Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mic Check with A-Drego : Dee-1 Cooks Soul

Let’s play a word game. I’m going to say something then you respond with the first thing that comes to mind. See if we’re on the same page.  New Orleans, Louisiana .
I know the possibilities are perplexing but what’s the first thing that came to mind? Did Katrina and the broken levees pop in your brain? If so it's not what I'm thinking. That’s just a depressing topic plus kinda played. Try again. Did The Big Easy cross your mind? Okay now we are getting closer to what I have imagined but what exactly about the Big Easy comes to your mind...  Mardi Gras huh. Yeah Mardi Gras…  Over the top parades, avant gard larger than life floats, Canal St. , and of course good girls gone wild, but most importantly music and food, most important because Mardi Gras is just a temporary celebration.  If you were to make a reduction of Mardi Gras you would only be left with the city’s cultural essence. Its essence is what makes this unique place stand out amongst our great nation’s cities. New Orleans' essence is its ability to constantly influence the American music industry along with the ability to blend worldly flavors and offer up some of the most delicious cuisine. Now for step two.

For the full article and interview shoot the J.

I’ll start with the ladder of the two essences for step two of our game, New Orleans food .  When I say N.O.L.A cuisine you say GUMBO.... N.O.L.A CUISINE!.. GUMBO.  Awwwwwwe yeah gumbo yall. A big mix of everything delicious you’ve ever thought of, created in a big pot of love. Gumbo even makes the slimy and strangely textured Okra seem a bit addictive. For the underprivileged few that have never had the pleasure of trying Okra it is truly the staple ingredient in gumbo. It’s a slimy, seedy and hairy "soul food" vegetable. In most other applications (other than gumbo) Okra is actually kinda gross but in gumbo its absolutely delicious.

So now step three of our game. What comes to mind when I say N.O.L.A music? What’s that? Jazz? Delta Blues? Sure, A perfectly viable response.  Afro-Cuban beats intertwined with European American styles is all a part of the Big Easy’s music culture, but this is a hip hop blog. Dixie land Jazz doesn’t exactly fit. So try again... N.O.L.A music. The next thing that comes to mind is No Limit and Cash Money records right? Yes, they are both true veterans and pioneers in the game. At some point both record labels had tracks that were part of all of our playlists, but these labels don’t exactly fit the D&M format. One day the person who I'm thinking of will be a house hold name and will be an automatic response. For now I'll help you with this ONE. I’m thinking of a more recent artist. I’m thinking of New Orleans’ latest offering to the hip hop game:  Dee-1.  

 "I'm gaining new fans everyday….. But compared to where I want to be, I still have a long way to go, so it's easy to stay humble." ~ Dee-1

Take a look to where our word game has brought us; Dee-1 and gumbo. I know this combination can be a bit confusing, but if you look at it the right way it really makes a whole lot of sense.You see, Dee-1 is as Creole as the French Quarter and Cayenne pepper. But he simply isn’t just a straight forward every day rapper out the N.O. From listening to his music and watching his videos you can tell he’s a mixture of hip hop flavors over a mix of Creole bounce beats just as Gumbo is a mixture of worldly flavors over a
backdrop of Cajun spices.


Let’s talk about the exact ingredients in the gumbo that is Dee-1’s music. First and foremost is his Louisiana  accent . Like Okra and Cayenne in gumbo the New Orleans (Baton Rouge) accent is the main ingredient in any Cajun rapper. The smooth drawl with a pinch of French Creole is what separates New Orleans from the rest of the south. If 36 Mafia had sang “Back that Ass Up” it would have sounded more like the staccato anthem “Knock The Black Off Yo Ass.” That’s why, like Gumbo without Okra, Cajun Hip hop without the Creole accent just isn’t New Orleans.

 "Come by my grandmaw and she'll make the best gumbo you ever had." ~Dee-1

The next ingredient in this musical creation pertains to the beats that Dee-1 chooses. The production on his mixtapes is a mixture of classic flavors from all over the map with an emphasis on heavy bass and southern drum beats that pack more energy than a second line.  Stir in the keys and some horns and you have a perfect Roux for Dee 1 drop his lyrics too.


This brings us to our next ingredient; the lyrics Dee-1 writes.  Like gumbo with no rice, the track with no lyrics wouldn’t be as palatable. Dee’s writing is the ingredient that makes his “gumbo” unique from the rest of his New Orleans peers and from the world no less. Dee-1’s lyrics are carefully chosen words that create a cleverly positive message. Dee cooks his message using a calculated combination of metaphors entendres and punch lines that go down very easily. The messages Dee blesses us with are humble, motivating and uplifting. His music gives us hope for a better Newer Orleans. Last decade we would have called him a “conscious” rapper. This decade we say he’s “awake”. His message (like our message here at Donuts and Milk) looks out for the little guys in the game. It’s a message he not only wants us as listeners and “heads” to hear but it’s also a message he wants his fellow hip hop peers and child hood idols to hear.

" ...I feel that the industry puts the "Conscious" label on people to separate them from the rest. Let the fans decide. Don't box people in..." ~ Dee-1

We recently got blessed with the opportunity to catch up with Dee-1.  Peep what this rising star had to say: 

Peace Dee-1. There has been some major buzz around you lately. Are you still just hoping they hear you or do you feel like you’re getting closer to the exposure you want?

