It's been awhile since progressive rapper Rob Dz was energizing local clubs with his big, contemporary R&B-friendly band The Rob Dz Experience. Dz -- a.k.a. Rob Franklin -- spent some time in Chicago working on a variety of projects, then moved back to Madison, where more studio work awaited.
These days, his positive-minded tracks are garnering notice outside the Midwest, with one slated for a new film by Spike Lee. Dz admits that his current New York-based management are urging him to make a move to the East Coast, in order to be closer to the big-time hip-hop industry. But if that happens, he hopes to keep a close connection to his Midwest roots. As he puts it, "I'm a Midwest boy at heart."
As for Dz's appearance at Freakfest, it should help hip-hop fans get tuned in to a rapper who's more than ready to take the next step. But don't take my word for it. In the interview that follows, Dz is happy to talk where he's been and where he's going.
The Daily Page: First of all, what will you be doing? Is some version of the Experience going to be there or are you working with a DJ? If so, who is it and what's the focus of the music?
Um, it's actually not "The Experience," but it's definitely "experience ish". I'm working with the kats from Rock Stone High Power, who back up Supa Ranks. That's Fred Mosley on guitar, Mike Pollay on bass and Peter Johnston on drums. We also threw my man Stevie "Trues" -- the former guitarist from Natty Nation -- into the mix, so it's all on the next level now. The focus of this particular set is to just come with some high energy tracks to get people moving, ya dig! It's Halloween and Homecoming, so people want to kick it, and we are gonna do our part to make sure they can do that.
What are you working on these days in terms of music?
Well, of course, there's the new album in the works. I've got about 90 tracks now, most of those were drum machine beats. I'm working with DLO, Ginx the producer, DJ Pain 1 of El Guante fame, The Ricanstructa from Lucha Libre, Jimmy Spliffs as well as me producing a couple of tracks along with Marc Whitcomb over at DNA Studios. I'm really excited because we're about to do maybe 10 more tracks now that are just totally out there and mixing live instrumentation with drum machine production and samples. Some punk, some drum and bass, heavy metal....
I'm also on the soundtrack for Spike Lee's new movie. The movie's called You're Nobody Till Somebody Kills You and should be out in the early spring of next year. I've got a slot on the soundtrack, and they threw a couple ideas about material that they wanted, so I'm trying to bang that stuff out, too!
I'm also working on a really experimental gospel/hip hop fusion album with DLO called The Sermon. It's not what people are going to expect when they think of gospel, so it's really funky.
I know you've tried to put out a positive message in your work, but you also work a party vibe for people who want to dance and have a good time. How do you manage to balance those two approaches in your work?
I bring a Bible and a bottle of Jameson to the studio! Nah, just kidding. I don't know, it just kinda comes out that way. As a hip hop artist I take the responsibility to offer people something different. Everything nowadays is so negative that I make it a point to offer positive stuff and still have it be something that's cool. There's no formula to making it balance out, it's just what I do!
Do you have any new projects coming up?
Well, I'm working on a promotional disc that deals with different social injustices and issues. It's called The Listen Project, and I address things like the need for universal heath care, education reform, global warming, domestic abuse, and entrepreneurialism in urban communities. I want to get the Governor's office on board for that, but haven't had much luck though. I mean these are issues that affect all of us, and nobody seems to really understand, so I figured I'd put it in musical form and see if people start getting the message and try to start working together.
I've also finished writing my first children's book and trying to get the illustration end of that square away.
And we're squaring away a lot of designs for our new upscale urban clothing that's droppin' in stores by summer of '08. The line is called KAMP WISCO, fashion-ware for the modern metrosexual.
More info about upcoming shows and music by Rob Dz can be found on his MySpace page.