Listen to Veno Da Don’s newest album, Sorry Not Sober, on Soundcloud now.
Veno Da Don, known as Elijah or E in his small personal circle, is full of confident ambition.
If you follow Veno on Twitter, you should already know this. He frequently tweets his very own song lyrics to foreshadow his over-arching goal of bursting through the small Indianapolis bubble and excelling through his music.
When he’s not promoting his own music, he’s interacting with fellow members of the NoHeart collective – a group of teenagers infatuated with hip-hop and urban trends. Reminiscent of the collective determination and functionality of the A$AP Mob, all four members of NoHeart support each other and interact daily. Their growing presence on social media among fellow high-schoolers and recent grads almost directly illustrates the charisma of the group – you either want to be a part of the crew or you’re itching for any amount of interaction, hoping that their enigmatic hustle will rub off on you.
This particular night, I planned to meet Veno and fellow NoHeart crew member, Nick, at Naptown Thrift, one of my favorite streetwear consignment shops in the Midwest. I expected two guys who were too cool for school, maybe even a bit of teenage angst and arrogance, but was instead met with genuine humility and innocent charisma. Veno, decked in a throwback B.I.G. graphic tee and Gucci flip flops, expressed his gratitude for the interview right away. He was actually excited to meet with little old me!
In preparation for his forthcoming album, Sorry Not Sober, I had the opportunity to chat with Veno about his musical upbringing, shared aspirations with the rest of the NoHeart crew and his frequent interactions with his steadily growing fan base. All whilst shopping for fire retro gear at Naptown Thrift.
Continue reading for more moments from our exclusive interview with Veno da Don.
On his newest project, Sorry Not Sober.
When does Sorry Not Sober release?
You’ve been tweeting that this is your best project so far.
Most definitely. I think it’s better because it has a variety of music – Dontober was too much turn up shit. Everybody was asking when I was going to switch it up and try different styles, so that’s what I did with this album.
Do you mean mixing it up style wise? Like slower joints? Or are you actually mixing genres?
I’m still fully hip-hop but I switched up other things. I actually got a call from a fan – it’s on one of the songs – and she asked that I make a song that makes girls get in their emotions. All she would hear is “bitches this, bitches that” but she wanted to hear something that made her feel good. So I made a song like that. I also made a song where I talked heavy about my life and my past. That’s where the title comes from – I was going through a rough patch in my life where I was depressed. I wouldn’t say I was drinking excessively, but I started drinking more.
I still have turn up shit on there, but it’s more lyrical. I switched it up.
It’s really cool that you took suggestions from a fan. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an artist taking a call from a fan and making a song based on what they requested. That’s awesome.
I like feedback from my fans. I actually listen to it.
Do you think they notice?
Probably. I sent her a rough draft of the song as soon as I was finished and she was on the phone almost crying. She was like “oh my god, I can’t believe you actually did it!” It meant a lot to her.
While searching around Naptown Thrift, Veno stumbles upon a vintage Coogi sweater. This style instantly reminds him of his father – Veno’s first style inspiration.
I have an old soul. My dad was a DJ actually so he’s got a lot of records and he put me up on game.
So you like old school style mostly?
Yeah. I might switch up my style actually – I like the way I dress but I could get freakier with it. (I say that word a lot).
Does your dad listen to your music?
Oh, most definitely. He’s one of my biggest supporters. Him and my mom. My mom’s always like, “you’re gonna make it, son. Just keep doing you.” They never doubted me or anything. They know I’m gonna make it.
Does your dad ever give you feedback on your music?
Definitely. He’s always on my ass too – when I come home he always tells me to go make music. I’m never sleep. When I go to the crib, I’m downstairs in the basement working. Constantly working. And it’s been like that since I was 14.
So you’ve been rapping since you were 14?
I was rapping before that, but it wasn’t until 14 that I started to take it seriously. I was in a class at NC called Music Sound Production and my teacher taught me a lot of skills that I could actually use. He always said “when you write, act like you’re your favorite rapper.” At the time, my favorite rapper was J. Cole so I just started writing like I was him and even performing like I was him. It helped me get better.
