Many may assume that Keith Robinson’s first taste of stardom came from his role as C.C. White in the Oscar winning film Dreamgirls. However, Mr. White aka Black Keith’s resume is far more extensive than that. The Kentucky-born singer-turned-actor made his way to L.A. from his hometown in Augusta, Georgia. Despite his success in landing some major TV and movie roles, he continued to pursue his initial passion: music. Now armed with two singles, “The One” and “Red Eye,” Keith Robinson sat down with us to discuss his achievements and future plans in acting and recording his debut album. AllHipHop.com: In the beginning of your entertainment career you started out as a singer, but ventured into acting. What was your original plan? Were you interested more in acting or singing? Keith Robinson: Definitely more singing. I was in a group. I met a couple of homies in college and we formed a group; me and two other guys. We were just tryin’ to get a deal. We had a deal for a little while with Motown at one point. I don’t know for like a half hour somethin’ like that. We got out of that deal and then basically we just moved out to L.A. to try to, you know, get a record out there. So definitely it was always music was my first love. AllHipHop.com: What was the name of that group? Keith: The name of the group was Bliss, and then we changed it to State Of Mind. AllHipHop.com: Having gone to the University of Georgia, it must of been hard to balance entertainment and education. What was your major in college? Were you planning to venture out into something else if music and acting didn’t work out for you? Keith: I always had the entertainment bug, and the major that sounded most closest to being in the entertainment field was marketing, so I was going to be a marketing major. I went like two years, and that’s when we kind of landed our deal and we left school. I didn’t know how you could translate [entertainment] into a college major, so marketing seemed like the likely choice. I just ended up going head first into show business once we got a little daylight. AllHipHop.com: And how did that whole thing start for you? What prompted you to move out to L.A.? Did you have an offer, or was pretty much taking a risk and venturing into the entertainment industry on your own? Keith: Nah, we got out of the deal. We was out of the deal for like a year or so. We just loaded up the car. I saved up enough money telemarketing. My homies saved up some money however they were doin’ it. We just took a gamble and rode out here, living in hotels. Finally, [we] found a place. We just kinda did it from scratch. AllHipHop.com: So you basically risked it? Keith: Yeah. Just loaded up the car and mobbed out. And before that I was comin’ on weekends, when I had free time hustlin’ around town and meeting people. Tryin’ to ship demos and get my demo heard by whoever I could. And once I felt like I knew my way around enough to move, we did it; we just made the jump. AllHipHop.com: So basically your whole move out there was to promote your singing career? Keith: Yeah, Yeah. AllHipHop.com: So how did you switch over to acting? Keith: I mean pretty much when I got out there I met a little shorty, a girl. I went to acting class with her just to see what it was like, cause that’s all about the extent I knew about acting and Hollywood. Teacher didn’t have enough students so she let me get up. She let me read with them and she thought I was good. I was like whatever. I left, and she called me back a few weeks later and said I should go read for this role which was Power Rangers, kids show, and I aint even know what it was so I was like, aight whatever. I went in and did my thing and then you know four, five auditions later they kept callin’ me back and they were liking me and I got the gig. So I was like, I’m just gonna role with it cause I was able to pay the rent and fund the demos and get some studio time with the money I was making. So it began to snowball after that, and then kinda ended up here. AllHipHop.com: Was it a lot of hard work for you when you got into the acting or did it pretty much come natural to you?
Keith: It was real natural for me. I guess because I had basically been performing for most of my life. I mean it’s a definite craft you have to work at but I think you either have it or you don’t. I had the basic knack for it. But I began to really study really hard about the technique and the do’s and don’ts, and really how to perfect it, get better at it, which I still do. But I think basic instincts, kind of already were innately there because I was already a performer at some level. AllHipHop.com: You have starred in a diverse array of roles. What was your most favorite role to play? What was the most difficult? Keith: My favorite was probably C.C. from Dreamgirls, cause he’s most like me. You know, young singer/songwriter kinda comin’ in the music business naïve and thinking that it was gonna be all good – kinda getting the firsthand look at the school of hard knocks, which was kind of a lot like my introduction to music business. And I loved this character I played called Angel. He was on this war show on Epic called Over There that I played for like a year. Which was [this] deeply spiritual guy but yet really committed you know to the task at hand. I guess the most difficult role, believe it or not, was Fat Albert when I played young Bill Cosby, because I kinda had to walk the line between being silly and not silly and playin’ an animated character. He’s a cartoon character, but he’s human, but he’s not really human. So you kinda have to walk that line that this is a cartoon character in the real world. That was a bit of a challenge for me. AllHipHop.com: That’s interesting. Now I know it must be hard to balance singing and acting. If you were to drop one thing in order to perfect the other, would you stop singing or acting? Keith: Ooh god. Which one would I stop? That’s a tough one. I hope I would never have to choose. I feel that’s like having to choose one of your kids, you know what I mean? But I don’t know. For me, if I had to stop because I started out in music – I guess I would possibly, maybe freeze on the acting for a minute to perfect the music. Because I feel like in every great song there’s an