By: Jonathan Bolarinwa
Chicago has always bred some top notch emcees; from the likes of Common, Twista and Kanye West, to new artists like Lil’ Durk, Lil’ Herb, King Louie and more. Each fighting to keep Chi-town’s unique sound ringing in the Midwest.
Enter Taylor Gang’s newest edition, 21-year-old artist J.R. Donato. The Northside native is currently promoting Fast Money and Freedom, his new EP, which details his decade long career up to this point. Songs like “I Suppose,” Mad At Me,” and “Life So Sweet,” highlight his versatility as he lays out different emotions in each verse.
AllHipHop.com had a chance to talk with J.R., picking his brain a little to find out just what we should stay tuned for.
AHH: What was it like coming up in Chicago, and how do you think it’s prepared you as an artist moving forward?
J.R.:Chicago showed me it won’t be easy coming up, that nothing is easy and nothing is given to you. You have to grind to get where you’re going and there’s gonna be ups and downs no matter what. It made me stronger mentally. Chicago is by far one of the toughest cities to make it out of. They say if you can make it out of Chicago you can make it out of anywhere… I believe that.
AHH: Who were your influences coming up?
J.R: Tupac, Lil Wayne, Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Jay-Z, & 50 Cent.
AHH: How did you hook up with Twista?
J.R: We connected through his management and him seeing me on the come up throughout Chicago.
AHH: Last year, you released your project North Pole which had features from Iamsu, Ab Soul, and Wiz Khalifa. How’d you link with them for the project?
J.R: Iamsu is one of the homies, we linked on the second Under the Influence of Music tour. We were just recording in the back of the bus and made it happen. I feel like it’s a hit and wish I didn’t put it on North Pole. When you’re traveling with Wiz ain’t no telling who you might end up in the studio with. We recorded “Should’ve Never” in New York. If I’m not mistaken it was Madison Square Garden area. It was Wiz song. I told him about the idea of it being an outro on my project and he said “the song is yours.”
AHH: How’d you link with Taylor Gang?
J.R: We met when I was networking in Atlanta with my manager Jah Spice.
AHH: What’s the difference between the previous project and this new one?
J.R: Fast Money & Freedom is a more detailed, in depth look at where and what I come from, and also why I am the way I am. On top of that I didn’t want any features except my homie Cody Blankz, because North Pole was full of features. I just wanted to show I can create great music on my own.
AHH: What was it like working with one producer, Sledgren, on Fast Money & Freedom?
J.R:It’s dope, you get to create your own sound. On top of that Sledgren is one of the dopest producers out there, so that’s a plus. It was fun working with Sledgren cause he hears things/sounds that most people or producers don’t. He knows what kind of beats I like or that trippy sound I’m going for, so when I hear the beats I zone out and it’s like “yeah… we did that!” He knows my direction with my music so it always works out when we come together on a track. Having an EP out with him is huge in my eyes. When you hear his name you think of Kush & OJ. Now you can think of Fast Money & Freedom as well.
AHH: How would you define your sound and what makes it unique from anything else that’s out now?
J.R:I sound like myself. These days that’s not easy. The line for originality is thin, but I think I can walk that line fine. Also all my music has a message in it so it’s always relatable, and that’s what the game needs.
Check the Taylor Gang emcee out in full here.