Though many states and communities are slowly reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a particularly tough few months for musicians who made their livelihood playing music in a live setting. Because of as much, we’ve been checking in with various artists throughout the area to see how they’ve been coping during lockdown.
This week, we caught up with local rapper Downtown Dawson, who quite possibly may have been the most productive local musician throughout the pandemic. Not only has he already released two EPs in the last three months, but he’s also finished yet another project that will most likely be released soon. In our conversation, we talked about how Phil Collins has helped him get through the pandemic, which local artists have been keeping busy while staying quarantined and how his process of recording has changed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. To listen to those albums he recently released, check him out on Soundcloud at soundcloud.com/lastnamedawson.
1. What were you listening to while self-quarantining and what about it made you want to listen to it during a pandemic?
Dawson: My pandemic playlist has been a mix of Phil Collins, Cameo, Hall & Oates, and Ghostface Killah. I think I was drawn to my favorites due to familiarity. Everything in the world seems so different, I’ve stuck to what has always been consistent for me to keep me level.
2. Have you come across any livestreams/internet-based performances throughout the pandemic that have stuck out? If so, which ones and why?
Dawson: I’ve been checking some live DJ sets here and there. Questlove from the Roots and Statik Selektah have been doing some cool stuff. Just playing classics. Again, the familiarity of the music reminds me of simpler times.
3. Has this been a time that has been creatively fruitful for you? I know you have a couple projects that I think you are releasing or have released recently? Have you been writing a bunch over the last three months?
Dawson: Since the quarantine, I have dropped 2 EPs, ‘Smolder’ and ‘The Cyclops.’ Some songs were written during quarantine, while some, I have been sitting on, waiting to record in the studio, and just decided to record, mix, and release everything myself. DaMood and I released our ‘Deep Creek Dawn’ single as well. I have another album already finished, and I’m working on writing for a couple more projects as we speak. My quarantine has been a mix of writing music, playing online poker, and spending time with my dog.
4. What’s the most positive takeaway you’ve been able to experience from all the self-quarantining and the sort of art world being on pause for the time being?
Dawson: A lot of my music and arts friends have been super productive. Unfortunately it’s mostly due to being out of work, but having all those extra hours in the day spent out of the office and in the studio has created some incredible content. People are being inventive on how they share their work and make money off of it. I’m usually restrained by going to studios to record, but doing everything myself has really ramped up productivity. I wrote and recorded my ‘Smolder’ EP in a few days. Then I released it a week later. I would normally be going to multiple studio sessions to get that done. What would take a month took days.
5. If there’s one song that you think could help everybody get through these uncertain times, what would it be and why?
Dawson: ‘Make A Change’ by Durand Jones And The Indications. It’s an empowering song, but it’s also super groovy and makes you want to move. It’ll get you out of bed and ready to face this crazy world head on.
BONUS QUESTION: What artists, local or not, do you think have done a great job staying engaged musically online and what about what they’re doing and have done sets them apart?
Dawson: A lot of major artists are finding ways to stay relevant and keep their faces seen. But I want to shout out my producers and collaborators who have been creating consistently during this time. Local producers Ludious, ErnGotBeats, eelxb, and Ceez have been non-stop making beats and helping me along the way. My producer and friend July Porter from Brooklyn and my man Kurse from Toronto have been amazing as well. Local rappers Iodine P., Retro/Ricole and DaMood, and Stitch Early are always killing it. Tony J. is a major motivator for me. Local rapper turned LA resident Cidida is on my most recent project. Ankhlejohn and Rahiem Supreme have been dropping amazing music out of DC. And shoutout Bernard Rollins, AKA Bnardartwork, for always encouraging me to keep doing what I’m doing.