Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Before you hear the first note on the debut album by Atlanta soul singer Donnie, the name of the CD grabs your attention: "The Colored Section." Like Donnie, the title and the music are bold, honest, and edgy.
For years, Donnie has been a local icon in the city known as the Motown of the South, growing out of the same soil that gave life to India.Arie. Both artists developed a following around Atlanta, playing gigs in popular spots like the Ying Yang Cafe and carrying the banner for a local collective of neo-soul and alternative artists known as Groovement. In fact, one of Groovement's principals, Anasa Troutman, manages Donnie.
With his new CD coming out on Giant Step Records and preparations under way to open for Arie on her upcoming tour, Donnie is cautiously optimistic about the prospect of his music finally stretching beyond Atlanta's confines.
"As an artist, I was ready for this to happen months and months ago," he says. "I want my message to get across to a wider audience. There is an urgency for my message, and I think people are ready for it."
Among the noteworthy cuts on "The Colored Section" -- which was produced by Steve "the Scotsman" Harvey and is due out Nov. 5 -- is "Our New National Anthem." Another track, "Cloud Nine," is featured in the recently opened film "Brown Sugar." Donnie -- who wrote all of the album's songs -- says the album's title highlights the struggles and challenges of being African-American.
"The colored section is a place that we were restricted to, but now I'm trying to turn it around and make it the hip place to be," he explains. "I'm making something beautiful out of something that wasn't so beautiful at one time."
While some find Donnie's honesty and consciousness refreshing, others may be a bit skeptical about its commerciality; at least, that was the case with some of the labels he considered in the past. But Giant Step was different. "That's the reason I signed with them-because they would allow me to do my music," he says. "They said they did not want to stifle me."
Giant Step Records president Maurice Bernstein says he never had any intentions of holding Donnie's message back. "I was honored that he chose to work with me," Bernstein says. "I wanted to let him make the record that he wanted to make. He has something to say, and he should be allowed to say it."
Excerpted from the Nov. 2, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
For information on ordering a copy of the issue, click here.