Sunday, May 31, 2009

Masters of Philology - Werner Interviews Awesome Dre

I just interviewed Awesome Dre. He's coming back. And he's got mad unreleased old school material he's putting out now, too. You don't need me to tell you anything else, do you? It's fucking Awesome Dre! Let's jump right into it:

So let’s start maybe by breaking down all the other members of The Hardcore Committee besides yourself?


Alright. The original Hardcore Committee was me, Brother Lonzell, Ivan Ill, Mike-T, Tony Tone, X-Man… that was pretty much it. It all started out when me and my stepbrother had the idea. And Ivan Ill was the man behind the dream who put up the money for our first studio effort. And it just started from there. That was back in ’87, when we originally formed and put it together. I was the original lead vocalist. Tony Tone spit rhymes and X-Man spit rhymes; but on the album it was all me. They had background parts and stuff like that. And The Detector, he did the production on the first album. We all worked together, but he was the technical expert. You know, the engineer with the mixing skills. We just had the creative ideas, like whatever loops we wanted to use, and he helped us put it together like that.

Was D.E.D. part of the group too, or just someone separate who you worked with?

Well, DJ D.E.D. was actually Prince Vince’s DJ at the time. So he would come and put work in on the album, but that was officially Prince Vince’s DJ. They came out around the same time, and he had “Gangster Funk” out, where they had looped Parliament’s “Flashlight.” He was just like work-for-hire for us. They did their own thing and got a deal with Polygram. He was always part of the family, but officially he was Prince Vince and the Hip Hop Force’s DJ.

Ok, let me take it back a bit further… were you born and raised in Detroit, or did you move there?

Nah, I was born and raised here.

Ok, so what was the hip-hop scene like when you were growing up, there?

Shit, I’m like 40, man. So me as a kid, there really wasn’t no hip-hop. I mean, there was, but that was up in New York. We had the funk, George Clinton and all that. Then we had the techno music, with Cybotron and all these guys. We had that dance, techno-type going on. Then, of course, I remember the very first time I heard “Rapper’s Delight” on the radio; it blew everybody’s mind. Because other than that, it was just like some club shit or some basement party shit. But in Detroit, it was more a dance music thing we gave the world.

Most of my hip-hop experience came when I was a teenager and we moved to Akron Ohio. My mother got married to my stepfather, Dip (RIP). We went down there, and then my high school is where we really got exposed to all the hip-hop. ‘Cause we were listening to 93 FM, WVAK, was one of the stations from Cleveland, and they used to simul-cast Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack and Red Alert. And it was the shit that was going on in New York, live, real-time shit. So we really jumped on it at that point.

But I didn’t really start out as an MC; I was dancing first. And I still am; I’ve still got a few moves that I might bring out from the reserves and shit. And I tell anyone, I’d trade in my rap career for my dance career anytime. Because we had much more fun back then. More pure, more live. Nowadays, it seems like everyone can rap, but everyone can’t dance.

Even in our crew, we made sure we specialized, where everybody did something better than everybody else. We put together our crew like that and we was killin’ ‘em, takin’ down talent shows like everywhere. It was crazy. I was always going back and forth to Detroit, so I’d go down there and get the moves, then come back with the shit nobody’s seen and be the man! I showed ‘em the Water Wave, the Magnetic Wave, all types of shit. And they were like, “man, you’ve gotta get with The Poppers!” The Poppers? Who were they? They were like the best dance group around, and these dudes were seniors in high school. I was just in seventh grade. I went and tried out for ‘em and got in. My first show was the Easter Show in the Civic Theater, which is like their version of the State Theater downtown. We came out and they went crazy; and it all started from that.

Yeah, I remember you having dancers in your videos… is that something you would still do today? Having dancers in your shows, etc?

Yeah, I would love that. Shit, there’s a group here called Hardcore Detroit. I love that shit, it takes me back to the essence of it. Of course, it depends on the venue and the circumstances and all that. But for me to put on a live show, it would include me MCing, a DJ in the back with two twelves, we’d have B-Boys come out, and at the same time I’d have a fucking graffiti artists painting my backdrop on stage. To me that’s the shit!

Ok, so let's talk about Bentley Records...

Nah, fuck them. Let me tell you about Jorlands Records first. Fuck Bentley Records. Jorlands was the one that put up the money and supported our dream. That’s Ivan Ill and Joint, RIP, he’s not with us no more. But Ivan Ill’s still holding it down.

