Brothas let me just say that dream’s voice is oh so sexy. She has one of those cool, late night, sultry DJ voices flowing to the chill sounds of a summer wave crashing whisper in a Coltrane not yet frantic breeze.
But this is not about that…
dream is way more than an appetizing and objectifying sound bite. She’s a woman’s woman with a conscience of empowerment who is committed to the cause of eliminating any and every social injustice that has continued to mire those unfortunate in a quagmire of astounding misery. dream is matter of fact knowledge and peace disposition who sings to the beat of a soul enriched by those who fell down inside the gun smoke.
This sentiment has translated to a rap game blessed to have her pen as its camera. Access is yes, a good thing. Access gets the real flick, not the popular one. You know, the one that everyone gets six months too late thus prohibiting the advancement of thought.
dream is the advance copy who understands the culture she nods her head to. Eyes closed but open enough just to get the peek we seek without burning the relationship bridges that mean more to her personally than journalism.
The relationships dream has cultivated over the years have allowed us all a positive view seldom seen in any genre. Yes, in this case access is love. Love is soul and soul is dream.
She’s written a book on Jay-Z that was shelved for reasons she explains below. She also directed a feature a short narrative film shot by Arthur Jafa (Daughters of the Dust) entitled He is Ali (2002) about a schizophrenic who thinks they are Muhammad Ali.
When I called, she was wrapping up a crackbook facebook session and making plans to attend a big name private party in DC during President Obama’s Inauguration. She sounds excited and I could feel myself getting heated I wasn’t going to be in Chocolate City for a once in a lifetime event reminiscent of October 16th, 1995…
But way bigger.
dream is the preeminent Hip Hop journalist. A Black super heroine from the D whose words spell truth within the definition of revolution. In that way, she’s the flip side of my ties with the NBA (relationships). I’ve said it over and over again this is how it should be done. She writes like it has to be done.
Do you want the real story or what?
I’ve included over a hundred links because dream and I had a great conversation filled with laughter, soul and power. Some links entertain or give knowledge, but most are intended to refresh your mind inside the flow and rhythm of our chat. I suggest you read the piece and then follow the links later on. Don’t worry, the piece ain’t going anywhere.
Thank you dream.
Michael Tillery: So dream…what’s the story behind your name?
dream hampton: My father named me after the Martin Luther King speech. My hippy dippy parent. Well he wasn’t hippy, he was…Detroit.
Mizzo: You’re from the D right? I have a lot friends there.
dream: I’m from the D. I’m from the east side.
Mizzo: What’s your favorite city in America and why?
dream: (Laughs like I just asked the dumbest question ever) Um…I have a couple of ways of answering that. I mean…my favorite city is the city I’m from. Detroit…there’s no place like it. It’s the blackest city in America. I say that with all respect to D.C. and Atlanta. We don’t have a mid-town Piedmont Park neighborhood. We don’t have a Georgetown. We don’t have that pocket little White neighborhood. We are the blackest city in America. I think Gary (IN) is right up there with us, but we’re bigger. Then there’s the history of Detroit. It’s one of the first great cities. I like that Detroit is Détroit (French pronunciation) founded by a Frenchman named Cadillac. (Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac) Of course you know that’s dubious…founded after they slaughtered the Indians in the French and Indian War there. There’s just no place like it. The Nation of Islam began there. There’s still a U.N.I.A. branch in that joint–Garvey’s organization. There’s just so much progressive…and even commercial…then you look at Motown. The only thing we’ve never conquered is Hip Hop I guess–Eminem notwithstanding. I love Key West too.
Mizzo: Is that for obvious reasons?
dream: It just feels more tropical than any other place in America. (When there) I’m 80 miles from one of my favorite places in the planet in Cuba. Big ups to all my comrades on the island.
