It is on a hot summer day when Zeinab Donli lets me into her home and leads me into her chill spot/recording room; there I meet producer SkweiRd and Tim Lyre working on some music, they briefly acknowledge my presence and go back to work.
We briefly discuss her sound check, her upcoming performance the next day and of course music: she hadn’t really been in the mood for music in recent days; it is a reminder of the internal struggles most artistic talents go through.
Lady Donli has been slowly gaining consciousness in the Nigerian music industry and why not? Her unique style, which is not unlike Asa and Nneka and influenced by the likes of Erykah Badu lets her stand out amongst her peers. The brilliance of her music is helped along by the fact that she is focused and has a clear vision of her sound.
A lot has happened in the 2 years since Lady Donli released “Nothing On Me”. Her musical growth has been staggering, and the hype and praise she is getting is very much warranted. Sonically she is on a different level for her new tape.
“I’m using my musical strengths more, rapping more, enjoying the word play. Exploring different genres and trying to create a merge, it was a very fun experience putting it all together. Very hard as well, but I’m thankful that it’s about to be out.”
Lady Donli took her time to work on her second mixtape, ‘What is Perfect’. She explains to me, “I’ve been working on this project for about a year now and it has really become a personal journey for me. I’ve witnessed my musical abilities grow in all ways and it has been a humbling and unexplainable experience.”
In the midst of that were days of doubt and disbelief in her abilities mixed with criticisms from keyboard warriors, something she actually doesn’t have a problem with; a testament to her mental strength and willingness to improve.
“I appreciate all the negative reviews I get because at the end of the day, hate it or love it they’re still listening to my music. So at the end of the day, it’s fuel for me to become a better artiste and individual. So maybe one day that hate might turn into respect or some form of musical adoration.”
There are collaborations with Sutè and Idara, Feni Baba, D-Boi and Tim Lyre on the tape. These collaborations are bound to pique the interest of fans that have been following the growing careers of these artistes. She picks a track featuring Wolfman as one of her personal favorites. “However, I think all the features are incredible in their own right,” she continues.
Lady Donli’s success has been synonymous with the rise in artistic talent from the Abuja music scene. Acts like Sutè, Tim Lyre, Tay amongst others have been gaining recognition for their work.
“I feel blessed to be part of the current talent in Abuja. I spent most of my formative years there and I truly love the city. So seeing and hearing it musically glow up is crazy and amazing.”
For all her success, Lady Donli does have her fears though, “Losing someone I love is definitely my biggest fear,” she says, and losing her privacy; a necessary cost that comes with the path she has decided to take.
“I actually think about this everyday, I feel like I will eventually lose a bit of my privacy if I do become as successful as I pray I do. But I think I was born to be star, so no use dimming my lights, cause they’d shine wherever I go. So I’d cross that bridge when I reach it.”
Lady Donli is clearly excited about putting out new music for her fans to vibe to;
“I want my fans to expect a new Lady Donli, someone who has learnt, I want them to not expect anything they’ve heard from me in the past and I just hope they enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed making it. I think it’s a great body of work and I’m truly excited about what the future holds for me.”
What is Perfect is available for your listening pleasure on SoundCloud.