Rapper Dannu made a name for himself as part of the very positive, very diverse group The Visionaries. After more than 15 years in the game, the lone San Diego native of the collective has released his first solo album, Virgo Summer. I sat down with Dannu to talk about the making of his album and the vision behind it.
Quan Vu: It's been a long time since you started rapping, and now you've finally dropped your first solo album, Virgo Summer.
Dannu: I've always been a team player-type person. I never thought that I would want to be a solo artist, but everyone was always telling me, "Hey, why don't you put out a solo?" And I never wanted to. But once we had our little "break" from doing Visionaries stuff -- everyone started doing their solo stuff -- I started doing songs with certain people. I did a lot of songs. I chose all these for Virgo Summer because they had this mood. I finished it completely -- mixed, mastered -- I wanna say, 2009. And then something happened with my masters: They got jacked. Imagine your life's work on your computer and it just crashes. It wasn't a crash, but it got jacked. So I had to redo every song from the ground up. At the time, I was pulling my hair out, but it actually worked out, because the time it took for me to build to that point, I had memorized most of the lyrics already. So when I went back to re-record them, it sounded better because I wasn't reading from my book. I was able to express it more.
And I actually was gonna put it out myself, because I was already working -- nothing to prove. I was like, "Let me put it out so people know a little bit more about me outside of the Visionaries."
Music. Community. Culture.
QV: But it got put out on Soulspazm, right?
Dannu: It got put out on Soulspazm digitally. And Fat Beats picked it up and produced some CD's for me. And that was all from the help of DJ Rhettmatic [a fellow member of the Visionaries]. He was one of the ones that was really encouraging me to do my solo. He's basically the co-executive producer for my album. He got a lot of things done on the outside of making the music. And, of course, he did some tracks on there.
QV: You mentioned you were aiming for a certain mood. Can you expand on that a little as far as what sort of mood you were aiming for?
Dannu: Basically, everything I wrote was always during the summer. The way I am, I'm not like a super-aggressive kind of personality unless I get pissed off. I basically wanted to make it like -- I mean, I like groups like Dwele, like "vibe-y" kind of music. That's what I wanted to shoot for.
QV: Like the neo-soul school?
Dannu: Just soul, period. When I grew up, that's what we used to call it. We didn't call it rap music or hip-hop music. We called it soul music. I wanted to give that vibe to where you can sit back and chill to it and drive to it, or clean your house to it. There's some songs on there where I'm a little more aggressive, but I kind of wanted to reach more toward the people that wanted to chill. And, really, I was directing it really toward females, the hip-hoppers that are female that like to chill and listen to vibe music like that. When you go to concerts like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, you look in the crowd, and there's mostly females. And to me, they're the most critical out of all music lovers because if you're wack, they're not even gonna listen to you. And for me, I wanted to reach that crowd because we'd already reached what we did with the Visionaries. I just kind of wanted my own lane. I'm not trying to be like LL Cool J. But I wanted to be me and just chill.
And that's what San Diego is. A lot of people say that we're real laid-back, and it's true: We are. It's our culture over here. We're not too far from the beach. We're not too far from the mountains. Downtown isn't that far, there's no traffic. We're not always trying to rush to get somewhere, like L.A. is. We're just like, "All right, we'll roll. We'll go out and do something. Let's go out, have a BBQ or something." I was trying to bring that out in my album.
Dannu's Virgo Summer is available now at Amazon in both mp3 and CD format (you know, in case you were still keeping it real). Dannu will be performing this Thursday at Lyrical Skoolyard in Carlsbad, along with One.Be.Lo (Binary Star) and Aaron Evans (The Green Brothers).
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog SD Raps.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by following him on Twitter or e-mailing him directly.