With more than 16 years experience in pioneering UK street sounds and original dance music, Donae’O, meaning ‘Gift from God’, is the gift that keeps giving.
A producer, songwriter, vocalist and MC, he released the now seminal UK garage cut ‘My Philosophy (Bounce)’ way back in 2002, a time when a wave of artists – namely Sticky, Ms Dynamite and So Solid – were the sound of the underground. ‘My Philosophy’ (written during a stint working for a marketing company) was accomplished and Donae’O’s obvious ability to flick between sounds and monikers (check his work under alias Mr Fidgit for further evidence) has led to him being regarded as a rarity, a multifaceted all-rounder, in a now flourishing homegrown UK scene.
Boasting a CV of consistent artistry, Donae’O is an artist who hasn’t had one big moment but many, many, moments that have, over the years, led to him becoming the go-to-guy for anyone looking for a chorus that punches or a beat with the Midas touch. Bang-on production that flits from grime to garage, R&B and beyond, his forays into singing, rapping and lyric writing have gone on to shape the star that’s in many ways still yet to be fully revealed. Until now that is.
Having now embarked on a label venture, Moving Anti, with Island Records, Donae’O will be signing other artists as well as enjoying his own artist deal. The new self-produced single, ‘Black’, featuring JME & Dizzee Rascal, has the underground happily popping gun fingers in approval (largely in thanks to another killer Donae’O hook (“I’ve got a hell of a pride and one ego, and demons I deal with…” he sings). With a long-player to follow, his fourth studio album, The Grey Area, promises to unlock a body of work that Donae’O fans have been waiting for.
I’ve been really deep in rap and grime for the last three years and I’ve not really ventured outside of these genres for inspiration… Saying that dance music is as much of my culture as R&B and rap, I want people to know that. I’m doing well in rap but I don’t want anyone to forget I can – and will – do other things…”
Born in England, he lived in Ghana for a year before becoming Ian Greenidge of northwest London. Also of Guyanese descent, his roots are a large influence on his sound, especially where drums are concerned. Born to a mother who herself was a touring singer, it was clear by his sixth birthday that a career in entertainment was his calling – ultimately because he’d decided so.
Following his first record deal with Social Circles and releases including ‘Finstrumental’ and the DIY Mixtape, a career in retail ensued with Cash Converters proving a low point. Preferring to work in his home studio, an environment that suits his ADHD-related tendencies, he often gets his best ideas riding on a bus or train.
After four years engrossed in the bassline scene, by 2008 new Donae’O tracks ‘Devil In A Blue Dress’ and ‘African Warrior’ reintroduced a unique sound, leading a new charge in the UK funky scene, and his ability to deliver a record with production on a par with the soulful vocals and witty lyrics was clear. Donae’o also treats his own music like jazz interpretation – if you’ve ever heard the slowed down acoustic versions of these dance cuts, you might be pushed as to your preference. Earning him a spot on the Glastonbury stage in 2008, his first studio album ‘Party Hard’ followed on My-Ish Records in 2009 and led to a MOBO nomination for Best UK Act. Donae’O went on to independently release his album, Indigo Child, in 2013, which featured collaborations with Terri Walker and Talib Kweli. The Forest of Zephron followed in 2014 with appearances from DJ Q, D Double E, Fuse ODG, Artful Mark and more.
Donae’O also boasts writing credits on tracks for Ms Dynamite, Mz Bratt and Yasmin and penned the theme tune for the final series of Channel 4’s Dubplate Drama. In terms of collaboration it’s a strong record of achievement; Donae’O featured on Lethal Bizzle’s singles ‘Go Hard’ & ‘Not A Saint’ (the remix of which with Vato Gonzalez charted at no.20 in the UK). He’s also been roped in on Breakage ‘Speechless’, The Streets ‘Fit But You Know It Remix’, Shy FX ‘Raver’, Jack Beats ‘You Should Know’, Maverick Sabre’s ‘I Need Remix’ and Foreign Beggars ‘Flying To Mars Remix’. More recently Giggs ‘Lock Doh’, Steflon Don ‘Family Ties’ and Big Tobz ‘My Circle’ have had Donae’O reaping praise. In the last 12 month’s Donae’O released singles ‘Mami No Like’ and ‘My Circle’, with Wiley & Ghetts on the remix. He also found time to remix David Guetta & Kid Cudi’s ‘Memories’ too.
“Last year was probably my career highlight. It was largely about other people and collaborating, so less about me but it helped me so much. There was Big Tobz ‘You Know My Style (Remix)’, ‘My Circle’ feat. Blitz & Big Tobz, Belly Squad ‘About That’… I also was involved in three Radio 1 play listed tracks, co-producing Westrn ‘Come Down’, the bridge on Wretch 32 ‘It Was A Dream’ and co-production and the hook for Giggs ‘Lock Doh’…Ultimately, whether it’s for me or others, I just want to make music for the rest of my life.”