For a label that has, in its brief existence, launched the careers of some of the most exciting new artists in the music game (including Kid Cudi, The Cool Kids and Kid Sister), Fool's Gold doesn't seem to be a very appropriate name—you hear the term and you automatically think of a fake version of something valuable (that, or a horrible Matthew McConaughey movie). But in an industry that's always hungry for the next big thing, the label founded by perpetual tastemakers DJ A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs is as real as it gets.
Looking to continue on with their Midas touch, the Fool's Gold crew has teamed up with one of the hottest rappers coming out of ATL, Donnis, to release a proper single for "Gone," a standout track from his recent mixtape Diary of an Atlanta Brave. We linked up with all three dudes to see how the deal came about, why they choose the song and why Fool's Gold doesn't mind finding new talent. Read the interviews below...
LISTEN: Donnis "Gone" (Produced by Needlz)
Interview with Nick Catchdubs and A-Trak
By Damien Scott
Complex: How did you guys first link up with Donnis?
Nick Catchdubs: I actually knew his manager Dan from when he first started working with Kidz in the Hall. He was aware of the stuff that we were doing and we met up and we hit it off. I used to do a radio show for East Village Radio for Fader and they used to always come down to the station and we always kind of knew that we were on a similar wavelength and that when the situation presented itself, we would work together. Then he started doing stuff with Donnis. We knew that he had something special and that when the time was right, we'd be able to do a record with him.
A-Trak: I've known Donnis for about two years, I remember getting in contact with them around the fall of 2007. Just as a DJ I had a couple of his records and I got in touch with him, we'd link up in New York when he was in town—he was between New York and Atlanta at the time—and he came to a bunch of my shows over the years and showed love. We talked about the possibility of doing something with Fool's Gold a few times over that period. I think it was a question of the timing being right, him having his business set up a certain way, and when everything fell into place, then we did the deal.
Nick Catchdubs: We'd always try to find ways to look out.
A-Trak: Yeah, I put a song of his one one of my mix CDs.
Nick Catchdubs: We'd do certain shows that would make sense to involve Donnis with 'cause it was a no-brainer. It's always fun to work on projects with people that you actually like. Both as a person and as a musician. It's cool that we're at the point now that we can do that on a larger scale.
Complex: Who's idea was it to do the single for "Gone"?
A-Trak: I think it was mutual. He had his mixtape ready to go. Donnis had been sending me songs since I met him. I mentioned knowing him for two years. Periodically, every couple months he would just send me 10 songs, and I'd give him feedback. So when the deal fell in place where we were ready to put out a Donnis record we just felt like that was the obvious single.
Nick Catchdubs: When you listen to the tape, that's the one that sticks in your ear. That's far and away the sing along song of the tape. It's cool, it made me think of older T.I. tracks too, where it's not trying to bang you in the head with a club record, but there's still a really dope energy to it and unique feel to it.
Complex: Most people who aren't very familiar with Fool's Gold know it as the label that released Kid Cudi's "Day 'N' Night" single, before he went on to sign with Universal. Was that always how you saw things playing out?
A-Trak: With Cudi we did "Day N Night" and then we did an agreement with Universal and we sold them the masters, so it was agreeable for everyone. It worked out well for all of us. It really depends on every scenario. Now that we have a bigger set up, we're doing more long term deals, for sure. We're not necessarily looking to just be a spring board for new artists. At this point we're interested in the long term and building with artists throughout their whole career. Cause now we're able to do albums. In 2007 we didn't have the structure to put out albums, but now we do. Though, most of the artists that start with us stay with us.
Nick Catchdubs: One of the things that's cool about having a label in this particular time in this industry when things are changing a daily basis, it allows us to be flexible. We never ran Fool's Gold as a traditional company. When we started this, both from a creative perspective and from a business perspective, we wanted to have our own model. We weren't trying to compete with something that was set up before us. So if we can work with someone for their entire career and it makes sense for everyone, that's awesome, perfect. Like at the end of the day, it's all music that we love, so the more opportunities we get to do that, the better. But if we put out an amazing record with someone and it's mutually decided that it's a better fit to do it elsewhere, that's the way it is. I don't ever want to feel like we're doing something that isn't ideal.
Interview with Donnis
By Damien Scott
Complex: In our previous interview you talked about turning down a single deal with Fool's Gold. What was different this time?
Donnis: This time right here is different for a lot of reasons. I think the set-up is proper in the way that I got a little buzz going on right now. People are really embracing what I'm doing. Then I was definitely the new kid, it was a little different then. That song, I don't think really showed who I am as an artist. So I feel like this record is better to showcase what I'm about.
Complex: Did the success of Cudi's "Day N Night" influence your decision to partner with them?
Donnis: Definitely, 'cause it showed me what they can do with rap. When they first approached me, I was nervous. I knew of A-Trak, but I didn't know him like that and all I knew of him before was the Kid Sister record. Which was, to me, kinda like, you get Kanye on the record and the record's gonna win regardless, you know what I mean? But no, they definitely showed out with the Cudi record and I'm excited to join the team.
Complex: Tell us how "Gone" came to be.
Donnis: When I wrote "Gone" me and my best friend Sasha were just kickin' it, smokin' in the crib and Needlz hit me with the beat and I loved the beat right away. It was their style but it was different. To me it was reminiscent of Dungeon Family shit. That bounce was really, really cool. So for me, when I went into the track, I just envisioned being on. It was like looking after the mixtape. After the mixtape, how things would probably be. So that's kinda like the inspiration to that track: finally being on and finally making it and just going hard and having the time of your life.
Complex: What made you go with this "Gone" as a single?
Donnis: This song, we felt, transcends all the levels. Like, the hood shit, the hipster shit—it transcends. DJ Jelly, before we even picked it as a single, he was like, "That's it right there." DJ Jelly is a legend out here, so when he gave me the stamp, I felt like this right here could be something. And just watching all the kids' reactions, 'cause there's a lot of people who haven't heard the mixtape yet but listening to the kids' reactions and seeing them on Twitter, that's kinda like the chosen record off the mixtape.
Complex: What's the roll out going to be like, is there going to be a video?
Donnis: Definitely. We already shot one video. We're about to shoot another one real soon. We're taking treatments right now. It's gon' drop the first week or second week of November. It should be nuts man, I'm excited.
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