In the lead-up to the film’s release, he sat down with HipHopDX to talk about what success means to him in hindsight, given the quick rise and fall of his debut LP with Mista Lawnge, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.
“Sometimes, success is the completion of something that you respect,” he said, looking back on the work he’s done since his early commercial wins. “It might not sell as much as something you don’t respect […] if I keep doing what I’m doing, something’s going to hit.”
The Queens MC later revisited what he feels was a lost opportunity brought on by his initial run in the music industry, with smash hits like “The Choice Is Yours” and “Flavor of the Month” affording Black Sheep a spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno — making them the first ever Hip Hop act to be featured on the late night staple.
“There’s also a power that I discovered that I had after I didn’t have it anymore,” he explained. “I was so glad to be in the room, I didn’t realize I was the focus of the room […] to do Jay Leno, especially at the time when we did it … I didn’t know I had the power to bring [progressive rap collective] the Native Tongues with me […] there’s certain things I wish I had done that would’ve moved our vessel forward.”
In the same interview, Dres shared how he came to be entrusted with J Dilla’s legacy while discussing the upcoming project made up of the storied producer’s instrumentals.
The New York spitter was formally introduced to the late beatmaker’s mother, Maureen Yancey (aka. Ma Dukes), by a mutual friend. Though he and Dilla didn’t have a close relationship, the rapper still felt the need to express his appreciation for the departed legend to his family.
He clearly left a good impression of them, because the very next month, he spotted Dukes and her husband at his show in Puerto Rico.
“Right after I finish rocking, I go right up to them and we start talking,” he explained. “Come to find out, they have a house out there, and they’re like, ‘Yo, come back to the house, Ma’s gonna cook, we got some DJs coming through.’
“We wound up breaking day, literally seeing the sun come up. It was the most amazing time in Puerto Rico … And that’s where I was offered the opportunity [to make an album from Dilla’s beats].”
He added: “One track would’ve been like, ‘Thank you!’ So to have this opportunity, I was blown away, and I took it very seriously.”
Piecing together the instrumental-packed hard drive to extend the life of “one of the illest producers ever” is a central theme of the new film. In a heartwarming scene from the deep-dive, Ma Dukes lets Dres know just how must she trusts him to keep her son’s memory alive.
“You can’t be afraid to take that step,” she encourages the Hip Hop vet, as he struggles to handle the project with care amid criticism from some of Dilla’s fans and friends.