Industry plants, Jersey club and hip house. The podcast The Almanac of Rap breaks hip-hop down to its fundamentals, from rising sub-genres to the trends and cultural moments shaping its future. Hosted by rapper, producer, DJ and comedian Donwill, each episode dives deep into important moments in rap (from past and present) to explore their impact. The Almanac of Rap is a fall down the hip-hop rabbit hole—an audio journey into the annotations of hip-hop’s B-sides, featuring guests like Wyatt Cenac and Will Miles.
We spoke with Donwill to get a closer look at his Webby-honored podcast and the creative process behind it. Find out how it all started, the inspiration he had on his mood board and get a peek into what drives his artistry.
What sparked the idea for The Almanac of Rap? What was the process of developing the early stages of the podcast?
The podcast is an adaptation of my now defunct Twitch stream. I used to play records and videos with my chat and just have these super silly but informative exchanges, and I wanted to develop that into a podcast. The idea was to make a show that presents the full spectrum of the culture in easy-to-digest chunks. I wanted to make a show that was topical and evergreen. Hip-hop culture moves so fast and the show’s purpose is to make sense of the present by contextualizing it against the past.
It’s a music discovery podcast but the trick is that it’s me discovering music as well as showing people what I’ve found.
What projects or creatives inspired The Almanac of Rap? Who or what did you have on your mood board?
Decoder Ring, How To with John Wilson, Make Art Not Content, What Had Happened Was, Answer In Progress, Black Is Black, CBS News Sunday Morning, zines, actual almanacs.
Also, just rap media in general. Everything feels so disposable and voices like mine seem to be getting drowned out by big media. So I wanted to create a space that reflected my interests within the culture.
How did you develop the theme song and overall sound design? Why did you decide on this approach?
I knew that I wanted a song that felt like an actual song. Not just a backbeat or something that simply repeated the title of the show. I felt like a rapped theme song would really give the listener a taste of what they could expect and used the lyrics to walk them through it a bit.
I also just really like making rap songs and saw this as an opportunity to showcase that as well.
What Happened to Hip House (Season 2, Episode 1)
What does the production process for The Almanac of Rap look like—from initial scripts to release?
If I’m being fully transparent it’s not as streamlined as I want it to be and since I am a one-stop shop. The bulk of the process is writing, research and editing, and each task bleeds over into the other.
I am a one-stop shop, so any part of the show you can imagine is something that I handle and as you can imagine, that doesn’t necessarily make for the easiest production schedule but at the end of the day, it always gets done.
What are some of the apps and tools instrumental in bringing the podcast to life?
Riverside, Descript, Captivate, Logic, Apple Notes and YouTube are my weapons of choice.
What audiences were you aiming to reach? What about your work do you believe resonated with your target audience?
I wanted to find other people like me who enjoy reading beyond the liner notes. I think that the main thing that resonated with people is the voice of a person who is still learning more about a genre of music that he’s still actively participating in. My excitement is infectious.
Could you share some fun facts or easter eggs about the podcast?
There is always a post-credit moment that relates to the episode. It’s a fun little feature that I think of as a sort of bonus track. I also switch up the show’s intro every week to reflect the topic at hand.
Politics as Usual (Season 1, Episode 7)
What fuels your imagination and creativity?
In a word, it’s just staying curious and deeply interested. Everything is usually connected in some way or another, and oftentimes, you don’t even have to dig deep to find out how. I am just usually the person looking to make that connection.
My imagination and creativity are always in conversation with each other and especially living in a world where information is so readily available. The answer to any question you have is a few keystrokes away, which makes intellect and imagination almost synonymous.
What advice would you give someone just starting in the podcast industry?
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that you’ve gotta just dive in. Planning is important but action is where you actually learn. It’s the mistakes you make that will inform the action moving forward.
What does winning a Webby Award mean to you?
I have always thought my ideas were great and the Webby is just confirmation that there are people who agree with me.
The Early Entry Deadline for the Webby Awards is Friday, October 27th.
Making the next great podcast? The 28th Annual Webby Awards features new categories for Best Indie Podcast, Comedy, History, Business, and Interview/Talk Show in Podcasts. To participate with early entry pricing, submit your work here.
Enter your best work across Websites and Mobile Sites, Video, Advertising, Media & PR, Apps & Software, Social, Podcasts, Games and Metaverse, Virtual & AI (*New this year!) by the Early Entry Deadline this Friday, October 27th!