Dres of Black Sheep talks at length with HipHopWired in an exclusive interview before the premiere of The Choice Is Yours, a Paramount+ documentary focusing on his career and impending new project with beats by J Dilla.
As Hip-Hop is celebrating its 50th anniversary, the stage is set for many in the culture to tell their stories to its legion of fans in various forms. Dres, born Andre Vargas-Titus, one half of the iconic rap duo Black Sheep, is the subject of a new documentary film from Paramount+ named after the hit that entrenched them in popular culture, The Choice Is Yours. The film takes a look at Dres reflecting on those years of success and covers his journey balancing being an esteemed artist and father as he’s been blessed to create a project using beats from the legendary J Dilla. HipHopWired had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Dres about the film and his experiences. The following exchange is the result of that opportunity.
HipHopWired: What led you to share your journey in The Choice Is Yours? How did that process get initiated?
Dres: I wound up meeting the film company Versus when they were doing Chi Ali’s documentary. I knew it was a really dope, creative group of cats where I’ve seen them work. When I got the opportunity to kind of create this project…I honestly, in my heart, knew it needed documentation but didn’t know if they’d even mess with it. And just through happenstance [I] wound up having a conversation with one of the cats from the company to which we’re both kind of expressing the same thing. I’m kind of expressing, like that there’s a cool opportunity that I really would love to document and they’re like, “Yo, you need to document this.” (Laughs) So it kind of happened organically like, “Okay, well, sh*t” you know? And it was really cool because they just jumped on, like literally within that week we were moving. And we haven’t looked back.
And it’s been quite the walk, literally with COVID in between. They’ve worked quite a bit with me. It’s been this amazing thing that kind of got to take place really organically, and they really understood kind of how I wanted to present it to the degree that I didn’t want it to come across as something that was manipulative or me trying to take advantage of something. So me finding out who J Dilla really was, was really important to me, because I didn’t have that relationship with him. It was also important to me that his mother knew that I didn’t have that relationship with your son, even to the degree that I needed to know why you let me do this because I’m not, I’m not tip I’m not, you know, De La or someone that you know, I’m not Erykah Badu. I’m just Dres.
All of that stuff was really important to me to be conveyed. I’m already grateful for the opportunity to be Dres. But to get the opportunity to do this, at this point is, you know, [is] everything that I’ve been looking for. I’ve been trying to find a way to get on current platforms and introduce new music, things that I’ve been doing for years. This is an opportunity for me to show you that that even exists. Because from here, you know, you turn around and you’re like, “Oh, sh*t, there’s projects? All these collaborations?” All of that exists from this platform, but it’s not like it hasn’t been there. In this instant gratification culture that we’ve acquired, sometimes, we forget yesterday. It’s all good though, sometimes we get reminded.
True, true. In the film, you just exude the joy that you have for your art and music. I was blessed to see it at your Rock The Bells set in Queens this summer. How meaningful is it for you to hand that energy off as we see in the film with you building with the students, J Dilla’s program and building with Ma Dukes and Toney Smith, to have that displayed with you handing that energy off to the next generation that loves you and your music?
I think that it’s one of the most important things—and it’s dope that you even pointed that out—because as an artist, I think it’s important that we lead with love. I think as individuals, there are times when a situation has to be whatever it has to be. But I think leading with love kind of allows it to be reciprocated. And that’s important now, here. It’s so important because when we lead with anything else, I think that opens the door for whatever, that anything else is to be reciprocated. And I want to receive nothing but some love. So I always try to make it a point to come from a place of, you know, like, “How would I want to receive this? How would I, what would I want to get from it?” I try to be that. I think it’s afforded me, this career, it’s afforded me a walk that a lot of people can’t pay for.
Like, literally. I go to any place in New York, damn near any place in the world and kids are like, “What’s up Dres?” That’s something nice to say to become positive because that’s how I lead. I’m not looking for ops, there’s no issue. You know, if anything, I’m coming here to bring something, and that’s where my head is at with it. And I think that resonates with people. And I think as artists, that’s part of our job, to be personable. To be something that is of the people. I’m of the people. But I think I learned that a long time ago, to be a voice of the people. Those are the artists that I respect, in coming up, the artists I truly, really, really hold close were artists of the people. That’s who I try to emulate. Or that’s what I try to be.
