In the current hip-hop climate the key to success is innovation and examples are abundant. B.o.B., Kid Cudi, and Blu, all three relatively new faces, have garnered success and growing fan bases due to their introduction of new styles to the genre. Another fresh face gaining ground right now is the Atlanta emcee Donnis, who first emerged with the mixtape Diary of an Atlanta Brave. Many hip-hop critics lauded this release as a top-tier mixtape due to its J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production and Donnis’ slick and heart-on-his-sleeve rhymes. His recent follow-up, The Invitation, does not pick up where that left off. In an interview with the Chicago blog Gowhere Hip-Hop Donnis mentioned that The Invitation was only for fun and a warm-up for his June 22 release of Fashionably Late. This “only for fun” attitude is evident from the first track, as well as the fact that Donnis’ strengths only reveal themselves on a select number of tracks. Thankfully, this handful of tracks exemplifies Donnis’ ability and his potential for future success, and make up for the weaker songs on the mixtape.
The Invitation starts off with an introduction that is stereotypically hip-hop in the way Donnis uses it to puff his chest out and proclaim how he thinks he is one of the best rappers alive. After that off-putting minute and 18 seconds The Invitation gets into Donnis’ freestyles over popular beats such the N.E.R.D.’s “Everyone Nose” and the Bangledesh produced “Lemonade” from Gucci Mane’s album. Donnis is at home on these beats that match his quick flow and delivery. Although these tracks are not prevalent enough to make this mixtape a must have, The Invitation does provide a handful of tracks that will appeal to the first-time listener, the casual fan, and even the hip-hop head. The best examples of this sort of song are “Pop Bubbly,” “OMG (remix),” and “Gone.” All three of these songs feature the fast beats that allow Donnis to unleash his lyrical prowess, which comes from his delivery, not from the substance of his lyrics. The must-have track off of The Invitation is “The New School” which is backed by a Dangermouse-esque mash up of hip-hop drums and The Beatles’ “While my Guitar Gently Weeps.” Donnis addresses topics surrounding the “new school” of hip-hop while once again making sure that everyone knows that Donnis thinks Donnis is the best; while this does get tiresome, it is done so cleverly on “The New School” that it doesn’t take away from the strength of the song. At one point Donnis rattles off, “Please, I’m in charge of the new school , dean//On the mic I act a fool, class clown//School bully n****, I don’t ever back down.” This line shows the creativity Donnis is capable of, his self-love, and how when this line is pared with the beat, Donnis can create a hit.
The Invitation is by no means a groundbreaking mixtape, or even much of a step forward from his debut Diary of an Atlanta Brave. What it does provide though is an introduction to new fans to a fresh face in hip-hop, and new material to satisfy current Donnis fans. Despite some missteps on The Invitation that make parts of it unwelcoming and unenjoyable, Donnis’ efforts and ability do shine through enough to have gained the attention of a new listener.