I'm close. I'm on MTV, I just finished my first nationwide tour, and I'm gaining new fans everyday….. But compared to where I want to be, I still have a long way to go, so it's easy to stay humble. My fans are the main reason I'm so confident, because they spread my music and message to people I still haven't reached and they're down with me 100%. Shoutout to all the One Man Armies and One Woman Armies rocking with me out there. Salute.

How did the mentoring session go with Russell Simmons? Could you share some of what you learned with us?

It still hasn't happened yet, but I spoke with Russell's people last week and we are scheduling it at the end of June so I'll keep you posted. Dee-1 + Russell Simmons = Sky is the limit…. So stay tuned.

In you’re single “Jay, 50, Weezy” you give some constructive criticism to three the biggest monsters in the game. Have you gotten any feedback from any of them?

No. I'm pretty sure they have all heard it though. That's interesting. I look forward to really having that conversation with them one day though. 

You often refer to yourself as a “One Man Army.” Your first full length album was called David and Goliath, and you also mention: “…You got to fight the real enemy and help them fall."
Who is the real enemy?  

The enemy is anyone who supports the glorification of ignorance.

If you could write a track praising three rappers (dead or alive) who would it be? What would you say?

Tupac, Nas, and Mac (from No Limit Records).

I would tell them how much I connected with their perspective on life and on the industry. Those three rappers (DMX being the 4th) have inspired me the most. 

It seems people have a hard time classifying you in any specific sub-genre. How do you feel about the label; “Conscious rapper” and the comparisons to Common, Lupe or Talib?

I respect and look up to all of those brothers, but I feel that the industry puts the "Conscious" label on people to separate them from the rest. Let the fans decide. Don't box people in, because once some people hear that you're a "Conscious" or a "Gangsta" rapper, they automatically won't listen without even giving the artist a chance. Lupe, Common, and Talib are dope artists, period. As for me, I don't have a sub genre. I am who I am. One of one. 


You have a degree from LSU and have been a teacher. What was more nerve racking, the first time you stood in front of a classroom or the first time you rapped on a stage? 

The first time I stood on stage I was so nervous that I brought 20 of my boys up there with me. The first time I stood in front of a classroom, it was just me. No comparison. lol.

What is it you miss most about teaching in the classroom? What is it that you miss the least?
I miss being able to see my students' growth throughout the year as they learned their schoolwork and matured as young men and young women. I would talk to them about non-school issues very often because I took an interest in much more than their grades. There are a lot of A+ students with horrible personal lives, and I just wanted them to have that balance.

The thing I miss the least is grading papers. I used to hate that. (It's funny that as I'm typing this interview one of my former students, Rashad, just texted me.)

Although not on the same level as Katrina the flood in Memphis is a natural disaster on a large scale. Do you have any advice for the flood victims that may have lost their homes or loved ones?

Be patient with the recovery process. And don't question why it happened to you, just know that it's an obstacle that you can overcome. Pray. And know that we are praying for you too. I've been through it firsthand, so I know.

A common misconception about you is that because you are educated people may think you grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth. What was it like growing up for you? How did you manage to stay out of trouble? 

Really? Man, if they only knew. I probably grew up with a Wal-Mart plastic spoon in my mouth, lol. But I had loving parents and grandparents and that extra love made it to where I never felt deprived….. until I got to high school and saw what other kids had that i didn't. I stayed out of trouble because I always had that voice in my head that said "even though a lot of your friends are doing this, you know this aint right, so chill. And if you get caught, moms & pops are gonna be disappointed." My family has always held me with high esteem, so I always wanted to make them proud. 

So if im visiting NOLA where is a good place to stay? Where would I go to get some great food? Where would you recommend I catch a Bounce party at?

When you come to tha N.O, stay anywhere on Canal St near the river. That way you'll be close to everything. Also, don't walk around at night by yourself. For a great Po-Boy, go to Gene's on Elysian Fields. That's my people, they hold me down and their Po-Boys are delicious. They only take cash though. Other than that, come by my grandmaw and she'll make the best gumbo you ever had. As far as a bounce party, I don't know. Ask Big Freedia or Sissy Nobby and they should be able to tell you. They are huge on the bounce scene. Oh yea, shoutout to DJ Jubilee. He's a bounce legend and a teacher too. 

What are you bumping most in your ride at the moment? Do you listen to any other genres of music besides Hip Hop?

Right now I'm listening to Beanie Sigel, Tupac, T.I., and Lupe. Outside of hip hop, I enjoy to Neo-Soul and Old School music the most.

Are there any up and coming NOLA artists you hope people hear?

Yea, alotta people still haven't heard of this dude named Dee-1. Other than that, they should know Na'Tee, Shamarr Allen, and Rantz Davis. (That's Hip Hop, Jazz-Rock, and R&B). 

What new projects are you working on at the moment? Can we expect a Dee-1 tour in 2011?

I just came off the "Grind N Hustle Tour" with Young Dro, Killer Mike, and Pac Div. We hit 25 cities. Now I'm doing a lot of spot dates and currently looking to set up another tour…. ASAP!

Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to build. Any last words?

 Follow me @dee1music. 
Visit dee1music.com for all things related to Dee-1, including t shirts, mixtapes, tour dates, and music videos. 

Download "I HopeThey Hear Me Vol 2" mixtape. 
And shoutout to all the ONE MAN ARMIES and ONE WOMAN ARMIES who hold me down. The movement is moving, and we're focused on progress and creating a better tomorrow for ourselves.

…and the battle continues