NATIVE Exclusive: DAP the Contract continues to stretch his powers

The polymath discusses genre-bending, his Powers series & making lived-in music.

“I don’t know if I can articulate when the moment is but I know the feeling,” DAP the Contract tells the NATIVE one Thursday evening in early June. The rapper, singer and producer is describing the sensation he usually gets when he knows that the music he’s been making and the pieces of leftover ideas are coalescing into a body of work. It’s ineffable but, when you’ve made eleven projects, that déjà vu tingle is recognisable. “It’s such distinct feeling and it’s happened with every project I’ve made. At that point, I know what the project is, even if there’s three or four more songs left to make.”


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The same distinct feeling hit while he was making his latest release, ‘PW3RS’, the concluding part in a trilogy series that started in 2020. ‘Powers, Vol. 1’ dropped just as the world was adjusting to the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, and DAP met the moment with some of his most self-reverential raps yet. “Fuck a Red Bull I got wings/Stay fly I might swing/All I do is get rings,” he rapped on “Rings.” The production was grandiose, but with a dark edge to it, otherwise radiant melodies creaking under the weight of pounding drums.

DAP’s arrogance hinted that the 5-song EP was conceived pre-pandemic, and the addition of three newer songs to the deluxe edition, released a month later in late May, felt a little more tethered to the times. While “Above the Law” fit into the mould of boastful speaker-rattlers, the other two songs summoned existentialist references, touching on climate change, racism, third-eye musings, and even briefly pondering death—“And when the reaper take me home, love, it was a pleasure,” he says on “Caged Bird Song.”

The deluxe of ‘Vol. 1’ showed a clearer portrait, of an artist and a young man figuring the world out and his place within it, initially leaning on bravado as the main gambit and then doing some looking inwards right after. On a more instinctual level, this was DAP the Contract also stretching the boundaries of his artistry. “I was experimenting with a new sound, so I wanted to make EPs as opposed to an album worth of these experiments,” he says a few minutes into our conversation. “It started off as one but I had a feeling that I would do two but then, I like things in threes—all my favourite artists have trilogy albums—so that helps me build it into a world and each of them is slightly different.”

For ‘Powers, Vol. 2’, DAP brightened the palettes significantly. The music was decidedly funkier, featuring an eclectic range of dance-pop cuts, a UK Garage track with Wavy the Creator, colourful R&B-tinged experiments, more singing and auto tuned vocals from DAP himself. Following suit, the themes are lighter but the writing still retains some of that grizzled edge from its predecessor. On the heart-baring “Open Letter III,” he reminisces on formative experiences from his younger days, some of them devastating, but there’s some wistfulness to his raps in how he embraces the lessons and cherishes the positive memories.

Even though it’s a 180-degree turn from its predecessor, ‘Vol. 2’ still plugs into the singular framework of DAP the Contract, since his music has always pulled from an incredibly wide range of inspirations. He’s also still mirroring feelings and expressing sentiments that are resonant to many young people—he only tempered the posturing with melodic versatility. Case in point, the UK Garage-influenced “Mo Fe Jaiye,” with its hopscotching rhythm, is a relatable manifesto of wanting to be free from life’s toxicities.

‘PW3RS’ is a refinement of what came before it. “Having the third one has helped me to execute what I set out to do and also round out the sound,” DAP tells me. In eight enveloping songs, DAP balances the light-hearted exuberance of ‘Vol. 2’ and the asceticism of ‘Vol. 1 (Deluxe)’. Between soulful Hip-Hop beats and groovy, afrocentric Funk-Pop, the music is utterly beautiful, and the coexistence of rap bars and sung melodies is seamless. On “Dancing in the Rain,” there’s great synergy between the brightly coloured production and his buoyant vocals, while he’s assertively rides the elastic knock of “Birds of a Feather” with a Teflon flow.

“I don’t know if it’s a uniform thing, like different sentiments or emotions in different songs and I can explain them singing or rapping,” DAP says of his creative process. “It isn’t really like tied to anything how I decide whether to sing or rap, it’s more like how the sound comes to me. I think of everything initially from a sonic perspective, ‘cause I started out as a producer. Before I’m even thinking of the singing or rapping, it’s more about what’s going to sound better. Then the words kind of land based on what the sound’s going to be.”

Determining technical approach is one side of the music. The other side is figuring how the themes that need to be explored. As a primarily projects artist, DAP the Contract often opts for portraiture even when the stakes are lowered. The 3-installment compilation, ‘Contract Thursdays’, is an aggregate document of personal growth, each entry allowing listeners a glimpse into DAP’s ambitions as a person and an artist, as well as his evolving perspectives on love and life, within the confines of a freewheeling series. DAP clearly hangs his hat on making lived-in music, and ‘PW3RS’ leans into that.

On the closing duo of “Magic” and “Everything is Everything,” he immortalises the memory of close friend Baingor Joiner, the multifaceted creative who passed away last year. “We grew up together,” DAP says of his relationship with Bai. “We started making music at the same time—producing, I mean. You know when kids meet each other and they’re so excited to just play together, that’s it. From then on, I saw Bai study geology, I saw him do DJing, I saw him explore, he’s doing skating, now he’s on Waffles N Cream. His taste and affinity for creating across the board was so infectious.”

“I think that’s what he gave to a lot of people, he just inspired you to create and do what you want to do more than anything else.”


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Alongside the gleaming Disco-Funk production, Bai’s voice is the first thing listeners hear on “Magic.” That inclusion is culled from a message he left DAP just before he got married, a totem of how close they were. Befuddled by the untimely nature of his friend’s passing, DAP tries to work through his grief. “If it’s heaven for a G, that’s my therapy,” he sings on the hook. Bai’s voice beams in at the song’s end again, this time offering some soothing words of encouragement—“Do something different, do what it is that inspires you.” There’s resolution over the crisp drums of “Everything is Everything” even though “it was hell to pay for twenty-eight,” a full circle moment from when he was worried about the 27 club on ‘Vol. 1 (Deluxe)’ closer, “Love the World.”

It took a few months for DAP the Contract to turn these feelings into music. That process plays into his ethos of experiencing life, allowing himself to work through those emotions, before eventually using that energy to create. “I’m not a frequency artist because I really create off emotions and real things and experiences,” DAP says. “That takes time to happen, unpack, develop and put into music. Apart from perfecting the sound, so much had happened. Everything was easy to write, I needed the therapy for real.”

‘Magic’ is Powers.