Get to Know Donn Robb [Interview]

Ian Hansen

Chicago producer and engineer, Donn Robb, has worked with some of hip hop’s biggest names such as The Kid LAROI, Juice WRLD, and 24kGoldn. He’s worked on some of LAROI's biggest hits such as, “WITHOUT YOU,” “GO,” and “Addison Rae,” to name a few. Get to know more about Donn Robb below:

Take me through your music background and what got you into producing in the first place.

I started out in Chicago, and my brother was always the guy, and the only guy in the neighborhood that would have a studio and was producing. I always liked music, but I never thought about it from the technical side. He showed me about engineering, producing, recording, and the beginning and end of a record. That helped me know what I wanted to do with music.

What was the defining moment where you knew it was time to take this seriously and pursue it as a career?

I had moved to Memphis for like six or seven months because I got in trouble back at home. I started working out there with a lot of people who are close to Three 6 Mafia. Being in the studio with them, and being around people I looked up to was what made me want to start producing. My cousin showed me the demo version of FL Studio. I used that, and I made a beat and gave it to Crunchy Black from Three 6 Mafia, and he said the beat was fire. That made me feel like I had to take it to another level.

Now you have worked with guy’s like Juice WRLD. Looking back now, what does that mean to you?

I’m one of the only drill producers from Chicago. Chicago in general has a close-knit circle about how we do music out there. Everybody knows each other. I had already been working with Lil Bibby. Fast forward years later where Bibby has his deal, and he’s thinking about starting a label. He was already introduced to Juice WRLD, and Bibby always trusted me with engineering. Him and G Money came to me when I was working at this place called, “At the Stu.” I heard his music and thought he was crazy. Me and Ozonthetrack would record Juice WRLD every day. He could record 20 songs a night. Every time he showed up, he knew what he wanted to say and how to say it. He could record five songs on the same beat.

You mentioned Bibby, how did that relationship start, and what did it mean to work with him during the Free Crack era?

The neighborhood Bibby is from is where my little brother is from. He told me I needed to work with him because he was next up. He showed me "Kill Shit." The video had a million streams in a week on YouTube. We had just purchased this house in the suburbs and wanted to get Bibby and all of them out of the hood and bring them to that area and record records with them. With Free Crack, we had our own operation.

Now, you’ve worked on some of LAROI's biggest hits, what does that relationship mean to you, and how did that come about?

Same thing. Bibby always trusted me with building up an artist and helping them develop. That’s what I did with him, and I always gave him advice. When Juice WRLD started working with and being engineered by Max Lord, it was tough for me because I wanted to be with Juice WRLD, but then we heard about this kid from Australia. They brought him to me. The first time I met him, he was just this ordinary kid, but he had this thing where he was just hungry. He wanted to record so much so I provided him a safe space to record. As our relationship and bond grew over time, we started making records together. We started having an idea of what we wanted to do. We just locked in, and it has been history.

How important is it, as a producer, to build with an artist from the ground-up?

I would say if not the most important thing, it’s second to number one. In the music industry, it’s all about business. When it comes to the creative side, it’s all about rapport, whether it be the producer or engineer. They have to help build confidence. For me, it’s the most important thing.

You can engineer, record, and produce. You engineered, “WITHOUT YOU,” which I think is The Kid LAROI's biggest song. How important is it to provide value in multiple ways like that?

With engineering and producing, and being a creative, a lot of definitions of what it means to create a record, gets misconstrued based on points and percentages. When we were doing, “WITHOUT YOU,” it wasn’t just me engineering. There are things like arrangement, helping him hit certain notes, or giving him confidence. At that time, he was like 15 or 16. His voice was changing, and there were things about him where he wasn’t having confidence. It was him being a teenager. Everyone had to be there to push him toward making this hit record. We worked hard to help make him a star. For me, it’s not just engineering. A requirement is to have to tell an artist no or say it again.

What’s your favorite track you worked on with LAROI?

It is hard to pick because we recorded so much. A lot of the time, the records we had, we had “demo-itis.” To hear them now and to hear them back then, it was different. He recorded a lot of music. He recorded like 1,500 songs. I don’t have a favorite, but commercially, I’d say, “SO DONE.”

Now you have your own studio, how important is that to have your own place, and how does it open doors?

When I started in Chicago, and the stigma of how dangerous it is, I realized that having a studio is the only way to bring people together and understand it’s the most important thing. I took what I brought to Chicago and brought it to LA. When I came here, what I did over there would definitely work over here. All it did was bring people who want to record and bring creatives. Sometimes, we don’t even come here and produce. Sometimes we have meetings. The creativity that having a studio brings and the network it brings is very important. Having that, makes you have a headquarters to be able to handle business or make things yours.

You working with any new artists from Chicago? What are your goals with Chicago in general?

With Chicago, you can’t think of that many people from there that have put on for the city unless it’s sports or Kanye West. After that, it goes down. You have Chief Keef, Polo G, and those guys. I want to be one of those guys that bring it home like how LeBron won a championship for Cleveland. That was his goal. We don’t have record labels there or proper management companies. We don’t have any resources to build the city. I want to give them a bridge from Chicago to make it out here. I want to go out there and bridge the gap.

In five to 10 years, where do you see yourself with Chicago?

Me and my team are working toward building a record label, publishing company, managing company, and a media company. I think in 5-to-10 years, we will have an office in Chicago. We are going to be the first commercial record label in Chicago backed by a huge distribution company. In 10 years, we will have business with the radio stations, local schools, and the companies, and the people that have all this talent who need somebody to guide them in the right direction.

Outside of music, what do you like to do?

Beside scrolling TikTok and Instagram, I want to get into film, toys, and fashion. I’m into that hipster or hype beast vibe. I grew up in that era when Kanye first came out with Yeezy’s or these companies are coming out with toys. That was cool to me. I want to get into cartoons. In my spare time, I want to unlock my inner-child.

What were your favorite cartoons or brands growing up?

In Chicago, we are like the second boutique capitol. With clothing stores in Chicago, we have so much fashion we created. RSVP was Virgil, Don C, and Kanye West. These guys represent that area. Back then, it was BAPE and Ice Cream before it got to the Walmart brand it is now. I am a fan of the hype beast stuff because I was there when these guys first started. Favorite cartoons would be anything Adult Swim. Three in the morning when they had the anime on. If I had to pick, I’d say the Looney Tunes.

Anything else you want to add to the interview?

For the kids that don’t know where they fit in the music industry or have the opportunity to experience these things, the dream isn’t that far-fetched. I wasn’t in the right place in Chicago, and I built up to this point. The reason I’m here now is because I was a dreamer and lived in the future.

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