Nigerian Hip-hop artiste Dap The Contract also known as DAP is what I’d like to call a true musician in every sense of the word.
Born into a family where his sister Kaline was already towing the music path, his brother a music producer and his mum also a piano teacher, while dad a music vintage collector.
“That’s the greatest artist in Africa in my opinion”, she taught me everything I know” Daps said of his big sister Kaline.
From a very early age, DAP had started taking piano home lessons.
As the youngest sibling, DAP says he would always watch his elder ones as they made beats in the garage, wanting to catch up with them but the interest with music he says really caught on with him while away at boarding school in London, watching his peers rapping to Lil Wayne and Eminem’s music, but he at the time wanted to be known for making beats.
Coming from a classical music background and having a different understanding of music from the average musician, it didn’t take too long before he decided to start writing his own songs and rapping on them, and by age 18, DAP had put out his first project.
Explaining why his parents made him study classical music and why he is better off for it, DAP says music theory is important for all kinds of music.
“A lot of people will argue that you can read music and learn pieces but you can’t just play and improvise. and I can’t really do that but on the flip side I can understand, I can break down, I can use any kind of genre across the board in my music because I understand the building blocks and fundamentals” he explained.
“In my opinion having the theory is definitely if not more important, just as important as having the ear for music; when you can’t read music it could put a limit on how far you can go; I feel like having the theory gives you the opportunity to do things like write songs better for other people, write film scores,
You tend to do more when there is an understanding of the building blocks of music, I feel you’ll get to a stage where you will feel you like you need a better understanding of the theory of music, something as simple as changing the keys or the cadences or movements of certain songs stands out a trained artist from the untrained; You just see people that like your music and they can’t explain why but you know why.”
He noted however that renowned Nigerian music producer Cobhams Asuquo who used to play at his church for years is a master of the piano and yet doesn’t have any formal training in music. The rapper recalled how at a about age 10, his mum would take him to go say hi to Cobhams at the church.
DAP also made mention of alternative singer Bez as a family friend who he has once opened up for at a show in Lagos.
DAP also attended briefly the Berklee College of Music, the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world located in Boston, Massachusetts USA, where he studied Jazz and music improvisation among other things.
On whether he thinks Nigeria is ready for his music given the heavy western influence on his music, DAP was kind of in two places of thoughts with this question Pulse asked him.
“I think they are more ready than ever but there is no way to be sure, I think they don’t know what they are ready for until it hits them I have complete confidence in my music, the reason I didn’t initially start pushing my music here was because I didn’t think anyone’s palette was ready but I do think whenever I arrive it would be the right time,” DAP said.
He also added that before everything about Nigerian music used to seem like one sound – which is usually thought to be too simple and ridiculous but the sounds are now getting progressive thankfully, which would give his own type of sounds a welcome room, he explained, as he didn’t fail to appreciate how some Nigerian musicians are getting better with the sounds coming out.
DAP also mentioned that there are some African flavors in his song even though they might not be the most recognizable or primary sounds. He stresses that he can make whatever kind of music he wants to and has always tried to polarize his fan base to cater for various audience.
DAP however says music should be made in its purest form, typically how it comes to you, not necessarily limiting the making of music for any particular market.
“I don’t think music should be made under certain limitations I think it’s purest when it is in its purest form, when you just make the music you like.”
For DAP, music is not much of a choice for him, he was born to play the piano he says, having been listening to the piano play in the house every single day while growing up. In classes, he would end up writing lyrics at the back of his book he says.
DAP though on course to get a law degree spoke about parental support for his music and also studying law. He tells Pulse that his parents were not about just wanting their kids to go to school for the sake of it but were more particular about them knowing why they were in school to get that degree.
And even though in his case he was doing well with the music, studying law won’t be entirely out of place.
“Dropping out of school because you have a cool song your friends like doesn’t make sense,” DAP says.
He also shared a piece of very useful advice his dad gave him which was to look at the bigger picture when making life decisions - how they could be mutually beneficial, instead of having sort of like a plan B for one’s life totally different from the plan A, for example with the law he was going to study, DAP explained, he could tie that to the music in form of music and entertainment law, serving legal advice to other musicians and for even himself as a musician.
And that also if he was going to be a practicing lawyer, he should be disciplined enough to make time for the music. It was just about being conscious that food has to go on the table at the end of the day.
For DAP, it was about looking on the bright side and looking out for opportunities to push his music at the law school instead of feeling downcast and giving up on the music or studying law altogether.
DAP spoke about working once with British DJ, singer, songwriter and record producer Mark Ronson, known for his smash hit song ‘Uptown funk’ featuring Bruno Mars.
He recalls Ronson telling him he should stay innovative with his music and not try to be boxed into one class of music, knowing well that DAP understands music deeply and can make any kind of song from any genre. Unfortunately he could only get to meet with Mark one time out of two studio sessions they were supposed to have together, working on a Fela Broadway project but stuff happened.
To him simple songs are the best kind of songs one can make, and that can touch the world.
DAP has a number of projects coming through – a continuation of his CONTRACT Thursdays collection. He also has plans to work with two favorite acts of his – Santi and Odunsi. A song with Ajebutter 22 he says is also in the mix, as well as a visual album that would help tell his story – from a social, political point of view documenting tales of a Nigerian in the US and more, and later on, another visual album to be shot right back at home in Nigeria.
DAP also shoots and edits his own videos, explaining that he has the clear picture of how he wants his music videos to look like and doesn’t have neither the money nor the time to be explaining it to some professional. He is hoping his efforts on the visual albums will help bring him home and announce him to Nigerians.
For DAP, creating music revolves around truth and honesty, and being genuine. To him what makes a good rapper is telling your story.
“As much as you have to be careful with how much of your actual life you reveal, I think it’s clear when it’s not genuine, I care about the truth and telling your story” DAP says, using an example of how he appreciates the likes of Jay-Z and Vic Mensa for coming out the way they did despite the pre-conceived notion people may have about them, looking at their respective recent albums “4:44” and “The Autobiography”.
And to DAP what separates the best rappers from the others is telling the truth in their songs.
“I think what makes the Jay-Zs, the Vic Mensas, the J.Coles etcetera the best rappers is their truth. They told their story and you felt it, you knew it was real, it wasn’t you questioning whether or not they were telling the truth.”
DAP believes people will know when an artist is not being true to himself and the music.
As much as DAP is into rap, he is also about the melodies, Outkast’s ‘Prototype’ being one of his favorite songs. He is not yet familiar with the Hip-Hop scene in Nigeria that much he says but could mention a few names he has come across and likes such as MI and Show Dem Camp.
Speaking about the movement such as with the 90s baby, DAP applauds it and believes the young generation of artists coming are believing in working together as a force is the way forward. He also believes Nigerian and African music has the power to change the world, and the world are already coming to terms with this as seen with those foreign labels coming for African artists and signing deals with them, and what is just left is for the infrastructure to get better down here.
DAP is the real deal. The future of Nigerian music which is going global already is looking ever promising with musicians like him who’ve got their acts together.