The Philly soulster's creating a life for himself and his family that reflects what they truly value: Each other.
“Get in the car. We’re just gonna drive straight through!”
It’s nearly noon on a Tuesday, and there’s no school, so Fatin Dantzler is taking his son, Aquil, and his 14-year-old nephew, Riyadh, to King’s Dominion in Virginia. It’s Aquil’s 15th birthday, and at 15, who wouldn’t want to go to a 400-acre park with 14 roller coasters and more than 50 other rides? Then there’s the water park with the giant wave pools ... It’s about to be on.
“So, what—it’s a four-hour drive?” says the determined Dantzler. “We’ll get there and still have a few hours of daylight. We’re gonna have some fun!”
Riding south on I-95, everybody’s loud and making jokes in between that all-important smartphone business that teenagers must handle as soon as something pops up on their screens. Then, just about four hours into the ride, BOOM! A loud noise, then the car starts shaking and pulling to the left. Fatin calmly engages in a fierce battle with the steering wheel to guide the car over to the right shoulder at 75mph. Once on the side of the road, they could see that the front left tire had blown out and, at that speed, shredded apart, leaving them riding on the rim.
Without hesitation, the perpetually jovial Fatin gets the jack and spare out of the trunk, and commences to change the tire, a little too close to the high-speed traffic for comfort. It only takes a few minutes, and they’re back on their way. “Nothing’s gonna stop us,” he tells Aquil. “It’s your birthday, and we’re gonna have fun.”
Ten minutes later, they arrive at their amusement-park destination, only to be greeted by a sign across the entirety of the entrance: Park Closed.
At this point, a great time is still on the agenda, but now, they need a new tire ‘cause a car can only travel so far on a donut. Having stopped earlier on the highway then for something to eat after rolling up to an empty King’s Dominion, it’s now after 7pm, so finding a tire shop still open at this hour has become an issue—not to mention the fact that they’re four hours away from Philly.
In a parking lot and talking fast on his cell phone, Fatin calls one place, then another. He moves around at a mile a minute and often sounds excited when he talks, even when he’s not. At about six feet tall and pretty solid, like a former football player, he’s a big bundle of good nature, approachability and confidence, always entering a room with a smile and a joke—usually a loud one. Even now, in seeming-crisis mode, he’s as cool as a cucumber.
Finally, Fatin reaches a Pep Boys staffer at a shop about 35 minutes away, who tells him to come on down. He immediately rounds up the boys, who’d wandered off to the other side of the lot, gets in the car and takes off. But once he arrives, the Pep Boys manager decides it was too late to replace the spare, instead sending the three of them to another place 30 minutes away from there.
When his wife, Aja, suggested on the phone that they just get a hotel room and deal with the tire trauma in the morning when more places would be open, Fatin wasn’t having any parts of it. “We’ve got to deal with this now so we can have the whole day tomorrow to have fun,” he said, insistent that his first-born son’s birthday be special.
The Dantzlers, married almost 16 years and collectively known as the R&B/soul duo Kindred the Family Soul, just dropped their fifth album, A Couple Friends, and together, these friends have no less than six children. In Virginia, Fatin was dealing with just one.
“He could’ve checked into a hotel, not driven another hundred miles and dealt with it in the morning,” Aja later tells PW of the guys’ trip. “But, in a situation like that, he would rather just ‘get ‘er done.’ And that quality is one of the things that, in our marriage, it took me a while to appreciate. I’m more of a go-with-the-flow type of person, and he’s like, ‘Why put off to tomorrow what we can do today?’
“But that quality is what has kept us relevant for five albums,” she says. “He doesn’t think about waiting on others; he doesn’t think about what’s gonna happen tomorrow or who can help. He thinks, ‘What do I have at my disposal right now that can help me make that happen right now?’ That used to drive me insane when we first got married, but at the same time, if he hadn’t been that person, I can think of a million things we wouldn’t have. We wouldn’t have this house we’re sitting in.”
Fatin runs Kindred the Family Soul all day, every day as his primary job, but unlike many artists who spend weeks and months away from their children because of extensive touring or all-night recording sessions, he keeps close to home; in fact, it’s a priority. Unlike the successful punk-rock dads profiled in the poignant, highly entertaining 2011 documentary The Other F Word, Fatin doesn’t struggle to balance his work life vs. parenting responsibilities due to months on the road (or battles with the non-conformist ideals that framed their careers). For him, those priorities are intertwined in a way that helps him create a life for himself and his family that reflects what they truly value: Each other. And while he may not see his babies in the early-morning hours after long nights on the grind, he’s certainly around for them in the evenings and after school. Since he handles Kindred business from an office near their house, and the Dantzler children are involved in many of their events—like Sunday afternoon’s health and wellness-rooted Kindred the Family Games in West Philly—he’s among the sect of working-class dads who spend quality time with their kids like any “normal” father would.
However normal you can be with six kids, that is.
“It’s not that bad,” explains Fatin with a chuckle. “As a matter of fact, it’s not bad at all. It is what it is. You have to take care of your children. And we have a routine.”
In the morning, Aja wakes and gets the kids up and ready. We already know Aquil. He’s 15 and in high school, so there’s not much prep work to do there. Then there are their daughters: Diya, who’s 11, and Nina is nine. Their six-year-old twin girls, Ain and Lanaa, come next, followed by their youngest son, Deen, who’s four. That’s a lot of bathing, dressing and making sure every Dantzler child’s geared up for a great day.
Then Aja drives them to the four different schools that they attend, and “after that’s done, I have to rebuild the house because six kids make a huge mess every day .... Just like everybody’s day, it goes by super fast, then I pick the kids up.”
Of course, there are the days that Fatin’s in charge of the morning routine. He’ll do it a couple of times a week or more if Aja has other, more pressing things to attend to.
PW's Music Issue 2014