DAP The Contract is one of those frustratingly talented people; he raps, produces, sings, has his ABRSM diploma piano, and on top of that is studying law… yeah, we know.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, DAP has lived in London, just finished a short stint in Amsterdam, and is now based in New York. You can hear influences from all over in his music.
His most recent accolades include opening for Skepta and Burna Boy at the first annual Nativeland Festival, and has since been asked to perform again, as well as featuring on the song “Be Nice” in the recent Disney soundtrack for film Noelle. And on top of that, he recently featured in our Winter Edition of Seasonal Sounds!
Interviewed by Sophie Ogunyemi
Can you remember the moment you first decided to pick up an instrument?
I don’t remember it specifically, but my mum is a pianist (my sister and brother play too) so it must have been just one day that she showed me properly. I do remember starting other new instruments though, like the flute and viola, which were less popular but meant I could play in orchestras and have a better chance of getting a music scholarship to a school in the UK!
Who was the most influential in your musical education?
My piano teachers! They were hands down my favourite teachers throughout school.
All of them understood that kids need extra curricular activities and a change of pace from super academic work, as well as how hard it is to balance music and other school work. I found that music wasn’t emphasised or prioritised within school, really.
My piano teachers were also the people who I could tell about things going on in my life. They have a different level of understanding and seemed to care more about me than my academic teachers. Those pianos classes were my chance to unwind a bit; to come out of my shell and be more myself.
Maybe they had this different level of understanding because music is emotional, so to learn and perform it you need to be emotionally aware.
That’s one of the main values of the arts: it makes you think differently which I think helps you mature/grow up quicker.
Which artists have since influenced you and your music?
I had a big pivot in highschool from Classical music to an overwhelming amount of Hip-Hop music. But my favourite artist ever is Kanye West because of his versatility and also, I guess, because of having similar influences growing up with things like church every Sunday. I love gospel choirs, harmonies, organs etc. and sampling old school music that I knew growing up.
Apart from Kanye, there’s a whole host of other rappers that have influenced me, but then I never stopped loving Rachmaninoff and Schubert, Mozart, Copland etc. Something about the emotions in classical music speaks to me in the same way that hip-hop and rap music does.
So, do you think having an understanding of classical music has improved your understanding or appreciation of other music?
Absolutely. Having the understanding of the classical background gives me the ability to break down any genre and put it back together however I want, which makes genre bending more fun and interesting!
Do you think you have to study music to get in to it?
Definitely not. Music is a universal language. It speaks differently to different people.
I would say studying it is definitely helpful though! It’s an important life lesson to understand something without jumping into it head first. I think studying music gives you a deeper understanding and freedom to interpret it how you like. Practising, mastering and doing research, in the way you do when learning music, is such a valuable life lesson.
Learning an instrument taught me about not giving up. I saw lots of my friends give up their instruments because there just wasn’t any emphasis on it compared to sports and school work, and it wasn’t “cool” (especially classical music).
How do you think music has impacted your life?
I can’t imagine life without music! I listen to and make music more hours in the day than anything else. My morning alarm is a song, I listen to music in the shower, keep listening when I leave the house and throughout the day! Music has been the biggest influence in my life. It’s such a passion and I’ve always known that this is what I want to do, I have just had to work out how to do it on my own terms and make a living from it.
Let’s talk about your music. When did you write your first piece?
No one has ever asked me this! It was 2008 – I know this because all my beats are numbered with the number, date, keyboard name (I name my keyboards) and software. I’m a nerd! So my first beat was called: 1st 02/06/09 Harrow (LOGIC)(MMH)
How has your music evolved over the past few years into the sound you’re making now?
I let go a little bit. I realised that I didn’t need to keep all of my music complex and get into the nitty gritty. Sometimes music can be too niche, so I sort of came out of making music that was strictly hip-hop or house or afrobeat and tried to create based on energy. I’m focusing now on how the song feels rather than how technically elaborate this song is. It’s getting a better understanding of people. I ask myself, what can I do to make someone connect with this so they can hear what I’m saying?
That leads to my next question – what do you want your listeners to get out of your music?
If I have to boil it down:
- To get to know me – music has always been therapeutic to me and a way of expressing thoughts and ideas.
- To learn about themselves – that means we all learn about each other.
That’s the communal aspect of music. Relating to each other is so important. It’s to inform people too, and encourage conversation to make people think for themselves.
What has been the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome in the music industry so far?
Great question. I’d say trust. I’ve turned down a lot of opportunities because of things feeling like a trick. The commercialisation of the music industry hasn’t helped it’s reputation, so I’ve found it hard to trust with dodgy contract clauses; there’s a lack of transparency that, without any help and experience, it’s very difficult to navigate.
How are you working around it?
Maybe I have to let go a bit and take a leap of faith. I guess you learn through failing! But also I can negotiate more and be more firm on my terms.
Collaboration with any artist – who would it be?
Santi – I love his intentionality and his visuals are amazing!
What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
The freedom to create and do things on my own terms.
Favourite track right now?
Reason: my favourite song of all time is Prototype by André 3000/OutKast, because I think it’s the most simple perfect love song and I think Fun Girl has that same beautiful simplicity. You also hear a motorcycle drive by as she was doing a little run, which is so by chance but timed so perfectly. It could have been taken out, but it’s still there!
What’s your advice for young musicians?
- Don’t stop – this is the most important thing. I hear so many people say ‘I wish I hadn’t stop playing my instrument’.
- Work hard and work smart. Find different ways to do things and get yourself out there.
Do you think Take it away is beneficial to young people?
Absolutely. The emphasis on music education and giving more people access to it is so important. You never know who’s going to take to music and whose life it is going to change. Opportunity is key.
What’s next for you and your music?
2020 is going to be very different for me. I’ll be graduating from law school and becoming a full time lawyer. My goal for the next 6 months is to do both work and music. I’ve actually just put out some new music which I’ll be performing in the US in the Spring. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I do know I’m not going to quit music!
Watch DAP’s “GoodBye For Never 5yr” Live Album Documentary now: