Words by: Skoob (@TheKidSkoob)
The path to success is not always paved and predictable. More often than not it’s a winding, rocky mess that we’d never traverse knowingly. It can be damn near circular, bringing us back to where we started before moving forward again. While this journey can seem nonsensical at times, commitment to the goals we’ve set for ourselves is the surest means of reaching them. For Harlem producer V-Don, his less than instinctive travels put him on a path to rhythm.
Tivon Key is one of hip-hop’s hottest, rising producers. With his sound and foundation deeply embedded in Harlem, it was only natural that Key came to grow and develop alongside fellow borough associate, Vado. The two collaborated on several records including “Large On The Streets” which has registered over 2 million views, as well as a premiere on BET’s “106 & Park.”
The work put in by the duo led to V-Don contributing to projects by 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Rocky, Lloyd Banks, and many more of hip-hop’s elite. And now, the man behind the boards is preparing to release his very own debut album, The Opiate. But the 27-year old prodigy didn’t come to this place easily.
Picture a teenager surrounded by talent, but never really taking advantage of it. Being the son of a DJ, you’d expect the young heir to be tearing down your local airwaves on your favorite radio station, but things didn’t quite move in that direction. “With [my father] being a DJ, I was always around music. He had tons of equipment, but I didn’t take a liking to it until I moved out of state. I’m from Harlem, but I moved to Richmond, Virginia, and there wasn’t much for me to do out there.” With V-Don now 17, you’re already seeing a kid being moved from his comfort zone. Naturally, this is the part where he’s most likely left with more questions than answers as to where exactly his life is headed.
“I was always into music more than the average kid. I had [Magix Music Maker] on my PS2 that I eventually got kinda nice on. I let all my friends back in NY hear [my beats] and they just told me I should keep it going.” Wow, a video game?! By now you’re probably reflecting on all the times when you were told to do something constructive with your life, as opposed to “wasting” it in front of your favorite gaming console. Low and behold, V-Don began coming into his destiny by way of this “waste of time,” which only pushed him to go further.
The Harlem native continued to develop his sound, which he describes as a cross between genres. “I would say I’m definitely good in the street lane, but I try to incorporate the trap sound as well. I like to mix the new stuff that’s going on, with the golden era.” The era which V-Don speaks about is a time when many of his favorite artists were at the very top of the rap game. In fact, some of the first beats he made had a few of his idols in mind. “I’d say it was probably The Lox, who I was a crazy, huge fan of! I’d also say DMX and Hov were in there too.” With the upper echelon of MC’s as the goal, and producers that ranged from Alchemist and Havoc to Hi-Tek and Kanye West providing the muse, V-Don literally had a blueprint for creating the best music he possibly could. “My mom’s would go to work, come back, and go to work again, and I’d still be in the same spot making beats!”
So here we are, a kid with a relentless work ethic and visible talent to go along with it. But there seemed to be something still holding the Beat-smith back. “At that time, I was still in VA and I was making all these dope beats, but there wasn’t anything poppin’ out there, so I knew I had to get out.” He continues, “Back in the Myspace days, I’d try to contact rappers that I thought would sound dope on my beats. Ransom was one of the rappers that I got in contact with and he made a mistake and sent me an email with all his contacts on it [laughs]. After that, I just started sending my beats to the whole contact list! I used to tag my beats up and Trae the Truth was one of the guys that got back to me. I had my number in the email and he called me and introduced himself. After he sent me a few links, I shot him some beats and one of them became ‘Sex, Money & Murder’ featuring Maino.”
Things began to fall into place as V-Don’s preparation met opportunity, the generally accepted formula for “luck.” For x-factor for V was simply being tenacious, “I was just taking any and every opportunity that came my way. Shout-out to Ransom for that [laughs].” It was in fact his seizing of this opportunity that eventually led to him working with his favorite artists. “I did a joint on the Wu-Block album and Jada’s “We Getting Money” featuring Trae the Truth, off his ‘Consignment’ mixtape. It’s a crazy feeling when you grow up listening to an artist and now they’re rhymin’ on your beats.”
Now with his catalog stacked, V-Don is dropping his full-length album, The Opiate. The project features Dave East, A$AP Ant & Nast, Smoke Dza, Trae the Truth, and many more! In his own words, Don describes his opus in his very own unique fashion. “It’s really a compilation of all the artists I’ve been working with over the last two years. It has that east coast sound, but it feels like you’re on drugs when you’re listening to it; that’s why I called it The Opiate.”
With this project dropping, V-Don already has a few new things on his mind. “I wouldn’t mind producing a whole Styles P. project. He’s always been one of those deep, lyrical rappers to me, as well as being one of my favorite rappers ever. Dave East and I have also been talking about doing a project. I think that would be dope!”
Dope indeed. The Opiate is in stores and online right now. Get yourself a hit!