Dolapo Akinkugbe ’16, whose musical career took off at Brown and has brought him as far as Abbey Road Studios, is ready to reflect on his undergraduate years as he looks toward the final performance of his collegiate days.
Akinkugbe first started playing piano when he was four years old, inspired by his pianist mother and musical family. From there, Akinkugbe started producing at age 14 and rapping at age 17. But it wasn’t until he had performed his first show at AS220 in downtown Providence as a freshman that Akinkugbe started pursuing music seriously under the name DAP — originally an initialization pronounced D-A-P that stood for Akinkugbe’s initials with the “p” for producer tacked on the end, it has since come to be pronounced as a one-word acronym.
Akinkugbe said his first official performance at AS220 changed the way he thought about his music, from something that he knew he wanted to keep in his life — either as a career or a hobby — to something he would pursue actively.
“I always loved music. … After my first show, I realized it was actually worth pursuing,” Akinkugbe said. “People actually really connected to something that I was doing.”
Despite his initial nerves taking the stage at AS220, Akinkugbe said he was surprised to watch as the crowd quickly warmed up to him and responded to his performance. Since that first show, Akinkugbe has gone on to perform across Providence. He has released four mixtapes and a collaboration mixtape with his friend, Shane Chubbz, as The Contract.
Now a senior, Akinkugbe is preparing for his last performance as an undergraduate — an April 29 event at the Colosseum in downtown Providence. Tickets for “The Last Class” are being sold online for $3 each, and the show is based on one of Akinkugbe’s earlier tracks of the same name. Ironically, the track, “The Last Class,” is the first song that Akinkugbe performed as an undergraduate at the University’s annual freshman talent show.
The April 29 show will also feature a performance from Impulse Dance Company and Akinkugbe’s guests, including Sebastián Otero ’18, Tone and Stella Mensah ’17, among others.
As Akinkugbe readies for the show, he is also preparing to release a new mixtape, a follow-up to his 2014 release, “GoodBye For Never.”
He said his last mixtape was his first to feel like a full, cohesive album.
“It really came together exactly how I wanted it,” Akinkugbe said. “I felt completely prepared lyrically, musically.”
It was this mixtape combined with another track, “Blue,” that helped Akinkugbe win a place among 84 other artists as a part of Converse Rubber Tracks, a competition that connects selected artists with mentors and then places them in one of 12 iconic professional recording studios. As a selected artist, Akinkugbe traveled to London to record at Abbey Road, paired with producer Mark Ronson and in-house Abbey Road producer Ken Scott.
Akinkugbe credits Ronson with making his recording experience at the legendary studio as comfortable and unintimidating as possible. “The main takeaway I had from the experience was that it wasn’t too soon,” Akinkugbe said. “I was worried before I got there that I wasn’t all-the-way prepared, but all my instincts kicked in as soon as I was in there.”
As part of Converse Rubber Tracks, Akinkugbe was also one of four artists featured in a documentary series airing on Noisey. The finished documentary, “The Undergraduate,” follows Akinkugbe’s life — from attending boarding school in London to living at Brown. The documentary also shows Akinkugbe recording at Abbey Road and performing at The Spot in Providence.
While Akinkugbe said it took a while to get used to having cameras follow him around campus — the film crew visited the University twice — he said that filming “The Undergraduate” was a “great first experience” working with film.
Akinkugbe plans to include two of the three tracks from his Converse Rubber Tracks-sponsored Abbey Road session in his currently untitled upcoming mixtape. This mixtape, still in progress, will mark a continuation of many of the themes and stories from “GoodBye For Never,” though with a more sonically “Nigerian influence,” he said.
Akinkugbe thinks of himself as a producer first and a rapper second. He often creates tracks by producing the instrumentals first, usually starting with a piano chord or a melody and then layering other instruments and beats around it with his keyboard. The lyrics often come after the initial instrumentation has been created, Akinkugbe said. The writing, then, is often “woven into how the instruments sound.”
Inspiration for his tracks is drawn from diverse sources. Akinkugbe said his primary source of inspiration is other artists and music — including Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Nick Hakim. But often inspiration can come from somewhere as unexpected as a conversation with a friend or the Ancient Greek and Latin authors he reads for his concentration in classics.
As Akinkugbe wraps up his last year at Brown, he is also trying to map out what his music career will look like post-graduation. Torn between his love of music and academics, Akinkugbe has elected to defer admission to Columbia Law School for a year to focus on his music.