By: Todd Davis
“Who’s the Black Sheep, what’s the Black Sheep?
Don’t know who I am, or when I’m coming so you sleep,
Wasn’t in my room, wasn’t in my sphere;
Knew not who I was, but listen here:
Legendary Queens, New York, Hip-Hop duo, Black Sheep, comprised of rappers Dres and Mista Lawnge, are most famously known for their gold certified 1991 debut A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, which spawned a succession of hits; including, “Flavor of the Month,” “The Choice is Yours,” “Strobelite Honey,” and “Similak Child.”
In ’94, Black Sheep’s lackluster sophomore album, Non-Fiction, was released, meeting with mixed reviews and poor sales. Titus and McClean would soon part ways.
Following their break-up, individual solo endeavors were sought, and, unfortunately, suffered the exact same fate, as Dres and Mista Lawnge sadly failed to connect and were just unable to reclaim their past glory days.
In 2008, Black Sheep’s monster single “The Choice is Yours” was ranked number #73 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs.
“You can get with this, or you can get with that?!”
So, man, where ya been? And, what exactly’s been up, since the release of your last studio effort, 8WM/novakane ? And, did that project signify an “official” Black Sheep reunion, of sorts, because of the little bit of involvement that Mista Lawnge had on it?
Though I never really went anywhere, I’ve been some of everywhere thanks to the love 8wm/novakane received. It definitely reacquainted the masses to the brand, more so than “The Choice Is Yours” has done over the years. It was supposed to be Lawnge and I working together, but it didn’t work out that way. Lawnge felt he wanted to do his own thing. I respected his wish and only wanted the best for him, but kept it moving nonetheless.
Oh, I see. Now, although a solid album, commercially it didn’t fare all that well — Why do you think that is? In your opinion, should’ve/could’ve it done better?
Definitely should’ve/could’ve done better! Given that, it is a very solid project. Having an understanding of the climate of music, to a degree, shed some light on the situation. Very different time in music, and it was a great project to illustrate some of the do’s and don’ts moving forward. Being that there wasn’t going to be a “major” label backing the project, I knew it would be all uphill. But, sometimes the beauty isn’t in the perception, but the effort. I stand on the shoulders of that project with this one, so it will do better.
Which brings us to this new record The Black Pool Of Genius — Why that particular title?
The words were uttered by Donny Hathaway on a live version of a Stevie Wonder song; “Superwoman.” It struck me immediately as a vast pool of artists overtime that I wanted to find myself amongst. I don’t see it as being a pool of black people. Instead, I see black as the color that absorbs light. Any artist that shares light had to absorb it to share it. Hence, any artist that shares “art,” may find themselves in the pool.
Interesting concept! Well, who all did you enlist in regards to the album’s production? Are there any special cameos to look out for? And, do you have any perso nal favorite joint(s)?
Production includes Beanone (outta) Seattle, Urban Soul Music Group (from) N.Y.C., Tough Junkie, Paten Locke, Willie Evans, all (from) Jacksonville, Florida, and Showbiz (from the) BX. Guests on the project include Q-Tip, Dave (from) De La Soul, Mike Gee (of) Jungle Brothers (fame), AZ, Rhymefest, Tough Junkie. Maybe a surprise as well.
Because it’s carrying the Black Sheep moniker, does that mean Mista Lawnge was/is also involved in the creation of this CD?
No, Lawnge has nothing to do with this project. He and I built the Black Sheep brand. I’m stressing that this is a Dres of Black Sheep project. I think it’s pretty well known at this point that I am doing my own thing. I would hope that if he does something in the future that he use the name as well, clarifying it being a project of his as well. We did too much for either of our names not to share the goodness that is Black Sheep.
I agree! And, for those who don’t really know this story, what prompted you all to break-up in the first place?
Just grew apart…Life.
That simple, huh? Well, let’s take it back to your whole inception into music — How did it all begin for Andres ‘Dres’ Titus?