Me and my stepbrother were together; I was writing rhymes and he was like, “that shit sounds good. You need to try and do something with it.” I was like, I don’t know – what can we do? He called Ivan Ill, and at the time, when I was writing my very first song called “Hard Core,” I was patterning it after “Rebel Without a Pause.” To me, that’s one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever. So he caught me in that mode, and I had the instrumental and I started rhyming over the phone, “Hard core… I’m Awesome Dre, coolest motherfucker since ice trays, I’m havin’ nice days, home is where my hat lays. Ladies praise the ruckus that I raise, I’m the one the suckers never phase.” I was like Baby Chuck D in this motherfucker! So he was like, damn, that sounds sweet, why don’t you try to get in a studio?

I was like, ok! I had never really been in a professional studio environment like that before. I had been in a studio, but never to actually like make a fuckin’ record. So we went to Wonderlove, which was a record store that had a studio in the back. This was on Grand River in Detroit, and that’s where we met The Detector. We put together the first single, which was “Hard Core,” “Dean of Rap” and “My Little Friend,” which is the song where I made all my Scarface references. We were one of the first ones to bring the Scarface talk into hip-hop.

Right, I remember you doing Scarface on the album too.

Yeah, on the intros. But like three years before we came out with the album, we had that 12”. We did three 12”’s first before we came out with an album. We did “Hard Core,” then we came out with “Out of Reach,” which had a song called “(LL Stands For) Lame Loser,” and I had “I Don’t Like You (Kool Moe She).” And the picture cover was the original picture that you see on the album cover. And the reason I came out and dissed them both at the same time was because… I come up on hip-hop, so I’m a Kool Moe Dee fan, a Treacherous Three fan… that was the shit. Then, when we saw Krush Groove, and LL came through the audition scene, we were like what? Who is this motherfucker? He was the baddest motherfucker in hip-hop, period! Young ass LL came out and crushed everybody. You know, it was his time.

So, I was looking at Kool Moe Dee like, “what the Hell this old motherfucker gonna do?” Which I guess is how people look at me until I come and rip ‘em a new asshole! They were giving Kool Moe Dee the same billing as LL, and I was offended! They were on the front page of magazines with boxing gloves on, and I’m like, what the fuck? So I wrote the Kool Moe Dee song first ‘cause I was kinda mad. So I was going off on his glasses, leather pants, and all that.

But in the spirit of hip-hop, I didn’t want people to think I was riding LL so hard that I was gonna help him diss Moe Dee or whatever. So I was like, I have to diss this man to balance everything out and make it equal. So fuck you, too, LL. I represent the D. So, I dissed the two biggest figures in hip-hop at the time. And it wasn’t personal or I wanted to kill these guys, like these motherfuckers doing now. It was just real, pure hip-hop and I was stepping up to set a standard.

Then we came out with the third 12”, which is “You Can’t Hold Me Back” and “Committing Rhymes,” and that was like my first hit. We took the “Picking Up Pieces” from the Average White Band and it was just hitting, straight up. We started catching a little buzz and getting contacted by different companies. And Bentley was one of the companies that contacted us. And we knew a guy here, Bernard Carter, who was doing a lot of promotion for a lot of different companies. So we ended up with him and signing a little deal. And they came down and we filmed the first video, “You Can’t Hold Me Back.” We had the album already done, pressed up, everything. But what they did was just take it and put it out there on a bigger scale, as far as distribution.

We had problems with them, as far as money and we ended up parting ways, needless to say. Bentley didn’t do us right at all, but while we were with Bentley, that’s when we signed with Priority. And that was a blessing. Brian Turner knew what he was doing and already had NWA and all them. They even had put out the California Raisins album.

But back then, we didn’t have no label love… we looked at everybody as the competition. We didn’t give a fuck – if you were on our label, you were the first competition! We ain’t come here like hey, we wanna shake everybody’s hand. We were like, man, fuck them. They’re wack! We were hardcore. So we didn’t schmooze, which might’ve been a good thing to do, but it wasn’t us back then. And a lot of shit was going on… NWA was breaking up, Ice Cube saying he didn’t get paid… and a lot of people already know that story.

