Ace The Don

How do you put words to paper, what’s your creative process like?

It’s pretty simple. I listen to people who inspire me, and that motivates me to get creative.

In these uncertain times (Covid-19) what have you done to stay creative & relevant?

I feel like this touches on my private life, so I’ll pass. I like to keep my music and personal life separate.

But I have been busy. I’m comfortable with my status in the Kenyan music industry and the revenue from my new music, to allow myself the liberty to immerse myself in bigger ventures.

What’s your take on blogs like Micshariki that are trying to play a role of ensuring KE Hip-hop gets big?

I think it’s pretty dope. Plus, it’s a win-win for all parties involved. Basically just a good look all round.

How do you see your sound evolving in the next couple of years?

I’m Super Saiyan already. I’m the best I’ve ever been, and I’m content. You can never plan or even anticipate the future when it comes to music. You just take it by the day.

How do you feel the impact of internet in music industry?

The internet forever changed how music was made and consumed. Back then even for one to be a music producer wasn’t a walk in the park. One had to pay to learn just like any other course. Upon completion, just buying, or having access to equipment was another encumbrance. So music production was only reserved for people who were capable. Now, because of the internet, all that information is free. Equipment is far more accessible; one can set up a home studio for cheap and learn off YouTube. I believe majority of producers today are self-taught.

Also before the internet the only mediums to have your music out there were television and radio. And so there were very specific channels one had to use to get their music across; channels that were made to seem convoluted for an independent artist. Because of that back then the music industry was way more monopolized than it is now. That’s why looking at our throwback music, majority of it is either from Ogopa Deejays or Calif Records.

Fast forward to today…every artist’s social media handle is their platform. If used correctly, they can access a far wider audience all through their phones. The internet’s cut out the ‘middle man’, and now artists can have direct access to their fan base, something that was impossible just two decades ago. Thus, we have more independent artists living comfortably off music.

A third advantage is the whole ‘gatekeeping’ issue. Back then record label executives decided whose/which music and which genres would be consumed by the public, which meant for one to be signed and have their music marketed they had to conform to a certain set standard. Now, with independence comes creative control. And so we have a lot of artists experimenting with different sounds. As a result, there’s so many genres and sub-genres…there’s literally a sound for every single person’s specific taste.

Now, all these reasons come with their downsides. New artists emerge every day, making the industry way too oversaturated. You have to sift through a sizeable number of untalented artists before you come across a new act with potential.

So far so good, what’s your take on the current status of KE Hip-hop?

Personally I feel like KE Hip Hop isn’t as exciting, at least, not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that more acts are emerging, more independent gigs are popping up which means new names don’t have to kiss ass for a Jameson or a Koroga; they can still secure a gig or two as they hone their skills and build their brand. These opportunities weren’t there a decade ago. Heck, we even have a Hip Hop awards show now. Kenyan Hip-hop has come a long way.

But as far as the music goes, I feel like artists today are too comfortable. What excited me most when I started rapping was the friendly competition among us. And the product clearly showed. This is because we strived to be better every time we hit the studio. Often I see people talk about how a certain artist ‘used to’ be dope and use their older music to drive the point home. Many a time it’s true.

Which hood do you represent, and through hip-hop what have you done to impact your community?

I’m more about placing myself in a position where I get to impact the entire industry eventually, if ever I’ll decide it’s worth fighting for.

You have worked with the late Sniper G-ganji, he was a Father figure to many artists who are thriving at the moment, what do you remember about him, and what’s that one thing you feel set him apart from the current producers?

Sniper literally taught me how to rap. I had the writing part down by the time I met him. He coached me through delivery. He was patient with me as I refined my craft. First 4 years of my music career, I basically lived in his studio.

SP loved what he did, and he was accommodating to everyone who had as much a passion for music as he did. He also didn’t entertain mediocrity. Twice I saw him kick someone out the booth and give them their money back because they were trash. That’s why every song you hear that has Sniper on production is fire.

He was also a pretty chill guy. Everyone can attest to this. Sometimes we just pulled up, not to record or anything, but just to hang out and touch base. I’ve never had an altercation with him whole time I’ve known him. He will truly be missed.

The Late Sniper G-ganji (R.I.P)

You have a project Plus I Rap Good which you released sometimes last year, what is the inspiration behind it? Do you have upcoming project lined up that your believers should be on the lookout for?

I feel like Plus I Rap Good is the most ‘balanced’ project I’ve released to date. I grew up on hard Hip-hop. When I was younger my favorite rappers were Papoose, Cassidy and Eminem. Then I went through a brief stint of Horror core Hip Hop; I was only playing Diabolic, Lou Cipher, Poison Pen, Immortal Technique, etc. Then one day I randomly heard ‘Everybody Down’ by Slaughterhouse, and that was my introduction to lyricism. Loved the song, looked up their solo projects, and broadened my knowledge in terms of emcees and Hip Hop in general.

But that was just it. I was fixated on this notion that I had to stay lyrical…and don’t get it misconstrued, it did serve its purpose. I’m one of the smartest, most technical lyricists in Africa. But I had to get out of my comfort zone. I did, and Plus I Rap Good is the product.

I feel like I found a way to strike a balance between more easily digestible music and still rap my ass off, without compromising either. And that’s the whole premise of the album. I can touch on such and such a topic……and ‘still rap good’.

I loved making the entire project, and judging from my numbers the fans loved it too. There’s nothing more fulfilling when other people appreciate your art, taking into account the amount of time and effort you took to make it.

As for more upcoming projects…I wouldn’t hold my breath. I’ve learnt not to pressure myself or set timelines, because then I’ll be making music just to beat deadlines, and not because I was inspired to do so. We’ve seen how underwhelming rushed music is, no matter the hype.

Some of the individuals that you feel are getting it right in the culture and you want to shout out them?

I came to the conclusion there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in this industry. There is no ‘formula’ to this. What worked for one artist may not work for the other, and vice versa. People like what they like. So everyone putting in work and making their methods work for them deserves praise.

Word of advice to the upcoming artists who are really struggling hard to a point they just want to give up?

Music is the single hardest career you could ever choose. Because it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job like every other career, it solely matters only if people gravitate towards you. You could be the best at it, but if people don’t like you it’s a wrap. There’s one more reason to be a decent human being on top of being talented.

And trust, you will feel like giving up every now and then, especially when nothing pans out after all the work put in. How bad you want it will determine whether you’ll keep pushing. But also, if it’s too much, I want to let you know its okay to leave it alone, for the sake of your mental health…then come back and tackle it when you’re ready for the pressure again. There’s no honor in compromising your well-being.

What’s next for Ace Tha Don?

I’m on sabbatical from music. If I’m to come back to music, it won’t be as a rapper, but someone bigger, to steer Kenyan Hip-hop on an upward trajectory, molding other artists in the process. I’m trying to be the ‘Uncle Joe’ that we never had to the younger generation of artists. That’s how you live forever.

Your official social media/Music platforms?

Facebook: Ace Tha Don
Twitter: Ace Tha Don KE
Instagram: ace_tha_don
YouTube: Ace Tha Don KE
Linktree: AceThaDonKE

Your Parting shot?

Be good people.