Dre Robinson: Havin’ a Tea Party

Ed O.G. has made “Boston n***as don’t 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. Dre’s stories and his presence have appealed to Kay Slay, Felli Fel, and even Mobb Deep, who hopped on Robinson’s “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 Lupe’s 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. Lyricism’s definitely on the rise; Lupe’s 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: You’re 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? You’ve 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 didn’t 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, they’re lettin’ me know, “Reach out, and it’s a done deal.” That’s what we need here right now, and that’s what we’re trying to get more of. For me to get dap from the cats that have done it before… I worked with Krumb before, and I’m ‘bout to work with [Ed O.G.] in a couple, so it’s 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 that’s all that’s lacking, and cats feel like I have a great shot. I’m gonna do it to the best of my ability, and give it a 150 percent, and we’ll see how it works out.

AllHipHop.com: You’re releasing This is Me on Mass Appeal Entertainment, but is this really just the kind of situation where you’re 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, I’m working on an independent label: Mass Appeal.

AllHipHop.com: But is it something where you’re hoping a major gets involved?

Dre Robinson: Definitely. If a major takes notice of what we’re doing and wants to take part and take interest, yeah, we’ll gladly take that on. That’s the goal. That’s how you get to where you’re 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? That’s what it’s all about.

AllHipHop.com: “Get Right” with Mobb Deep has been circulating for over a year. I know that’s 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 JAM’N 94.5 FM. He’s 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.” I’m like, “Yeah? Who’s track?” He said, “Your track.” Yeah right. I couldn’t believe it, ‘cause I’m a Mobb fan, I’m 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 didn’t 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 you’re doing. You’ve 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 you’re getting?

Dre Robinson: The reason why I don’t get scared is ‘cause I know it’s in sole control of my label, Mass Appeal, to put it out. I know that’s what they ridin’ for right now – Dre Robinson. I’m definitely not scared of that factor. What I’m worried is just marketing and promoting it right, and getting it out to the people properly. We’re independent. It’s different on a major, ‘cause there’s a lot going on, and they look at certain things in the market, and they feel certain ways and push cats back. I’m just glad that I don’t 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: We’re coming out in January.

AllHipHop.com: With what kind of distribution?

Dre Robinson: Through Universal/Fontana. We’ve got some reach behind it. We’re goin’ for the hard push, that’s why cats feel I’ve 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, that’s 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 you’ve been through, but you characterize it differently. You come up with it, it’s art. That’s what artists do. I’m big on storytelling and I’ve got stories on my album, and when you listen, you’re not gonna be, “Oh, Dre’s talking about this dude.” It’s a part of the craft, part of the art, and I think Hip-Hop needs it now, for real.

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