Alot of people know this cat from the Hip Hop classic “The Choice Is Yours”. Hip Hop knows him as one half of the group Black Sheep. Timid catches up with Black Sheep Dres fresh off of a UK Tour with De La Soul. Dres talks about his latest album 8WM/Novakane, Hip Hop, and what the future has in store. He also lends some insight into where the Mr. Long and Dres Black Sheep stands today.
Dres: London was tight…I was out there with De La. They performed 11 nights in a row. And did 11 consecutive beats at this spot called the Jazz Café in Camden. They sold it out 9 out of the 11 dates so that was like pretty impressive to me. And the shows were real cool. Got a chance to do a lot a press and that was my first time out there in about 13/14 years.
So I did a lot of press, a lot of radio. I actually recorded a joint with Scratch from “The Roots”. Look out for his album coming out this year. Yea it was pretty good.
O.K. Yea you seem to stay on the move. Like every time I talk to you, you about to jet out somewhere.
Dres: Yea man I’m staying on my grind real hard, but basically I feel great about the new project. Just really trying to make people aware of it, you know what I’m saying? Like I said, I’m kind of back in the mix. I’ve definitely been working as hard as I can.
True. So you wanna put it out there that you’re back or hey like I’m still here type of vibe?
Dres: Say what?
You wanna put it out there like yo Black Sheep is back or you wanna put it out there like yo you know don’t forget we’re still here you know.
Dres: Um well basically, I mean, even though Long wound up stepping away at the end of the project. You know I kind of addressed it like a Black Sheep project and He’s actually even on a couple of cuts, so you know, I mean just presenting it as, like you know, that the cats that you kind of know kind of release some new work, even though unfortunately long steps away, I’m definitely holding it down and just moving forward and essentially just re-introducing myself. You know a lot of cats work well with the project and just letting them know it exist, letting them kind of judge it on their own merit. Once they do know that it exists just taking it from there. From here forth I guess is gotta be Dres from Black Sheep. Cause you know Long is doing his own thing, I’m doing my own thing, but I don’t see no reason to let the name of the group go. Just basically gotta move forward.
Ok so basically from here on out, Black Sheep is Dres.
Dres: I mean for the most part I would say so. I would have a problem with Long identifying himself as a former member, even me, a former member of the group Black Sheep. But I mean even moving forward I kind of feel like keeping it the Black Sheep Dres. You can be the Black Sheep Long. Whatever works at the end of the day. I’m just trying to say something that identifies myself as opposed to you know trying to fool somebody. I would never try to, you know, like mislead cats into thinking that it’s something that it’s not, but you know me from Black Sheep.
Right. Right. That’s what’s up. So like the new album that you got or I guess now it’s not all that new.
Dres: It’s a digital release album. I released it in October of 2006, so I mean it’s still new to a lot of people where as people still kind of coming into even understanding that it is even available. And cats still don’t know that it’s available so you know I’m like sending cats to myspace.com/blacksheep. Let em read up on it a little bit and hear a couple of the cuts, even see some video work. And you know, catching them at shows. You can buy the album online at itunes, the music master, or you can catch a live show for a physical release. Only place you can get it right now is at a live show. You know that’s kind of where I’m at with right now. Just kind of doing something organic. Just kind of taking it back to where I have a little more autonomy, a little more control and just doing my own thing. Like I’m really not pressed about what’s going on in the world of industry and who’s on what label or who’s beefing with who this week. I’m just doing my own thing and hoping that cats can respect it on the strength of what it really is.
Dres: But the album is called “8WM/Novakane”. Just a little conceptual, basically to say it’s like these days we bring Novocain and if something is not on your agenda it’s like you’re real numb to it, you know what I’m saying. And I guess 8WM kind of can be the agenda to the black sheep so to speak. You know the album is a lot of fun. It’s a lot of things that I think there’s a lot of jewels buried amongst some good music and some soulful stuff going on.
And what does the 8WM stand for?
Dres: Now the 8WM side, like I said, it could be an agenda and I guess at this point, it’s a good look for cats to know that 8WM means Women with women with weed with wine with me.
Dres: You know what I’m sayin and there’s a cut for both sides of the album. There’s an 8WM cut and a Novakane cut. I think both of the cuts speak for themselves. They’ll both hit you in the head in a really positive way.
Ok, now I was going to ask you: What made you go the digital only route on the release instead of the traditional pressing and what not?
