A sleepy Southern Connecticut train station is an odd place to conduct a press interview, but, then again, a sleepy Southern Connecticut suburb is an odd place to be a rapper. Never championed for its musical output, Wilton, Connecticut serves as an almost comically dull backdrop for the beginning stages of a long and vibrant hip hop career for 18-year-old Dre Scott.
Living outside the radius of any surrounding creative hubs, Dre has been able to concoct his own blend of New York City’s fast-paced lyrical combat, Los Angeles’s sample-heavy, trip-hop soundscapes and the faintest hint of Chicago’s neo-soul lushness. His detachment from any specific scene has allowed him to pick and choose the elements from each major hip hop epicenter that work best for his aesthetic without the intrusion of regional bias. That’s not to say Dre’s sound was created in a vacuum; the local rappers he admired growing up certainly played a major role in the development of his musicality and lyricism. When speaking of his greatest influences, he delegates equal importance to his Fairfield County contemporaries and hip hop’s heavyweights.
The musicians he works with in the tree-lined confines of Wilton are not only linked by a common goal, but also by a similar work ethic. The crew Dre rolls with prefers to spend weekend nights working diligently on projects in makeshift bedroom and basement studios rather than hitting the suburban party circuit. Each member brings a unique talent to the table, making the group a self-sufficient machine capable of producing, recording, mixing, and mastering their own output.
“I love how we don’t need to rely on other people,” Dre says of his multitalented group of collaborators.
This past June was a pivotal month for Dre not only because of his high school graduation, but also due to the release of his first formal project, The Blue EP. After several years of creating one-off hype tracks and instrumental fragments, Dre has finally crafted a cohesive body of work that truly attests to his lyrical agility and sonic versatility. The Blue EP is the passionate mission statement of an artist whose ambitions stretch far too wide to be contained in his current environment. He’ll continue his path at the University of Southern California next year, in a city where creativity is far more integrated into daily life than it is in Wilton.
I got a chance to sit down with Dre and chat about his new EP, DIY hustle and the crucial role geography plays in the current climate of hip hop.
(Photo Credit to Jackson Wehrli)
What direction is your sound moving in?
My sound is taking a major change right now. I’m becoming a better lyricist in that my songs used to be a lot of hype party tracks into which I just tried to pack as many punch lines as possible. Now, I’m really starting to try to put a lot more meaning and broad commentary into my music. Combining the two would be the ultimate goal; I would love to pair the sharp punch lines with the deep lyrical content.
What can readers who aren’t familiar with your music expect from your new EP?
It’s a story of my path in music so far and all the ups and downs. I’ve faced a lot of rejection, being a privileged kid from Connecticut, rapping; it’s an interesting story. I’m trying to combine profound storytelling with some good punch lines while always keeping it lively.
Do you see your suburban upbringing and lifestyle as an advantage or a disadvantage in pursuing a career in hip hop?
I view it as an advantage, as it gives me a different perspective from a lot of the rappers out here nowadays. However, I do think people look at that before they look at anything else about me. I’ve gotten a lot of criticism, you know, “what does this kid think he’s doing, rapping and producing?!”, but I take it with a grain of salt. I love to do what I do and if that animosity comes with the territory, then so be it.
Do you feel like Southern Connecticut has its own sound or do you think the music coming out of Fairfield County is just an outgrowth of New York City’s sound?
We’re way too small to have our own recognizable sound, but we’ve got a couple pretty solid kids on the come-up from around here. I really don’t think there are enough rappers or producers to even consider us an influential region in hip hop at all at the moment, but that’s not to say that we aren’t on our way to becoming one.
Do you think your sound would be different if you had been raised somewhere else or would your musicality be the same regardless of where you grew up?
I actually touch on that in some of the tracks on The Blue EP. I think if I were from somewhere else, I would be a completely different rapper. I was influenced by a lot of local artists when I was first starting out. I think I took a little bit from everyone around there, along with the greats, and turned into something new. Also, when I was first starting to make my own music, everyone I knew was listening to EDM, so I was always subconsciously making more electronic style rap beats. If I were from somewhere else, I wouldn’t have been exposed to the same music and I definitely think I would have a different style, but I think that’s the case for any musician; I think originality is very conditional on environment.
How were you initially inspired to become a rapper? That’s certainly not a common goal around here.
It really started from producing and then developed from there. I started making beats my eighth grade year, and then when I transferred high schools, I saw that the school I was going to had a music production class, which is how I started taking production seriously and improving my skills. As my instrumentals started to become better and better, I realized that I didn’t want to find other people to put raps on it; I wanted to do it all myself. I started to lay the verses on my beats, and the rest is history.
Do you enjoy producing for other artists?
I mostly produce for myself. I haven’t worked very closely with many artists, but I’m starting to push a lot more of my beats out. Kids on Soundcloud are grabbing them and hitting me up saying, “Hey, check it out. I used your track”, which is really amazing. I’ve always pushed my raps a lot more publicly than I did my beats.
Have you ever considered becoming a producer full-time instead of a rapper?
I’ve definitely thought about it. If that’s what I need to do to have music be the rest of my life, then I’ll absolutely take that. That being said, right now my goal is to be a rapper and be famous; that’s always been a selfish dream of mine. Being in the music business in any form would be a dream job for me, so whether it’s as a producer or a rapper or a manager or anything, I’m down to do it.
Speaking of managers, do you have any professionals on your team or is it all DIY right now?
It’s pretty grassroots right now. I’m emailing a lot of blogs myself at the moment, trying to get publicity. I am looking for a team though, so if there are any managers out there, hit me up. I’d love to talk to you. I’ll really take any help I can get.
Do you want to stay an indie rapper and have a dedicated fanbase within a small sphere or is your goal to ultimately become a commercial success?
Honestly, the goal is to reach as many people as possible; I’m not opposed to the commercial route, although I would hate to take it without having a dedicated fanbase. I think Kendrick Lamar has done a great job pushing boundaries within commercial rap, and I would love to do the same. While I am concerned about losing creative control, I’m optimistic. Hopefully I can get to that level and maintain a lot of my own personal input into my music.