Awesome Dre discusses the Hip Hop Gods Tour
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Awesome Dre is one of Detroit hip hop’s original pioneers, an artist who was the first from the city to receive a major record deal and break into the national scene with the 1989 Priority Records release of the album “You Can’t Hold Me Back.” His recent tour with the legendary group Public Enemy has brought him back into the national spotlight, giving the famed rapper a re-energized focus on creating new music and a deeper perspective on the legacy of his generation.
The Hip Hop Gods Tour that featured Awesome Dre was organized by Chuck D of Public Enemy, playing 14 dates in total last year, beginning in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 28 and finishing in Los Angeles on Dec. 13. The lineup featured several iconic hip hop acts, including Public Enemy, X-Clan, Monie Love, Schoolly D, Wise Intelligent, Leaders of the New School and more.
“It was just a blast,” says Awesome Dre, who is working on new material as well as an Internet radio program. “For me being in the business this long, I have to say I’ve never been involved with anything like that.”
The purpose of the tour was more than just giving fans an opportunity to hear classic songs. It also sought to educate people about hip hop culture and to expand their minds about its possibilities for growth.
Hip hop is often perceived to be only for young folks but it is really cross-generational, Dre says.
“Everyone on the bill had brand new material that we performed and was received just as good as all of the classic material,” says Awesome Dre. “So we haven’t really stopped creating. We want to bring it back to the forefront and show them instead of criticize what everybody else is or isn’t doing, and just show and prove the way that we do it.”
Every show on the tour became an important moment for Black History, Dre explains, given the conscious influence of groups like X-Clan and Public Enemy, who were recently announced to be inducted in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Fans of all ages and ethnicities attended, witnessing a hip hop party in its purest form.
“It was just nothing but mutual admiration, love and respect,” he said. “It was no egos, no battling, no competition.”
For Awesome Dre, whose life as a hip hop artist began as a dancer in Detroit with his group the Hardcore Committee, the opportunity to represent his hometown was an honor recognized by the other artists, most of whom come from the East Coast.
“Chuck was quick to point out, before Eminem, before all of these guys, this is the man who put it down for Detroit,” Dre said. “And everyone respected that and responded to that, so it gave me a big sense of pride to be out there representing Detroit on such a major tour.
“They all know that Detroit (is) the birthplace of many movements. Not just in the musical field, but especially in the music. They had mad respect. Chuck D, it was one thing that he was clear to point out every night, to recognize the predecessors, the ones who came before you. They did what they did to give you that hope, to give you that inspiration.”
Most Detroit hip hop artists are quick to point out that Awesome Dre was a major influence.
“Many people come to me and say, ‘Man, you inspired me to do it,’” he said. “At the time we were coming out, most all of hip hop was coming out of either New York or L.A. and we didn’t really get any consideration on that note.”
Awesome Dre understands that the Hip Hop Gods Tour is an opportunity to reach out to young artists to help them understand the history of the music so they can better participate in its future. Not for the sake of criticizing the youth but to let them know that it is their responsibility for learning about the music so they can be ready to pass on the history.
“Some of the youngsters, they may not know, but that’s because they didn’t study. That’s not an excuse, ‘Oh, that’s before my time.’ BB King was before my time, Muddy Waters, all of that was before my time. I know about them though. I know about John Coltrane, I was taught. I know about Mozart.
“It’s not about, ‘Oh well, I was too young when that came out.’ You claim to be a part of that music, you claim to love it, you do the research. You would know and you would learn, especially coming from your own hometown. You want to know who are your hometown heroes that set the bar for everyone else to come along.”