This week on the “Big Facts” podcast, hosts Big Bank, DJ Scream and Baby Jade hit the studio with rapper Lil Donald. The Atlanta-based artist stopped by to discuss his rise in the industry, signing to Future, and the responsibility to his female audience following the success of his breakout hit “Juice.”
Lil Donald started his rap career through Atlanta’s battle rap competition scene in the early 2010s. He later garnered the attention he needed to progress and further expand his fan base thanks to his single “Juice.”
The 31-year-old musician would go on to find mainstream success following the release of his 2018 track “Do Better,” which peaked at No. 24 on Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart. While talking about his upcoming plans, including his forthcoming album, Lil Donald revealed he initially didn’t like the song that earned him a position in the rap game. The young star said it was actually his friend who encouraged him to go through with that record.
“I made it really just straight for my homegirl,” he said. “She call me every day.” “I be trying to holler at females, they be so depressed and stressed,” he added. “Can’t even rock with her right ’cause a nigga be tripping. So, I was like, ‘I gotta make something to just loosen this up’ … to make women feel better or something.”
“So I can get to … what I’m trying to get in on,” he joked. “And I can make women feel better and heal them at the same time.”
Lil Donald said he believes many women are “broken.” “You meet a woman now; it don’t even be the same no more. You gotta deal with everybody before them when you trying with shawty. I did the song for her, sent it to her like, ‘Hey, you need to get over …’ and it kinda started helping her — her listening to the song. ‘Cause I know music help people,” he continued.
Still, the emcee also admitted he was hesitant to release the song, as he didn’t want to come off as a singer. “My buddy was like, ‘Man, this a hit. You got to put this out.’ I’m in the street. I don’t want to sing,” he quipped. Lil Donald said his pal was persistent in getting him to debut the song and even offered to contribute financially to promote the track.
The rapper shared that he received thousands of messages from fans — primarily victims of domestic violence — on social media, who shared their own experiences and explained how the single helped them through their journey. “Every day I was on Instagram, I used to get 2,000 DMs a day, and that’s on my momma,” he said. “I used to try and go respond to all of them. I’m talking about Dr. Phil, up ’til five in the morning type … You don’t got nobody to talk to, I’ll talk to you.” The “Perfect Love” artist believes tending to his supporters is a significant reason he’s been able to maintain a core fan base over the years.
Later during the “Big Facts” chat, Bank asked Donald if he felt he might’ve blown up in the industry too soon, citing the success around his breakout hit single “Juice.” The visual for the 2014 club favorite currently boasts over one million views on Youtube. The emcee said that at the time, “I was stupid. I didn’t know nothing.”
He added, “It’s a difference between when you prepared for something and you just have no knowledge of nothing that’s going on. I just thought: ‘You put the music out. You make money.’” He continued, “I didn’t know how it worked. So, when I had these situations, I had to really just sit back and be like, ‘Look, OK, I’m in two bad contracts. I got this going on. Let me sit down and learn something’ … because I didn’t know nothing.’”
Lil Donald claimed that although he was releasing successful songs, he made no income for six years due to a lack of knowledge regarding music business — a standard narrative in the industry. “No money. I just started seeing money two years ago,” the “Real Pain” rapper explained. “I’d have $200,000 sitting right there because I didn’t know how to go get it … and there were a lot of people around who were taking my money, and I never knew the money was there, so they were just getting checks.” The star encouraged aspiring artists to obtain legal representation when taking on a career in the entertainment business.
“First thing you need to do is get a lawyer,” he shared. “Even if you can’t afford them, you got to let them know. Be like, ‘Hey, I’ll give you a percentage if you just work these moves for me,’ and let them get their money because everybody wants to get paid. Let them get their money, a percentage off it, so you can have your business [in order]. You got to have somebody to set your business up … Songtrust, Sound Exchange — all that stuff to where you could collect your money because there be money everywhere … YouTube royalties. It’s money everywhere. No rapper knows this.”
“When ‘Juice’ popped off, I wasn’t expecting that shit. I was playing. I really made that shit on some funny shit,” he shared before rapping a few lyrics. “Nigga, that shit crushed the world. Nigga, Meek Mill used it. Everybody was using that shit. Like bruh said, I wasn’t ready. I ain’t know what was going on.”
Following the success of the smash hit, Donald signed to Future’s Freebandz record label, allegedly against his team’s advice. However, the partnership was short-lived after business dealings fell through.
“With that situation, it was just like my team that I was with, they weren’t right. It was some bullshit going on with that. And then there were a lot of moves that was being made against my knowledge that I ain’t know about — with records they was putting out with bruh on it that I ain’t know about. And he felt some type of way about that,” the emcee explained. Donald felt their agreement wasn’t being honored at the time. “The conversations we had, I didn’t see that shit happening. So when that time [comes] for you to honor [our agreement] and it don’t happen, it just made me feel some type of way,” he added. Still, he admitted, “I feel like I probably could have had a conversation.” He explained there was never a right time to do it appropriately and without having others around, however.
With money and his career on the line, Bank asked the rapper how necessary he felt it was to separate his emotions from his business dealings. Donald responded, “It’s definitely very important not to have emotions, but it’s also very important to keep your respect.” He added, “In this game and in this business, people will run you over — not saying that’s what bro [Future] was on. He’s just a businessman and he probably had a lot going on, and I think just me signing to an artist just wasn’t a good idea — no matter what my feelings was towards the situation. As far as business, you gotta keep your emotions. When it comes to that paperwork and all that shit, you gotta keep your emotions and shit and honor what you say you gon’ [do].”
Donald’s honorable characteristics appear to extend to his female audience as well. Elsewhere in the conversation, the “No Mo” rapper opened up about how important it is for him to distance himself from problematic artists. “I cut a lot of my partners off behind that shit,” the emcee said in response to men mistreating women. “’Cause it was just like I dropped that song, and the shit went so crazy. And then a female come in my DMs like, ‘You made this song … but this nigga … look at this picture. This nigga blacked my [eye].’ Or, ‘Oh, this nigga broke my nose.’ Niggas in the city. I’m like, ‘What the fuck y’all niggas got going on.’ Y’all niggas just out here beating women up, and that shit cool? Alright, bruh, I just stop fucking with niggas.”
The rapper said he has denied collaborations in the past over his moral code. “Nigga like, ‘Damn, bruh, you ain’t fucking with me? Bruh, let’s get in the studio.’ I can’t rap with you boy because that shit goes on my image,” he said. “‘They be like, ‘Oh, you with the nigga that be beating everybody up.’ Can’t do it. Just, like, knowing.” These experiences motivated the artist to get started on creating his Do Better Foundation, which will provide at-risk women resources and assistance to better their livelihoods.
“It’s a non-profit. So, we’re going to help with housing; we’re going to help with a car; and we’re going to help with financial stability for the children until [participants] can get on [their] feet. We’re going to help [them] find a job — the whole nine. This a real organization,” he said proudly. While he’s helped loved ones out before, Lil Donald said the initiative would better help him serve others. With hopes of someday being married, the emcee shared that he’ll continue to make music that caters to the needs of his female audience and bring about awareness of causes affecting them.
Like always, if you liked what you heard, be sure to stay tuned every week for new episodes of “Big Facts.” Also, don’t forget to watch the latest show here.