donmonique is new york’s first queen of thirst trap
It’s like trap but sexier and with more lipgloss.
Photography Eric Chakeen
If the thirst trap has found its ultimate visual expression in photos of Amber Rose's butt, 20-year-old rapper DonMonique has created its sound. Her debut EP, titled "Thirst Trap," is due out early next month and what we've heard of it so far, namely the hypnotic party track "Pilates," has made us, yes, thirsty for more. "Thirst trap," in DonMonique's usage, is also a musical genre that she has, just maybe, invented. She uses the phrase to describe her sound "because my music is trappy but at the same time it's cute and it's sexy."
Case in point: her lyrics about Kendall, Kylie and Miley. The hook in "Pilates" - purred over a minimal, twangy bass line - repeats "Got Kendall, got Kylie, got Miley, got Kendall, got Kylie, got Miley." To the uninitiated (read: me, before our interview), DonMonique might be invoking her dream squad, the Jenner sisters and Miley Cyrus. But she isn't. "Miley is obviously molly," she says, "Kendall and Kylie is just whatever you've got." DonMonique takes the drug dealing tropes of trap and candy-coats them with her own clever TMZ-generation slang. It's trap but it's cute trap.
When we met in Brooklyn last week, Don had just come from getting her nails done uptown ("I usually go to the hood spots, because they last longer," she says). They were long and a sugary red-pink. And her hair, which has at various times been bobbed, braided, and worn in two long ombre violet twists, was in cornrows. Her look changes as often as her never-ending stream of Instagram thirst traps suggests it does. "I like watching YouTube hair videos - I just feel like I can do everything," she says. And her approach to dressing is DIY too. She trawls eBay for FUBU jerseys and 8-ball jackets and mixes them with leather and shearling coats inherited from her mom and aunt.
That week she happened to be staying uptown, but she grew up splitting her time between her dad's downtown and her mom's in the South Bronx. She also went to two high schools: Catholic school first, and public school after. Somewhere in there she spent some time in East New York, too. It's a little hard to follow, most of all for her. But when I ask her where she's from she just says, definitively, "New York." And her sound, gritty and sparse, is as New York as it gets. "'Pilates' is a West Coast beat but you can still tell that someone from New York is on it," she explains, "I just wanted to switch it up."
At the moment, she's working on getting that sound recognized. Which means going out as much as possible - hard if you're under 21. "I dropped my first track at midnight on my 20th birthday," she tells me. On her Tumblr recently she reposted one of her tweets from around that time. It reads, "no one's taking my rap career seriously and it's making me mad."
A year later and she still may not be able to drink but she is definitely beginning to be taken seriously. She recently shot her first video - in which she and her friends dance and sing along to "Pilates" at a party held IRL for Atlanta rapper Father. She will also make a cameo in an upcoming video for Zoë Kravitz's band Lolawolf, filmed by the same videographer, and Danny Brown just sent her a verse for her latest track, "Tha Low."
Don is also starting to get weird fan attention. "Today on my Tumblr someone wrote, 'I want you to give me a foot massage.' I didn't even know how to respond," she laughed. But she does usually respond. Recently she replied to someone who complained, agony aunt style, about her own big forehead and asked DonMonique how she became so confident. And though she says she doesn't always feel that way, she's good at giving off an air of chip-proof self-assurance.
Later on, during our shoot, she snapped her fingers towards her entourage (she came with her publicist, manager, and her "personal photographer" - his words) and one of the boys passed her a tube of lipgloss. She took her time layering it on, using her cell phone as a mirror and half-pretending to pose for the photographer before dissolving into laughter when she couldn't keep up the act. For all her attitude in front of a camera, person-to-person she's funny and chatty and sweet. She gushed about her excitement for the new season of Orange Is the New Black, her love for the band The Drums and her plans for her 21st birthday party ("because I haven't had a real birthday party since I was like 10!"). At one point she described discovering Aaliyah for the first time and watching her videos over and over again on YouTube, singing along. She remembers her mom joking that she would probably never become a singer. But that hasn't stopped her from making music or dreaming big. "Right now I'm just taking it day by day. I don't want to force anything. But I do want to work with, like, 50 Cent - you know, the OG dogs."
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Eric Chakeen