Launched August 2013, Donda’s House “Got Bars” program is slowly making its mark as the creative hub of our generation. Founded by the legendary Kanye West and led by Che “Rhymefest” Smith. Rhymefest, childhood friend and West’s cowriter, started the “Got Bars” program with the focus on music/lyric composition and performance. This unique program aimed towards 15-24 year olds, prides itself on the “90’s artist environment” where all artists are pushed to become creative mentally and physically.
Backed by the largest names in hip hop, Kanye West and Rhymefest, applicants from different corners of the city wrestled the cold Chicago weather to be part of the Donda Family. As the air grew thicker inside the Ark of St. Sabina, tensions ran high as applicants proved why they earned their title as an artist.
This statement could not be truer than the moment one walks in. Decked in the freshest gear and applications at hand, crowds of candidates huddled in rooms. Nervously waiting, practicing, and watching as judges, volunteers, and renowned entertainment figures moved from room to room. As candidates scanned the rooms, a mixture of excitement, fear, and raw passion filled the air.
From the blurbs of sound coming from the gymnasium, emerging artists battling on the staircases, or the young vocalists humming a tune in the hallway, creative energy spilled from all corners of the building. “You can feel the energy. Every inch of this building is buzzing,” said Donnie Smith, Executive Director of Donda’s House.
With the boom of artists hungry to showcase their talent, Donda’s House prides itself in harboring this type of energy. However, with limited resources diminishing the edge for creative expression, Donda’s House aims to nurture and give a home to the city’s growing creatives.
“We want to give artists an environment where they can collaborate and really nurture their artistry. In reality to be a great artist, it takes time, dedication, and money. But here we take away the financial hardship and provide our members with premium access to the best in the business,” Che “Rhymefest” Smith noted.
Beyond the high-profile names backing this program, “Got Bars” is more than perfecting your craft as an artist, “it’s about being a better you and letting your experiences shine through your work,” “Got Bars” alumni Diamond Pugh said. Take it from her, she was one of the first to earn her spot in this program.
Born and raised in the Southside of Chicago, Pugh, 21 a veteran at Donda’s House fell in love with music at a young age. After answering an ad for Donda’s House in hopes to pursue music, Pugh not only got accepted but now leads many endeavors for the organization. However, her journey to Donda’s House wasn’t easy, as she too, had to endure the same rigorous audition process.
“It was nerve wrecking being in front of Rhymefest. Not because he is so well known in the industry but the fact that what he has to say won’t always be what you want to hear,” Pugh said, “But he cares and it shows. Being in this program I don’t think I would have pushed myself as hard as I did if it wasn’t for him telling me I could do better.”
The love from Donda’s House is apparent whether candidates are accepted or not. “We care about you and your dreams deeply. This whole process has a purpose, a deep purpose. It’s beyond the concept of making music, it’s about one living up to their potential,” Rhymefest said closing the event. “All of you are talented beyond means and we welcome you all to come back. Regardless if you have been here for a day, a month, or a year, you are all family.”
As the audition comes to a close for its second consecutive semester and the organization continues to grow their programs, it is without a doubt that Donda’s House will soon be at the forefront in the creative community. For more information about Donda’s House, please visit dondashouseinc.org.