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Your Weekend Playlist, Courtesy of Lady Donli

Born in Ohio, and now based between London and Lagos, Lady Donli is a musician and visual artist that is part of Nigeria’s Alte creative subculture. Aiming to create art that is subversive and experimental, she draws inspiration from the various places she has lived in. Her music brings forward cross-cultural references, soulful jazz, and Afrocentric beats that are hard to define within a specific genre. Her latest album Enjoy Your Life incorporates retro-tinged sounds paired with vibrant visuals brought to life by fellow collaborators such as VanJessBenjiFlow, and Solis.  Her latest music video for her single “Corner” is out now.

Milk spoke with Lady Donli about her time in Lagos, the artists on her radar, and her plans for the upcoming year.

How has living between London and Lagos influenced your music? Do you think both these places inspire you differently?

Definitely. London is London and Lagos is Lagos, it’s funny because they’re both really similar in the way they’re fast-paced. When I’m in both cities I’m always like “get up, do something”. But with Lagos, it’s home and it’s a bit more familiar. I’m surrounded by similar faces and similar cultures so when I’m in Lagos I’m inspired by that African drive. Inspired by the richness and also the diversity in our culture. Inspired by the beauty in the chaos, the lack of structure. It makes me want to go out and do something crazier. In London I’m inspired by the beauty in structure, you know everything is a bit more orderly. There’s all these proper concert venues, all these properly curated events that start on time with good sound, etc. Proper tour routes. I go out and I’m like “yeah I can do this”. Everything came full circle when I headlined my own London show after going to so many concerts in London. Shows you what structure can do. So yeah I’m thankful for Lagos and thankful for London. I’m a better version of myself because of both cities.

Who are some artists in Nigeria we should know about?

Well, there’s this guy called Ayüü, one of my faves. SOMADINA as well just dropped a fire EP! Both people in the underground but I’m confident they’ll do great things this year.

How was your experience studying Law in college? Did it play a role in your path to becoming a musician?

No. Law was just a means to an end, my mom’s a lawyer and so is my sister. So there’s a lot of law around me. I always knew I wanted to be a musician. I’ve been writing rhymes and singing in school plays and choirs for as long as I can remember. When I studied law every day for me it was like “get this out the way so you can do what you really want to do”. I’m thankful for the experience though, I can read my own contracts and review them sometimes and that’s pretty cool.

What was the biggest challenge you faced becoming a musician? How did you overcome it? 

I think I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. There’s this self-doubt that comes with being so vulnerable and when you’re an artist you’re very vulnerable. You’re putting your work out there and people are constantly criticizing it especially when they don’t understand. I beat my fears by working harder. Now I feel like I’m deserving of the good things that come my way. I listen to my music and think “yeah this is fire, you’ve done good”. Once in awhile I still relapse and feel pretty down about myself but I have the best friends in the world and they always remind me that I’m pretty dope. They also tease me about the past and what I made before. Looking at myself then and looking at me now is pretty inspiring for all of us.

Were there any artists you looked up to when you first started making music?

Off the top of my head, I can think of Erykah Badu, Brenda Fassie, Nneka And Asa. Women I saw, who for me defied the status quo and inspired me into believing that I could be just as great or even greater.

Odunsi is a musician and producer you have collaborated with in the past. How did you both meet, and what is your favorite project together?

Met him online actually. I heard a beat he’d made in a video someone posted on twitter and I replied and told him he was hard. He sent me a DM and said my stuff was on fire and we just hit it off. Favorite song with him is “Moonchild” off my Wallflower EP. The very old song shows the growth and I’m happy about that. I also love how the song came to be, it’s just one of those pure records that I’ll play back years from now and feel somewhat at peace.

Can you tell me more about your new music video for ‘Corner’? Any favorite memories on set?

“Corner” is such a great piece for me because of what I and the director were able to do with it. It’s a tribute to old Nollywood (Nigerian cinema) so a lot of our millennials fans are really excited about it because of the nostalgia it evokes. It makes you feel like a little kid again. But for me, there are so many messages we tried to touch on about the societal issues going on in Nigeria. From the “sex for grades” scandal to the “me too” movement. We tried to touch on things that really mattered to me but it’s still such a fun video and that makes me really happy. Hmm, my favorite memory on set would probably be the last scene, the room was so bloody hot and we were just trying to get it done. Everyone was dancing like it was the last dance of their lives. It made me happy seeing people so invested in the piece and I’m even happier now that it’s out and I see people like “yo, I was a part of that”.

Do you have a favorite song from your recent project, ‘Enjoy Your Life?’

No, they’re all my babies and I love and appreciate them. However “Cash” always puts a smile on my face. There’s something about the chords, it’s impossible to hear it and not smile.

Do you have any other upcoming projects or music videos we should keep an eye out for?

I’m working on a little EP now so that should be fun. Also, I have a single coming out with one of my favorite Ghanian rockstars so I’m pretty excited about that.

Tell me more about your playlist. Any standout songs?

It’s a well-rounded playlist about different points in my life I think. Some songs that are really special to me including – Gratitude by Little Simz. I absolutely love her and I was at the album listening for her debut album, which still remains one of my best albums ever. It just makes me feel grateful for my process and also shows me there’s a silver lining somewhere beneath the madness. Agolo by Angeliqué Kidjo as well! That’s the energy I channel into my everyday life. That contagious happiness and just the joy I get from music.

Images Courtesy of Matilda Hill-Jenkins.

Stay tuned to Milk for more Weekend Playlists.

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