There's only one thing I've known to come out of Jacksonville and probably to no surprise it's their NFL team, the Jaguars. Outside of Miami, I actually don't know anything about any place in Florida outside of Orlando being the home of Disney World. But thanks to some digging around on SoundCloud, a bit of the wool has been lifted from over my eyes with Jacksonville's Dola. He has a gentle, yet unorthodox style to his delivery; his raps don't escape convention as far as women, weed and being self-made goes, but he carefully slides his social leanings under the surface as well. Chapter 1 Night Vision--a mixtape he dropped in late 2014--was filled with frustration about cultural appropriation, crime in Jacksonville, finding a way to push past the bullshit and rapping better than you can. After hearing it, I reached out wanting to know what went into the creation process and to learn what life experiences provided Dola with the fuel to make Night Vision.
You describe your project as being an alternative to social systems that are in place like law, religion, church and parents. Do you find it a duty to spread what you know and believe?
Dola: Not really. I don’t feel the need to push my opinion on people. I just like to share my thoughts. I don’t feel like my way is law or anything. It’s just perspective. That’s what art is to me: perspective.
In “Feral” you say, “You tryna get your culture back but kosher, it ain’t that” Was that about the climate of hip-hop culture today and how it’s being penetrated?
Yeah. It’s crazy to see it right before my eyes. It’s scary a little bit because it makes me feel like, “Where is me and a lot of people I know gonna be in a couple years?” But in the same sentence, it makes me want to work harder. I’m not against anybody endeavoring to get into any art form. People make mockeries of us everyday. I guess them doing it tastefully is all you can ask for.
Well do you think it’s been tastefully mimicked by some? That’s best way I can name it because if it’s someone coming from outside the culture there is some mimicry going on.
To be honest, I haven’t really seen hip-hop being done too tastefully by outsiders. Everything is almost a joke. Like there’s a shock factor to it. And I guess it kinda opens up an avenue for whoever to run through. It's just hard to find good music now.
On your song "Salutations" you mention funeral attendance in damn near higher than football games in Jacksonville. Do you ever feel trapped there?
Yeah sometimes. Like any other big metropolis areas in the country, there are a lot of murders. Statistically, people actually do get murdered more than who goes to games. Jacksonville is tough because there isn't a lot of local support. The radio doesn't play local artists. I stayed in Atlanta for a little bit and they fuck with local music hard. It ain't like that here.
What are the dynamics of the city?
Land-wise, it's the biggest city in the country but our transit system isn't that good. The bus runs every 30-45 minutes and the trains don't go to other sides of town so people don't really venture out. People won't go to the other side for entertainment. Everybody is separated.
On the North Side which is predominantly black, people's social lives mostly is high school football games and ratchet shit. East side is the same. Downtown you have more hipsters and people with funny mustaches who listen to EDM. Surfers are downtown too. None of these people really fuck with each other, though.
Have recent happenings between black men and police made you more introspective? What’s your state of mind as a black man in this society?
A lot of Florida is country and woods and rednecks so when I was in high school there were a lot of incidents. Redneck kids would hang nooses from trees. It was always very apparent here in comparison to other places I've been. But since it's gotten more public it definitely feels weirder. Police killing people out in the open with nothing happening is crazy.
Back last August, I was on the West Side at a gas station and two dudes pulled up -- one in a purple Monte Carlo on 26's and the other in a Dodge Charger. Soon as they get there, the police pulled behind them. The guy with the Monte Carlo got out to pump gas and the officer in the car gets out with no lights, no warning and pulls his gun out. Then another twenty cop cars come to the gas station and did the same. They just pulled their straps on this nigga without asking for any of his information. Just witnessing that while thinking about all this other shit going on was crazy.
It's at a point now where I'm always late to where I'm going because people driving on the highway are afraid to go by a police car.
How’d you come up with the name Dola? Is it your birth name?
I just came up with it through different nicknames I had growing up. My father used to call me Dopeboy Dola or my uncle would call me Dolamite. So when I chose Dola as a rap name I started looking up meanings.
You talk about your father a lot on Night Vision. What’s your relationship with him?
Not horrible but it could definitely be better. He’s who got me into hip-hop on a major level. He always listened to good music. He was always listening to stuff outside of Jacksonville like DJ Clue mixtapes, DMX, Nas, Scarface, etc. Just a wide range.
Your project gives me the feeling that you have a lot more to say and share. Will you only be doing that through rap or do you want to express yourself in other ways as well?
In the bigger scheme of things, I’m a writer. I used to have my own blog before I started to focus on rap. It’s what I’ve always been most interested in. I play with different forms all the time.
Eddy Braveux produces just about all of your music Would you consider him as a partner or just someone who makes sense for your vision?
He’s definitely a partner. He’s helped me direct my vision and not with just production. With everything
What have you learned during your musical journey up to this point?
The element of surprise is something I definitely want to take advantage of. I took my time with Chapter One but I could definitely be better with the promotion. I'm trying to get more into directing my own visuals. Just trying to round things out.