I’ve been a fan of Atlanta soul child Donnie’s since 2002 when he emerged on the scene nationally with his debut album “The Colored Section” which was released on Giant Step/Motown Records. In fact, “The Colored Section” is still in my weekly rotation of albums that I listen to.
Well Donnie recently released is follow up album “The Daily News” on SoulThought Entertainment and if I thought “The Colored Section” was a great album, I hadn’t heard nothing yet.
Much more political in message, “The Daily News” is exactly what it’s titled. Each song is literally ripped from various headlines and news reports we’ve all heard before and touches on some very personal issues for Donnie.
My favorite track is “911 (Emergency),” a different kind of love song in which Donnie talks about racism, sexism, and homophobia in way that’s never been done before.
I spent this past weekend with 32 year-old Donnie here in Los Angeles as he was the featured performer for Los Angeles Black Pride, L.A.’s Black gay pride celebration. I sat down with him and asked him a few questions about his new album, life after “The Colored Section” and Motown Records, and about his newfound freedom.
How did you get your start in the business?
Through Maurice Bernstein CEO of Giant Step. I met him through Khari Simmons at the Ying Yang Café in Atlanta singing with my musical family. We were trying to do it like Philly— India. Arie, Serious B, Jiva, and other. Khari introduced Maurice to me and India. In 2001, I made “The Colored Section” and it was released in November of 2002. I recorded the album in California with Steve “the Scotsman” Harvey.
How did you get hooked up with Motown and what was it like being on such a legendary label?
Maurice sold the album to Motown. It wasn’t like anything because they didn’t do anything with the album. I think it had to do with Kedar Massenburg’s pride and not wanting the marketplace to change. If I would have been properly promoted and put out there, my music would known all over the world.
I wasn’t ready either. I was crazy. I really didn’t know who I was. I was not free at all from you know the past, and I couldn’t grow and couldn’t be an adult.
What was the inspiration behind The Colored Section?
I feel like I am inspiration. So there was nothing that sprung. When I decided to make that album I told myself that I wanted to make an album like Marvin, Donnie, and Stevie did. Something that said something and that didn’t take you away to a fantasy world. I’ve always felt very strongly about our issues as Black people.
What inspires your music?
Subject matter. With instrumentals you can do an instrumental and it’s just an instrumental. So, I think it is the subject matter of the world period—politics any and everything. It’s all a metaphor.
What was the inspiration behind the Daily News?
Exactly what we see on television every single day—the war, the bloodshed, at home and far away. Seeing someone get killed— we been living this way all our lives. This is our culture, the daily news. The Daily News is a tribute album to Black America and to our stories. Everybody wants to just push it under the rug. You can’t just move on to until you deal with it.
Your favorite song to date and why?
"People Person" – Because of the message of who are we to give up on anybody. That’s why I said Saturday [Los Angeles Black gay Pride] that we need to accept folks who don’t even like us.
Yes, Black gays.
Being black and being gay has taught me that you’re the left hand of the left hand and your own people who ain’t perfect is preaching from the pulpit downing you and molesting their own daughters. Or then you have the straight Black men who hate people like me but are not taking care of their own kids and are out in the streets.
What was your coming out experience like?
I’ve never been in to come out to begin with.
I grew up in church, a Hebrew Pentecostal church. My father’s a pastor and mom is a minister. I have three brothers who are preachers. Then there’s me, the singing preacher.
Religious people ain’t going to agree with homosexuality but I have learned that people can disagree and still get a long with each other.
People make a real big deal with homosexuality and I believe that’s because they have their own secret desires and issues. And that’s the truth! Most of the world is gay.
I’ve never been this vocal about…about my sexuality. It’s liberating.
We are the evolution of Negroid culture. People can’t handle us. I know men that call me a faggot but are attracted to me. Calling me a sissy and wanting to go home with me after the show.
Has coming out hurt your career?
I think it’s helped my career tremendously. I am not trying to be seen on tv just to sell millions and get Grammy’s. That’s not my goal.
So what is your goal?
To do exactly what I am doing. It’s to reach the people and to inspire people so that they will say to themselves, they can do it too.
Closing thoughts, what’s next for Donnie?
Only up and out. The truth is coming out. We will revolutionize the entertainment industry. And if Black radio stations never play Donnie it’s all good. I don’t care, because they’re not worthy to play Donnie if they can’t handle the message. They loved me before with The Colored Section when I was straight Donnie, they should love me still for the artist that I am, as just Donnie. My sexual orientation doesn’t make my music any less good, if anything it might make it better.
My Two Cents…
There are very few recording artists that are openly gay, let alone Black recording artists. Donnie is to be commended and supported for his willingness to keep it real and be himself in every aspect of his life. I loved you before Donnie and I love you now. You go boy!
“The Daily News” is on sale nationwide at a local retailer near you. You can hear various selections from the album by visiting Donnie’s official website www.donniemusic.com. The video for his first single “If I Were You” is currently in rotation on VH1 Soul.
Donnie’s debut album “The Colored Section” is also available on stores and online at iTunes.com.