Very few names in the game have staying power quite like Donae’O. His career spans across multiple eras, from house and garage to grime and of course UK funky – a genre he recently revisited with his Party Harder mixtape. Having blessed the world with classics like African Warrior, Party Hard and Devil in a Blue Dress alongside collabs with just about everyone in the scene, the vocalist and producer has achieved legendary status. But all the while Donae’O remains a man of the people, humble and close to his London roots. Here, Donae’O takes us through a selection of tracks that have inspired him over the years.

The song that reminds me of my first love

That’d be The Refugee Camp Allstars and Lauryn Hill’s Sweetest Thing [1997, Columbia] – “It was the sweet, sweet, sweetest thing I know”. I remember exactly who I was in love with when I first heard that song and I was just a yute back then, maybe around 13 or 14 years old.

The track that made me realise music could be my career

I’d say MC Skibadee & MC Det, Slowmo [1998, Times Two Records]. I remember seeing Skibadee and them man find success and knowing if they can do it, I can do it too. Before that, we were paying attention to Tupac and Biggie, and they were good, but Skibadee was close to home.

A UK funky track that changed the game

The Cure & the Cause by Fish Go Deep and Tracey K [2005, goDeep Recordings] is a big, big, big tune. Everyone liked that song up and down the country and it made them all want to listen to UK funky.

The record that sparked my career comeback

There’s been so many. Party Hard [2009, My-Ish Music] was a career comeback. Gone in the Morning [2014, Zephron] was a comeback but I’d say My Circle [2016, Party Hard Records] is probably my favourite. Around that time, I’d been off the mic but producing for loads of people. My Circle was me saying “I’m still in the game”.

A track which takes me back to a legendary night out

Fuck Up Some Commas [2014, Freebandz] by Future. Usually, I don’t really fuck up commas in the club, that’s not really my swagger, but there have been a couple times when I’ve spent four figures on a bottle. Commas reminds me of this one tremendous night in the West End, I had all my closest friends around me and we had a lot of good fun.

A collaboration I did which made me proud

Linguo with Giggs [2017, No BS / Island]. Whenever an artist and producer work together on a tune that blows up, you get these cases where the producer leaves the artist behind and gets gassed. I worked on Giggs with Lock Doh which, of course, was a hit and straightaway I wanted him to have another one. Lock Doh wasn’t a fluke, we had real chemistry there so I had to follow it up. As a producer, it’s always important to remember what’s worked for you. It’s all good focusing on new grass but always nurture your existing plants.

Donae’O appears at AMP Lost & Found, Malta, 3-6 May


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