Artist Spotlight: Gengis Don

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Upcoming Boston-based producer talks upbringing, motivation and new album.

Lyndon Harewood (AKA Gengis Don) has caught our attention with his soulful instrumental EP, About Time (attached above). His sound on the EP borrows from older instrumental hip-hop giants like J Dilla and 9th Wonder, but he adds a gentle touch of refinement and elegance to it. Now he has a new album on the way, titled The Funny Thing About Life, dropping on August 28th. We decided to reach out to him and ask him a few questions about his life and his music:

Amalgam Digital: First things first, tell the readers a little about your upcoming album?  

Gengis Don: Oh boy, this album is a lot! It has basically controlled my life for the past 3-4 months, and it’s because I put so much time into perfecting my craft and building on everything I do so that I don’t stay stagnant as a producer. It’s a conceptual album. A friend of mine committed suicide earlier this year and it’s dedicated to her and all those who suffer from depression. Each song represents a stage or a relationship in a person’s life: from your birth, to your relationship to your mother, to your first love, to heartbreak, to graduating, and eventually death. Its a very philosophical album because it makes you think about what life really means to you, or at least how we interpret it individually. There’s a myriad of genres on this album from hip-hop, to R’n’B, to blues, to even a little reggae, but it’s not all over the place. There’s a specific story it tells and I don’t want people to misunderstand it. I’ve got a bunch of Boston raised artists on it; Chilla Jones, Original Kadeem, Lotus Taylor, Mr. Fritz, Swooli, and MyCompiledThoughts.

The Funny Thing About Life artwork

The Funny Thing About Life artwork

AD: Sounds insane! I like how you are blending multiple genres into one cohesive body of work. 

GD: I just want to make impactful music that I’m proud of. I don’t have a specific genre that I intend to focus on, just as long as it’s good music. I recently started to get into country music. I’m still not a fan, but I definitely have more of an appreciation for it, and there are some good artists.

AD: Do you think there’s a reason why you have such a diverse vision and open-minded appreciation for all kinds of music? 

GD: My family is from Barbados, and I was raised in Brooklyn until college. Barbados is a small island in the Carribean. My Bajan heritage definitely played a huge role in my upbringing because growing up, my dad would always put on Calypso music and Soca music when he came home from work, and on Sunday’s when it was cleaning day.

Being raised in Brooklyn definitely exposed me to a lot of different music because Brooklyn is a cultural melting pot. I would hear Bachata and Merengue from the neighbors’ house. Cars would be blasting old-school East Coast rap and the landlord would be playing reggae. Growing up, surprisingly I listened to a lot of System of a Down, which is surprising coming from my background. I also liked Kanye West, Outkast, Red Hot Chili Peppers, basically everything.

As a producer, though, I’m influenced a lot by Dilla, 9th Wonder and Apollo Brown. Those dudes are my favorite producers, hands down! But I can’t just have one favorite artist. There’s too many genres that I like to have one.

AD: You know how Guru is originally from Boston, but people think he’s from Brooklyn rapper because he moved there? You are the direct opposite of Guru in a way. What drew you to Boston originally and what do you think of the local music scene?

GD: Yeah I’m pretty much the opposite of Guru. I came to Boston for school and fell in love with it ever since. I mean, Brooklyn made me who I am, you know; it gave me my go-getter attitude and I’ll always have love for it. But the thing about Boston is that, the music scene is a lot more direct, and although there are a bunch of artists in the city, everyone is trying to put on for the city and make it relevant in a broader music scale. Brooklyn already has a rich hip-hop history and I feel with Boston, it’s just beginning to write its own story and I want to be a part of that.

Boston’s music scene is second to none. There are so many talented artists in Boston it’s crazy. Well, I luckily have been able to involve myself in not just the hip-hop scene, but the jazz scene as well. I’m a hip-hop/jazz drummer, and I’m part of a jazz/funk band that plays at different venues in Boston. I also have a lot of friends at Berklee, so I’ve been exposed to and played a lot of great music in Boston. But in terms of a national level, Boston is definitely beginning to blow up for its hip-hop thanks to artists like Michael Christmas, Cousin Stizz, and OG Swaggerdick. Those dudes are putting Beantown on the map.
AD: What inspires you as a musician and do you have any life philosophy or principles that you live by?
GD: I’m inspired by others, who work to achieve their goals. I love seeing people go after their dreams, and that really does inspire me to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m also a very competitive person, and I like to prove people wrong so my critics and people who don’t support what I do, inspire me more than they think. But above all, all praise goes to the Most High Almighty because without him, none of this would be possible.

Check out this single of The Funny Thing About Life featuring MyCompiledThoughts. Cosmic synths and subdued trap drums  serve as an exquisite foundation for chanty vocals from MyCompiledThoughts. The instrumental is elegant enough to listen on its own, yet it never outshines the vocalist – it serves to elevate it instead.

Stay tuned for The Funny Thing About Life, and meanwhile, check out Gengis Don’s Soundcloud and support him on Bandcamp.

 

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