As we gather in what is known as the JET War Room at the Johnson Publishing headquarters, The Dream exudes an aura of chill. He’s been traveling for the past few weeks and is quite tired, like anyone with a demanding schedule would be. Dressed in all black with a Contra hat tucked to the back, he casually takes a seat right in front of the JET archives. He seems ready. Ready for the “standard interview.” Ready for the gossip questions. Ready for whatever. Ready. After a few authentic exchanges of words, we get down the why we’re here. We talk about the evolution of The Dream. As an artist, as a producer, as a man. And what fans can expect from his sixth LP, “Crown and Jewel.”
SJ: It’s been a minute. What have you been up to?
The Dream: Just doing my same ole thing. You know writing. Producing. Sangin’.
SJ: So how does it feel to be in the JET/EBONY archives?
The Dream: It feels great. Feels like a lot of people got my back right now.
SJ: I ask that question because I feel like every black person has a memory of the publications. I can’t think of a time when I visited my grandmother and it wasn’t a copy of EBONY and/or JET on her coffee table.
The Dream: Yeah. Even when the JET had like dried up Jheri Curl juice on it back in the ’80s (laughs).
SJ: From Rihanna’s “Umbrella” to Justin Beiber’s “Baby,” you’ve pretty much had a hand in shaping not just the sound of R&B, but pop during the first quarter of the millennium. How did the dream become The Dream?
The Dream: I think it started somewhere around third or fourth grade when I first got into the band. And I know that kids now aren’t introduced to instruments like back in the day. You know they’ve taken instruments out of schools. So for me, I’d have to say that the journey started somewhere in the latter part of the ’80s. You know when I was able to just grab my instrument and just have music as my friend without it being any political gain or any business interests in the music business at all.
SJ: “Music as your friend.” That kind of sounds like you have more of an adult relationship with the craft. It isn’t as innocent. How has being in the industry shaped your perspective on what appears to be a passion of yours?
The Dream: I still put music first. I don’t sell out. I don’t try to change anything that I don’t love. I don’t chase records that don’t sound like me. Being from the South, the church has a lot to do with music period. You have the chittlin’ circuit that used to be like gospel singers that went over to R&B and started singing. Whether it’s Sam Cooke, Otis Redding…it’s like a southern thing to be a part of the church when you’re young and growing up so it’s like a backdrop. I think it was around ’89 or ’90 when we started to understand that [music] was a business other than just showing up on Sundays and being part of the choir. So in the ’90s, I kinda just used what was around me. Atlanta became Motown at that point in time. We were able to kind of be more authentic about the music business per say.
SJ: What do you mean by that?
The Dream: Just to have a hand in on the culture. I mean Atlanta was overlooked. It was New York with this hip-hop thing, it was LA, it was the Midwest because of Motown. The South was just the south nobody said, “Hey I’m from Atlanta. I do music.” But now, most of the writers and all of the trends especially from a hip-hop standpoint, come from Atlanta and in the ’90s you had L.A. Reid move there and then you had TLC that came after that. You had the Dungeon Family. You had all of these things that were going on while I was a teenager that made it authentic. We had real people who went and got Grammys from that stage that was from Atlanta during a time when it was just overlooked.
Read the rest at JET.