Wow, so you take role models to heart! It’s as if you’re taking the form of the person you look up to.
Who would you say you wrote like in the Sorry Not Sober project?
Chance was a big influence. Just seeing him be an independent rapper and doing it all on his own – he even got 3 Grammys! I was so proud of him watching that, I felt like I knew him.
J. Cole, definitely also. I’ve been a fan of his from the beginning. Kendrick Lamar too. I’m into other artists, but lyrically those are my top 3.
You mentioned your admiration for Chance because he was independent and did it all on his own. A lot of Dontober talked about signing a deal and getting with a label. Is that an ambition of yours or would you rather be independent?
I’d rather be independent because it works better for you but if the money’s calling it’d be hard not to.
What’s a show like as Veno?
I like to rock the crowd and get everybody in tune. I don’t like people just standing in the back with their arms crossed. I make people put their hands up and get into the music. The best shows are like that. I like to switch it up too – I don’t like when all songs sound the same. I might go banger, turn up, sad, emotional, real shit, speaking facts. All that. I even spit a freestyle one time on Pound Cake everybody was like, “bro what the fuck!” I just dropped the mic after that.
You dropped the mic?!
Swear! I just put it on the DJ table. Everybody was like, “bro, I didn’t know you could spit like that!”
They gassed you up!
I can merch that Veno can spit a freestyle. Watch his Naptown Thrift freestyle if you haven’t yet!
I like freestyling. My dad always taught me to be sharp on my pen. If somebody asks me to rap, I gotta kill that shit. Don’t think, don’t hesitate. Just do it.
Don’t think, don’t hesitate. Just do it.
The Origins of NoHeart Club
What’s up with the NoHeart team? It seems like you guys are establishing a presence. Reminds me of A$AP and how everyone has a role.
Yeah, they’re a huge influence on us. We study their moves a lot. NoHeart consists of me, Nick Taylor, Terrion, Goldie and Whensday. Whensday is our newest member, he’s out of Iowa. We’re always on the phone, almost constantly in the group chat. Sending music back and forth and always working. We’re coming out with our NoHeart clothing line very soon – just got the hoodies in the other day. Website is also coming soon.
So it’s like a collective?
That’s exactly what it is.
Does every person rap or do they each have different roles?
Every person can rap but that’s not all we can do. I can rap, produce and make beats, record, and I’m good with fashion. Nick, on the other hand, can rap, he’s good with the camera (he has his own YouTube channel that you’ve gotta follow). Terrion also has a YouTube channel and he’s coming out with an EP soon. Goldie is the man with all the ideas. Anytime I need to ask for something, he’s there. He just dropped his first three songs on SoundCloud. Whensday is nasty. His style is weird, he doesn’t rhyme all the time. But if you listen to him you’ll fuck with it.
Is the clothing line another step in promoting the music or is just a way to engage fans?
Both. It’s just another way to get us out as a collective. That’s also why we made a Twitter page. We have photo shoots like every weekend, and we post those to build a buzz around the city.
Like many kids today, Veno was inspired by 90s hip-hop culture – his face lit up at the sight of a House Party soundtrack vinyl. This culture was always reflected in the way that he dressed and his social interactions. Today even, Veno is decked in a Biggy graphic tee and vintage snap back – proof that the style of the past never really disappears.
Oh, there’s a Kid N Play vinyl! So cool!
I grew up watching House Party. That’s one of my favorite pictures! There’s so much sauce in this photo – you got the Mercedez, the 3s which are my favorite Jordan’s. That’s a classic.
Is that where you got your style inspiration?
Not necessarily but I did study them and how they rock their stuff. I feel like they were the reason that jerking came into style. You remember that? That’s how I got known in my school.
In 6th grade, there was a basketball game and we would dance at half time. At the time, jerking was around so we had a competition. I won! I wasn’t even that good, I won’t stunt. But the lady put my hand up and everybody was cheering. They gave me this gift card to Hot Topic I went straight there.
Hot Topic?! This is definitely a throw back story.
I had a collection of skinny jeans… I got rid of them once jerking was out of style. But shoutout to them because they taught me how to rock the gear.
