the day I battled Metaforwords who pushed me off stage and almost fell over was the funniest day of my battle rap life.
Lavatory Records: What would you like to see in terms of growth for Battle Rap in South Africa, the African continent and overseas?
Don V: In terms of growth of battle rap in S.A. I just want to see more business oriented leagues. Not leagues headed up by some dudes who aren’t business savvy. I would also like to see more of our best battle rappers cross borders to battle probably on KOTD or URL (Ultimately Rap League), so that we can grow as brands and of course to up our “pen game” as well. Overseas everything seems good at the moment as far as battle rap is concerned, because cats are getting paid lots of “gwap” (money) that side and here we still at grassroots level. However I do believe we are only getting started in terms of integrating some business approach in the minds of battle rappers and league owners – and that’s what has been lacking. We have the bars and the passion but I don’t really see businessmen in battle rap out here.
Lavatory Records: What has your general experience of the South African music industry been?
Don V: I could write a book about my experiences in the music industry yo! The bad is that talent is no longer appreciated. Anybody can blow because he or she has access to a certain studio and that particular person is also connected to somebody big in the music industry who can manage to get his/her song played on radio. In such instances we end up having artists that don’t even respect their craft or are doing music because of some weird reasons. I’m saying this because now in the industry you either follow what’s trending to blow and make money or forget about making it big with music that uplifts the minds of the listeners. The good that I see is just the growth in the business side of things, for example, some artists are also business people and they are able to eat from their craft, because they’re involved in so many things within the industry that help them survive within their careers.
Lavatory Records: Lavatory Records is a solutions driven organisation for artists and not a “record label” per say. Do you think there’s potential for such a business to thrive in the current music economy, particularity in regards to management solutions and revenue streaming for artists?
Don V: Yes we need organisations such as Lavatory Records. I mean like I said as artists we need to be business savvy. In order to succeed in this music business we need such organisations to help us as artists to tighten the belt for our music, as well as to get good circulation via radio, TV or the internet. I say hell yeah, shouts to Lavatory Records, we need that.
Lavatory Records: We know that you have a battle coming up, tell us a bit about it, as well as other upcoming projects on the cards for you?
Don V: In terms of battles, on the 18th of April I’ll be battling in Rustenburg against Mic Journalist. The battle is organised by a league called Eppik Battle League, it’s a new and fresh platform in the North West. I’m also going to battle Scribes at the Vaal Hip Hop festival on the 30th of May. I’m looking forward to both battles, still trying to finish these killer bars though. On the music side I’m working with the clique ATP on an album called Raps and Revenue which is supposed to drop before the end of this year. It is going to be a classic so cats should look forward to that project.
Lavatory Records: Any special mentions you want to shout out?
Don V: Shout out to my clique ATP. 100 Bulletz for the great collabo’ we put out , also each and every rapper I’m making business with now. Let’s roll soldiers – that’s my slogan you dig. Lavatory Records appreciates the time taken by Don V to chat with us. We wish him nothing but the best on the upcoming battles. To stay in the loop, follow him on Facebook, and on Twitter: @donvsoldier. Download ATP’s The Setup mixtape and follow ATP on their Facebook page and Twitter: @AudioTimeless.