Artist to Artist: Become an Incredible Collaborator

Whether you call me DawgGoneDavis – my original artist name – or Rebecca DGD, the one I’m working with now, know this: I’m never gonna be shy about telling you what’s on my mind or embracing my righteous style.

Right out of the box, when my 2018 debut single “Middle Age Woman – Hip Hop Style” reached #1 on the Euro Indie Music Chart, I knew that rap and hip-hop wasn’t just for kids and young adult hipsters anymore. Bet you never heard of a rapper quoting Neil Diamond, but hey, I Love his music and have always been inspired by his emergence from those “Brooklyn Roads” he grew up on.

To quote his classic song, “I’m a Believer” in all I can do, even if it’s against the grain and folks may not understand why I freestyle like I do. Like me, and like every artist with a unique voice should, Neil stuck to his guns. Very early in his songwriting career, his label insisted that he continue writing catchy, punchy, partially bubblegum songs to fit all shoe sizes, so to speak.

Mr. Diamond said, “Nope, no way, never” and soon gave us timeless cool songs about his life and personal experiences. Sure he wrote the future stadium anthem “Sweet Caroline” and lots of love songs, but he also gave us “Brooklyn Roads” about his childhood; “Holly Holy” and “Brother Love,” which tapped into his love of gospel music, and “I Am…I Said,” a very vulnerable song about his struggles to affirm his musical identity no matter the obstacles. I proudly titled a compilation album of my first nine singles “Hot Dawgest Night” after the classic Neil live album.

For me, early in my career, an executive with a lot of power to make an artist asked me to write songs that were not me. I said in my mind, “Nope, no way, never.” Almost 20 international chart hits later, all in the Top 15 worldwide, I am very happy I stood my ground. I think having success with my second single “Butt on Fiya” proved to me that people appreciate authenticity. Whatever your genre, they want to know the real you. In that tune, my rap is me mocking the breast cancer I beat and compensating for my removed mammary bits with a genetically blessed rear end.

If you say, damn, a boobless female rapper having fun rhyming about such touchy issues – that’s pretty bold. But that’s me – and that should be any artist who wants to get anywhere without making compromises. Serendipity of what I call – because of my deep faith – divine appointments also pave the way if you are open to them. I had always been a writer, and some friends read the self-published books I wrote about my dog and suggested I should put some of my clever wordplay to music. I had casually recorded myself doing freestyle performing – and was blessed to hook up on a popular music platform with Hellmut Wolf, a German born, Euro-based producer, saxophonist, flutist and multi-instrumentalist. He caught my eye because of our common German heritage and the fact that he had studied music at a university. I had no idea who he was.

I reached out to say hello and told him I was a writer. I sent him a rap I did for “Middle Age Woman” that I had no intention of turning into an actual song. He thought it was so cool and took it upon himself to put music to it – and next thing you know, with the right promotion, it went to #1 and launched my very unexpected career as an artist. I didn’t ask him to put music to it, but once he did, I saw all sorts of possibilities for what I could achieve in music. I always tell musicians who check out these online platforms. You never know who’s out there who might love what you do and change your life, whether with advice, hooking you up with their pro connections or, like in my case, becoming an incredible collaborator.

When you’re starting out, though, you just have to realize that no matter how much some love what you’re doing, other pros in the business might not connect with it – or like in Neil’s case, try to put you in a box you don’t want to be in. My advice: Listen politely, incorporate anything they say that makes sense, disregard what doesn’t, and if you want to work with that person, keep doing what you do and you may just win them over. Having big chart hits talks! I owe a lot to Stephen Wrench, a top indie radio promoter who is the Founder and President of Muzik and Film, LLC, for taking the chance on me and believing in what I could deliver after he heard the tracks Hellmut sent him.

Everything worked out beyond my expectations, but it wasn’t always easygoing in the beginning. Hellmut and I knew we were doing something very different, and naturally, we  encountered resistance from some promotional people. They didn’t get the whole rock and rapper chick thing.

No matter the song, the bottom line is, I’m always raw, honest and authentic. I think back to Neil and those hardscrabble “Brooklyn Roads” he was inspired by. Everything songwriters do comes from a special place within and their life experiences. Tap into those, stick to your guns, connect with the right collaborators and industry folks, and you’ll have a chance not only to get on the right path towards achieving your immediate goals but also your long term planted tree roots.