Dré Montgomery: New rhymes and beats, with hometown ties

by Casey Dunau

Dré Montgomery had a busy freshman year. While most college students spend their first months on campus dipping their toes into the proverbial pond, Dré was jumping in headfirst and getting involved.

For him that meant school, but also student involvement and music. The rapper/producer’s first performance in Bellingham came at the Black Student Union Heritage Dinner on campus. The theme of the night was “My Black Is,” and in less than a week, Dré self-produced a beat and wrote rhymes to fit the occasion. He spoke his truth and his mind through rap: “My black is like your white and like your red and like your brown/We all coming from the same speakers but got a different sound/My black is like a peace sign with two becoming one/And my black is like a fist one nation under the sun.”

For the now sophomore from Renton, WA, the performance garnered more attention than he expected.

“Last year, after I performed at the BSU dinner, people started asking me to do shows a lot, and I tried to do them all—I did do them all,” said Dré, who goes by MC Drézy. “But now I want to work on music more than I want to perform.”

The classic artist’s dilemma of choosing between the urge to get their work out and the need to make it perfect is only deepened by Dré’s dual status as rapper and producer. He himself personifies many of the contradictions between the two roles—at once a soft-spoken, mild mannered guy, and also an electric, intense performer. Plus, there’s his music: half old school, half new with loads of underground style and splashes of mainstream influence.

“When I first started, it was strictly old school rap. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Naughty by Nature—that’s what I was mimicking,” Dré said. “Now it’s the same thing, but newer to be relevant.”

Ever the close listener, Dré doesn’t have trouble describing the subtle differences between samples, picking the old and the new apart like an exacting scientist.

“You listen to the way the kick sounds and the way the snare sounds. The newer snare is crisp, and doesn’t have much reverb. An old school snare sounds like you banged a trash can on a wall.”

Dré also hopes to hone his craft by learning more about live recording and getting singers and horn players to compliment his sampled beats. As much as he’s inspired by the likes of J. Cole, Dom Kennedy, Kendrick, and Kanye, he’s equally motivated by those he grew up with, especially Dave B, who won Sound Off and a slot at Bumbershoot by performing his bars with a live jazz band behind him.

Much of Dré’s music still has ties to his hometown of Renton. In fact, the aforementioned Dave B grew up just down the street. And yet, Dré’s first influence lived even closer than that—a fellow rapper in Dré’s own home—his dad.

“In eighth grade, me and my friends were at my house just chilling when we saw a video of my dad back in in 92 of him and my uncles freestyling in front of a camera. We thought, ‘we should do that.’”

It’s a funny story, but one that says a lot about Dré’s music. Like an awesome secret recipe, his rhymes and beats are passed down from older generations, inspired by and made for the community.

Published in the May 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine