May 7, 2020 in Album Reviews, Music by

From Mixtapes to Grayscale, From Grayscale to COLORS: The Rise of Donte Thomas

Cover Photo by Reclusive.

I recall seeing the name prior to that moment, but I never actually tapped in…

Donte Thomas.

His recently released visual for a track entitled “OFF WHITE,” was making rounds on my timeline, so I decided to give it a view. I clicked play and sat back in my chair. It was November of 2019.

Instantly, brilliant bright coral stretched over my screen. Comforting chords and subdued bongo beating sailed out of my speakers. My eyes widened and my ears perked up.

“Please don’t act like everything of mine ain’t crackpipe…”

The first line of the song took me aback, but in a good way. I respected the energy and confidence, charging straight out of the gate.

Detailed director Mike Tate provided peeks of a playful personality in “Off White.” A sly smirk slides up Donte’s face as he flips through bestselling book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. An 808’s & Heartbreaks vinyl serves as a suitable surface as he rolls RAW Papers while launching into laughter.

The visual kept me engaged from start to finish. From the lively production provided by gifted producer Sxlxmxn to the enigmatic effects from Tate, everything was so bright.

I loved the visual, but the first line of the song… I was still stuck on it.

“Please don’t act like everything of mine ain’t crackpipe…”

It was almost like a challenge… I certainly wouldn’t act like everything of his wasn’t crackpipe, but first, I’d have to confirm that it was. So I set out to do some digging on this Donte dude. And I was pleased by what I found.

I found that Donte Thomas is not new to this.

Grayscale, his freshman project, was dropped off back in 2016. Long before that, he was already blazing the mixtape trail. In fact, an early mixtape was covered by WOHM’s very own Mac Smiff as early as 2013. Ironically enough, the mixtape was also called C.O.L.O.R.S.

In Mac’s review summation, he gave Donte 3 critical pieces of feedback: 1.) His style sounded young. 2.) His production choices were not dynamic. 3.) His promotion methods were ineffective.

In the 6+ years since then, Thomas has improved on all three fronts, and more. Mac continued to cover his releases here on WOHM, and even he better things to say as the time went on.

Donte Thomas has put in the work, and COLORS is the proof that paints the picture quite clearly.

While COLORS was originally released last August, the deluxe edition was dropped off just last month, boasting 4 new colors of beautiful hues. That is nearly 20 tracks, each named after… You guessed it. A color! So let’s get into the rise of Donte Thomas, based on Mac’s feedback from long ago.

1. A “Young” Sound: Over the years, as Donte has matured, so has his overall sound. His content remains relatable, loosely based on the struggles of your average twenty-something; love and relationships, drugs, finances, real life stuff. There is a reoccurring theme of tenacity. This is the very same tenacity which will keep him relevant for years to come.

Though storytelling still isn’t necessarily his niche, he does a great job telling the tale on songs like “VERMILLION.” In most tracks, the lack of a storyline is easily overlooked due to his pen game. His high quality hooks and witty wordplay bring out a certain feeling that you get from his music. Personally, “BLACK” gives off a feel of determination, “MAGENTA” gives off sensuality, and “OFF WHITE” is cocky, but in a good way.

Donte explained that while titling the tracks on COLORS, he relied on the feeling that each song gave off. Makes sense. (CHECK)

2. Basic Production Selection: Something that struck me the most about COLORS was the production. Donte looked to several talented individuals based In Portland and beyond to find the perfect sounds, and it is clear that they all delivered. Sxlxmxn offered up bright and bubbly soundscapes for “OFF WHITE” & “NEON PINK.” Corey G. flexed versatility, leading off the album with reflective production on “BLACK,” uplifting and angelic sounding keys on “CANARY,” and a somewhat nostalgic sound on “BLONDE.”

Though I cannot hear the production from C.O.L.O.R.S the mixtape to see for myself, the stark differences between Donte’s production choices from Grayscale to COLORS is very telling. As he developed his sound and style, he also developed a penchant for pairing himself with producers who deliver dynamic and sonically pleasing music. (CHECK)

3. Ineffective Promotion: As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I found Donte Thomas through a couple of people reposting his visual on my timeline. He has garnered an engaged and activated fan base over the years, catching the eyes and ears of publications such as Elevator and Earmilk. Most recently, he landed a spot on Pigeon & Planes’ “Best New Artist” list. Great accomplishment! (I know, we know he isn’t new, shhhh.)

Needless to say, Donte Thomas isn’t doing much social media self promotion anymore. His music speaks for him and the fans speak for the music. It works. (CHECK.)

All in all, Thomas is a well rounded artist and his evident growth is admirable.

If Grayscale was Donte Thomas’ resume, then COLORS certainly serves as his official cover letter, addressing any and every question you may have as to whether or not he’s got what it takes.

He’s done the work. He continues to do the work. And we love to see it. I will happily continue to keep you posted on Donte Thomas, but until then, I have one small request:

Please don’t act like everything of his ain’t crackpipe

A/A

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