One of the main reasons I decided to write a review of Donnis’ mixtape Diary of an ATL Brave is because of the opening track “The Beginning”. So before I get into his overall positives and negatives I wanted to talk about this song.
First off, the beat is one of the most epic instrumental pieces I have ever heard, sounding more like a cinematic score than a hip hop beat. The layers work well together but do not blend into one sound; each piece brings something to the table and still contributes on a different level when complemented by the other sounds. And for those who are wondering, Nobody Famous produced this song. I didn’t realize it at first but when I found out, weeks after originally hearing the song, I was not very surprised. This song actually made me less excited about Kid Cudi’s album because it feels to me like a display of what Cudi could have done had he really been spitting. Although Donnis’ rhymes are not as impressive as the beat, he does them justice. Overall this is a killer opening to a great listen.
Rhymes: Donnis is an impressive emcee that I am excited to hear more from while still having a lot of room to grow. One of my favorite lines from the mixtape is on the first track when he says “Boxed myself out of the box that you put me in/ from the Bible belt where most people is scared to sin/ they just count to 10 and wish all their devils away/ but somewhere in my life I just let em play.” While there are no real complex rhyme schemes in that little section, I think it is a clever series that flows extremely well with the beat. As you may or may not know, my favorite aspect of hip-hop is the lyricism and I like Donnis because his rhymes are clever even if they are not always complex. He times his punch lines well so that he is capable of setting them up and not just delivering joke after joke. Another line I like is from the 2nd track, Underdog, “So Cudi’s on the moon and Drake’s so far gone? / well I’m finally famous like my boy Big Sean.” Here he takes what has made others famous and puts his own twist on it. He has a very southern sound that compliments his Atlanta based lyrics but he is able to show his versatility through club banging tracks, love songs, and even inspirational raps. As a final demonstration of his lyricism, I leave you with the beginning of the final verse of Here To Stay. The excerpt is impressive with some inner rhyming but I think the coolest part is that he rhymes that “ush” type sound throughout the entire verse. He employs some very short lines at a rapid fire pace as well as mixing in long lines containing rhymes of their own that still end in the same sound. This type of verse needs to be listened to multiple times because each time I listen, I hear a new rhyme I missed before. So even if the quote I give doesn’t seem notable, go see for yourself. “We just want to live marvelous/ have the marble floors, plus/ blowing kush, by the bush/ where nobody can bother us/ hush, we the shit that they cant flush.” 8/10
Flow: There are times on this mixtape where Donnis spits a near flawless verse such as the final one of Gone where his rhythm and pace match identically to an ever-changing beat for over a minute. It is scary to think about just how good Donnis can be when I listen to verse like that. He shows that he can make a beat his own; he just cannot do it on a consistent basis yet. There are times where he loses track, making him sound awkward, where a seasoned veteran would be able to keep himself in line. Most of the time it leads to a slower delivery and lines with way fewer words in them than his others. The songs on this mixtape have very different sounds but the pace does not force Donnis to change too much. A solid debut effort but I hope Donnis develops the ability to rhyme slow and quick without forcing it. I believe Donnis will be able to transition seamlessly between fast and slow to the point where the listener doesn’t notice whether his pace is different because it always sounds natural; he just isn’t quite there. His lines like “before my craft takes flight/ into the night/ lemon… lime… sprite…” take away from his overall ability because in the end those stick out and overshadow his cleverness. 6/10
Beats: Although Donnis did not make any of the beats I will talk about them briefly. Unlike many of the mixtapes, to my knowledge, all of these beats are original which is refreshing and shows off another necessary talent for rappers – their beat selection. It doesn’t matter what you are saying, if you have a terrible beat, the song will not be good and then from there, finding instrumentals that add instead of being neutral is a skill within itself. Featuring production from Nobody Famous, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and many others, the beats definitely contribute to each and every song. As I mentioned earlier, all the songs are a similar tempo allowing him to excel on each song be it for 4 bars or every line. 9/10
Overall: I really like this mixtape, especially as a debut for a young artist. It does have its “rookie mistakes” but proves that when Donnis is on, he is not one to mess with. Donnis is definitely one to be on the look out for as he, alongside B.o.B. and other new ATLiens, KEEP Atlanta on the map and relevant.