DonMonique, Queen of Thirst Trap, Gets Ready for the Spotlight
Photo by Liz Barclay
Let it be known that the world is a trap house. Future epitomized this with “Trap Niggas,” which uses the hook’s character sketch — a go-getter who acknowledges lethal steel and lady luck over hygiene and a god — and turns it into an anthem where spiritual awareness and capitalist ambition are synonymous. It reappears as a bonus track to DS2, the trap tour de force that dropped four days before DonMonique’s Thirst Trap EP, her first project.
DonMonique fucks with Future (her words). The same sentiment goes for New York. She grew up visiting her mother in the South Bronx and traveling to East Flatbush, Brooklyn, to visit her father and hang with friends. So she says she’s a New York rapper, not a Brooklyn rapper: “I don’t want to say, ‘My uptown bitches,’ and the people in Brooklyn are like, 'I don’t really fuck with this.' "
You mix New York grit and loose trap mechanics with a potent dose of DonMonique’s charisma and you get thirst trap. The twenty-year-old has been in the game for a little under a year, and she’s already coined a genre that’s distinctive with a name that sticks. Yet DonMonique — a succinct, charming speaker — can’t really summarize the genre. It’s something you know when you hear it. It’s also something birthed out of the need for originality.
“I thought I wanted to be this trap girl and do a bunch of trap beats,” DonMonique says. “But then I realized as I started finding my sound and stuff that I don’t necessarily have to be on some trappish beat to make trap music or talk about trap shit.”
Trap comes a dime a dozen nowadays, though; anybody with a MacBook can put out a song. DonMonique’s peers originally brushed her off as another anybody when she made the decision to seriously pursue hip-hop. The frustration was summed up in a blunt tweet: “no ones taking my soon to b rap career seriously and it's making me mad.”
DonMonique’s first single, “We Don’t,” came out last August. The production didn’t lead the way to genre trailblazing — it sounds like a stowaway from mid-2012 Chicago drill. But DonMonique’s confidence was unmistakable: “If you ain’t giving head, you ain’t good for nothin’/I got that wet wet, make you tell your cousin.”
“People were like, ‘Oh shit, she was serious,’ ” DonMonique recalls.
Thirst trap is an amorphous new genre, too, and its queen has a small but versatile catalog. “Pilates,” DonMonique’s breakout, is an unfairly catchy tune that makes verbal playthings out of its namedropping hook. “Jada” errs more toward traditional New York, interpolating a Jay Z–ready line over gutter percussion. There are two undercurrents between the tracks: They’re tenser than Future’s astral-gazing compositions, and they share Atlanta’s Awful Records’ minimalist production, although DonMonique’s style is a little less nutty.
And within a year of dropping “We Don’t,” the party seems to be gravitating toward her. (That’s in addition to the Brooklyn Awful Records after-party that serves as the visuals for “Pilates.”) Detroit’s Danny Brown got hip to DonMonique quickly. Brown followed her on Twitter after “Pilates” was released, but she didn’t take it seriously since Brown is a serial follower. His also following her on Instagram, though, proved that his interest in DonMonique wasn’t an impulse, and she direct-messaged him on Twitter for a verse. The result is Brown’s standout contribution atop the nefarious keys on “Tha Low.”
It took DonMonique’s family a couple more years than Brown needed to get onboard with her music. She recalls being interested in music through her childhood, despite being delayed by minor roadblocks. She tried singing, but DonMonique, ever the realist, realized she simply wasn’t born with a singing voice. She joined a school band in sixth grade but soon discovered the flute wasn’t really her thing.
So DonMonique settled on rapping. Although hip-hop was a commonality within her family, her mother feared she would eventually end up on those all-caps TMZ headlines, the subject of some type of drug-abuse scandal. The career had to wait until DonMonique was in her late teens, when she wasn’t dependent on her mother.
DonMonique hasn’t made TMZ, and a quick Google search displays her Twitter handle and her music — no exposés. She dropped her debut project the same day she performed at Hot 97's Who's Next showcase, which legitimized her career aspirations to her parents: “Everyone knows who Hot 97 is. So it’s like, ‘Oh shit, you’re on the Hot 97 show.’ ” The show was undoubtedly a big moment for DonMonique, but it's ultimately just a start. The trap is vast, and she's only a year into covering its possibilities.
Thirst Trap dropped on July 21. Listen to the stream here.
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