Well, both of my parents sung lead in bands at different points in their lives. Music has always had my heart. I recall being ’bout 9 or 10 years old (and) having memorized every word of Stevie Wonder’s SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE, even the Spanish and Swahili! I’ve been part of marching bands, jazz ensembles, choirs, won talent shows *Dres laughs* Engineering class, emcee/deejay crews — Music for life! My mother still wants me to sing! *More laughter ensues*
Initially, how did you manage to hook up with William ‘Mista Lawnge’ McLean, ultimately forming the, now, legendary Hip-Hop duo, Black Sheep? And, how did you all come up with that unique name?
Lawnge and I met in Carolina my senior year of high school. We had a mutual friend who would have been the third member who had turntables, mics, and recording equipment in his room. We’d meet there everyday to cut and rhyme. We all got down. Lawnge, who was younger, graduated a few years later. We bumped heads on the streets of N.Y.C.. He had been in cahoots with (Kool DJ) Red Alert since we had parted. I had an apartment in the BX, and he needed a spot. So, he moved in. He introduced me to Red and the Natives in turn. It was the beginning of a luvlee situation. After locking in with the Natives, it was obvious, at a glance, we were a little different. Hence, “Black Sheep” were born.
On a personal note, when was the last time you spoke with any of your, former, Native Tongues’ cohorts [Jungle Brothers (Mike Gee, Afrika Baby Bam & DJ Sammy B), De La Soul (Posdnous, Trugoy & Maseo), ATCQ (your cousin Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Jarobi), Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Fu-Schnickens (Poc-Fu, Chip-Fu & Moc-Fu), Chi-Ali, Da Bush Babees, Showbiz & AG, The Legion, etc.] ? And, more importantly, is there any chance of a future musical collaboration, either on stage and/or on wax?
Just got off phone with Mike Gee today. Speak to Sammy on occasion, too. Haven’t spoken to Af in a while, but miss him. I’m never too far from De La Soul. I consider them very close to my heart. They’ve mentored me more than they would ever realize. Tip isn’t of relation. We got together to record a really dope joint for my new LP. We bump heads occasionally, but I hope time finds us close as we used to be. Don’t speak to Phife much, but I reach out on occasion though. Definitely care about his welfare. Haven’t seen or heard from Ali in a while, and Jarobi and I tweet on occasion, as well Chip-Fu and I tweet. Didn’t know the other cats really. Showbiz, to this day, is one of my favorite people in the industry. Just a stand up dude that I really respect. AG and I tweet sometimes. Molecules from the Legion is my dude. We always speak. I haven’t really kicked it with the other bros too much over time. And, Chi-Ali is my heart — We stay in contact.
Sadly, Thursday June 25th 2009, the world lost the greatest entertainer who ever lived — What was your first reaction upon hearing the tragic news? How does Michael Jackson’s untimely passing affect, not only you, but, music in general? And, in the wake of his demise, what does this mean for the future of recorded music?
Michael Jackson was, and will forever be, an influence. His early Jackson 5 records introduced me to harmonies, melodies, and song structure. He was grown before he was grown. And, having the understanding of what the music biz is today, (I) understand some of what he went through and the unfortunate situation that extreme successes can afford you. In his latter years, I always felt “a way” about his appearance and demeanor…Realizing now that I, like many others, passed a judgement that maybe should have been kept to myself. Sometime hindsight is 20/20. I wish I had identified “help” instead of “odd” — He will be missed and forever loved.
Very well said! So, do you have any final thoughts?
It’s been a luvlee struggle for me. I anticipate any, and everyone, who hears my new material to be elated. It’s very soulful, well thought out, articulate, witty, harmonious, and needed. Great music stands the test of time! That being said, I’ll be around well beyond my years. All I need is the opportunity to be heard. That’s all i would ask. EVERYONE who is sincere in their love of Hip-Hop — GREAT MUSIC