Jermaine Dupri made his way back into R&B in 2010 with YouTube sensation Dondria. The Dallas, TX R&B songstress hit the scene with her debut single “You’re The One”–which ascended to the number 32 spot on the Billboard charts, as well as a top ten R&B album Dondria vs. Phatfffat. So So Def Recordings recently announced a sophomore album for the songstress. As the Internet sensation prepares to reclaim her throne as one of the princesses of R&B, she sits down with SoulTrain.com to discuss her journey thus far, as well as her bright future.
Dondria: Since Dondria vs. Phatffat, I’ve released two mixtapes under the series of Dondria’s Duets, and I just like to remix male R&B songs and kind of put the female perspective on them. The latest one was a 90s edition, and that may have been my favorite one. I love R&B so it felt good to tap into that. I’ve also done a few collaborations. I just finished a song with Willie Taylor from Day26, called “Not Mine.” I’m almost done with my sophomore album. I will have a single to release pretty soon, and just dabbling in a few things outside of music as well.
SoulTrain.com: Do you have a name for the album yet?
Dondria: I don’t have a name for the album yet, but I can give you an exclusive on the single title, which is “Little Things.”
SoulTrain.com: Great! This question came from Twitter, from @GreenEyedCreole. Her question is, Do you still do Phatfffat Idol, and how would someone go about being a part of it?
Dondria: Ok. Yes I do. I do it once a year. It’s not too uniformed right now because it started out as just fun, and now I’m making that transition into making it something bigger. This next one that I do in 2013, I want it to be in an actual venue. [It will be] Streamed live. It’ll still be on Ustream. The winners will get studio time or a song with me or something special. I definitely will continue to do it every year.
SoulTrain.com: Wow! That’s big. That’s really big. For those who don’t know, this is kind of your way of giving back because you actually got your start in a similar way on YouTube. What do you think is the formula nowadays? You have the people who come from reality shows, and other who are independent artists, and artists like yourself who amassed millions of views on YouTube. Do you think that’s the way of discovering more talent now?
Dondria: I do think that it’s one of the ways. I don’t think it’s as prominent as it once was I, and Justin Bieber and Priscilla Renee came up. It was still kind of new and fresh. I don’t think it was as saturated. I definitely think it is a great way. I encourage everybody to get a YouTube page and just be you. Show your personality, because you have to have something that sets you apart. I think that you will still get discovered that way.
SoulTrain.com: That’s some great advice to all of you independent artists out there. Take it from one of the pros. Now, your sound has been described as very 90s-influenced yet still relevant. Is that something that’s transitioning into the new album?
Dondria: I am, for the most part, keeping the same formula. The music will be more mature for one, because when I got signed I was 19, and now I’m 25. So it will be more mature as far as subject matter, but I definitely, definitely plan to keep it to where you can feel the essence of the 90s R&B and early 2000s R&B.
SoulTrain.com: You’ve been described as one of the artists who carries the flag for R&B. Do you think R&B is in a bad place right now or lacking anything?
Dondria: Well, whether I like the genre or not, the artists are providing what the people want. These are the things that they are demanding. You do have the people who want the real R&B but just not as much as the trendy stuff. I do think that it’s evolving, though. I think that artists like Elle Varner, Miguel, Melanie Fiona, Jazmine [Sullivan], Brandy, and Monica are standing their ground and making sure that they create that type of music.
SoulTrain.com And Dondria, too!
Dondria: Of course! And me, too.
SoulTrain.com: So you’re not originally from Atlanta, you’re from Dallas, TX. You are, however, a part of a crop of newer artists in Atlanta–like Hamilton Park and Bliss, just to name a few–that are thriving in the R&B scene. At one point Atlanta was the mecca for R&B with labels like So So Def, LaFace, Rowdy, and others. Do you see a resurgence in that?
Dondria: I do. It’s just kind of hard now in Atlanta because now everybody does something, so there’s no one to support you. I feel it can come back. I think that somebody can bring that spirit back. Maybe me or maybe JD. Maybe ASCAP, SESAC, or BMI can bring it back where we used to all support each other. I’m confident that one day it will.
SoulTrain.com: The 2012 Soul Train Awards will be airing this month, and you are a past nominee. What’s your favorite Soul Train memory?
Dondria: You know, I wish we could bring back Soul Train to TV–you know, a modern day version of it. The [family atmosphere] that made it Soul Train is my favorite memory.
You can keep up with Dondria and her new album at twitter.com/Dondria.
– Nick Eden
Nick Eden is a singer/songwriter/R&B junkie based out of Atlanta, GA. He is a winner of the Steve Harvey New Star Project and has an upcoming appearance on BET/Centric’s Apollo Live. His new album Soul|Reloaded will be available January 2013. Experience his love of R&B at www.RnBLova.com and follow him on twitter @nickeden.