donSMITH - In Loving Memory
This past March, Harlem artist donSMITH released his soulful EP, In Loving Memory. The EP features Zacchae’us Paul, Asun Eastwood, Jay Lonzo and Kapi-Ku with production from Sypooda, Lim0, Flousen, Sum Total and RanVanDam. The EP as a whole serves as a transformation of Self, a transcendence through all the obstacles and curses that ended up being blessings. I refer specifically to “curses” as when you watch the video to “To Be Grateful (Long Live)” it is represented as a play with acts. “ACT I: The Curses Become Blessings.”
Content, lyrics and message wise the EP is somewhat similar to a testimony or sermon as donSMITH explores various topics that essentially point towards gratitude for the path ordained for you. It’s an EP that asks you to hone in on the beauty of you and your life; where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, where you’ll go and what you’ll do. Are you grateful for it? For the flaws, the stumbles, the losses, lessons, moments of uncertainty that kept you guessin’, riddled with anxiety and indigestion? Are you grateful for it? Could you be who you are without it?
In Loving Memory begins with the track “To Be Grateful (Long Live)” that sets the tone and theme of the project. The track begins with a woman’s voice who appears to be a religious leader giving a sermon. As her voice weaves in and out of the track you hear Zacchae’us Paul singing the hook, “I spent my whole life trying to be grateful…” followed with the woman’s voice stating, “God has blessed us to be here 1 more time.” The tone is set - to be grateful. And to be grateful of what? donSMITH enters the song with his verse that highlights an array of things he’s grateful for and the moments and thoughts that tie to those things. From gratitude to patience to privacy, creation (R.I.P. imitation,) hand-me-downs, competition, Nipsey tweet, “having strong enemies is a blessing,” the mission, long live them all. Long live the lessons, blessings and everything in between and beyond.
The next track, “Long Time Coming” featuring Asun Eastwood further expounds on the theme of gratitude and how it’s connected to longevity. Oftentimes, when our flowers bloom it can feel like we should’ve received the bouquets a long time ago. Both artists on this track express how they’ve been blessed along their path the whole time even if the blessings were unseen at that time.
“Long time coming, in the mirror confident in GOD and the flaws I come with” - donSMITH
“It’s the ones that hate complexity try to stifle my glow” -Asun Eastwood
“Lonzo’s Prayer” featuring Jay Lonzo also plays into the idea that your gifts and blessings aren’t always physical form but often things that are internal and innate that we have to develop. You know, Jay Lonzo states specifically in his verse,
“can’t cry at Christmas if you know your gift ain’t under a tree,”
puts the cherry on top of being grateful. In this track the woman pastor is back with more soothing affirmations. She asks the audience to really reflect on where they’re at, “you may not have the Bentley yet, the BMW but BE GRATEFUL.”
In Loving Memory, then moves into the 4th track, “God Knows” featuring Kapi-Ku. The song really captures the social ills and pains that donSMITH observes and experiences in his environments. There’s a want in the song to learn how to help on the day2day but also recognizing the risks and predicaments that those gestures might put you in. Initially, there’s this hook in the background that loops, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” as if donSMITH is trying to figure out why things are the way they are. Eventually, by the end of the song he comes to terms with it, maybe it was supposed to be this way actually and only GOD knows.
The final track, “Still DON” ends the EP strong. It completely ties up the themes of accepting your flaws and obstacles, learning to love the journey and to not just be but become. He’s asking questions of what is legacy (that may be rhetorical to some.) Is it your name? Your lovers, kids? Where you from? What you rep? How does one secure their legacy and make sure it represents you and your mission correctly? And when you’re living your legacy what does that look like in the present tense? All questions donSMITH is asking on the personal level but also very much on a universal level as well.
“Legacy got me stuck in my ancestor ways / legacy got me feeling so honored to be here”
When I came across In Loving Memory, I was in the midst of reading Hip Hop’s Hostile Gospel: A Post-Soul Theological Exploration by Daniel White Hodge. It’s always a beautiful moment when studies align in real time. The text by Hodge explores over 8,500 songs throughout Hip Hop that aids in his research of where GOD is in Hip Hop, how GOD is referenced, revered and etc. Without question, in another edition of the text or next volume this is an EP that needs to be referred to and in Hip Hop theology studies in general. Whether you’re religious or not, familiar with donSMITH or not this is a significant project from 2022 that shouldn’t be overlooked.
EVERYTHING donSMITH: https://musaic.bio/donsmith