Everyone once in a while you meet an individual that embodies the word artist, Drue Davis is one of those rare individuals. Not only does he embody it, he does it without losing the integrity of his art while creating it. Although there may be some differences stylistically and sonically from the current music compared with the past, you can 100% count on that the music will be soulful. Check out the Q&A we did with the Brooklyn native, make sure to check out his music and if you ever have the opportunity to see Drue Davis perform live, make sure you go see, hear and feel the live experience.
Before releasing your first solo project, Magic Man & The Beat Machine you were primarily known for being an emcee with an incredible voice. How has the transition been into primarily being known as a singer who can spit?
I don’t really think about that much. Being an MC has played a large part in my songwriting approach. Having landed in the Source Unsigned Hype and opening shows for some of my favorites, it’s obvious that emceeing has always been something I take pride in. When I started to do a bit more singing, some producers would attempt to send tracks or ideas but I knew I just needed to take my own approach to this. At this point, I’m just glad to be able to both sing and spit while producing as well.
How did your peers in the New York Hip Hop community embrace your transition into the new sound?
They saw it coming…lol. The “yo, your bars are crazy but you should sing more…”, lol, and all that talk. I just had to find the confidence to do it. Truthfully, I feel sonically it’s a continuation of what I was doing before, just without sampling. Rugged Soul, as I call it, is that “gumbo” of good music I grew up listening to. It’s more of a natural evolution than a drastic change.
What inspires you? What is your creative process of transferring that inspiration into sound?
Brooklyn, traveling, childhood memories and hearing good music from past eras. Also, watching other producers and musicians go create, from synths to string symphonies. Creatively, it varies. I go with what I’m feeling. Something I saw or thought about might put me in a grittier state of mind, so, I’ll start finding sounds or humming something and come up with a riff. Lately, it’s been more about vibing with the concept, lyrics and melody before even touching the keys or drum machine.
Did you mostly use the MPC 2000XL on the project? Are you going to take the same approach on the next project or will there more live instrumentation ?
Yeah, pretty much all the songs on this project were done with my MPC and keyboard. This project will be more of a blend of programming and live musicianship. When, I did Magic Man and the Beat Machine, I wasn’t around many players. I wasn’t performing with a live band and hardly singing full live sets. So much has changed, lol.
What inspired the transition? How did Magic Man & The Beat Machine come about?
Honestly, I felt I wanted to stretch my creativity. Though I always got a chance to be as creative as I wanted to with my Hip Hop group, I felt there was a journey I needed to take on my own. While working on my last Rap album, Rugged Soul, I started to find an attachment to the records I was digging through. I found myself listening to more of that stuff outside of making beats and feeling inspired to create more.
Being from New York City, which is home to some of the most talented musicians in the world. What separates you from your peers and is unique about your sound?
There is a unique blend of both the past and present in my music. You can clearly tell I’m an emcee when on stage and how my show comes across even when i’m singing. There are many that rap and sing nowadays but there is a true respect for both crafts that I’ve been told comes across when people hear and see me. Not someone just attempting to do one or the other. That genuine respect and craftsmanship always resonates with my audience.
About 5 years ago you featured on Postmodern Jukebox’s “A Motown Tribute to Nickelback”, how was that opportunity presented and what was touring like with Postmodern Jukebox ?
It opened a lot of doors and landed me a lot of opportunities. I didn’t want to do it at first but at that time I was trying to be a bit more open and was trying to get out and sing more. That video led to me touring around the country, Canada and Europe. It can be hectic touring with a huge group but we make it work. Some of them are now my extended family and are in my band, so, it’s a blessing.
Did you have a specific regimen to keep your vocal chords healthy while you are on tour?
For me, singing requires more discipline. Watching what I eat, drink and the level at which I speak in certain environments have become part of my life. Staying hydrated is important. Warming up with vocal exercises before and even after performances. I see an ENT (ears, nose and throat) doctor once in awhile due to allergies. I even see a vocal coach to stay in good vocal practice. It really is an instrument and you have to practice (warm up) and take care of it. Years ago, I wasn’t thinking about half of this stuff, lol.
What mantra would you say best represents you as an artist ?
Create what feels good to your soul and spirit. Some don’t like the state of music today and fight to sound like others or against others. Just make what you enjoy is how I see it.
What does your music say about you? If you were objectively listening to your music do you think you would be able to receive the message you as the artist is sending?
That I truly love people for their differences, resilience and flaws. Much of my music is about realizing the strength one possesses even if they haven’t quite figured it out yet. A lot of us are there or have been there in different stages of our lives. It’s a universal message of love, including self love and understanding, that binds us all. Not to mention, it’s backed by a soundtrack that’s funky as fuck..lol. The music certainly helps to bolster that message.
Being from Brooklyn, how do you feel about the gentrification, real-estate development, and zoning changes in the borough? Can you share some pro’s and con’s ?
It’s here..lol. It’s actually happening in cities all across this country. In my eyes, the restaurant options, police patrolled streets and high priced coffee will never take the place of true community. The restaurant options sure doesn’t make dining any cheaper..lol. When I grew up here the neighbors looked after you. The shop owners knew how you were doing in school and sometimes hooked you up. I keep hearing neighborhoods are safer but what “neighbor” hood? Unless you’re in the same social circles (gym, job, education, etc.) people will barely say hello (at least in my neighborhood). When I run into people who couldn’t afford to stay in this neighborhood and they find out I still do, I hear the same words “Hold on” or “don’t let them push you out”. What’s good about that? It’s sad
Do you think the changes have reflected the sound of the music that is being created today from the artists in Brooklyn?
Yes, I feel there’s a grit that sometimes is missing. I feel that grit comes from artists/singers that have lived through the tougher times. It’s a more cleaner, open sound now but I think that it’s happening across the country and sonically things sound more similar. Not to mention the internet allows for these exchange of ideas to happen quicker and easier. I’ve been told this project has a touch of and reminds people of old New York City in it. I can’t help it, I am a Native Son.
If you were born in a different decade, which decade would it be ? What would your name be, where would you live and what would be your ideal profession?
Older musicians always tell me I should have been around in the 70’s, lol. Something tells me I’d still be in New York. I have know idea what my name would be but i’d have the illest afro. I’d probably manage a club or restaurant.
Do you ever think you will release another Hip Hop project?
What I do is still Hip Hop. As far as a rap album, who knows? If I’m in the zone, it can go down. I’m just blessed to be in a place to utilize different aspects of my creativity.
Can you tell us an artist people might be surprised you would want to collaborate with and the reason being?
Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. He is such a gifted artist and has also produced some incredible albums/ artists. He’d probably challenge me to work outside of my comfort zone. Another artist i’d like to work with would be Raphael Saadiq. I feel there’s a musical connection and we’d create something timeless with an unexpected twist.
Do you have a title for the new project, release date, any features and what platforms will it be offered on?
Not yet. I am just working on the songs.
Did you work with any other song writers for the upcoming project?
Not songwriters but musicians for sure.
Is there anything you will do different for the release of the upcoming project? What are some different ways you plan on getting the music out to the people ?
I’m still deciding on things but there will definitely be more visuals. Overall, I just want to make sure I give them me, 100 percent Rugged Soul.