But our shit was going on at the same time, behind the scenes. People were like, “man, I heard you all ran up on Priority and kicked in the door!” Nah, nah. We did go up in the company, but motherfuckers had to drop the charges because we had evidence to show these motherfuckers were robbing the fuck out of us. And it almost got to physical shit, but it didn’t. That’s hip-hop; it’s a fucked up game. Everybody trying to fuck over everybody. We just weren’t having that shit.

So, Bentley was what got us to Priority, but at the same time they became a middle man between us and fucking shit up. And ultimately, that’s why we didn’t wind up putting out that other album on Priority. There was too much bullshit going on, so they had to put our shit on the shelf. And we got tired of waiting around after a while, so we had to file bankruptcy and all types of shit to get separated.

So was AD’s Revenge that you ultimately came out with the same album that Priority shelved?

Nah, they didn’t ever get that. What they shelved was around when we had “Frankly Speaking,” the second video. That had peaked out at #6 on Billboard, and the album had peaked out at #51 black albums. And Priority did what they do… they had us doing promo shoots and Rap City with Chris Thomas, which is where I met Chuck D. Priority knew what the fuck they were doing, but they had middlemen and other shit in between that wasn’t letting us move forward. We were supposed to come out with a “Sackchasers” video after “Frankly Speaking,” but the timing was kinda fucked up on that one.

So, now what about Strictly Roots Records? Who ran that? Was that you?

That was Babatunde and Kwesi. Babatunde got locked up for some bullshit, some snake shit or whatever; but hopefully he’ll be home soon. When I say snake shit, I mean not something he did, but one of his so-called partners got caught-up in; and in order to get out of it, snitched on Babatunde who didn't have nothing to do with it. Babatunde and Kwesi, who were the two executive producers. Babatunde was an artist, too, he played bass and put a few basslines on our joints. He was an artist. When we first met, it wasn’t like we were gonna do an album. We met in his bookshop, and we found out we were both in music, so he invited me over to do a session and it went on from there.

Man, he put out two videos, the “This Is Babylon” video we shot in LA right after the riots and shit, and “AD’s Revenge” which is a reggae flavor type cut. They pressed up the albums, had mad merchandise and flew us all around the world, and everything was going good. But we were still learning, too. Like, we still had a lot of connections from our time with Priority, but a the same time, we didn’t have the machine that Priority had behind it. We kinda spread ourselves too thin and couldn’t follow up with everybody. We kinda kicked back and said, oh our shit is doing good; we’re number two in LA or whatever. And we didn’t understand that we had to go out there, then, and promote the shit out of it and follow through. And a lot of money went out without it coming back in real quick.

So it just died down. And people were saying I was going in a different direction with different influences I was having. There’s some hardcore shit on there, but with the second album, it’s more political. The production is not the same… the first album we did a lot of sampling and loops. On the second album, I don’t know where we went with it, but the people were saying, ‘you need different beats!” But, hey, it was just a chapter and to me it’s still a classic and I’m glad we hooked up and did that shit. Then Babatunde got locked up, and that kinda but a halt to things we were planning to do.

So did that happen while you were still signed to them?

Yeah, that happened a little bit after the album. The album and videos were done, but we still had plans to do other shit.

And there was a 12” off that album where you’re just credited as The Hardcore Committee (like, without Awesome Dre)… was that for a specific reason…?

I don’t remember…

I think it’s the one with “Babylon” on it?

Oh, yeah. That was a time when we were gonna change the name of the group. It was just a transitional period. I was gonna change my name and everything. But people were like, “are you crazy? People know you as Awesome Dre!” And if you do stuff like that, you gotta do it very carefully, and name the next album as whatever you want your new name to be or whatever.

But now I could never stop being Awesome Dre. I could be anybody else, too. That’s cool. Like Wu-Tang, they all got four or five different names. But I’ll always be Awesome Dre.

So, now, obviously there’s a big leap between then and what you’re doing now… so what happened during all that time you’ve been away.

I never really fully stopped. I got unreleased songs… like I got a whole album from like ’96, a whole album from ’99, and then various shit between. Like just songs I’d do with different, various artists. So I had always went with it, but stopping, working regular jobs and thing. But just in the last couple years, enough time has gone by that people are really appreciating what we did twenty years ago. Like, back then, after our second album, people were like, “oh, that old as shit,” you know what I’m saying? But as ten years go by, it’s like, “oh, you remember Awesome Dre? He was the shit!” Now, I get on the internet and see that shit, and my record is on sale for a hundred and something dollars! It’s so fucking rare, they can’t find it. And I’m on some peoples’ list as a favorite MC, with Rakim and Krs-1.

