When we first came across Dee Dray the “absolute” lyricist, it was at the Vinyl Union Mixer held at a little nightspot in Charlotte, North Carolina called Tropix Bar and Lounge, hosted by Power 98’s J Pragmatic. We were already forewarned about this man’s expressive gift early on, but to witness him in person was an indisputable verification that he is Charlottes “Best Kept Secret.” Dee Dray’s stage performance was superior to say the least at first whim. His presence was classic with an old–school vibe. However, this was just a tease because Dee Dray didn’t put on at the premier aptitude that he was capable of doing. He was more scrupulous and lenient while presenting to the spectators a much mellower form of Hip-Hop. Even on that level, we could tell that he was a vocal detonator waiting to go off. Parodies consist of spoofs, but this wasn’t a jest. Dee Dray is far from rudimentary. He is the real deal antidote for Hip-Hop. Dee Dray would be my Calcutta if I had a lucrative amount of funds. I’d bet all of my money that he is an expedient, and will go a considerable distance in the industry with his talents. He was blood raw, and indeed an unconventional rare find.
With the information that we obtained, quite naturally, we dug a little further into Dee Drays background. We learned that the multifaceted rhymester was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. He began playing instruments in church at the age of 8-years-old because of his unusual gift of rhythm and beats. Dee Dray has always loved music; however, it wasn’t until his junior year in high school that his flair for writing and liberation of hip-hop really began. He later disembarked at the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts where he majored in vocal and instrumental music (Singing and Drums). Dee Dray began learning how to play the guitar and the piano while attending the school of the arts. He was groomed for success early, and became a more somber and determined performer as well as a writer that appreciates music for the creativity aspect of what music does. He was dramatis personae in several school plays, talent shows, in addition to operas with the Buffalo Philharmonic group. He performed with musical legends such as Dave Brubeck and Kenny Rodgers.
Dee Dray is currently managed under the Tiger Eye Management group. He is the Vice President of LAH Multimedia Company, as well as an affiliate of Executive Class.
Sitting with Dee Dray during an interview at the Starbucks coffee house, he sits with a smile. “Yes ma’am.” He addresses me with respect and sincerity. You rarely see this fine quality of etiquette from the artist in today’s culture. His demeanor was quite enthralling. Dee Dray’s fitted New York Yankees ball cap was pulled down snugly over his head of hair. Although the young Johnson C. Smith Alumni resembled a B-Boy from around the way, he was extremely insightful and erudite beyond his years. His profundity was stirring. One could only sit and embrace the young intellect for what he was, a lyrical Hip-Hop genius in the making.
Can you give us details on your moniker?
Well, my artist name is my government name. I always say that my name is “Dee Dray by the way” in case people aren’t familiar with me or just in case they forgot who it was. Well, Dee is a name that I’ve been called ever since birth. Dray is short for Drayton; they just chopped it and started calling me Dray. I changed my name from “The Kid Is Real”. I wanted it to be more than government. When I changed it to The Kid Is Real, I was sitting in church one day listening to my father who was a bishop in a church. He spoke about a lot of things whether it was about religion, politics, stocks or whatever. But, this one day he was talking about the place “Israel”. He had said how it was the chosen people or the chosen place of God, but the definition or term really means that there was a struggle with God. That’s actually what it was at that time for me. It was a struggle with everything; I didn’t know what path to take. My cousins were all in the streets and my dad was in the church. I wanted to partake more with my cousins at the time. They were cool. I knew that my dad had done it before previously before becoming a minister. So, after a while, my music became way more personal and I wanted to get into the sense of actually knowing who I was to make that connection. So, it just became Dee Dray. Is Real was cool while it lasted, and that’s still my alter ego. The kid just came about because I was the youngest. My cousin was the one that started me to rapping. He was older than I was. I was only sixteen or seventeen. We came up with the name and I would just be the kid, and then “The Kid Is Real. People started breaking it down to the “Kid Is Real” because I used to battle rap here in Charlotte on Power 98. 1 out of 4 people got retired from Power 98’s freestyle Fridays.
Is Freestyle something you do now?
Being around the circle that I’m in or just the artist that I hang around, we always sit around and freestyle whether we’re sitting in the house playing video games or whatever music is on. One of my friends raps all the time and he just starts it off all of the time. We’ll go 24 hours straight. We still freestyle.
What lead you into this career as a lyricist?
I was one out of five children, the only boy. When your father is the head of a church, you’re going to get involved especially when the church is just starting out without a lot of members. The kids then become everything, the choir, the musicians, the ushers, and the deacons. It’s funny because we were talking and everyone in my family has ventured off into some field that they were in. Like my sister, she used to do the money for the church at twelve. She was good with the numbers. She now runs BB&T, the mortgage department at the Charlotte branch. Everybody always sticks with it. The music, I always played the drums. I started playing the piano by ear and I went to a middle school and high school for performing arts. I’ve always been in that field, even growing up in the church just to take you back to the initial question. You’re in so many Christmas Plays, Easter Plays, Black History Plays, Pastoral anniversary plays, and playing drums for everything else, in addition to playing the drums while singing in the choir.
Do you write all of your own music?
I write all of my own music, R&B, Gospel, any genre of music. It doesn’t matter. I just love to write.
What do you do full time? What do you do full time?