element of drama, and the only reason I even went to that acting class was to kinda perfect my stage presence and really bring drama when I’m singing a song. So I feel like I can still get my chops off, sneak ’em off inside of the music. So If I had to choose… but let’s hope that never happens. AllHipHop.com: Since you’re still pursuing your singing career. What is your favorite song that you recorded thus far? Keith: It’s probably a song called Red Eye which is out on iTunes. AllHipHop.com: That’s your second single, right? Keith: My second single, yeah. Really both of the singles are sneak peaks of the album to come. Cause everybody, right after Dreamgirls was really pressing me about where’s the album, where’s the album? You know, you kinda have to go through so much red tape it takes a long time. So I wanted to just get something in the market place, just as an hors doeuvre so to speak. So I went and dropped these two songs. As of late, I love Red Eye because I love the concept and what it’s talking about, and the beat and the whole thing is indicative of where I’m trying to go musically. AllHipHop.com: Are you working with any known producers right now? Keith: Well, I have worked with a number of known producers. I have worked from Rza to Jon B to Underdogs. My main producer is a cat named Step One who’s been around on the rap scene for a number of years. Me and him have been working together for a number of years. He’s Hip-Hop based and I’m kind of R&B/Soul based so its a good combo? It’s a one, two, punch. And that’s really how my music is: a mix of classic soul and R&B/Hip-Hop. AllHipHop.com: You mentioned you worked with Rza, which was on a track called “Thirsty” from the Blade: Trinity soundtrack. How did that come about? I know ODB was on that track too before he passed. Keith: It was kinda weird. I was in the studio with Rza and this cat named DJ Chaka who’s an engineer. And we were kinda foolin’ around. And they were workin’ on the Blade 3. They were kinda lookin’ for some type of sexy, R&B, vampire joint. And I just that whole song was a freestyle. He had like a real basic beat, and I went there with my set of like a Vincent Price type of kinda sexy. Jim Morris was kinda slurrin’ my vocals and whatever and we just wilded out and it just went down one time, and it came out kinda dope. So then we sent the track up to Seattle, we put like a 80-piece orchestra behind it. Then we sent the rest of it over to DB, and DB spit 16 and it came out real hot. So its like a piece by piece, off the dome type of song. We didn’t really have any restraints. There was no lane for it, so anything that we came up with it was what it was. AllHipHop.com: Right, that’s dope. Congratulations on being nominated for outstanding performance in Dreamgirls during the Oscars. Keith: Thank you. AllHipHop.com: You were working alongside a lot of prominent actors: Beyoncé, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover. Who was your favorite actor to work with in that movie? Keith: Probably Jamie [Foxx]. He’s so versatile and charismatic that we coulda went in so many different ways. I like to be able to be flexible in a scene just let the vibe take us where its gonna take us. And I think he works the same way. He has the same type of rhythm as I do, as far as when it comes to acting. I picked up on his work process. I enjoyed working with everybody, but if I had to choose one it would probably be Jamie. AllHipHop.com: I know you contributed your own rendition of the song “Family” for the movie. Was that your own personal choice, or was that expected from the producers of the film? Keith: Well see “Family” was basically, I didn’t write “Family”. None of us wrote any of the songs. “Family” was one of the songs from the original Broadway production in ’81 that Henry Krieger wrote. Which was basically one of the staples of the play. “Family” is one of the big songs of the play, so it was a song that was already established in the marketplace. It was a classic that they were real particular about not messing up, only enhancing. A lot of people who are already familiar with the play were already really into the song. So its kinda like, you don’t wanna mess up the Star Spangled Banner. you don’t wanna mess up “Family.” So my rendition, I tried to make it as soulful as possible but still keep it Broadway, not go too pop, too current, cause for all of us being R&B singers, we had to kinda tone down a lot of the runs and a lot of the tricks that R&B artists do. We had to really pay attention to phrasing and stuff so that it did still feel like a Broadway show, but not too Broadway. It kinda had to walk that line. AllHipHop.com: Who is your favorite actor? Who is your favorite singer? Keith: Oh, wow. That is tough, cause I love so many different artists for different reasons. Favorite singer of all time, it would probably have to be Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. Probably would be a close neck-to-neck tie. Favorite actor you know I love so many actors. I love Denzel, I love Jeff Wright, I love Morgan Freeman, I love Sean Penn, DeNiro, its kinda tough for me to have to choose. It’s like, I don’t have a favorite song. I love so many songs. But I love intense actors that can really move you. There’s a lot of people that fall into that category for me. AllHipHop.com: You’re currently working on an album Utopia. Do you have a slated date for that? Keith: Nah, I don’t have a slated date yet. We’re still kinda fooling around with this paperwork, with these labels and so forth. Its on the way, which is another reason why I wanted to put something out while I wasn’t tied down with release dates and constraints. I wanted to put something out just to hold everybody – just to give them a taste of what’s comin’ in the future. So hopefully this summer. AllHipHop.com: Do you have in mind how many albums you want to put out in your lifetime? Keith: Five, six albums would be great. I know how the game is. Realistically, when you have one successful album that’s usually two, three years from start to finish as far as marketing, promotion and singles, and that’s with a real successful record. I’d like to put out as many albums as the people would like to hear from me, and as much as I have in me.