“Who’s the Black Sheep? What’s the Black Sheep?” Dres is Black Sheep, and this week he sat down with RapReviews to speak about the group’s latest download only album, “8WM/Novakane,” (the 8WM stands for women with women with weed with wine with me), as well as his thoughts on how the original vibe of hip-hop can be brought back and why both women and DJ’s need to step up to make that happen.
Adam Bernard: There’s been A LOT of talk about “the golden era” of late. You are one of the groups that are constantly referenced. How do you feel about so many artists looking to imitate your style? Is this an honor or should they be trying to find their own vibe?
“When I came out it wasn’t at a time when hip-hop was looked at as a career. […] Nobody I know wrote a rhyme because of that.”
Dres: I would say it’s some of both. What is hip-hop but emulation of something? Hip-Hop was taken from the bits and fragments of a bunch of different music so to a certain degree its identity is other music and even as MC’s we all build off of where we came from. To a certain degree we all have to take from this pot in order to step up. What MC hasn’t gotten something from Run-D.M.C.? What MC has gotten something from Cold Crush? On that level I feel good about people talking about this moment in time, this era, or even us, and I’m not hearing so much people that sound really like me. I haven’t heard Lupe’s album yet but a lot of people are coming up to me saying “yo he sounds just like you, he’s biting your style,” but I don’t take it that personal. I haven’t had a record out in eight, nine years, so I don’t look at it like he took something from me or this that and the other, if anything I would say it’s a compliment, imitation is a sincere form of flattery to a certain degree and I don’t look at it to the degree where somebody’s taking something form me. The one thing I can say about the golden era is that I think I’m like one of the last of the Mohicans that didn’t write a rhyme for a check. When I came out it wasn’t at a time when hip-hop was looked at as a career, where you looked at it like I’m gonna buy a house because I’m gonna make a record, or I’m gonna buy my mom a house, or I’m gonna have a better lifestyle, or I’m gonna have this chain or this car. Nobody I know wrote a rhyme because of that.
AB: Back then if a rapper went gold is was a major accomplishment.
Dres: Yeah, like cats hated on us big time for going gold. BIG TIME. I’m not even gonna front, I remember that so specifically, we went gold and cats had a big problem with that because it was at a time when cats weren’t going gold. Now cats are selling multi-platinum, damned near diamond, it was a totally different era back then and my thing about what cats are doing today is that I think they’re putting a check in front of the pen, which I think kind of leads them down the wrong path and no one accolades for how far they’ve gone, and they’ve gone pretty far, the Ditty’s, the what have yous, I think they’ve gone pretty far, especially on the business aspect, but they put the money in front of the music, I think they’re going in the wrong direction. It’s like these cats want props for how far they’ve gone, but it’s like you’re going in the wrong direction. How do you really give somebody props for going in the wrong direction no matter how far they’ve gone? Even me myself I had to kind of back peddle a little bit and kind of straighten myself out. And even though I’m taking baby steps and cats are way in front of me I don’t really get caught up in that, I’m just content being on the right path.
AB: Is that one of the reasons you feel that people grasp on to that era the way they do?
Dres: Without question, I think that people can definitely relate to the genuineness of the era. All of these cats that we’re talking about from the golden era, nobody really made a record to impress you with their material, that wasn’t subject matter, that’s never been subject matter for me, I’d have a hard time writing that rhyme talking about my possessions regardless of how much I have or how much I don’t, I just feel like it’s so much bigger than that. I like nice things like everybody else, you’re not gonna see me looking bummy or dirty or none of the above and I’m just as much a glossy dude on any given day as anybody else, but that’s not the premise that I stand on musically, that doesn’t have anything to do with who I am musically. For a lot of these cats I think they found the materials to validate them musically. One day I was a power summit show this year and there was a bunch of MC’s out there and I guess they all can take it personally but what I was trying to say is that a lot of times cats will talk about their house like “I’ll talk about my house because I don’t have shit to say. I’ll talk about my chain because I don’t have shit to say. I’ll talk about killing you because I don’t have shit to say.” Some of the shit that we say is because we have nothing better to say, and my whole thing was like I’ve got something better to talk about.
AB: What else can be done to bring that vibe back? Obviously shutting up the people who have nothing to say is pretty important but what else can bring the vibe back and maybe bring us to a time when the music said something AND advances rappers making money off of music that says something.
Dres: That’s a threefold question with a threefold answer. I’m very happy with where we’re at monetarily now, and I’m not saying that because I have aspirations of being rich I say that because now we’re at a point where we’re the catalysts of so much revenue, be it clothing, be it music, be it video, we’re creating opportunities globally behind hip-hop music that are huge. There are huge opportunities for us to become an entity. On the other hand, as far as who we are I’m holding two people somewhat accountable, not so much the artists because I think artists, like I said, have become more success driven, but I kind of blame DJs and I kind of blame women. DJs have to get the balls to break records again. DJs have to get the balls to call something wack. At the end of the day what DJ feels good about the shit that he’s playing if he’s playing shit for a Viacom station or any of the above? You can’t feel good about that shit, you can’t. Especially if I know you and I know where you came from. I know DJs from The Bronx who were spinning “Laffy Taffy” behind whatever bullshit is out, but you can’t feel good about that. My whole thing is for all of that shit that you have to play, introduce people to some real shit, some shit that you feel good about, something that’s cutting edge. When was the last time as a DJ you broke a record? When was the last time as a DJ you introduced something to people that was new, hot and fresh? That’s your job as a DJ. Your job is to be ahead of the curve and to introduce the people to it, not to get caught up in who’s cutting a check for you this month and who’s advertising and all of that bullshit. Don’t get it twisted, the business is important, so yeah by all means do your business, but at the end of the day be a DJ.
