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Interview with a ‘S.C.H.O.L.A.R.’

Claire Stephens | Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The July 20 release of his newest mixtape “S.C.H.O.L.A.R.” sparked campus-wide interest in junior “D. Montayne” Dylan Walter. D. Montayne performed at Legends with Big Sean in 2010 and is currently studying abroad in Fremantle, Australia. Scene interviewed the artist to get the scoop on his music. Fans can download Walter’s mixtape at datpiff.com.

Who are some of your idols and inspirations for your music?

I’m inspired by a wide range of music. I like to brag about my iTunes library because I have a little bit of every genre out there, plus a lot of world music. Listening to every kind of music helps me to think outside the box of pure hip-hop. I have a really good producer back home who can flip a beat out of any kind of sample, so sometimes I’ll hear a nice piano run on a classical song or a good reggae bass line and send it to him to work with. This summer we spent time digging through vinyl records just to find original drum sounds and voice samples. That kind of work is what makes music incredible, giving it that raw feel, like you’re using history as the seed of your new music. The old stuff inspires me a lot.

Who are your favorite artists?

It’s very difficult to choose, but I’d have to say my favorite rappers of all time are 2Pac, Jay-Z and Nas. And you can’t forget Eminem and Tech N9ne. Right now, my favorites are J. Cole and Big K.RI.T. Hands down. I’d also put Kendrick Lamar and Wale close to the top of my list.

Where do you get inspiration for writing your music?

Inspiration comes from everywhere. I think what inspires me most is seeing people who break out of their comfort zone, go against the grain and do something great. In my music I talk a lot about “chasing dreams,” “breaking free,” etc. People might think I’m talking about myself, but it’s more of a challenge for people our age to do what they want to do, even if their dreams are not “socially acceptable.” So when I see someone doing that — whether it’s music, art, acting or anything else — I’m inspired.

What is the writing process typically like for you?

A lot of people ask me this, but honestly there’s no particular process that I have for writing songs. Sometimes I’ll sit there and listen to the beat over and over again and just write what comes to my head. Other times I’ll have a particular subject that I want to write about before I even hear the beat. Other times I’ll just freestyle until I come up with something.  It just depends on the song.

What do you do when you get stuck?

I don’t get stuck.

What do you hope your listeners come away with after hearing your music?

Really I just want them to hear it. Some will like it, others may not. You’re not going to really hear what I’m saying unless you give it a try.

What was the production and recording of “S.C.H.O.L.A.R.” like compared to your previous mixtapes?

On this one, I really just wanted to focus on quality. The other stuff I have put out in the past was fine lyrically, but the recordings were really just thrown together. I can’t even listen to that stuff anymore. So for this one I took my time to make sure the songs were mixed right to sound good on laptop speakers, headphones, car speakers, etc. It took forever, but it was worth it.  People ask me what studio I record in, not realizing that the entire thing was recorded in closets. That tells me that I must’ve done a good job mixing it.

How have you come to master the art of rapping?

I am far from mastering it. I have learned a lot about rap just by listening to a wide range of artists. I listen to the intense, fast-rapping artists, the laid-back artists and everyone in between. I learned a lot about performing just by watching videos of Jay-Z concerts. The rest just comes with time. I also think that playing the drums my entire life was a big advantage, because I already had that rhythm locked down by the time I started rapping.  But I still have a long way to go.

What is your favorite part of writing and rapping? What is the greatest struggle?

My favorite part of writing is knowing that the words I’m putting down will be heard in the future by people I’ve never met. It makes me want to write every line better than the previous. My favorite part of rapping is just free styling around a bunch of people I don’t know and watching their faces. They always look so surprised. I’d have to say the greatest struggle is just keeping the women off of me…

Do you ever hear the “rappers shouldn’t be considered artists” argument? How do you respond to it?

Yes. Those people have never actually listened to rap, so they aren’t worth my time.

Have you ever had people doubt your writing or rapping abilities because of your race?

All the time. This is something that is actually hard to deal with, because I feel like that barrier has already been broken. Still, that doubt is in people’s minds even before I start rapping. I’ve known people who wouldn’t listen to my music because they thought it was a joke— they expected I would suck. Eventually they saw me perform or I free-styled for them. Those people don’t doubt me anymore.

What advice do you have for hopeful rappers or musicians at Notre Dame?

I’ll repeat the advice Big Sean gave me: “You can do anything you want, man, I mean it.”  It takes a lot to make things happen, so be prepared for a huge challenge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stay up all night writing and mixing songs or sneaking into buildings to record. Or how many times I’ve emptied my bank account on recording equipment and song production. I still haven’t gotten very far at all. So it’s a long climb. Also, Notre Dame can be a tough crowd for this kind of stuff, but just proving people wrong is part of the fun of it. Just do what you want.

Look in The Observer’s News section tomorrow for a profile on D. Montayne.

Contact Claire Stephens at [email protected].