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Written by TuneCore’s Karina Alvarez

This week we’re catching up with Andres “Dres” Titus of Black Sheep, who with Jarobi White of A Tribe Called Quest, forms the duo “evitaN.”  Check out the interview in which Dres talks about the duo’s collaboration process, how the Native Tongue movement plays a big role in their work, and more.

Without using ‘conventional’ genre words, describe your sound.
I’m of the notion that great music knows no genre. That being said, I feel our sound incorporates the essence of the Golden Era of hip hop—beat driven, progressive, melodic, soulful, insightful music—gapping the bridge for those who might not even be into hip hop, but just into great music.

How did your duo come to be?
I had been on Jarobi for about a year to record an EP for my label Pool Of Genius. I felt in my gut he had to be dope/exceptional, having been a member of A Tribe Called Quest, and performing with them for over 20 years.  He is very intelligent and I thought he had something to say. He finally agreed to do it, after some coaxing, and we decided to do the first song together—”Keep Keepin On.”  It blew us away how well it came out, so we decided to do another.  20 plus songs later, his EP turned into our album.

Your music is rooted in the Native Tongue movement. Can you tell us about the movement and how it has influenced your music?
Our Native Tongue affiliation is something that we are both very proud of. It speaks to what could/should be: unity of the community, self empowerment, education in life and class, hard work and structure.  I look at it as a microcosm of what should be happening in society. I only hope that we realize it to its fullest potential, even now, as to show that everything is possible and that it’s never too late to make a difference, or make something beautiful.

Evitan Hot Damn

You collaborate with many artists on your album Speed of Life, like Rah Digga and Craig G.  How do you decide who to collaborate with?
Well, true to the label name, we looked for artists that we respect and felt would be included in this pool we deem to be “genius.” Each guest on the album, whether new or seasoned, I think falls into this category. We had relationships with most already—some such as Boogieman Dela from Philly and some of the producers were sought because of the genius we recognized and wanted to be affiliated with, as well as share our little bit of genius with.

What’s your collaborative process like? Do you usually write the music or does the featured artist contribute to the writing as well?
We were very open to “what could be” making this album.  We shared plenty of ideas in the structuring of our album—guests were always welcome to add their input, some did more than others. As far as verses go, any voice you hear on the album, that artist wrote that. I did most of the hooks but we definitely collaborated on a few as well, much like how the Natives made the records that we’re known for this very day.  Jarobi and I were in the studio TOGETHER  for each song. Nothing was mailed and sent back—just as we did it in earlier days.  I think the cohesive album reflects that energy.

What kind of marketing/promotion did you do leading up to and following the release of your album?
We definitely did and continue to hit up the hip hop sites and blogs. We also go hard on social media (@dresblacksheep and @Jarobione on twitter) as well, being afforded the opportunity to work with some great people who help us with PR such as God-is Rivera and Theresa O’Neal. We’re open to ideas outside the box in our venture to make the world aware of this groundbreaking project.

What are your goals as an artist, and how are you working toward those goals?
I think the goal is to reach as many people as we can with quality, life effecting, positive, fun music.  It’s more than a passion to make dope music—definitely not born of the desire for money or accolades. There’s no dollar amount to be put on the feeling making dope music brings.

Have you signed a publishing admin deal?
We haven’t signed a pub admin deal as of yet and are slowly and organically looking for the right opportunities with which to align our music/brand—things that will help us make a difference, and yes, make a dollar or two.

What are your thoughts on streaming? Do you distribute to streaming sites or do you feel artists aren’t fairly compensated for streams?
Well, in a time where people can get your stuff for free if they really want it, we’ve embraced the idea that the important thing is that people hear the music and want to support the movement.  We’re grateful for the sales we receive, but also understand that the formula is quite different in these days, and that more than that hard sale, we want your respect and support via shows/merch and other outlets. We hope the music acts as a catalyst toward this.

Why is it important to you to be an independent artist?
It is very important, in my opinion, for artists that have broken the initial layers of being an artist to at least try the independent route.  It’s very enlightening, rewarding, and affords artists the dexterity that a major label just isn’t situated for.  It gives the artist the opportunity to be a better businessman/woman which in turn adds depth to the music, an understanding, and a freedom. I advise all to at least try it.

What can we look forward to next?
DOPE MUSIC.  Pool Of Genius will be releasing an EP of a different artist monthly, starting in the new year, as well as more music from evitaN, Black Sheep, and Jarobi. Now that you’ve heard his [Jarobi] ability, I look forward to not only our doing more music, but him doing some things on his own as well. It’s a beautiful thing!

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