The FULL Dunson Interview Transcript

So you read the sample of my interview with Dunson in this month’s edition of The UB Post and are here for the full scoop, right? I’m so glad to hear that! I’ll try not to disappoint.

First, let me give you some updates:

Dunson will be performing locally on the following dates:

Washington, DC at LATGA Sneaker & Music Tour with Camp Lo on Sept. 14. Tickets start at $10 and can be purchased here: Buy Tickets

Baltimore, MD at SoMo Presents: The Ride Tour with Yonas on Sept. 29.  Tickets start at $14.85 in advance and can be purchased here: Buy Tickets


See our full interview below:

When did you first recognize your love for music?

My sister had a drum kit in the basement; I was eight years old and she didn’t play it as much so I started playing it and I’m like, “I really like this,” so I started playing with the radio and eventually my mom came home from work one night and was like “Who’s that playing in the basement?”   I’m like “It’s Kenton.”  She was like “Oh my God that sounds good.” And it felt good to be getting good at music; that’s when I fell in love with it. 

Who or what inspires your music?

Every day instances: people’s situations, my own situations, beautiful women walking down city streets, main events.  I talk about the economy.  So it could be anything; if something catches my attention and I’m in a creative zone, I can write about anything.

What are your feelings about the Baltimore music scene?  How do you see it different from DC?  

The Baltimore music scene is very eclectic and easy-going.  You see a lot of indie rock artists and they feel like they’re almost contrarians when it comes to the industry.  They don’t give a fuck…  They just want to play music.  There’s places off North Avenue and in Fed Hill where we can actually go and have our friends come out. It’s rich in sound.  I was mostly influenced by the Baltimore club scene back in the day when Miss Tony, K Swift (RIP) – when there were all the crazy drum patterns and house music.  As far as rap goes, it’s tough because I don’t think the major radio outlets support the local artists, but maybe they can’t anymore because everything is a conglomerate. There’s [still] some dope artists out there like Los, Mullyman, Bossman, my boy Al Great, Green$pan.

You’re from Maryland [the Baltimore area], went to McDaniel College, played football; do you still call Baltimore home? 

I call Maryland home.  I grew up in the middle of Baltimore and DC so I got the best of both worlds.  I’m a suburban boy.  I’m 15 minutes south of Baltimore [which] is the first scene that let me break in… so musically, I call it home.

 Where do you like to go out?

I like Fells Point, right on the waterfront.  Kooper’s Tavern is a dope spot to eat.  Federal Hill; I played 8×10 a lot.  I like going out on North Avenue: The Windup Space, Joe Squared.  I don’t really go clubbing in Baltimore; I come to DC for that.

You worked for T. Rowe Price in finance. It wasn’t making you happy and you decided to quit.  What was that day like? 

I felt like I had the weight off my shoulders because I had the freedom to create all day long, which is the whole reason I did it.  I feel like if you want to specialize and be the best at your craft, you need to devote each and every day to it.  I felt freedom, but I was apprehensive.  I had the fear of falling flat, which I eventually did, but as I look back on it, that’s the most important day of my current career.

 Outside of the lyrical aspects of hip hop, I understand that you play multiple instruments…

I play drums, keys, guitar, and bass.  Those are the four that I actually play songs on.  …I’d like to say that I can play jazz flute or sexy saxophone; I haven’t picked up the horn instruments yet though.

Do you think you’ve made it yet? And if you don’t, what do you think your sign will be?           

I do not feel like I’ve made it.  I have expectations; I’m not going to lie…  I do feel accomplished, but I haven’t made it where I want to be.  I think when I am doing shows like this or out in different areas of the country and consistently see people drawn to my music – when I see that influence – that to me is my ultimate gauge.  When you know you’re touching a lot of people. When people bring up hip-hop, they’ve got to say Dunson.

So basically when you need Malcolm (John Legend’s trainer/bodyguard/friend and Dunson’s manager) to be your security guard?

Malcolm and two other Malcolms.

