Andres “Dres” Titus, one half of the Hip Hop iconic group Black Sheep, announced the release of a solo project titled ‘Tortured Soul’, which is available now on all digital streaming platforms. Dres’ talent and contributions to the culture as a lyricist, emcee, and artist date back to the early 90’s of nostalgic Hip Hop. Some notable highlights being the first Hip Hop group ever to perform on The Tonight Show!
Throughout the years, although switching lanes, he remained thoroughly active on the scene. He became an integral member of The Native Tongues along with other peers including ATCQ, Queen Latifah, and De La Soul. From there Dres linked up with Jarobi from ATCQ for several collaborations, which led to the creation of the group evitaN. Dres’ mission is to reenergize Hip Hop and bring back the level of authenticity to the culture.
“I think I have an exceptional ear for knowing what compliments me as an artist.” — Dres
I had the honored opportunity to speak with Dres about that mission and his new solo project ‘Tortured Soul’ — Out Now!
MJ: Let me begin by thanking you for taking time out for us here at Weekly Rap Gods. I would also like to say you are the rhyme and reason behind my antics on all trains. True Hip Hop enthusiasts will appreciate that. I want to pick your brain a bit. Some might interpret that above quote as an artist who solely stays in his own lane without thinking outside the box. However, I don’t see that as the case. As an artist, it’s crucial to rely on what compliments you, especially if your fan base is of a global size. Can you elaborate on that?
Dres: I’ve always thought it is very important for an artist to have an understanding of what works and what doesn’t and to be a little selfless in finding out what does and doesn’t. I definitely understand pushing the envelope, but I also understand just because you do something a little different or just the fact that you do something, doesn’t mean it works. I come from a space where we/I would have the heart to try many different things in pursuit of what works. But with that heart comes the brutal honesty of what you’ve created…Sidebar, I’ve always wanted to pick out the tracks for a Nas or Eminem album, respectfully.
MJ: The latest Hip Hop headlines seem to gravitate towards “Old School vs. New School” with complete disregard to genuine, dope music being released. The newer generation can definitely benefit from guidance along with a history lesson, Hip Hop 101 for the beginners. This leads me to your mission of rejuvenating the authenticity of not just music, but the culture as well. Can you share some insight on “Old School vs. New School” as well as your personal journey to revive Hip Hop?
Dres: Ageism is a very real thing in Hip Hop. It doesn’t really exist in other art forms as it does here. In my opinion, there are a few obvious reasons for it being promoted as it is. It keeps a culture divided with the power being placed on the side of inexperience and short attention span. The culture is now victim to the youth not “messing with those older dudes/beats/rhymes” instead of embracing history and even acknowledging influences. One of the biggest problems this precedence sets (aside from the disconnect of information) is the few years that it takes a younger artist to become an older artist. Today’s younger artist isn’t taking into account that they’re merely setting the example for how to treat them as a seasoned artist. The youth under them are looking to their example, and how they view the world and culture today is the same view that they themselves will be seen. It is never too late to do better, to fix, to correct, to understand. That being the case, it’s as simple as set the example you wish to be the example. We are not very different, at all. A little bit of honest communication would easily make that apparent. Our youth are also having to deal with the lack of understanding as to how today’s music and the lack of variety, plays into a game that their elders have seen come into existence right in front of our eyes. That would be the pipeline of our youth and privatized prisons. But that would be another interview within itself.
MJ: 90’s Dres and today’s Dres: What’s changed over the decades — personally and career-wise? Talk about that growth.
Dres: Well, that growth just continues to take shape for me. From running the street as a youth in any direction the wind may blow to me setting and adjusting my personal sails that I can use that very wind to guide not only myself, but me and my family to places my heart and soul had only heard and dreamed about. It’s grown patient, understanding, introspective, and became energized to not only accept things for what they are, but to change things that are to the benefit of not just myself, but of my children as well as you and yours. I’ve grown into a much more selfless version of myself. Someone that had always understood the power of words. Today I am able to wield them even more sufficiently and can elaborate on the many and various sights that life will present to you, without instruction, and make sense of what is needed to build, and what is holding us back from growing…from healing…from living. It sounds like a lot, only because it is a lot. But don’t ever think that it is too much, such boundaries only exist if you tell yourself that they do, so just don’t. You have everything you need to do everything you need. I have grown to understand today.
MJ: Mainstream or independent? Solo or group? You’ve experienced success from both avenues, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
Dres: Independent and Solo…I totally love being able to do things independently. I just wish that more platforms existed for the seasoned (older) artists, especially if they have the capacity to not only stay current, but to push boundaries and do it in an exceptional manner. I see artists that have only grown and gotten stronger being lost in a shuffle that actually takes away from what the culture should/could be. I understand the strength of the mainstream/major label pipeline and I also know the corruption that exists within its borders. There is the opportunity to do something on a larger level, but that is a momentary gust of wind that may leave you stranded in the middle of the ocean if you haven’t taken the proper precautions to get yourself to the place you envisioned your journey taking you. Stay aware and stay prepared (compass, map, log, take weather and wind into account, and binoculars wouldn’t hurt as well). I’m a fan of the solo aspect of my career at this point. I’ve always been one that was comfortable in my own skin and it’s just an easier walk for me. Especially knowing that it’s not even about someone else. I know I have my ways as well, I’m good with that. It’s not me remotely slighting anyone else as much as me having the preference to do my own thing, respectfully.
MJ: Ok, let’s give the fans what they want. Let’s talk about ‘Tortured Soul’. The project’s momentum via music, radio, and media outlets is astonishing along with the worldwide buzz. Take us through the creative process from thought to finished product.