“I feel bad for a kid that’s in high school today because on the strength of character […] you get no props.”
And when I say women I think women have gotten to the point where they look to the accolades of these MCs or of these business people or what have you instead of looking to the guy. I feel bad for a kid that’s in high school today because on the strength of character, on the strength of wittiness, on the strength of being a good dude, you get no props. It’s all about a white gold chain, or whatever car you can front in, or rims and at the end of the day if women, to a certain degree, don’t get it twisted we all have bills to pay and money is always relevant, but at the end of the day I think if some of the women started really shuttin down some of the things that are negative as far as what we’re trying to show our families within Hip-Hop, that if you gave props to someone that was articulate, that if you gave props to someone that was intelligent regardless of their social stature, that’s the type of messages that we need to send out period. Whereas here you’ve got money but you’re dumb. Money can’t buy you everything and I think we’re at a point where women will gladly accept anything for money and hence that’s where a lot of cats are basically losing the respect for themselves and for women to that matter because they feel like the money is the catalyst of their relationship. If women would just take it back to the days of just being into somebody on the strength of their character and on the strength of their intelligence and their effort I think it would send a message to more cats that on the real there’s no point in me trying to be Big Willie or what have you because at the end of the day that’s not necessarily going to get me want I’m looking for in life.
At the end of the day I feel like women are the catalysts for a lot of the things that men go through. In my opinion men get money not only to live, but to be able to attract females. That’s why you see dudes with chains. Dudes don’t wear chains for other dudes, dudes wear chains for women. Dudes don’t buy rims for other dudes, dudes buy rims for women. Even though it’s not necessarily something that we put out there on the table I see that as the underlying reason for a lot of the things that men do and if women were to look at it as “yo on the real that really doesn’t impress me, who are you, that would impress me,” then cats would step their game up for real. And I hate to sound preachy, that’s just me being a little introspective and I definitely don’t feel like the world is gonna change because of anything that I’m saying but at the end of the day I just feel like sometimes certain things need to be said and if nothing just observe, it’s just something to look at. I’m not saying any one particular thing has to happen it’s just refreshing to look at things from a different perspective. When you get caught up in what I’m riding and how big my rims are as opposed to who I am then not only do you lose respect for yourself then I lose respect for you, too. So that makes me feel like I can talk to you any way. If there’s certain things that we cut out because it’s not accepted then it just makes everybody step their game up to a certain level. I don’t want to sound like pussy is the catalyst to everything I’m saying because it’s far from, but just like I said the DJ has to grow some balls I think that women need to grow some balls, too. We’re quick to talk about what it’s not, but let’s talk about what it is. A lot of cats aren’t doing a lot of the things they need to do, but what are they doing? Maybe sometimes if we look at what it is more so we’ll find out what we need to do more so than what we’re not doing.
AB: Women also play a prominent role in the title of your new album, “8WM/Novakane” with the 8WM standing for women with women with weed with wine with me. I love that.
Dres: I figured every dude would. What I was trying to paint was an agenda. At the end of the day most cats, give me a beer, a joint and some women and I’m kinda good. And what I was really trying to say is that we all like to have fun but we’re all kind of numb, hence the Novakane, that we’re all kind of numb of the real shit. Everybody loves a good time but there’s too much real shit that’s around right now. I made a record on the album called “Novocain” where I feel like these days I feel like everybody breathes Novocain like we’re kind of numb to everything if it’s not really on our agenda regardless of how important or unimportant it is, if it’s not on my agenda, eeh I can give a fuck. That’s a huge record to me because I feel like it says so much but at the end of the day I knew I couldn’t come out with that as the precedent of the album. Kids these days aren’t necessarily trying to hear all that so I felt like it was important to set it up with a bunch of different looks but at the same time sneak in some of the things that I really felt were relevant as far as making a statement. What I also tried to do was show artists something that we really should be doing for ourselves. We look for a label to validate us these days, like a cat doesn’t even want to do music unless he can get a deal, and my whole shit was that later for the label, later for the deal, you are the deal essentially and if you take the time to incorporate yourself at the end of the day you might not need a label, there might be a possibility for you to be able to do it yourself without taking that high interest loan from a label known as your advance.
“Music has become so industry driven as opposed to consumer driven.”
AB: Finally, listening to the radio, where do you feel Black Sheep’s place is in hip-hop in 2006?
Dres: Aw man, honestly that’s such a good question, I’m dying to find out myself. I’m hoping that at the end of the day we just get a fair shake because my whole thing, I feel like music has become so industry driven as opposed to consumer driven. I’m feelin like everyday I get the cats that’s like” when are ya’ll gonna drop, we need ya’ll, I miss what it was, we need there to be more of that.” I hear this everyday, so my whole thing is I did this project that I feel is kinda what cats are talking about, I just hope it gets a fair shake and that people can react to it and respond to it. I also want to stress that it’s very important that if the people that are looking for a certain type of thing, if they feel like I’m bringing it to the table, I’ma stress that they support it because one of the things that really makes things go away is that lack of support. It’s kind of scary to me that I might do this project that I feel so great about and people might like it and not support it and that’ll take away the opportunity for me to do it again. So if people really feel like this is something that’s a step in the right direction I’m asking people to get behind it, that I did it the right way, this is my own label and this isn’t something that’s gonna get all these ads and endorsements, you’re not gonna see me in every Source or XXL or whatever, with a bullshit project, I’m gonna rely on this music to sell itself and if people feel me I’m definitely asking that they support it and know that they’re supporting a real entity.