You opened up for nine — time Grammy Award winner John Legend in Philly last year, what was that like?

It was a dream come true to have one of the people that you almost idolize… When I was sitting at work, I used to look at John Legend Youtube videos of him killing live shows; him and Kanye [West] in the studio.  It was truly an honor. I had to pinch myself backstage and say “Do you realize what you’re doing right now?” So shout out to John Legend for that.

How did that come about?

He heard my music through a production crew named Phatboiz, who I’m now signed to and while they were in a session producing ‘Tonight (Best You Ever Had),’ his only #1 single so far, which is surprising, they played some music we had done.  He asked “Who is this guy? Bring him up!  I want to meet him.” From there he dropped his knowledge on me from time to time and eventually he threw me a bone with the Philly show and ever since then I went over to his house for 4th of July last summer [in LA]. Stevie Wonder showed up.

Wait, was this the Stevie Wonder concert that he just had?

That was the Hollywood Bowl Induction. This was 2012 summer.  He told me to come through the crib for this cookout he was having.  I show up all dapper and fresh as hell and then Stevie Wonder comes in and I just take a seat.  They were playing “The Investment” before it came out during the whole cookout.  So he looked out; big shout out to that guy!

Did Chrissy [Teigen] cook?

She did cook.

Brick Chicken?

She didn’t make Brick Chicken.  She made some crazy… John made his famous Mac & Cheese…and Chrissy made something.  It was gone fast that’s all I know.  I didn’t get to taste it.

 Speaking of cooking, I understand you do your fair share in the kitchen.

 I do a fair share.  I have three go —to dishes. They’re Eggplant Parmesan, Buffalo Chicken Dip, and Blue Crab Tostadas.

I think everyone wants to wake up in the morning and do something they love.  Have you accepted it or do you have to wake up and pinch yourself?

 I’ve accepted it because the struggles get real.  Sometimes you have to wake up and say “Damn, can you do this another day? Are you going to be sane?” I’ve had the positive and the negative side of waking up to the reality that I’m a full-time artist and now I’m so deep [that I] can’t even think about anything else.  You just have to push through the shit. Just like any job; people wake up every day with their challenges and their celebrations.  It’s an ebb and flow, but I’m definitely an artist now, I can say that.

What do you do to push through those bad days?

I like to jog back through my catalog and understand why I did this in the first place and just remind myself that it’s worth something. I also have fans that tweet at me every day; they’re playing my stuff and spreading it to their friends.  It’s resonating and more and more fans keep me going.

When you’re in production and getting ready to put out an album, EP, or a mixtape, do you listen to yourself?

I’m like 80% me and 20% other cats.  I do randomly go to blogs and listen to new cats or established cats to see what’s out there.  I can’t lie, I listened to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye West in 2010 and made my first mixtape “Creative Destruction 1” in no time because I was like “Man, people can push the boundaries on sound and still be relevant and that’s all I want to do.”  That gave me ultimate inspiration.

What’s your greatest experience in the industry so far?

Shit, it might be tonight…Nah, first time I played SOB’s in New York to a packed crowd, which was big time,  I was like, “Man, people like what I do.” I remember like it was yesterday and I’ve played it four times since.

Who’s on the short list of people you really want to work with?

Badu, Timbaland, Jay Electronica, Phonte from Little Brother, and I’ll round it out with five.  I’ve got to get another female vocalist in there because the female voice is the best instrument ever, I’ll say Jhené Aiko.

What’s your dream gig?

Red Rocks, Colorado. I’m bringing out my horns, background singers, twerkers.

I know you put out “The Investment” in 2012 and that was a mixtape.  Can you describe the difference between a mixtape and an album?

Generally, the mixtape can be a product to hold fans over until the next major album.  … You have the freedom to use samples more and actually hop on other artists’ instrumentals and just do your take on it, because they [mixtapes] are free. That’s the biggest thing.  A little less red tape and a little more freedom … With albums, people spend more time, and if you’re major, people put more marketing into it.  It’s just more commercial.

