Get To Know: Dres of Black Sheep
Born in New York City, Dres was raised in North Carolina where he met fellow NYC native Mista Lawnge. The two became the 90s hip-hop group, Black Sheep.
The duo was part of NYC’s Native Tongues hip-hop movement, which also included De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.
Black Sheep’s 1991 debut album A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing went gold, with classic hits like “The Choice is Yours” and “Strobelite Honey”.
Dres and Mista Lawnge were quickly recognized for being intelligent and creative lyricists, expected to embark on a long and successful career.
After lack of promotion and resulting poor sales of their follow-up album, Non-Fiction, the duo split up to took on solo projects.
Although they did re-unite on a couple of projects including the 2006 album 8WM/Novakane, Mista Lawnge eventually left to pursue a solo career. It has been noted that his contribution to 8WM/Novakane was limited.
Dres has since started his own record label, BumRush Records, and continues his solo music career.
Kiki got a chance to speak with Dres and get an 80s/90s “hip-hop style 101″ as he reminisced about fashion in Black Sheep’s heyday. He also discusses his upcoming album The Black Pool of Genius and more.
Check it out:
DrJays.com: You came up in the 80′s and 90′s. What were you rocking back then in terms of brands and trends and how has your style adapted since?
Dres: In the 80′s I rocked Wallabees, silk shirts, mock neck shirts, Adidas and gold chains. We were extra with the hair. It was definitely the quintessential project kid, young hustler look. We wore stuff that differentiated us from the average cats.
In terms of my style now, it’s pretty close to what it was like back in the 90′s. I was never “Afrocentric”, rocking dashikis, etc. I became more of a Polo kid – clean cut and almost preppy. You would have [A Tribe Called] Quest or De La Soul in dashikis, African garb – safari clothes. You might have seen me in a Missoni sweater and Timberlands.
I still wear clothes that are over 10 years old. I got my stuff cheap, we used to hustle. We did everything we could do to make people think that we didn’t hustle whereas these days, kids do the opposite, like wear a shirt that says “I SELL CRACK” with pants that are way too big. They try to make a statement that isn’t even true in most cases.
When we were coming up, we wanted to be well versed, walk into any room and be able to garnish a certain level of respect from whoever is in there. I know grown men who don’t even own a pair of slacks. We always had a realization of Manhattan. It was always the place, the breeding ground for where we wanted to be – successful. We wanted to play on Park Ave and Fifth Ave as well as the projects.
DrJays.com: What do you think about current trends kids are wearing? Like skinny jeans and heavily embellished clothing?
Dres: Definitely not a fan. I kind of understand youngsters trying to find their identity. They are so far away from recognizing opportunities, they just walk right by them. I definitely see the evolution of urban designers though. I mean I never owned FUBU or Cross Colors. Nothing wrong with them, but I just never got into it. Those clothes look buffoon-ish to me. Like I remember Karl Kani bringing me clothes that stopped at my knees when I was on Arsenio Hall. That type of stuff was never part of my pallet.
It probably didn’t come across well that I didn’t support many urban brands, but now they’ve evolved into something I might actually look at. Like stuff without logos plastered all over it – that’s more up my alley, I might just take a second look. If I like it, I wouldn’t be afraid to wear it at this point.
“Have the balls to just be yourself. One of the hardest and easiest things to do in live is to just be yourself” – Dres
I didn’t see my father in anything but a suit and he was a heroine dealer. He would be taking off his suit jacket and playing basketball in the middle of the day. I came from chic and stylish projects. Girls in my projects boosted [stole] us clothes. Guess Jeans at $200 a pair, stuff from Nordstrom and Saks. They would take our sizes, go shopping and sell us whatever they got for like a third of the cost. They actually would pick out stuff based on what we would look good in. These girls had a good eye for fashion.
When I got into music, I had a good sense of style and what looks good on me. Not only in the hip-hop world, but also outside. Kanye looks at me and tells me I need to be dressing him. At first I wasn’t sure if he was messing with me.
I was always comfortable in my own skin. I never owned a pair of Jordans. What kids do for Jordans now reminds me of what kids used to do for minks and sheepskin back in the day. It makes me think why our kids are fighting each other to achieve a status that is so impossible to maintain? I mean they’re not lowering prices, they’re raising them. In these times, it seems everybody has stepped their style game up. Sean John is not only competitive with other urban brands, but also with Ralph Lauren. That’s very cool. It took a minute for urban brands to get there.
In our “Flavor of the Month” video, I wore a Hugo Boss suit. But I don’t rap about what I’m wearing, or my car. What I’m wearing should just be a given; those aren’t things you should be rapping about. When I was very young, hip-hop didn’t exist. I learned from my parent’s music. Music always took me where I wasn’t. The music that was always relevant to me showed me what I couldn’t just look out my window and see. It had a lot more to do with a “mindscape”, somewhere that I needed to be and would fight to get to.
DrJays.com: You’ve successfully been touring all over the world. After the warm reception your brand of hip-hop gets in other countries, have you ever considered packing up and moving away permanently?
Dres: Yes I have, and I haven’t totally ruled it out. I just got a lot of hope in me, I try to be an optimist. I think its important that I stick around. I left NYC for awhile and felt it was important for me to come back. After all that east/west coast thing, I was like “is this really happening?” But right now, I have my own label, I have some things on the table. I don’t look for other people to do things that I should be able to do for myself. I pick myself up and do it again. Whether it’s bigger or smaller, it’s at least authentic and high quality.
DrJays.com: When are you releasing The Black Pool Of Genius and what can we expect with this new album?
Dres: It releases November 11th 2009 on my label, BumRush Records. The album is ridiculous. Produced by Ski from Roc-A-Blok with many guest appearances. I’m supposed to be getting a track from Pete Rock, De La Soul, and more.
Dres performing The Choice is Yours in NYC last month