Dres: Well I kind of try to embrace the times and the technology and as well to try and maintain some control. This is my own label. It’s called “Bum Rush” and we’re releasing it on the digital aspect. And basically what it’s done is afforded me the opportunity to introduce the album and to basically control it myself and instead of me making 60 or 70 cents, I’m able to probably make 10 times that. As well as have major input as to what single, or how we’re going to shoot a video or what’s going on with radio. Like basically, just even though I’m taking much smaller steps that maybe a major label would, it’s my own situation and I’m just really getting my own thing off the ground. And I feel really good about it. And I think it’s given me the opportunity to show the majors that as far as me producing a distribution situation like right around now that I’m moving it without you guys. At a time when no one’s really selling records, you know what I’m saying; I’m a competitive entity without a major label behind me. So it’s kind of like a real situation behind it, and a real budget. So you know I’m kind of at that point now where I’m going to be taking some meetings with the big labels and introducing the project to being physically released so that cats could pick it up April/May you know and what have you.
You know and I think that’s a good look for people that are trying to do their thing to realize you can do this independently and it can still pay off for you.
Dres: Oh without question. In a major way. And you know it’s a lot more hands on where as I find myself being on Imeem to Myspace or just being online and commenting on the different things that are going on in the world of hip hop. So you know to introduce or promote or just establishing relationships. Like it’s much more into it and I’m seeing the direct results of it, so I really feel good about it honestly. And for any artist out there, you can’t be lazy man, you gotta be proactive. If you’re not signed to a major label that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in the studio or that doesn’t mean you aren’t supposed to take the next step like introducing yourself to the world of music as far as getting it out there. You know establishing some form of contact with the radio via, it may be college radio or a pirate radio as opposed to what you listen or you know your friends may listen to on the radio. But that’s an introduction and it introduces you to how to talk to these people or how to introduce your product to them. And it’s something that all artists should embrace, but yet you should be looking for a deal to put you in the studio. You know if that means you need to work a job and pay for it out of your own pocket and do it part time, then that’s what you do, because that’s what it takes. You can’t necessarily look for someone to do something for you. But you can do for yourself.
Right and a lot of times people don’t realize once you do get that situation, now’s the time that you gotta prove that you earned that spot. You gotta prove it to keep that spot and I think its kind of indicative of what’s going on right now, because there are a lot of cats that don’t have a foundation of those baby steps and they’re getting kind of lost in the industry and the game.
Dres: Yea you know, its like cats definitely feel they deserve everything right now, because they decided this is what they want to do right now. You know there are cats out there that have been putting in that major work for years and still trying to get it off the ground. And to those cats, I don’t want them to lose focus or hope and even though they try to play it like it’s a young industry, don’t believe em man. Just make good music and that will speak for itself. Just make good music.
Yea and that kind of speaks to this article that I read about how it is in rock music where the old school cats, so to speak, are the most respected versus in hip hop where its kind of looked down upon to be linked with something that was beyond 5 years ago.
Dres: Yea and that’s real sad, because something that a lot of cats don’t realize is like, I’m probably the exception. I got a record that’s been getting played for over 15 years. You know the average cat is not going to have that. So it’s like in all honesty, they’re shitting on themselves, but it’s just that it hasn’t hit their nose yet. It’s like the cat that you’re trying to stay away from is you in four years. And on the real, cats gotta see past that. They definitely gotta drop that aspect of the game. It’s corny. And on top of it, it’s like so we’re looking for the next newcomer to lead us. But yo on the real, they need the guidance from the cats that basically everyone’s shunned. Like they don’t know that there’s a torch to be passed and if you snuff it then the new guys seem to be a hold of something that’s really not lit.
Dres: It’s like they have a torch.
But there’s no fire
Dres: But it’s not even relevant if it’s not shining.
Dres: And it’s like it’s lessons to be learned and things to be passed down, and just a whole world of things that cats are passing up on man.
Yea that’s definitely the truth. Now you’re in it as, putting this album out as the label owner, you know Bum Rush? So how is that feeling now that you’ve got all the weight on your shoulders?
Dres: I’m cool with it but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. I do have aspirations to make this work. I moving forward and such, but at the end of the day, I’m just doing what I can. Living within myself and making my goals realistic.
Dres: And I’m not necessarily trying to sell a billion copies. I’m not trying to be the new Jay or Puff or rather re-be the new Jay or Puff
Dres: Like I’m real happy with the space that I have in my life. I’m very fortunate to have a family that I love and love me. You know at the end of the day, I like being able to hit the streets or hit the train without all these bullshit expectations. What people think of you and seeing more in you than they see in themselves. It’s like, I like where I’m at. And really it’s like keeping busy and on the strength of that, whatever sales I get, the pay is cool. It’s my own situation. It’s not like I’m getting jerked. I’m O.k. with it. If I can wind up selling a few 100,000 I’d be elated. Whereas If I sold a100,000 for a major label, I’d be dropped.
