Artist You Should Know: DAP The Contract
By Thembela Ngayi
March 18, 2022
Nigerian-born rapper/producer, DAP The Contract is one of the rare artists that is stretching artistic boundaries through relentless work ethic, and an abundance of creativity. Born, Dolapo Akinkugbe, he is a classically trained pianist, who at 14, started producing his own music and by the age of 18 he’d put out his first project. DAP released the Powers Vol. 1 EP in April 2020, shortly followed by the Deluxe version a month later, alongside graduating from Columbia Law School. He quickly followed with the EP “I’m Glad You Made It This Far” in February, 2021 and released the sequel Powers Vol. 2 on July 2nd. We spoke to him about his upcoming April release, “Outatime” and his journey so far.
Let’s start with your name, tell us where does DAP THE CONTRACT come from? And what does this name mean to you?
D.A.P was my artist name when I first started producing and the acronym stands for Dolapo Akinkugbe Productions. The contract was a duo I formed in high school with one of my best friends, and in 2014 I put them together. I still love that people who knew me as a producer first, especially at home in Lagos, still call me D.A.P. Reminds me of the early days.
You’re a qualified legal practitioner, and you’ve practiced with one of the top law firms in your city, what made you pivot to do music? Is music something you’ve always wanted to do, or it was a calling at a later stage in your life?
I think I’ve been attached to music since I started playing the piano at 4 years old. I could never imagine life without it and I just became increasingly more passionate about it throughout my life. To an extent, the reason I decided to pursue a legal career was because of wanting to understand how to protect myself in the music industry, and I’ve learned so much more than that. I try not to look at them as separate parts of my life because they both feed each other and both feed the same goals I’m trying to achieve.
How did you navigate telling your folks about the career change? Especially since one of them holds an official government position. Were they supportive?
Only my mother holds a government position, but they’ve always both supported my creative aspirations as much as my academic and legal career. My family is very musical so I’ve always had many examples of balancing those aspects of your life, and as passionate I was about music, I stayed in college and finished law school because it was an important part of my plan. I was determined to protect my music and help other artists in the long run, and doing both served that purpose better than dropping out of college or law school. I had the work ethic to do both, and the one thing my parents emphasized was making sure you did your research and learned the game so you could make informed decisions about how to be successful in it. What’s the plan?
How would you say your background/heritage has shaped the way you approach making music?
I traveled a lot at a young age and that was the best learning experience. I grew up in Nigeria until I was 10 years old, but leaving for boarding school at that age shifted my perspective, and the new information also taught me more about home, my past experiences, and why things were the way they were to an extent. Moving to the U.S. for college at 18 also shifted my perspective and taught me a lot about myself. When you listen to my music, you can hear so many worlds colliding and that’s one of my favorite things about music. It feels like I can speak every language and communicate with anybody because no form of music is foreign to me.
When you lived in the UK, you got a chance to work at The Abbey Studios with producer Mark Ronson. What lessons did you take away from that experience?
There were 2 important things I took away from that experience. First, it taught me to trust myself and that when it comes to music, I can work under pressure. That was by far the biggest opportunity I had at that point in my career and I was so focused on not wasting the moment and making sure that I left the studio with actual music and not just a cool experience that I couldn’t be nervous in the moment. Being an artist can come with a lot of self-doubts, but I still sometimes think back to that moment when I need some fuel. The second thing was some advice Mark gave me. He asked me to play him a bunch of beats and songs and stuff, and he encouraged me to make my own colors. He picked out some of the sounds in my music and could draw lines back to my influences and the upbringing I had living in these various places, and he challenged me to not just put all those colors together, but to try and make a whole new color.
Last year you put out Powers, Vol.2, how is your creative process on Outatime different? What was your process this time?
OUTATIME is a big piece to the world that I created with Powers Vol. 2 and it emphasizes the duality in the project. Sonically, the album is a fusion of electronic sounds (Go Slow, UFO) and raw, natural sounds (It’s Not a Gun, Open Letter III), and the visuals for the project have reflected this. OUTATIME brings the two worlds together visually in an extended performance of UFO, Go Slow, and Mo Fe Jaiye off Powers Vol.2
You recently got featured on Tim Lyre’s Syzygy, and the two of you have worked together before on the song, Sacrifices. What’s it like working with him?
It has been amazing working with Tim. It’s rare to find people in the industry that you naturally click with creatively, but Tim and I connect in a different way because of the similarities in our perspectives. For example, he’s a former lawyer. He understands the balance of understanding the two worlds and I think it reflects in the maturity and depth in our music. He’s also a producer as well as singer and rapper, so he blends those three skill sets in similar ways that I do. We still haven’t met in person and had the chance to really chop it up, but we both did each other’s features for Syzygy and Sacrifices seamlessly and barely had to speak about it.
What would you say was the biggest challenge creating Outatime?
It was important to blend reality and this alternate universe of Powers Vol. 2 visually in a way that matched the blend of sounds sonically. As a producer, my visual taste and the way I edit videos is very rhythmic and driven by the music and sounds, like film scoring. That was what myself and the director Sam Rochelle tried to execute here by making the visual look how the sounds felt as they all blended together.
Outside of music, what do you like to do?
I always try to explain to people that I am equally as passionate about music as I am about football. It’s hard to explain, but football is the only thing that gives me the feeling that music does. Aside from my obsession with football, I’m actually really interested in photography and videography. That’s definitely something I want to be able to do seriously at some stage in my career and make short album films for myself and other artists.
What feeling/ message do you want fans to take away from listening to your music?
I want fans to feel energized and nourished when they listen to my music. I want to say inspired, educated, informed, understood, loved, challenged, but ultimately I want my music to be an energy transfer. My favorite albums and favorite artists have a way of freezing time and making me feel very aware and present when I listen to their albums. I want people to feel present when they listen to my music and energized to do whatever they love and are truly passionate about in life.
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