I work at several different places and the music really isn’t my full time job. That’s one thing that I try to tell a lot of people. Imagine if this music was my full-time job. Imagine where I would be and how much more would come into fruition But, since it’s not, I still have to work at other things and divide my time according to those things. This is life, bills have to get paid. I work pretty much three jobs right now that are like part-time. I work for the school system at CMS. I do BMT, Behavior Modification, and ISS. It’s pretty much like handling the kids they feel have ADHD and all of these titles that they want to label them as. I coach a basketball team. I’ve started a junior fraternity because I’m a college frat boy. So, I started a junior frat at the schools. I also work for Charlotte Mecklenburg’s Park and County Recreational Center. I started a program called “Writers Block.” That’s a forum where the kids can come and learn about different writing styles, as well as learn about different writers. The “Writers Block” is a year old, we’ll start it back up in the fall. We broke for the summer camp; we have a summer camp coming up called “Poetic Justice” and that’s going to teach them about writing styles and different people. I’m going to set them up a field trip too. Many kids have talents that we haven’t tapped into, and the kids don’t use their resources either. It’s like a lose, lose. If nobody ever takes that first step, how will we ever bridge that gap? I also have a program called “Above The Rim as well.” That’s a two component program. One is skills and drills, and this is where we teach them the fundamentals of basketball, your footwork, hand and eye coordination, as well as your triple threat positions. There’s another called “Making the Call.” These are referee calls in the CIAA official’s handbook. I figure if the kids can learn the calls then they can play the game better. That’s just two of the programs that I work with. Then we have a skate party. We have different events out there all the time.
What was the reasoning behind your latest track?
Psalms of a Sinner dropped 12/12/12. A producer named LA –Beatz did the demo, and I recorded it over that. One of my brothers out of Sacramento California played it for me, and he said, “Yo, you gonna love these beats.” When I heard them, I just let all of them play. There were nine tracks that were different, I said “I am going to write music to all these tracks in that order and I’m not going to change anything.” That’s what I did no matter what style of beat it was whether it was Hip-Hop, R&B and Soft Rock, I wrote to it. I had a couple of favorites, and each of them was a little personal. From one to nine, you can learn something about me a little more. I am more favorable to “Elevate”. The reason is that some of the words I put were personal. My grandmother had passed not too long ago, almost a year ago. The reference that I used on the track about her was one of the reasons why I liked it so much. I also liked this verse “just punching the clock in on how I’m destined to live, Right now or near future it would be selfish for me to have a kid, the world is mine but right now I don’t have it to give.” That’s how I honestly feel. I don’t have the world to give. When I do have a child, I want to make sure that my child is well off. Even working with the kids I work with, you see a lot of them coming in with terrible situations. I just want to be prepared as best I can be. You’re never going to really be prepared but if I can at least have financial situations already established and a regiment to where I know they don’t have to worry, and not start their life like most who go to college and don’t have a trust fund. Or, when you get out of college, you have more debt. I’ve been through all of that and is still going through all of that. I like the second verse as well including “Creating Hisstory”.
What other projects do you have in the works?
Individually, I have Esoteric. I have a mix tape with DJ- CROB “Finao” (Failure Is Not an Option). I have “Psalms of a Sinner”, I have some with LAH that I collaborated heavily on, “Sound Click”, “760”, “Resurrection,” and the “ATL’s Finest Producers Edition”. We have one hundred songs that’s done. They just aren’t out. My solo range, I call those projects because it’s all original music and not a mix-tape. We’re working on one right now called “Entertaining Elephants.” I know you probably heard of the saying “There’s an Elephant in the room”. My music is more Hip-Hop and not radio friendly.
What are some of the difficulties that you face as an artist?
Life’s everyday struggles, trials and tribulations. Working at job’s that you don’t necessarily want to be at, or not having enough resources to produce the music that you want to create. It is very difficult dedicating yourself completely and mastering your craft full time. Then the issues most unsigned artist have with getting interviews, compensated shows, as well as getting the radio station to support your music, and really building that cult type of following.
What are your thoughts on the Hip Hop that’s being played now?
They are more swag rap. That’s what I think. I think if I could work with the New-School rappers, it would be J-Cole, Whale, Kendrick Lamar, and Nipsy. I had the opportunity to open up for Nipsy. I would love to perform with Jay Z and Kanye. I would love to go see Ryan Leslie, just because of the background that he has. He plays instruments too; he’s a very talented dude. I love Dreams music too. I’ve been a fan since day one. I’ve followed his career ever since I got hip to him.
What does your organization offer?
We have multiple fraternities for instance, Kappa Alpha Psi Incorporated. We do a lot of Aids Walks, and Domestic Violence Walks. We have a motivational speaking- tour called “Creating His-story.” There are nine different topics that we can discuss that comprise, “Brother May I Speak.” This focuses on issues that boys face on a daily, whether it’s African American males, Latin males, or Caucasians males. We have the flip one “For My Daughters”. That’s speaking to young ladies from a grown mans point of view. We have “Dreams and Realities”, this teaches them how to goal set, and decipher dreams from reality, as well as making dreams a reality. We have a Drug Prevention program. It’s nine of them that they can choose. One could be college prep, and this would encourage kids to go to college. Once we make the decision on the selected curriculums, I can have lessons prepared, and go speak on that. We can go anywhere as long as they contract us. I feel that it’s a really good program.
Dee Dray is the uncommon artist that cultivates, informs, and elevates with his actions and not just his lyrics. He steps out of what we consider normal to engage with the youth, or simply pursuing what he loves the most… Hip-Hop.
For more information on Dee Dray as well as his upcoming tours, please contact: Tiger Eye Management Group, LLC 704.907.5993