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An occasional feature in which esteemed D.C. rapper Head-Roc shares what’s on his mind.
As you very well know and understand by now, I feel it’s not just my work but my responsibility to make sure that the cats who breathed life into this D.C. music scene —-the indigenous folks aka Chocolate City’s finest—-don’t get left behind as the dividends come in from the investment of our grind.
Continuing my efforts, I am developing what I think I’ll call the Indigenous Interview Series, or InI Series, for short. The goal is to shine light on native D.C.-area Artists who have without a doubt have made significant contributions to the area’s music culture, but have been shamelessly and grossly under-reported on by our community’s entertainment tastemakers and gatekeepers.
This week’s feature is my man THE Dubber. He has a show Saturday night at RAS Hall and Lounge at 4809 Georgia Ave. NW.
My Brother, tell the world a little something about yourself…
First and foremost give thanks for considering me for the interview. Well, I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and I grew up loving music. I’ve always been open to listening to all genres. This musical journey continued throughout my life in the pursuit of me becoming a musician, leading me through other regions of the country and allowed me to tap into many types of music. First there was soul, funk and D.C.’s own go-go. They all have that earthy percussive feel and sound. This is the foundation of my style.
Once leaving D.C. for college in North Carolina (Livingstone College), I became more experimental with music, joining the reggae band Truth and Rights as well as putting together a progressive rock band, Frija?. Being in these bands was helpful in the development of my songwriting and musicianship. With some band experience under my belt, fellow bandmate Pepe Johnson and I felt ready to pursue our musical career by relocating to L.A. Once in LA, we moved forward with Frija? by stepping into the Hardcore/Punk scene. We forged our sound with Rock, Reggae, Funk, Jazz, Hip-Hop, you name it. I was the chief songwriter /bandleader and with success from 89-92, we acquired major record label interest. It was then, that I realized we were on to something with our sounds. Unfortunately, Frija? came to a sudden end do to the untimely death of our lead singer DuShun Franklin. So, Greg Jamison (drums), Pepe, and I decided to disband.
After a short hiatus, Pepe and I soldiered on to create Backlash. Backlash was strictly a hardcore band fueled by the angst and disappointment with the outcome of Frija?. We kept the four-piece format and added drummer Terrence (Ras Gooch) Grimm and Shaun (Wolf) Woods on lead vocals. The band received a little success, but quickly spun out of control due to the anger that fueled its creation. Leading to yet another hiatus before stepping into the futuristic dub reggae sounds of The Dubbers of King Selassie I. Consisting of two dub poetics (Brotha Rack and Lord King David), Brotha Regis Bell on vocals with Ras Gooch, Pepe, and myself (Brother Breath) as the rhythm section. This band was birthed out of The First Church of Rasta in South Central L.A. Guided by the spiritual teachings of high priest King Oji and directed by HIM King Selassie I JAH Rastafari. The band recorded our first and only album, The Sufferers Party, in 1996. In 1997 we relocated to D.C. where we performed at local clubs Bukom, The Kaffa House, and our home base spot Niela’s.
As an indigenous D.C. musician with an obviously heavy D.C. go-go/funk developmental history, please share your perspective on what’s happened in our scene over the last 20 years or so, and how that may have affected your own music efforts.
Well, like most inner-city D.C. youth back in the ’80s, I was at the go- go. That was it. The Howard, the Coliseum, the Bex [Ibex], that was the scene. When returning to D.C. in ’97, things had changed. Just like hip-hop, go-go had changed with the winds of time. Gone was the party vibe of “Take me out to the go-go”, “Do you want to have some fun,” and “Doing the Butt.” The current scene focused more on the hardcore street life. On the other side, you had the U Street and Adams Morgan scene that seemed to be run by the “artsy” Duke Ellington crowd or outsiders. Either way, The Dubbers were a fish out of water. The “gatekeepers” loved us. However, they wouldn’t allow us in. This shit was just too real. As a band we came to realize that it was too real for us as well, and thus disbanded six rough and tough months later. I loved The Dubbers, because it had a divine universal sound that all who heard it felt. And most who heard it, feared it. But it was definitely felt and sent shockwaves throughout the city. Knowing this, it had to continue, which brings me to introduce you to THE Dubber—-that’s capital T- H-E. THE Dubber. The last man standing.
