DonChristian Jones’ soulful rap plays with spatial and temporal parameters to create tracks in which the past and present coalesce. Borrowing from Greek epics, architecture, and video games, the Philly-born, New York-based artist/producer is a man of many habits and modes. He studied painting at Wesleyan University, where he founded the Camp & Street crew along with rapper Le1f. In this collaborative environment, DONCHRISTIAN shifted his focus to music. Told through the voices of many alter-egos, DONCHRISTIAN’s second mixtape Renzo Piano often takes on the quality of a fever dream, weaving a baroque landscape drenched in fantasy.
On the occasion of his new music video “Liu Kang,” 032c spoke with DONCHRISTIAN:
The visuals of your new “Liu Kang” video are very abstract, especially in comparison to the decadent, country-house aesthetic of videos like “My Crew” and “Clerk.” What motivated the decision to pare things down?
I’m just coming into myself everyday and recalling my intentions. My values are evolving. I’m less concerned with accessory. The things I care about are light, color, space, gesture, and intention. I want to derive love and create love with these things.
“Liu Kang” references the Mortal Kombat hero—who’s known for kicking people with his shirt off—and it features on your mixtape named for the architect Renzo Piano. How do you see yourself embodied in these figures?
For me, it’s about establishing a newfound mythology for myself. I remember myself in the Bible and in the Homeric Epics; in the X-men and in Final Fantasy. My history didn’t begin on a plantation and won’t end with assimilation and appropriation. I sometimes think of myself abstractly as a ghetto samurai, and as an architect–ways to inspire humility, grace, tact, vision.
Le1f pops into this video to do a little voguing. How would you describe the creative partnership between you guys? Who else are you working with in New York these days?
We just see the world similarly—find the same sadness and humor in it. We’re designing stuff and we want a TV show. We write everything down and sketch it out. The squad is thick here in New York. Producers, writers, singers, directors —Boody, Rahel, Joey Labeija, lsd, Milo McBride, Sam Jones, Monster Movies
There’s a lot of vocabulary flying around in relation to your music—“art rap,” “cloud rap,” “future R&B,” “post-gender.” Do you find any of these characterizations useful? How would you figure yourself within the landscape of contemporary music?
I guess they’re useful because they give people loose points of entry. In a lot of ways it has been those things, but it’s also just Soul music to me. What I’m working on now though, is more. We’re working with and making sounds I’ve never even heard before—and between us all, we’ve heard a lot.
As an artist and musician, you cross multiple disciplines. You’re a painter. You’re also a founder of the Camp & Street crew, whose members support and contribute to each other’s work. How do these multiple influences converge within your music?
I just think holistically about the whole thing. Sometimes it’s hard to focus. I just figure if I write it all down, I’ll get to it all eventually, whether in a book or a film. My music is the most intentional work I’ve ever made—whether that be good or bad—I feel like I’m in total control of something.
This marks the end of your Renzo Piano project—what, or who, can we expect next?
Museums, hood music festivals, and an album that Kimye will play in their G-Wagon.