Right and at the end of the day, you get to do what you want to do, and live your life the way you want to live it at your own comfort level. So that’s definitely a good thing right there. So speaking of the family and you mentioned the lifestyle and all that. I saw the trailer for the album and all that and you on the golf course, taking it easy. And you had the little gloves and you were driving the cart. So what made you want to step back on and like put a lot more effort back into getting a new album done and getting out on the road a lot more? I mean I know you stayed on the road anyway, but back into the mix of it.
Dres: I can honestly say that it was something that I missed. It had been a while for me and I really had this hunger in me to really just do my thing again. And I kind of just took my time and did my project that would speak for me. I felt it as a calling. I felt like I had something to say. Something that wasn’t being said and I felt I had something to offer. You know?
Yea and I heard of couple of the tracks on the joint. Particularly the “Who Dat”, “the Shorty”, and the “Grew Up Joints” and you clearly haven’t lost a step.
Dres: Oh that’s love.
Yea the tracks are dope. The tracks are crazy. And I’m imagining they’re getting perceived really well?
Dres: Uh huh. No doubt.
O.K. O.k. That’s what’s up.
Dres: Oh no, it really is.
That is definitely what’s up. I had a cat that had a question that wanted to know: Having such a huge hit as “The choice is Yours”, how does that feel when you step up somewhere and you’re known for that “Engine Engine number 9” guy. Like they hear that track and they’re not really familiar with the other work. And they hear that and they’re like “Oh, this is that guy”. You know what I mean?
Dres: Yea I get a lot of that.
Yea does that really dig into you, like yo I’ve done a lot more hot joints than that.
Dres: Without question. You know it’s almost like a pleasant surprise that I feel I can bestow on cats, like you know you might know me for this, but yo on the real, that’s just the beginning of what I can offer. That’s just a fraction of what I’m capable for.
How do you feel about performing that song, because a lot of cats, you know when they get to that one song that they’re most known for, they begin to start to hate it, because people don’t look past that sometime. You know what I mean? Do you have problems performing that song, or do you get like ughhh, I don’t want to do this again.
Dres: Ahhh na no, I’m cool with it. Because, I got so many things going on around it, by the time I get to that part of the set you done heard basically what I’m capable of. So it’s perfect for me to finish off the night or top the set, cause at the end of the day, I’m feel great about what I’ve done before that.
Dres: Sometimes, you gotta take it for what it is. Like cats know me for this record. I’m good with the record. I’m proud of it. It’s not like I feel like, “oh man I did this record that I really don’t like”. Everybody likes it, so I gotta perform it. I’m good with it. I like hearing it. It’s a good feeling. I feel good when I recorded it. I still feel good about it. You know, so, Love is love.
Especially when it’s a record that’s regarded in hip hop circles as a classic, so I mean I guess you gotta definitely feel that you like the joint and you can still rock it.
Dres: No doubt.
So umm, what’s the plan for coming on in the future? What you got coming up?
Dres: Right now, I’m bout to put together a video for the single “Beat Boys Themes”
Dres: And actually being on the road as much as I can. Just really introducing the music to cats. On the real, just being on my job, getting out as much as I can, and whatever little projects I can get on just jumping on. Big up to NAS, I appreciated the love on the “Little 90’s remix”. So whatever’s applicable, I gotta put the work in.
Yea I was going to ask you about that. I spoke to you the other day and you hadn’t heard the full joint yet. Have you heard it yet?
Dres: Yea Yea, it’s definitely good. Real good. It kind of had me smiling. All the caps on it.
Right, how did that come about?
Dres: Um, well actually a group of DJ’s called Core DJ’s reached out to me and they asked if I’d be down to drop something on it and I like NAS and I like who he is. As far as, some of the things he’s brought to the table
Dres: He’s kind of fluctuated throughout his career, but who hasn’t. And I feel he’s fine with himself at the end of the day and I respect that. I dig dude.
That’s what’s up
Dres: You know I didn’t have a problem with jumping on it. You know he’s one of the few cats I do like. And that sent me on an instrumental and I sent them back my little verse.
That’s what’s up. Have you heard the other remixes? The 80’s and the west coast one?
Dres: Yea and the Cali joint. Yea I heard em all. Yea Yea. I like 90’s one’s the best and then it would be the Cali one.
Right. I think it’s hot. I think it’s definitely a good look too. So is there anything you want people to know before we wrap up here? Anything?
Dres: Yea I just want to say thanks to all the cats that are definitely holding a dude down and I definitely appreciate it. And on the real, check on the new project. It’s a beautiful look. If you’re remotely tired of what the music has become I think I have a nice alternative for you. And if you don’t believe me, slide by myspace.com/blacksheep and the music speaks for itself. I feel like I’ve done an album full of things and songs that’ll be relevant from years from now, like the “Choice is Yours”.
Word up, no doubt. Definitely appreciate that.
Dres: No Doubt
*Transcribed by April Hennington