Mizzo: You seem to really care about people and it comes through your work–both directly and indirectly. Why do you write? What are your motives?
dream: I’m not one of those people who writes because I can’t not write. I know people who wake up and they journal. I call them true writers. I feel I can write enough so people can feel that way about my work. I feel blessed to think people feel like I have a talent. I’m beginning just now after so many years in the game to embrace the idea of me as a writer. I began writing as a fluke. I was the only woman in the office of The Source. I’m a self identified feminist thanks to bell hooks, Michele Wallace, Toni Cade Bambara…all these women that came before me. I had no problem writing those first articles I wrote at The Source. First I did a record review on H.W.A…
Mizzo: You? Wow.
dream: Yeah (laughs). I kinda crammed it with everything I ever learned about Black feminism into this piece. I said they looked liked extras on a porno set. Eazy E sent me a message threatening my life. It was hilarious. The second thing I ever wrote also happened to involve N.W.A. It was an editorial on the front page of The Source calling Dr. Dre a bitch for slapping Dee Barnes. He did more than slap. He kicked and harmed her badly that night. I remember a music seminar in New York and I saw Veronica Webb–who at the time was dating Spike Lee–and she said Spike read that and the review which was really one of the first real pieces I wrote in the Voice called Niggas for Life. He sent a message through V…Veronica, who is also my homegirl from Detroit, that he had my back. I remember thinking I’m a need a little more than you to have my back Spike (laughs) if it really comes down to Dr. Dre wanting to see me behind this piece. I wrote that editorial because I always feel strongly about the safety of Black girls. I feel strongly about men who would harm women, but at the same time I was incredibly conflicted about being such a fan of Dr. Dre. I was working that out through journalism. It was a time in New York..publishing…when people like Joe Levy at the Voice and Jon Shecter of The Source were willing to give me the space to do that. Looking back, I feel really grateful to them. I don’t think Jon Shecter and those guys were conflicted. They may have been like that’s messed up that he did that to Dee but it didn’t present this major dilemma in their listening pleasure and consumption. They gave the space. At the time I was still at NYU Film School. I’d just begun. I was writing and living in Brooklyn…but I’m not very prolific. If you take someone like Touré, my favorite blogger Byron Crawford or Jeannine Amber over at Essence–some of my peers, they write far more often than me. I have a couple of pieces out now maybe, but that’s the firs time that’s happened in years. The piece I have in Vibe now is my first in Vibe in like four years or something. I’ve been working on my documentary and all kinds of stuff. It doesn’t have to be writing necessarily.
Mizzo: How did you earn your respect in such a male dominated field?
dream: I look at a brotha who I really respect…this brotha from Brooklyn named Bahr who I met when he was at Morehouse. He said to me: “To know you is to respect you”. I hope that’s the way my father raised me. I hope that is Detroit, my own self love and the love I have for people…my people…for Hip Hop. I don’t know. As a Virgo, I do this annoying thing where I put my intelligence first in a room. You know where a woman with big titties will show her cleavage or a woman with a fat ass wears some super tight jeans or whatever. Well my thing is to come out of pocket with my mouth…with some smart stuff right away. Just so cats know. I’m trying to be less like that. I’m hoping in my thirties I have less to prove than I did when I was younger. I haven’t necessarily had a respect problem. People who don’t respect me are people who don’t know me. When the Internet first started and there was rampant disrespect…a bunch of Internet thugs calling you hoes. Wilin’ out on me. Those people don’t…are never going to have respect for anything…let alone me. I’ve never had that mess happen to my face. I see how people get thugged out with the anonymity, but in terms of real life, I usually don’t have a problem with respect.
Mizzo: That was a question from Jemele Hill. It’s the reason why I wanted to link the two of you because of the animus the Internet sometimes brings regarding comments on your work. Another facebook connection huh?
dream: I’ll definitely look her up. I’m overwhelmed by facebook Michael. I came on here over a year ago and saw that people can post pictures of me lookin’ all fat or high. (We crack up). I closed my account and was like this sucks! Then about four weeks ago, I got back into it. You know how it is. I find myself addicted. I find myself turning down friendship requests and feeling all guilty. I’m already up to 600 friends and I don’t really have 600 friends. I don’t want this to become myspace but…
Mizzo: For the most part, I’m a sports writer. Before I interview someone, I have a preconceived notion of who they are from their words in other interviews. Their personality then creates a rhythm for me to ask questions. Are you similar as a Hip Hop journalist or when you are around Hip Hop?
dream: Certainly. If I’m profiling someone…well it depends…if I’m profiling someone, then I’m largely informed by their music right?
