Black Sheep, once comprised of Dres and Mr. Lawnge, flourished in the '90s. The group's first single, 1991’s "Flavor of the Month," gave them a solid start in the game and their affiliation with the Native Tongue collective increased their notoriety. They were poised to become a hip-hop mainstay, but unfortunately, subsequent albums didn’t live up to the success of their debut, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, and the group seemed to fade to obscurity.
However, they left behind a slew of memorable singles including “The Choice is Yours,” which still gets burn at parties and in a Kia commercials 20 years later. Now carrying the Black Sheep brand solo, Dres revived the spirit of golden era hip-hop with his independent new album From The Black Pook Of Genius (in stores now). VIBE caught up with the Queens-bred lyricist to chat about recording one of hip-hop’s most known songs, Black Sheep as a solo act, and why new school rappers need to pay homage. ⎯Starrene Rhett
VIBE: What can people expect from From The Black Pool of Genius?
Dres: It’s a project I’m really excited about. It’s different for me in that I got a bunch of features on it and it’s the first time I’ll be releasing an album with more than a feature or two. I’m always of the mindset that the artist is the primary focus but going on 20 years, I’ve been following that and I thought it would be cool to do something different by working with artists that I respect artistically. As far as the black pool of genius, I borrowed the concept from Donny Hathaway. He did a live remake of a Stevie Wonder record, “Super Woman,” and it’s a live recording so you can hear it sounds like it’s in a tavern or something and he says, “From the black pool of genius, I got this Stevie Wonder record,” and I thought, "Wow, that’s a prolific statement," and it made me want to be a member of this pool so I started thinking about it and understanding that it’s not about the color of a person, black is essentially a color that draws light, so I took it as a pool of people that have the ability to draw light to give light that can enlighten you. And across the board it bought a whole gamut of artists from the Donny Hathaways to the Stevie Wonders, but also the Joe Samples and the Chaka Khans, the Minnie Rippertons⎯there’s a whole gamut of artists that I grew up on that enlightened me and I started looking at that as a concept to be able to subliminally enlighten people and make statements in artists that would have this ability and I felt that these artists including myself would be members of the black pool.
What was your decision to carry Black Sheep solo?
If you were to put one sheep in a field it can be plural and singular. I can still be one person and still be Black Sheep. Ideally, where my head is conceptually, I didn’t step away from the group. The group is something that me and Lawnge built [but] he decided to do something else. I felt like it wouldn’t be in my advantage for me to step away from something just because he decided to. He decided he wanted to go solo and I respected him. I wished him the best. But if he decides he wants to do something again with both of us as Black Sheep then I’ll be down. Next year will be 20 years and I hope that we would come together and maybe do a rhyme or put out a record that speaks to our 20 year run.
“The Choice is Yours” is in a new Kia commercial and some other classic hip-hop songs have been getting commercial revivals too. What’s up with the resurgence of golden era hip-hop in advertising?
I think it’s reflective of a time period of a certain level where it was good feelings. Certain songs just represent a good feeling and I think “The Choice is Yours” is one of those that was so fortunate to have that life. There are songs that⎯like with when Obama won⎯you knew where you were and what you were doing and “The Choice is Yours” is like that. I didn’t have any time to do any form of huge promotion globally so at this time that I got an album coming out, it’s such a blessing that so many people are turning their heads to notice, wow Black Sheep, what’s Dres up to? But it kind of goes to the walk of an artist especially from my era⎯everything was kinda young and this Kia commercial, I didn’t even have anything to do with it.
So you didn’t even know it was going to happen?
I wasn’t even contacted. I have yet to receive payment on it but don’t get it twisted, I will. I’ve been talking to Kia for the past week or two so certain things might be done moving forward in maximizing what we’re trying to do. But Universal, the record label, was basically the ones that signed off on it and gave them permission to use my likeness so that’s a different story that might wind up having a life of itself as well. I wouldn’t say that the label did everything that they were supposed to do but that goes to us being young artists and not understanding some of the things that we were signing. I would say to the artists today⎯and this is 20 years later⎯that I’m not the administrator of some of the things that I should be especially so far down the road. But God moves in mysterious ways and I see it as a blessing at the end of the day.
How do you feel about where hip-hop is today with more rappers singing than rapping?
Hip-pop. That’s what it has become. It’s pop music. And it’s evolution. It might not necessarily be something that I’m trying to do but sorta like where hip-hop was in its early days, folks are trying to do what they can. But I feel like mentally, a lot of us have become lazy. I think we’re capable of more than what a lot of us are going for. But I understand the grind. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of it but I understand it, especially for a younger generation. This is something that they can claim and each generation wants something they can claim so I understand it. I understand that my father wasn’t crazy about what I was doing. But I also see the value being diminished in some of the music. I learned so much from my parents’ music. I learned the power of words and how to speak to a certain degree and these days I think the courtship has been diminished especially between men and women in that the conversation is more from the wallet as opposed to from the heart. It’s much more about a purchase than it is about character⎯just being funny and having something insightful to say. [But] people are beginning to gravitate toward what they deem to be of substance. They’re starting to look for a Black Sheep, they’re starting to look for a De La, or something that may be more insightful than making the bed rock. And at the end of the day we all like to have a good time and everything has its place but I think some of the options have been taken away from us and the people are starting to miss it.
How do you feel about Drake?