There’s one gem that you dropped in The Choice Is Yours that resonated with me when you talked about just the creative process. You said, “That’s the sh*t that ages you when you stop dreaming.” And I think it’s poignant. Given how Hip-Hop turned 50 years young, you’re one of the esteemed luminaries who’s keeping its music thriving. Like, that’s the main thing that you want to share with everybody, right? Leading with love?
No doubt, like, part of leading with love is being competitive. I love being competitive. I equate it to playing ball. Like, “These young boys can’t hold me,” you know? (Laughs) Like, for real, for real, these young boys, they cannot hold me. And some of these other cats are too old to hold me. And I say that knowing that we are the same age, right? And that’s just a mental thing. That’s my mentality. I’ve always been of the mentality, even as a street cat, like, ain’t nobody my size could beat me. You got to be much bigger than me to beat me, much bigger than me to beat me. That’s my mentality. I can’t see somebody my size beat me, it’s impossible. That’s the same energy I bring to the microphone. Like, I got something for y’all. I’m nice. There’s three points. I’m Steph [Curry]. That’s good. I’m on defense now. Because that’s what I work with mentally. And mentally, I think it’s important that we stay in tune with that, who we are, and who we grew up as. Because you better believe physically that’s gonna change. (Laughs)
So you keep that. You keep that mentality, that doesn’t have to change. You can stay strong, you can will yourself to be who you’re supposed to be. This is what I’m supposed to be, and that’s what I’m pushing forward. And I’m learning to shed who I’m not supposed to be. The things I’m not supposed to accept; I’m learning not to accept them. The things I’m supposed to gravitate to; I’m learning to gravitate to them. The things I’m supposed to stop, it’s hard some days, but you know, I’m slowly doing less of that. And the things I’m supposed to do, I’m slowly doing more of. But I’m keeping the mentality of, like, “Yeah, now you can’t check me.” Like, that’s damn near impossible to say. And that I’m from someplace that we consider golden, I think it’s important to be able to illustrate it. I can’t tell you about it because you don’t understand it when I tell you about it. I have to be able to show you, and that’s the work for me.
That leads me to my last question….. When are we gonna get to hear the Dilla and Dres project in full? Can you shed any light on that?
Honestly it’s looking like, right now it’s going to be a little bit of piecemeal. But at the same time, I think the film is going to put me in a position where I have a little bit more power to put this together as the project that I want. And to do it how I want to do it. Because…the world we live in is very different, you know what I’m saying? Especially that my heyday is so far from right now. I hope we do, I hope the film does phenomenally and does numbers because it’s almost like I have to prove that I’m worthy of the deal that I want.
Aight cool, if that’s what it is, that’s what it is. I’m not gonna jump out the window and just throw out a project. I’m trying to situate it so that it’s really dope and that it really structures what I think is warranted at this point in my career. I’m not playing for, you know, down the line. This is the second half of my game, for real for real, and to situate myself moving forward. So I’m trying to situate that, and I’m hoping that the film does even better than I would have thought, and gives me the leverage to situate it where I can put it out exactly how I’d like to. But there’s a lot of things that come into play when you’re dealing with Dilla, seriously.
He’s done so many different things. As the person that got the opportunity to do this, when I was picking tracks, I didn’t know the history of each track I was picking. I’m just hearing tracks and pulling the ones I liked, only to find out that there’s very much a history in the situations to some of the tracks that I pulled. So it took a walk, you know, finding out exactly what I could do and what I couldn’t do. It was that involved, It was quite the experience, but the project is amazing. And there’s some amazing guests on it. And like I said, you know, slowly you’ll start hearing a single here. But as an entire project, I’m still in the midst of situating exactly what I think it warrants.
The Choice Is Yours will premiere on Paramount+ Nov. 21.
Exclusive: Dres Talks Legacy & More In ‘The Choice Is Yours’ Doc was originally published on hiphopwired.com
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