That was your first feeling of attention. The rest was history.
N-V-O to Veno Da Don
Where does the name Veno come from?
My real name is Elijah. Some people call me E. When I was little, my name was Kid Nerd from the jerking days. I made this song called Naptown’s Very Own. I wanted to have that as my nickname so it was N-V-O. They used to call me Lil E as a kid but there was another rapper named Lil E so I wasn’t gonna fuck with that. I just took the E and placed it. I was fucking with the letters and just switched it around.
Then I went to school and I used the name Veno Da Don on a song in Music Production. The next day I came to class and this guy Matt Barry stood up and was like, “Yo, is Veno Da Don your new name?” He said he took me more serious using that name so it stuck.
Did you record and produce most of your tracks in that Music Production class or was it mostly at another studio?
More at home. If I ever recorded in the class, it was with other people because I didn’t like using Pro Tools. I use Sonar – a lot people don’t know what that is but it’s cakewalk. I used to rap a lot in that class on other people’s tracks. I liked that class, wish I could’ve taken it twice.
So what are you going to do now? You’ve already graduated. Are you full-time music?
I do have another job but I’m about to quit that shit. I’m making so much more money from music.
I hope they’re watching this and this is your official two weeks notice.
I’m quitting! I’m making good ass money right now. My homie Willis put me on game on this website to upload my music. They do all my distribution, put it on iTunes, Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify, everything. I asked him when the money comes in and he told me to just wait a couple months. Boom. I waited two months and checks started rolling in. All from music. I’m just stacking – way more than I’d ever make at a retail store.
NoHeart’s future plan is to move to LA but we want to build more buzz while we’re here.
There’s so much to do in LA music-wise. If you were in LA right now walking around with a camera nobody would look at you weird. But I guarantee if you were in the mall here with cameras, everyone looks at you crazy. It’s happened to us before. They’re not used to it.
I’ve never even been west of Indianapolis, actually. But that’s the mission.
You take a lot of inspiration from Chance – which I can tell by how you talk about your city. Are you always going to rep for Indy or are you hoping to take LA by the reigns?
I’ll always put on for my city. They’re the ones that made me. I know a lot of people say, “When you make it, don’t forget about me.” I’m never going to forget where I came from. That’s what my mom and dad always taught me.
I know rappers who make it out the city but they don’t claim it. I think if someone knows you, they should know exactly where you’re from. You’ve gotta be authentic and let niggas know.
Growing up, I always put Indiana in every song. I’m proud of it.
I’m never going to forget where I came from.
That’s awesome! We don’t get that a lot in Indianapolis so for you to say it and put it in your songs is great. Especially for the kids. It makes them proud to be from here!
The Rise of Add It Up
So, I’ve gotta admit. Add It Up is one of my favorite tracks. We had it on blast at the look book shoot. What was reception for that track like?
Man, I got crazy love for that song. I knew that was going to be my banger – that’ll be like number 3 on the tape. I made sure my promotion was right for that. I also already knew that the fans would love it. Even Worldstar started fucking with it. I posted it on Twitter and it started getting mad love. Even people who hadn’t talked to me in like a year hit me up to say congratulations. I respect all the love I’m getting right now.
When I watched the video, the first thing I thought of was Young M.A’s Oouu video. The song isn’t the same but if you watch the video, it’s similar!
[Laughs.] I got all my people with me in the hotel.
It’s fried cause I saw her tweet saying “2016 banger.” Then like a month later it blows up! That song reminds me of that Bobby Shmurda joint, Hot Nigga. Brooklyn flow.
Who do you listen to on the daily? If you woke up and could only listen to one artist, who would it be?
[Laughing.] Besides yourself!
Shit. I listen to my music so much.
I have a lot of people on my playlist but if I could only listen to one for a day, it’d definitely be Nav. Have you listened to biebs in the trap? Nav’s on there. He’s a Toronto rapper. That’s my favorite artist right now, he just put out his first album. Hopefully I’ll do a collab with him one day.
Put it into the universe.
Yep. It’ll happen now.