Then they started coming out with old school reunion tours and old school whatever, and it was cool to be old school. Back then, it was like “fuck old school!” But if you become old school now, you’re the shit, because you could withstand the test of time. There’s plenty of people who came out back then with me at the time, and now I forgot their ass existed! If you brought ‘em up, I’d be like: who? So for me to come up and remind people of good experiences and times of their lives, that’s the shit. So I realized you gotta keep doing it.

They try to brainwash us that you gotta be a certain age to rap. But that really wasn’t it. The record labels just wanted young puppets who didn’t question or didn’t know anything. A grown man wouldn’t take that shit.

But there’s still a market for it. People still feel it, and that’s their shit. So I owe the people. Especially since I still got it. And there had been little periods where I stopped, but I never retired like Too $hort or nothing. And the people, now, they motivate me to keep that shit going. Now I realize, no matter how old I get, I’ma always be Awesome Dre.

And I just had my first child like nine months ago. And that’s taking me to a whole 'nother level right now, too. Especially this past year, ‘cause I’ve done a lot of shit with Psychopathic Records. It’s weird, ‘cause way back in the day, when ICP came out with their first album they had love for me. I mean, anyone who came out of the D after ’87 would have to list me as an influence… I don’t care whether you like it or not. And Mike Clark was one of the guys that we influenced, so we were supposed to do a song. And it just so happened that Esham was at the studio before I got there. And Esham was one of their influences, too. So he was like, what chyall doing here? And they were like, “ah, we’re just waiting for Awesome Dre to get up in here and do a song with us.” And he’s like, for real? How much are y’all paying him? “About five hundred.” He was like, “shit, give me that five hundred, I’ll do it right now!”

(Laughs)

He did it, and they called me like, ah, something happened. I was like, whatever. Because at the time, I was trying to have my manager squeeze some more money out of them, but they didn’t have money back then. It was a few years after our reign, so we were on our ego trip back then. That’s another thing: when you’re young and getting promoted and everything like that, it does boost up your ego. So I kinda probably put my foot in my mouth back then. But it’s all sweet now.

Shit, last year I went up there and did the Gathering of the Juggalos thing they do every year, and that was one of the funnest experiences I ever had in my life. It was fucking crazy. And we did The Monster’s Ball, Hallowicked… they did a movie, and I’m in that. We did the “Forever Detroit” track, and we did the “You Can’t Hold Me Back” remix for the Let ‘Em Bleed Volume 2 that came out in November with me, Shaggy from ICP, Merciless Amir, Esham, Big Herk and Boss. I did song with Mike E Clark that’s coming out June 23rd.

So I’m just in the studio, getting production from various guys, and just trying to build this shit up, man. I got a lot of old shit that’s gonna be released, too. I actually have an album from ’97 that was supposed to be the second album. And a couple songs from AD’s Revenge are remixes of the songs we did back then, like “Wreakin’ Havoc” was one. And I got two songs with Grandmaster Melle Mel.

Oh wow.

Yeah, when we released AD’s Revenge we had a release party that Babatunde hooked up, and Melle Mel came, Afrika Islam DJ’d… and Afrika Islam produced the two songs. We had Supercat headlining the show, and during that weekend we recorded these two songs One called, “The Cemetery Started This Way,” which is hardcore as hell, and “You Go Girl,” which was released on a mixtape over in Tokyo or something and it was blowing up, but Luke stole it! He was there and you know, you’re an artist you want people to hear your shit. So we were playing it, and Luke was just in the building; we were playing it for The New Dance Show. Then about two weeks later, somebody called me and said they heard my record on the radio. I said, shit, you’re a damn liar. But we saw the video, and Luke was lip-syncing our hook with a sly grin! And the kicker, man, was who he got dancing in the background at the video? The same bitches that was dancing to it at The New Dance Show! He flew their ass down their and they was in the fucking video! But what can I do? I can’t sue; he’s the court expert. He’s the dude that fought the Supreme Court of the United States! He got all kind of fucking lawyers; I don’t got no money.

