Spose talks “Dankonia,” being his own boss and being a Dad

dankoniaFor Maine music fans, Wells-based rapper Spose (a.k.a. Ryan Peters) doesn’t need much of an introduction. For those who don’t know, however, he’s one of the most popular artists in Maine, with a certified gold single (2010’s “I’m Awesome”) three studio albums and three mixtapes in just six years (the last one, “The Peter Sparker Mixtape,” came out in June). He’s a regular live presence at venues and clubs statewide. Apparently, he’s not busy enough, however, because on Oct. 31 he released another mixtape — “Dankonia,” a long-in-the-works mix featuring him rapping over beats from Outkast’s seminal 2000 album “Stankonia,” along with a handful of other hip hop tracks from other artists. It’s at once his most laid-back effort, and his most personal. Peters took a break from hanging out with his week-old baby daughter to talk about rapping, producing, managing himself, baring his soul and being a dad.

How long has the Dankonia album been in the works? Where’d the idea stem from?

I started working on “Dankonia” in 2011 while I was writing and recording “The Audacity!” That album was a very arduous process because I made all the music myself. I spent almost six months every day writing new stuff or adding guitars to songs I’d made the day before or recording trumpets or experimenting with other instruments or chord changes. It got really overwhelming sometimes.

When I’d get stressed out with the complicated songs on I would pull up a pre-made beat and just rap over it. Rapping is easy for me so anytime I don’t have to also make the beat and the lyrics, it’s fun for me. By the time I finished “The Audacity!” in November 2011, I had about 15 songs over various beats but 8 of them were over OutKast beats. I listened to them one afternoon and thought, “Damn, these sound pretty good together, maybe I could release them sometime.”

Though it’s very funny and entertaining, Dankonia also feels pretty personal, honest, even raw. Why now? Why this album?

I think I used this album as a bit of therapy for myself. Since it came from a natural, not-forced place, I often would just spill whatever thoughts were running through my head at a certain time. Sometimes it was how my old booking agent didn’t get me ["Coolio"], sometimes it was all the money I owe in student loans and back taxes and stuff ["Broke As Me"], or sometimes it was messed up stuff I saw growing up (“Babylon”). I know people appreciate honesty in my lyrics and so it’s not very scary to “let it all out,” so to speak, but it was definitely a freeing experience to get some of these specific things off my chest.

sposeYou’re your own manager. For artists trying to build a fan base or make a name for themselves, what is vital to know?

I had a management team in 2010 when I signed to Universal but that ended before 2011 started. Since then I’ve been my own manager. I find being your own manager to be a lot easier because, although you have more work to do, there’s nobody steering your music or career in a direction you wouldn’t have chose yourself. There’s nobody to blame but myself if something doesn’t work out. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes and the mistakes I’ve seen others make. I can’t really prescribe any path to success for other artists because every artist is different but the universal truths tend to hold up: work harder than everyone, be unique, be humble, know how to spell and write so you don’t look like an amateur idiot, don’t get too high on your accomplishments, don’t get too low on your failures, cherish your connections and relationships, and know that nobody owes you anything.

You just had another baby! How do you balance being Spose and being a Dad?

Honestly, it’s a difficult balance. The hardest thing is being on tour because it breaks my daughter’s heart and my heart to be away from each other. Now that I have two girls, it’ll be even harder. I’m lucky that this is my only job, so when Daddy has to work, it’s understood and I’m given my time… I had my daughter when I was 23 and had just released my first album, so I’ve grown as an adult, a parent, and a rapper simultaneously. The juggling of the three has been trying at times but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do your kids listen to your music? Do they like hip hop?

My oldest daughter – she’s four – loves music and I burn her “Lily Edits” of my songs for her to listen to. She’s very musical herself, though, always singing freestyled songs and trying to rhyme the lyrics and playing with my keyboards and record player in the studio.

She likes hip-hop but her favorites are Katy Perry and Adele. One time, when she was three, she told me and my sister that, she likes 2 Chainz but she doesn’t “like Kanye West because he says ‘bitch’.” Although Kanye’s one of my favorite artists, I thought that was a good reason not to like him.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a University of Maine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, taken belly dancing classes, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.