Ed O.G. has made Boston n***as dont play a catch-phrase for Beantown streets. While Bobby Brown continues to make magazine covers in his third decade, Hip-Hop in New England has never broken through the glass ceiling of sales and recognition. However, with a changing sound in the mainstream, many believe that Dre Robinson has what the others do not.
Robinson, a dancer-turned-rapper, divided his time between Boston and Brooklyn growing up. After both of his parents died, the rapper became a guardian for his younger brother, forced to provide. In his verses, those compromises, ills, and triumphs of a pressured teenager come to life in rap. Dres stories and his presence have appealed to Kay Slay, Felli Fel, and even Mobb Deep, who hopped on Robinsons Get Right on the strength. After two years of carefully building a buzz with Mass Appeal Entertainment, Dre Robinson puts the finishing touches on the minimally titled, This is Me, locked and loaded for a 2007 release. Robinson speaks to critics of his style, as well as highlights the road less traveled towards a heavily sought after goal: fame.
AllHipHop.com: After last week with Lupes album, and The Roots, others do you think there will ever be an era where the punchline rapper from the street, as you could identify with, will lose favor with the masses?
Dre Robinson: I think so. I think we can get it back, definitely. Lyricisms definitely on the rise; Lupes definitely doing his part. I try to do the best of my ability to do my part, and try to get it back to the frontline, cause Hip-Hop is all about lyricism – and the punchlines and the wittiness and the charisma.
AllHipHop.com: Youre being billed as the next thing out of Boston. But certainly, Boston does have a rich Hip-Hop history. What reaction do you sense from the veterans? Youve got Krumbsnatcha on your Mass Jewel mixtape
Dre Robinson: I get a lot of respect. Cats is lovin what I do right now. They feel I have an opportunity to take it to that next level that they probably didnt hit or [are] still tryin to get to. They feel I have a great shot. Everybody is showin me love and showin me support. If I need something from anybody, theyre lettin me know, Reach out, and its a done deal. Thats what we need here right now, and thats what were trying to get more of. For me to get dap from the cats that have done it before I worked with Krumb before, and Im bout to work with [Ed O.G.] in a couple, so its a great look, and I really appreciate it.
AllHipHop.com: In your bio, you make a claim that you hope to have two platinum albums in five years. Not including Gang Starr, why do you think that no Boston rapper has ever been able to achieve platinum status?
Dre Robinson: I think on a big side, nobody has gave us that look or that shot. We have a lot of talent here, we just need an opportunity and a shot. I think thats all thats lacking, and cats feel like I have a great shot. Im gonna do it to the best of my ability, and give it a 150 percent, and well see how it works out.
AllHipHop.com: Youre releasing This is Me on Mass Appeal Entertainment, but is this really just the kind of situation where youre dropping this in hopes of attracting a major? Platinum dreams are hard to come by with an indie
Dre Robinson: Definitely. Those are just big dreams. Right now, Im working on an independent label: Mass Appeal.
AllHipHop.com: But is it something where youre hoping a major gets involved?
Dre Robinson: Definitely. If a major takes notice of what were doing and wants to take part and take interest, yeah, well gladly take that on. Thats the goal. Thats how you get to where youre tryin to go. We could do it on an independent label to the best of how we can do it, with our resources, but if a major puts us on, they could put that major machine behind us, why not? Thats what its all about.
AllHipHop.com: Get Right with Mobb Deep has been circulating for over a year. I know thats going on the album too. How does a rising artist out of Boston convince Mobb Deep to get down?
Dre Robinson: I got the hook-up through Gee Spin, that I work with here on JAMN 94.5 FM. Hes the Program Director up there, and also like my A&R. He got a lot of relationships with a lot of artists that come here, do shows, interviews, [and so on]. The Mobb actually came up here and did an interview with him, and came out to the studio where I work at. Gee let em hear a couple of joints. They heard [Get Right] and they was feelin it, and [asked] Gee if they could jump on it. They got on it, did they thing, and Gee called me saying, I got Mobb on a track. Im like, Yeah? Whos track? He said, Your track. Yeah right. I couldnt believe it, cause Im a Mobb fan, Im like, You serious? Cats in Boston love Mobb Deep, cats ride for Mobb Deep here. I went crazy. The [song] started pickin up buzz on the radio. The original version was doin its thing, but when the Mobb jumped on it, it just took it to another level. Felli Fel was playin it in Cali, it was gettin spins in New York on HOT97, Connecticut [too], it was gettin burn! We didnt have an album to support the record at the time, so we just got in the lab and banged out joints. That was one of the first three songs I recorded with my label.
AllHipHop.com: You pressed up vinyl of that too, right?
Dre Robinson: Yeah, we pressed up a vinyl for it and shipped it out.
AllHipHop.com: Which says a lot, because a lot of artists in your position exist entirely off the CD. It shows the kind of DJs that got behind the record when vinyl is needed.
Dre Robinson: The buzz had picked up, we had to. We sent the vinyl out for my new single Oh Yeah too.
AllHipHop.com: A skeptic might say that witticisms and punchlines are a big part of what youre doing. Youve got Be So Cold with Jae Millz and Papoose. While Pap is hot, it felt like it took a minute for him to get his deal. Jae Millz album has been pushed back for over three years. Do you feel pressure to be in your position despite the good feed youre getting?
Dre Robinson: The reason why I dont get scared is cause I know its in sole control of my label, Mass Appeal, to put it out. I know thats what they ridin for right now Dre Robinson. Im definitely not scared of that factor. What Im worried is just marketing and promoting it right, and getting it out to the people properly. Were independent. Its different on a major, cause theres a lot going on, and they look at certain things in the market, and they feel certain ways and push cats back. Im just glad that I dont have to deal with that right now. And I am gonna put out an album.
AllHipHop.com: What is the timetable like for This is Me?
Dre Robinson: Were coming out in January.
AllHipHop.com: With what kind of distribution?
Dre Robinson: Through Universal/Fontana. Weve got some reach behind it. Were goin for the hard push, thats why cats feel Ive got a great opportunity. We need that here in Boston, so cats is gonna do whatever it takes to get in that door, man.
AllHipHop.com: A big attribute of yours is storytelling. When Slick Rick and Dana Dane told stories, nobody ran out and threw the Snitch! card. Nowadays, thats a constant criticism from the streets. How do you deal with that?
Dre Robinson: I address that by making the song like a movie. You write about things youve been through, but you characterize it differently. You come up with it, its art. Thats what artists do. Im big on storytelling and Ive got stories on my album, and when you listen, youre not gonna be, Oh, Dres talking about this dude. Its a part of the craft, part of the art, and I think Hip-Hop needs it now, for real.