One of my favorite albums from 2015 is Dr Dre’s Compton album. One of the dope moments for me was the trumpet ending to Talking To My Diary. Well I2G had the pleasure of interviewing Dontae Winslow, who did the trumpet solo on the album as well as Deep Water. We discuss his start in music, how he linked up with Dr. Dre and much more so check it out.
Illuminati 2G is here with Dontae Winslow, how’s it going?
Going really well! Thanks for asking I’m super excited about upcoming projects and the amazing Compton album and Straight Outta Compton Movie that’s changing history.
Tell me a little bit about how you got your started in music and who are some of your musical influences out there coming up.
As a child I grew up listening to European classical symphonic music Debussy, Rachmoninoff, Schumann, Stravinsky, as well as Hip-Hop by Rakim, The Fat Boys, UTFO, Whodini, Run DMC, LL cool J, Grand Master Flash, all the Legends who created what I do now. I later got into Jazz begining with Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Duke Ellington, and Coltrane in high school. I went to high school with Tupac so he was a big influence on my hip-hop and Baltimore musicians Antonio Hart and Gary Bartz on my jazz playing. After high school I got super heavy into westcoast hip hop, as Eazy E was such dark R rated music we had to sneak into an older cousins room to hear it. A few years later, by the time Dre came along with the live musicians on The Chronic, and those George Clinton quotes I was hooked! Deep Cover through all the Snoop records and my boy Pac kept me going through the hard times.
For those that don’t know, you did extensive work on Dr. Dre’s new album, Compton. How did you link up with Dre?
Technically I sent Dre my jazz CD thru a mutual acquaintance back in 2000 when I lived in Baltimore and got word from his execs that he wanted to sign me as a jazz artist! I was stoked and then my mother died of AIDS and I was depressed. He paused on that though having to work on Eminem and we lost contact. I taught kids in music and won the John Lennon International Songwriting Competition for children’s music. This award allowed me and my kids to open for the Black Eyed Peas in Nashville and inspired me to pursue my LA dreams of being an artist, songwriter, and producer. Mind you, by 2001 I had already independently put out 2 rap albums; RANSOM, 3 jazz albums under Dontae Winslow, and an R&B album Mashica Winslow. I had my MM degree in classical music from the Peabody Conservatory at The Johns Hopkins University so I had the experience and much needed opportunity. I moved to LA in 2003 and met Dre again in the studio 4 years later. I wrote the ” I Made it” song for Jay-Z from Kingdom Come with DJ Khalil that Dre mixed. He was amazed that I made that song sound so authentically like a sample, then there was Kanye’s “We Major” I performed the horns and I co-wrote, Kendrick Lamar’s “County Building Blues” and there are so many that my name was buzzing in the studios. We finally did our first session it was like magic! It was my ultimate life dream to meet and work with my favorite record producer! We recorded alot of music during the 7 years Detox was on the way. Not until this year did I discover that it would be called “Compton” and much of the music had changed and evolved. He opened up and became even more creative and allowed me to solo on multiple tracks, even produce the Intro Orchestration Trailer.
One of my favorite tracks is the Talking To My Diary and your Trumpet solo to close the track out was amazing. What was that moment like in the studio creating that track?
I may very well be the only horn player to solo on a Dr.Dre record and make it stick, (check the record) and the song comes to me as a custom tailor-made miracle. I listened to Dre relentlessley during my darkest days from 1990-1997, and I still listen to his old productions quite frequently. There was a time I’d wake up, looking around our old house and see needles, junkies, piles of cocaine, guns, and sometimes no lights on, no food in fridge, definitely no phone on North Ave in Baltimore. The only thing that kept me going was my NWA tape lol! Now of course east coast poverty looks different, less color wars and more bricks and trash, but the hood mentality was the same and the music was therapuetic. I NEVER dreamed I’d work with this cat and since I’d later become a man of faith I viewed this song “Talking to My Diary” as a special miracle from God to me because he hears and he knows all of our pain, desires, and dreams. My Dreams came true!
Have any of us been to HEAVEN and lived to tell about it lol? Man that was one of the biggest moments in my career. I’m told Dre wasn’t really into horns before we met, we are mutual admirers of each others work so when I play trumpet and observe his reaction it’s priceless to me, and a huge compliment to my style. He called me and invited me to his Malibu studio to explain his story, the movie and the scenes that describe the song. Like a good director he wanted me to have background before I played on the song. We talked a long while just about life, growing up, the ghetto, drugs, gangs, friends who died and I filled him in on some of my dark history of having a mom die of AIDS, living in a crack house etc. He said, “wow seems like most people I know and like what they do have a story”. THEN we cut the song at about 3am! In one take, I tried to put both of our lives in ONE 2 minute expression of joy, victory, pain, success, anger, oppression, and musical and artistic virtuosity. The producers DJ Silk and Slim The Mobster had already laid there genius touch to Dre’s masterpiece. After the solo, Dre made one of those Oooo!! faces and history was made. As the film goes off that’s me playing to the credits. Interestingly enough I said “You want me to play safe or easy on the ear?” he said go hard!!! And he kept everything I played live like a real story, that’s real jazz, and real freedom in Hip-Hop; that took alot of balls.
What is one or maybe a couple of things that you learned or took away from working with Dr. Dre on Compton?
I learned that with all he has, he is still a very humble man! He does music out of a great love and passion for the craft. Dre is our generation’s sonic genius, His attention to sound manipulation and detail is unparalleled in my opinion, no one is better, period. I learned to trust my gut more, and create, mix, and perform on a track from the inside “beneath” the soul. I watched him mix, and gained a wealth of wisdom from just observing his decision making.
What projects do you have in the works?
A have a new song “300Trumpets” a hip hop track featuring a live marching band on itunes
300 trumpets by Dontae Winslow
And a new song for the ladies called “NevaLie2U”
Also my amazing Jazz CD “EnterTheDynasty” featuring Questlove, Roy Hargrove, and Chick Corea is available worldwide. My site is www.DontaeWinslow.com for more info on me. I’m also working on my autobiography coming out in 2016, a real Baltimore Story of hope, faith, pain, love, and Glory! I’ll always have new TV and Film scores as well as A-list artist I’m producing and writing for so stay on the look out for me. My greatest will be my new book and accompanying album where I mix jazz and hip hop in a new and pyschadelic way!
What are your thoughts on the state of music today?
Most music today sucks, as it is devoid of soul, social awareness, compexity, virtuosity, intellect, sonic diversity, and real creative exploration. Doesn’t sound like love and brotherhood, it’s cold but not in a good way in a thin way. It just sounds like money, advertisments, and big corporation. Minstrel show and musical parody of the streets. It sounds monolithic and trendy, not something you’d wanna hear 20 years from now. It doesn’t sound like real black music, so when white artists do it, they dominate the category lol.
Do you have any upcoming shows or tour dates?
I’m always at the Blue Whale in LA.
What is your website info for people wanting to check out what you have going on?
Appreciate the interview. Is there any last words or shoutouts you would like to get out there?
Shoutout to God, who makes all things possible, to my rib, my Queen Mashica and my young Kings Jedi and Messiah! My Tribe who I always role deep with! Be you, be original and blaze a new path in this world! Thank you so much!