Dres: It’s been a really cool thing to put together. Some of the music represents some of the work I’ve done over the last year or two and some of it is brand new. I thought it would be really cool to put it all together so that people could get a gist of some really cool and powerful music, as well as me introduce a few new things that would be reflective of this moment in time for me. I am so blessed that I’ve been working with some really amazing producers/friends over the years and was even able to pull in a few of new heads that are ridiculously talented. I’ve been working with Beanone for a dozen years or so, and knew exactly how I wanted him to mesh everything together. I took all of these various pieces of music and gave him some liner notes on how I saw it and just let him do what he does in the bridging of my vision. We’ve really grown into quite the force together, understanding each other not just as artists, but as friends and brothers. I knew what he was going to do before he did it, and he did it!! Everything else you hear is a piece of music that I did at some point over the last couple of years, some very new and some (like My Right Brain) a couple years old. Just something that the people hadn’t heard. In my mind, it was a mixture that would introduce an album, that is coming as my next project. I didn’t want to lose you, knowing attentions spans being what they are, and I also wanted something that flowed into itself. My guy Beanone is a National Treasure, and has been for some time now. He was instrumental in helping me realize my vision. But every single producer on this joint is amazing in my eyes. It’s been my humble honor to work with them and to allow myself to be freely who I am with their assistance.
MJ: How exhilarating was it to put this project together?
Dres: It’s always work and it’s always a process. You have to be willing to see it for what it is and to trim fat, add substance/flavor, accept what doesn’t belong, and to embrace what does, and if what does belong doesn’t exist to create it. I love creating. I love looking at something where there was nothing and not only being proud of the effort, but being sure of it…If a chef has cooked for 20 years, he’s a master chef. If a black belt has practiced for 20 years, he is a master as well. I’ve been doing this for well over 20 years, and I don’t need anyone to tell me how to prepare a plate. I know the seasoning, the temperature, and what wine pairs with the plate, with my eyes closed. Seeing you enjoy the meal, fills my soul with happiness.
MJ: I have to ask, what is your favorite record off the album? I have a few, of course the tribute to Phife being one, and “FUGITUP”.
Dres: It varies for me. Some days, weeks, months it jumps around. I love “I’m Just a Witness” (the layering of it is so dope). The simplistic dopeness of “We Can All Share” …I love the love inside of “Peace Phife”. There’s a backstory to “Fugitup”. It originally had a sample that would never have been cleared on it. While mixing it, I asked the engineer to pull the sample out, it became what we hear. I wasn’t afraid to let it be just that, just that was what it really was. There’s something to say for each joint, and the collective is just a true story.
Watch “FUGITUP” – the first video release off ‘Tortured Soul’ album
MJ: One thing that rings over in my mind too often is when I speak with some young artists who make comments such as, “Why pay homage to artists that fell off?”, or “Where are they now?”. As a Hip Hop fan first, I find it my duty to address such comments, objectively of course. Artists who fall off do not have the opportunity to tour across the world performing hit after hit, and selling out concert arenas. Just one of the many accolades associated with you as an icon and pioneer. Dres didn’t fall off, Dres is still creating timeless music, still touring, and still holding a candle to the limelight! Please share the emotions and thoughts behind the longevity of your career.
Dres: I think as long as you have a fire inside of you, what anyone else thinks has no bearing and what’s good or bad. It’s up to you to do what your heart tells you. Success is in the eye of the beholder and where some may be engrossed in the sale of a project, others are into the performance, and others are into the administrative, and others the artistic creation. All this to say that I’ve found various aspects that keep my fire alive for me. I’m so very blessed to not only be able to do things on my own accord, but to be afforded the opportunity to rock all over the world with friends that I consider family. I know that healthy habits and mindsets are as strong as new music. Some of the artists that work more than any artists new or old, haven’t released new music in years… yet EVERYONE loves to see them time and time again. Take Doug E Fresh, Slick Rick, Kane, Rakim, De La Soul, it goes on and on. These are, but a few of the artists that worked yesterday, today, and tomorrow, anywhere in the world. What great company to be amongst, God’s Will.
MJ: Before we wrap up, share with fans what’s lined up next for Dres in terms of collaborations, projects, tours, etc.
Dres: I hope to be able to tour for the rest of my life! I’ve begun a new venture to help, not only myself, but other indie artists gain a platform and introduce music that I, myself, think is special. I have a new hub for this: www.PoolOfGenius.com. It’s where you can find my indie catalog, as well as the amazing music I released with my brother Jarobi (A Tribe Called Quest). We released an amazing album everyone should find right now under the name “evitaN” (Native backwards). We have a bunch of videos and the project itself is on the site. I’m also proud to introduce an insane young talent to the people by the name of Alexander Simone (Grandson of Nina). He has an upcoming single/video called “Let Go”, and it’s just insane. We’re trying to establish a platform worthy of the release, so be patient and know something special is coming…something very special indeed!
MJ: On behalf of Weekly Rap Gods, thank you for spending this time with us, for the jewels dropped, and essentially for your contributions to Hip Hop.
Dres: Thank you for taking the moment to help me share my vision and love with the people! I appreciate you and Weekly Rap Gods sincerely.
Performing around the globe is one of Dres’ personal favorites as an artist. His top touring spots include the U.S., U.K., and Australia. He is also a music connoisseur and top musicians in his playlist include Keni Burke, Stevie Wonder, Kool G Rap, and Mobb Deep.
and the list goes on…