An Honest Dance in the Mirror
A Review of Donyae Asante’s new album “Flaws and All"
Donyae Asante’s new album Flaws and All is a deeply creative, thoughtful Millennial anthem. While I’m hesitant to characterize the specificity of his work of an entire generation, it moves from wistful clips of winning a speech tournament in high school only to have to delve deep into social media influenced trauma to adapting to the highs and lows of love, sex and everything in between. Asante shows that he’s ready to bare it all without polish or filter.
The first half of the album is a bop! So many feel good hits and pop culture references, notable moments include the beat of Space Jam and putting his own spin on “Here’s Donny!” in “Ghost” and Tiffany Pollard’s iconic diss in “Clapback”. Asante does not shy away from including the voices of others to tell his story: from voicemails to samples to artist features to personal interviews of close friends and family.
His original content also includes highlights like the spooky beat on “Ghost” and the catchy hook on “Delusional”. The curation of this album is a notable accomplishment, his fun youthful tracks on pleasure turn sobering on “Hiv” facing the stark realities and risk that come with being out and that this world is unkind to those who try to be carefree. He then does what I think all of us struggle to do from time to time, ask for help or advice from those closest to him. Loving strings underscore “Poz (Interlude)” which begins with him recording his mother’s answer to “What do you do to stay positive?” then branching out to others before answering the question himself, before his infectious laugh colors his response to a friend answering with weed, oh January 2020 Chicago will be good to her!
He moves seamlessly into his well-crafted ballad “Just Talk” before working through the events of “2013” in which he fondly remembers his speech coach who took his own life after allegations of sexual misconduct with a student. I actually remembered when this happened, as he was a friend of my coach and had sent a Facebook message informing him about his death. I will always deeply regret not just picking up the phone with something so important. Leading into the melodic beep of an EKG on “Why Do I Care”, how social media has become this lifeline tying us to everyone we love with lyrics like “Why am I so concerned with everybody but my fucking damn self? I think that I need to change. I finally focus for my own health”.
The final quarter of the album is more introspective than bold with soulful tracks like “Patience” and “Flaws”. The need to be a triple threat and shrill whistles in “Homecoming” bring an air of nostalgia to this young rap, r&b, jazz and pop artist’s journey (oh yeah, there’s some scatting!). He leaves us with an easy bounce in “The Practice of Love”, encompassing his journey with lyrics like “I wanna be somebody my little bro can live up to, it’s time to live my life and speak my truth”. His joy leaps through the speaker as he recaps everything he’s been through, remaining positive through the Flaws and All. If you like queer empowerment, reflection, and shaking your ass while working through your circumstances, give this album a listen. Highly recommended.