Despite leaving town over 12 years ago, rapper Donwill is still making music with scenes from his upbringing in Cincinnati.
His latest project, “Cincinnatian,” was released on Tuesday. It includes a music video filmed from the Forest Fair Village mall – which you may know as Cincinnati Mills – in his mother’s basement and other famous locations in Cincinnati like the Duke Energy Cincinnati sign.
“The song itself, as it relates to, is just about my identity as a Cincinnati native,” Donwill said. “I take it everywhere, I have Ohio tattooed on my arm. I have that awkward accent that I can’t lose no matter how long I live in New York or elsewhere.”
He picked the Forest Fair Village mall because it’s something he grew up with.
“I worked there. I spent a lot of my formative years there, like high school … it was such a big part of my development as a person,” he said.
He said seeing the mall again was “like visiting an old friend you didn’t know had changed so much”.
“(I’ve seen) YouTube videos about abandoned malls and abandoned rooms, and Forest Fair Mall was featured in one, so I thought, ‘Let me see if I can get in there.’ Lo and behold, this is an open mall. “
Known for its lack of renovations and empty storefronts, the mall has several names in Cincinnati: Forest Fair Mall, Cincinnati Mills Mall, Cincinnati Mall.
“My first thought was that it would be really cool if you could come here and make a video,” Donwill said. “My second thought was that I have a whole song about being from Cincinnati that fits this space perfectly. The fact that it’s called the Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills, I thought I had to make it.”
And he did.
The Hughes High School graduate has been making music for 20 years, starting in high school, but meant business while he was a student.
This video isn’t the first time Donwill has included Cincinnati in his music. Along with Cincinnati-born Ilyas and a Brooklyn friend named Von Pea, Donwill helped found the rap group Tanya Morgan in 2004.
The group released an album called Moonlighting in 2006. “At that point, it felt more like a viable career path.”
The next album was Brooklynati in 2009, another tribute to Queen City.
In the lyrics of his latest video, “Cincinnatian,” he raps, “Might live in the East, but he’s playing all day in the Midwest, BK, Cincinnati.”
Donwill would like to organize a tour and concert in Cincinnati soon and work with some Cincinnati artists.
“I always have Cincinnati to fall back on. Cincinnati is my foundation, Cincinnati is my rock. You will never be more famous than at your mother’s house.”