Band Spotlight: Donny Murakami

Let’s be honest. In hip-hop, artists who can pull off producing as well as being the vocalists of their songs are almost always on a different level in terms of quality of music and transcending genre stereotypes. Influential artists like Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, RZA, Dr. Dre, and even more recent acts spawning from the internet age such as the late Mac Miller, Travis Scott, and Tyler, The Creator all produce notable amounts of their work, yet are also the stars of the show vocally.

Photo by: Krit Upra

Rochester, New York’s Donny Murakami is no different. Murakami’s production is elaborate, aggressive, and features a variety diverse instruments, but also features vocals from Murakami that range from spit fire rapping, yelling that mirrors the rawness of punk rock music, and crooning well-crafted harmonies. Murakami got into producing based off his need for beats to use for his raps. “I had to pay for every beat, and I couldn’t afford to, so I just downloaded FL studio and figured out how to use it and I’ve been making most of my beats since then”. Murakami has been making and sharing music since he was a teenager in 2011 and found inspiration from underground New York hip-hop legend Charlies Hamilton, who also produced and rapped over his own beats and found recognition through the internet while averting being pigeonholed by genre. “I don’t know anybody else that was black and from Harlem in the Dip Set era that was sampling Incubus, Nine Inch Nails, and also had a feature from Max B”. The versatility of genre was something that Murakami admired and is clearly recognizable upon listening to his music.

Donny’s music ranges from mosh-pit inducing aggressive braggadocious hype tracks such as “Player Haters Club”, “Beam Up”, “Witch Doctor”, and “Mad Man”, trip-hop meditations like “Heroin Love, White Diamond in the SUN” and “Technicolor Acid Dreamcoat”, thoughtful lyrics about the dire realities of American life “Heroin 4 Sale”, feel good songs about getting high “Secret Super Space Kush”, and even rock based tracks like “Bleed” and “Day After Tomorrow”. The production of his tracks is simply incredible. Play any of the aforementioned songs and I promise you’ll find yourself brought to a different reality created by Murakami. From synthesizers, to guitar riffs, banging percussion, and even sounds that resemble video games; the sonics are limitless and entertaining. Murakami, like many of us, finds creativity from feeling discontent, “I find the inspiration to create from dissatisfaction…My idea of the world we live in isn’t the reality so I feel it’s up to me to create the world I’d like to see”. Murakamki’s lyrics range from a variety of topics and are unapologetically honest. Topics like violence, getting laid, doing acid, his upbringing, black empowerment, ignoring naysayers, and his own doubts/insecurities appear seamlessly together. “Whatever mood I’m in at the time is what you get pretty much. (I’m) all about self-awareness as well. I like to own my flaws and flex them when I’m writing. I feel like it’s important to capture as many human emotions as you can when it comes to making music”.

Murakami, in regard to his upbringing “grew up like every other poor black kid in the city for the most part. A lot of struggle and a lot of hope as well, I think that’s why I feel like I can relate to them the most”. Murakami’s music offers this similar sentiment of conflicting struggle and hope. There are tracks where he lays clear his anxieties, but also tracks where you can hear intrinsic hope and confidence floating over the sounds. Murakami hopes his music “inspires you to unapologetically be yourself at the end of the day”. In addition to his music he also owns the clothing brand Manta which features colorful images akin to the acid house/internet collage influenced designs he uses for his single and album artwork. Murakami states of the brand “I always liked how Pharrell had Ice Cream and Kanye was working on Pastelle and I wanted to make my own clothes regardless of having to be rich and famous to do it. Music and clothes go hand in hand to me when it comes to the culture. They both feed off each other.” The relationship of art and music is apparent in his work as both are clearly well thought out and instrumental to understanding what he’s going for. Murakami plans to release “way more videos”, a full-length project, and more clothes in 2020. Be on the lookout for this rising and talented artist and check out his music below – you won’t be disappointed.

Photo by: Krit Upra