What do you consider your best piece so far?

My personal favorite is “Creative Destruction 2” —not only because it was all me, but it was the point where I stepped out of me, me, me songs and I actually took other people’s situations to create material off of, and that’s how I started resonating with people; like I’ll talk about breakups, falling in love, escapism, and celebrating.  That’s what broke me into the blogosphere heavy.

So, you have a single ‘Circles’ coming out…

Yeah, it’ll lead the next EP. It’s produced by myself and Phatboiz… The sound is so dope – the sample that I used in it and the way I flipped the beat.  It just captures you.  It’s called ‘Circles’ like when your mind goes in circles because you’ve been doing so much and you’re not sure if you’re actually progressing, but it’s also like you’re going in circles like a spiral staircase.  It’s an introspective song; an encouraging song, but it’s a release too.  It’s one of those timeless joints.

Any advice that you can offer for aspiring musicians?

Study your craft.  Study, study, study.  Research.  Be literate.  I go to schools and talk about the importance of being literate no matter what you’re doing. Look at the game; learn from the game because people have set this stuff in place for you.  Look at Jay Z and listen to an interview; research what it takes to get your song on iTunes or what it takes to go get your shit mastered.  The most important thing, ask yourself if you’re really ‘bout this life because you will fall flat; you don’t know how flat you’re going to fall, but you will and you’ve got to be willing to be resilient and keep it moving.  You’ve got to love it.”

For our female readers, are you single?

Uhhhh no comment.

Any advice for readers that want to date an up — and — coming artist?

Be flexible.  Be yourself.  Don’t be extra.  Be patient and understand what you’re getting yourself into because there’s times when we don’t want to be bothered.  There’s times when we just need love; we just need it to be simple.  We’re just like anybody else.  I like simple.  I don’t like any drama.  [When creating music] Unfortunately, I don’t want to hear about how bad your day was.  I’ll put my phone on airplane mood and I’ll just go.  Sometimes I have to shut my phone off for like three or four days.  It’s my boys too though.  No, I can’t come hang out; no I can’t come to the fantasy football draft.

What else would you like our readers to know?

I appreciate the Baltimore scene for showing love and hope you continue to show your support.  I’m a big fan of Maker’s Mark so I openly invite bottles of Maker’s Mark.  I can no longer take open cups from random fans because I got in trouble for that.  I want you to download “The Investment” and all my projects and I definitely want you to get ‘Circles’ when it drops.

When you’re not making music, what are you doing?  Making music or touring, that is.

You might catch me at a Happy Hour trying to meet a pretty young woman.  I played college football so I’m a big football fan.  I’m a Cowboys fan and I don’t give a fuck if ya’ll don’t like it. [His friend interjects to keep that off the record, but Dunson says, “No, put that on there.”] I like the O’s though.  I think they dropped three games recently (referring to the shutout against the Arizona Cardinals).  Ray Lewis is my favorite football player of all time.

So you’re not a Ravens fan, but you like Ray Lewis?

I do like the Ravens, but I’m a hardcore Cowboys fan.  The Ravens practice at McDaniel during the summer so we would interact with them from time to time.  They’re cool cats.  I played defense in college and Ravens had the best of the best when it came to defense, so I definitely enjoy watching the Ravens and I root for them every time no matter whom they’re playing… unless it’s the Cowboys.  I definitely love when they whoop the Redskins ass, but they didn’t do that last year.

What about basketball?

I follow the Wizards, but I mostly look at the Terps.  I like college basketball a little more; think it’s going to be a rebuilding year.

As a Terps fan myself, I’m a little disheartened with the whole departure from the ACC thing, but looking at the Wizards, we’ve got John Wall on five-year contract and just signed Al Harrington.

I think the Wizards will gradually improve.  Yeah they’ve got Al Harrington and the Georgetown draft [referring to Otto Porter]; he’s dope.

I REALLY loved spending time with this awesome dude and am so thankful for the opportunity to do so.  I see big things in his future and wish him all the best on his elevator ride to the top!