Dolapo Akinkugbe was born in Nigeria, classically trained in piano and attended boarding school in England. Now he’s a senior at Brown, set to pass through those vaulted Van Wickle Gates in the spring. Law school may be in his future, but so might a career in music. Known on stage as DAP, Dolapo is a rapper who was selected by Converse Rubber Tracks last fall for an all-expenses paid recording session in an iconic studio with an influential producer. His experience was captured in an online documentary released by Noisey on March 2 called The Undergraduate, as he juggled familial expectations and school with the opportunity to record at Abbey Road (yes that Abbey Road) under the guidance of “Uptown Funk” producer Mark Ronson.
How has living on three continents shaped the direction of your music?
Interestingly, it’s when I leave certain continents that I fully began to appreciate the music of those various cultures. I guess you really miss and appreciate things when they’re no longer there. It made me comfortable in any space, and more importantly able to understand and adapt quickly to different cultures and understand them quickly, so it made my music sound very multi-cultural and eclectic. It quickly became easy to fuse different sounds together seamlessly and draw inspiration from absolutely anywhere and reinterpret it however I liked.
In the documentary you mention that it wasn't until high school that you started branching away from classical piano. What was your "eureka" moment?
As the musician in my group of friends, I naturally assumed the role of “producer” when all my friends started rapping and falling in love with Hip Hop, but the eureka moment really came about 2 to 3 years into producing when I got frustrated with being told my beats were too musical or too specific and people didn’t know how to rap over them, and moreover people wasting my time telling me they would finish songs and then not get back to me about them for months. That is exactly why I started rapping and decided to simply tell my own story because I knew I had the ability to put words together in an interesting way, and it would just take time to build experience and really learn the craft inside out. I never branched away from classical piano, and have always played in concerts every year of my life since I was 4 years old and had piano lessons and learned new pieces. What really changed was I started really focusing wholly on Hip Hop and that was all I would listen to. Regardless, I have never casually listened to classical music.
In the documentary your family seemed supportive of your music as a hobby. Have they come around to the fact that music is more to you than that since your opportunity to record at Abbey Road? If not, how much does that weigh on your decision to choose between music and law school?
Firstly I think it is important to mention that I have the most incredible parents, have never wanted for anything, and have always had full support in whatever I do. I think at that junction of going to Abbey Road a week before I took the LSAT, they realized that I really live and breathe music, simply in the decision to fly to London that weekend and not let that opportunity slide. Regardless, my dad has always told me (After weighing in heavily with his opinion) that he would not stop me from doing whatever I wanted as long as I had a plan and I was sure about it and it was realistic, and he really means it. They are not forcing me to go to law school, I really want to have a degree in law for various reasons, the real issue is timing and which is more pressing right now in my life. My parents, and more so grandparents, do want me to go to law school, but they also realize I probably won’t be a practicing lawyer. The only thing that weighs on my decision is whether it is realistic to think that after pursuing music for a year now, able to make music completely unrestricted by school, I would really go to law school after that, and that’s why the decision is hard because it seems like the only way I would really go to law school would be to go straight after graduating college this year.
Regarding Abbey Road: Was the mythology and legacy of the studio intimidating or inspiring or both?
It was both and so much more. I won’t say I was intimidated, but I was unsure exactly how prepared I was to access all my musical tools on call in such a short period of time that I had in the studio. John Lennon is one of my father’s favorite artists of all time. My mother’s favorite song is “The Long and Winding Road.” I completely knew what I was stepping into, and knew that I couldn’t even digest what it meant that I would be in that space making my own music, but I know better than to be overly intimidated by a space because of who has been there before me and throw away such an opportunity. When I actually got there I was very very inspired and from the moment I walked in I was already making music in my head. What I found was that I was completely ready, and playing the piano for already almost 2 decades at age 22 made me more than ready to take full advantage of the opportunity.
The documentary ends with you saying you did well on the LSAT and leaving your future to fate. Have you made any decisions about pursuing either law or music since then? Has fate decided?
I am still hearing back from law schools. I have gotten into 2, an interview at another and rejected from one. I know, and I think we all do because it is clear to see, that I am meant to be a musician. That is why I’m on earth. As I mentioned before, it is a matter of timing, and whether it makes sense to jump right into pursuing music now or take a year out to pursue it and then go to law school, or go to law school and then pursue music. The decision will not be made until I put out my project and have a variety of law schools to choose between, and a possible job opportunity also. At that point, the fates will decide.
As an emerging artist, how did you benefit from your experience with Converse Rubber Tracks? What was your biggest takeaway from the studio experience?
Besides the music I made at Abbey Road, which is way way more important than the fact that it was made at Abbey Road, besides the connection I made with Mark [Ronson] and Ken [Scott, sound engineer], besides the importance of that moment for my parents and showing them what I am really capable of as a musician and how serious this is, the main takeaway for me, was that I am ready, I always have been, and I was always meant to do this. It was never really up to me. Music is my purpose.