I had another experience like that. I had a girl at the time, and she was singing with me. We were down performing at the Renaissance show downtown, a showcase with all the labels, representatives flew in. We did a song then called “You Still Can’t Hold Me Back,” and we took the Davy DMX line, “one for the treble, two for the bass, come on Davy D, let’s rock the place.” And we switched it to “Awesome Dre, let’s rock the place,” and we rocked that shit. And labels were coming over to us, giving us their card. And like two weeks later, Jody Watley mysteriously came out with a remix of a song called “Off the Hook” featuring Rakim, and that shit was like, “one for the treble, two for the bass, come on Rakim, let’s rock the place.” And I look at the label, and sure enough it’s MCA, like, yup. Those motherfuckers were sitting right in the front row.

So, now you’re talking about all this stuff you’ve been doing with ICP and all… are you signed with Psychopathic? Or doing your own thing separately?

I’m doing it all on my own right now, but if the time is right, it’ll happen. They’ve already got a full schedule; but I’d love to get with ‘em, that’s what we’ve been talking about. So right now it’s just a little project here, project there. Do the live shows… I love the live shows more than anything, and the Juggalos are some of the most loyal fans I’ve ever seen. They’ll support you all the way. And if they don’t like you, they’ll let you know that shit, too. But it’s crazy. They have their own world. They tried it all, mainstream, whatever… but they made it all on their own account.

So, first up from you is to put out those old albums on your own?

Yeah, I’m not gonna put out them old albums as a whole. I’ma put out mixtapes and put some new shit, some old shit. Give them a variety.

And I’m doing the radio show they gave me, Awesome World, which comes on wfuckoffradio.com. Usually they go two hours. They go on Tuesday night and Thursday night, from nine to eleven and eleven to one. We’ve been doing our thing since December, and it’s fun as Hell, just doing whatever you wanna do, playing all the unreleased music, interviews, call-ins… we got a segment called Repeat It or Delete It, where if you get repeated, you might get put on a promotional CD we’re putting together. We had a hip-hop astrologer, my cousin Doe Dubbla… We have fun.

And I saw you’re on an album, either out or coming out, with Finale?

Oh yeah. Me and my boy Prince Whipper Whip, of The Cold Crush Brothers and The Fantastic Freaks – that’s my homey. He stays out here in Michigan now. So he was like, yeah, some little young guy rapper wants to come on through and get us on there for his album, little intros or something. I haven’t even heard that yet, I forget what the fuck I said. I gotta go check that out; it’s on his album, A Pipe Dream and a Promise. He’s got us on a couple interludes or whatever.

Yeah, that’s actually the project that put me on to the fact that you were coming back. Because I don’t really follow the ICP stuff so much, but I saw that in a promo e-mail, and I Twittered Invincible like, “THE Awesome Dre?”

(Laughs) Right. Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of little drops here and there. But we’re about to inundate their ass with old and new Awesome Dre. We wanna have that new mixtape out before we go down for the gathering in August. We should have three different mixtapes and merchandise. I’m a packrat. I got the very first version of “Hard Core” we ever did, I got the quarter-inch reel and everything. I got all the behind the scenes footage and all that, so I’m putting together a DVD and some mix CDs. And if you wanna see the original music videos, you can go to my YouTube page, THEREALAWESOMEDRE.

And the best place for people to check out for all that is on your myspace, probably, if they can’t catch you on tour?

Yeah. I got two myspaces, actually. I tell people, add both as friends. But if you go to myspace.com/awesomedrehcc, you can already purchase “Hard Core,” the first twelve-inch, both albums, some new unreleased music… There’s some other songs I’m holding back for the CD, but there’s enough shit on there I’m pretty sure you ain’t heard yet, new and old.

Shout out to all the fans who’ve been following me from day one, and all my new fans. Know that your boy is not giving it up. We got some stuff coming out. In fact, my cousin Doe Dubbla just debuted a double CD; his album is banging. Shout out to Rob Worth, and also look out for a new Awesome Dre project on Worth It Records. Shout out to all my people, my family, Baby Awesome. Free Babatunde! I appreciate the support, for sure. We do it for y’all.

2 comments:

  1. Wow....I'm in awe and I haven't even read the interview yet. Dude has always been one of my favorites and on the short list of cats I'd like to interview. Just seeing the sheer size of this interview, I can tell it's going to be a goodie. I was happy to see him on that Finale release, even though it was in a limited manner.

    Nice one Werner, real nice!

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  2. Great interview, real informative!!!





    STaY BLeSS`n...

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