The cover of your new project Global Warning is strikingly powerful, my brother. Please, tell me more about the concept, as well as some of the folks you worked with to make it happen.
I remember back in 2005, doing the photo shoot for the cover. When I came out the dressing room, one of the models and the photographer RaRah Stevenson, of Ra Rah Photo, was like, “Oh my God”…this is what the world needs to see. Are you saying what we think you’re saying. My responses was: “The time has come.”
The Global Warning concept comes from the most ignored voice in America: the everyday around-the-way good brotha, the homie not making that long street paper or the big corporate dollar, the homeboy still in the thick of it—-without street cred, or that good government job. The cat that’s tired of being tired, but still ain’t tired. The one it seems for some, his opinion doesn’t really matter any longer when it comes to world affairs. But as you see him continue to hold it down, you can see his true power. He knows who he is and his place in this world. He carries that “I’m on a mission from God, change [has] come, and I made it happen” attitude. The cover is a reflection of this. It’s the new movement in the culture. It’s time to fight the good fight. Even with all odds against him—-[he’s] the homie, the good brotha.
In my travels, through conversations with people of all walks of life, this is how he’s really viewed. They root for him. “The whole world is waiting on us…” (A line from the “Late Night Ride”.) For example, by sharing the cover with L.A. producer/musician JMD (Darryl Moore), producer of the groundbreaking hip-hop album Innercity Griots from the Freestyle Fellowship and engineer on Erykah Badu’s Amerikkka record. He jumped on board with the project, after seeing the photo and also brought in Motown’s legendary producer/engineer Reggie Dozier. This was the power of the photograph and the power needed to bring this project to life. It was a blessing to work with such heavyweights.
I flew out to L.A. in the fall of 2009. There, JMD and I started to co-produce the project. We worked together on the foundation, the beats. I did the rest of the instrumentation, mostly guitar, bass, with a few keys thrown in. Once we had the basic tracks, we took a break and I returned in the winter 2010 to lay vocals. Along with give a few guest appearances by RAS Spartacus, Da Poetical Lyricists, and Solomon Kemp. JMD finished mixing a few months later, and man… “He did is thing.” The recording sounded incredible! Not only was he able to keep me focused in the studio, but also I discovered the real magic was in the mix. And just when I thought it was done, in comes Sir Reggie to master the mix. I was blown away! The finished product sounded better than I ever could have imagined. My best work to date, to hold the finished product in my hand, starting with that visual; I knew I was on the right path.
You have a video out for your single “With a Feeling.” I really enjoy the pace and feeling that it generates. I don’t recognize any of the scenery. Where was it shot?
The video was shot in Columbia, S.C., where I currently reside. It shows some of my favorite places and artwork throughout the city.
How has the experience been, being a D.C. artist, pushing culture music in the good ole South, my brother?
For the most part it has been great. South Carolina has shown me lots of love. At concerts, with the press, and especially the art community, But it has had its challenges for sure. It took a minute for the South to come around to my message of universal love. Coming from D.C., It hit pretty hard. But if the Dirty South can handle it, maybe the world is ready. Maybe.
OK my Brother, so what’s next for THE Dubber?
Well, I just got in from South by Southwest and I’m finishing up the remaining dates for the spring. I’ll be performing Saturday April 2 at RAS Restaurant & Lounge. Abena Disroe the High Priestess of Poetry will host the show, with additional performances by Jamela Bullock, Sun-Dried Vibes, King Amin and Saraph Sunman. The show starts at 7 p.m. $10.
There’s also a European tour in the works. I have a few opportunities abroad and I’m ready to make the best of them. In short… it’s time to go Global!!!