Mizzo: Damn straight.
dream: I tend…I can’t believe this is true but as I sit here going through a list of the people I’ve profiled–and like I said to you earlier before the interview, it’s not like Touré with a hundred million people–I feel like I’ve freakin’ knew most of them. I didn’t know Anita Baker…and I can probably name the people I didn’t know. By the time I profiled Mary (J. Blige), because she was Puff’s artist, she had been around ever since she was background singing for Father (MC). Yeah, I profiled Mary and we went to some Italian restaurant and I drank way too much wine and I went and wrote my story. Whatever information I had about her, it was largely observational. I know that’s an advantage a lot of writers don’t have. I got into New York in 1990. I didn’t know Rakim and Dougie. Of course, I knew of them. I don’t remember having read much about them. Even as a teenager I was too sophisticated to read Right On! and Word Up!. There wasn’t a Source. There weren’t these other places to learn about the people and stuff that I was interested in. We were kind of making it up as we went along. Of course Rakim isn’t my peer. I don’t know him and if I walked into a room right now he wouldn’t know who the heck I was. I would be all nervous. In fact, I remember M-1 of Dead Prez took me back to his dressing room at the House of Blues and I didn’t want to go in the rooooom (she laughs). I was like…no I’ll stay right here! I was too nervous. But the times with my peers…like I knew Puff when he was at Uptown. All that stuff? We all kinda knew each other and it kind of grew and grew and grew. A lot of the profiles I do I end up knowing the people. I’ve written news stories on people like Winnie Mandela and of course you sit around and read their books. I’m a huge reader. Way more of a reader than I am a writer. So, I’ll read anything I can, but back in the day I can’t say I was informed by stuff I’ve read about them (those she interviews). I certainly am not a person who Googles people when I meet them. I’ve had that happen to me. I’ve had people Google me in my face! No that there are I Phones, you tell them your name and they Google you. I have literally walked away from people like that. At least have the decency to go home (laughs) and do that lame stuff you know?
Mizzo: The last thing I wanted to do was read a bunch of your stuff just for the sake of formulating questions. I like it to be a conversation…to see if you go where I lead you and what you will expound upon. When you are asked to write something, does it have to be something you are totally passionate about or do you have that innate skill to write thoroughly about anyone at anytime?
dream: I’ve been lucky to have been about to keep it to stuff I’ve been pretty passionate about. I can’t say I’ve never just written for money. When I have, I’ve regretted it. I remember one time I was in Detroit and this was when Q-Tip and Mark Ronson used to spin at Life. I needed money to get to New York for Friday. We had this little airline that went in and out of Detroit and in cost like $150 or something. I called the Voice and I was like yo, I need to do something real quick. I sound like a crack head right?
Mizzo: Imagine that (we laugh).
dream: They pay in a week.
Mizzo: That’s good to know.
dream: Yes, well Maxwell was coming out. His second album (Embrya). The music editor looked over their roster and I said I could do Maxwell. I really didn’t like it. The review was called He Wants You to Want Him. I just kinda skewered him. I remember people coming up to me and saying how much they liked it. That it was real journalism. I could understand that because there is so much soft journalism and I’ve done my share. I love Beyonce, so my profile on her in Giant Magazine was a love letter (not seriously) you know? So this Maxwell album I didn’t like and the review was way over in its vitriol. I heard how he took it and that it really messed with him. Again, this is all Brooklyn. He was a cat who was a waiter in a restaurant we all went too and lived in Brooklyn so it was not like there were a bunch of degrees that separated us. I saw him years later at Blue Ribbon at like two in the morning. He was on a date. I was there with my girlfriend and Mos Def and I sent him a note apologizing for having written that piece. He came and gave me a hug. I realized that I’m just not that hardcore journalist. At best, I’m a writer. I’m not that person out here saying I’m gonna rip you a new one and you’re gonna like it. You know? That’s not me. That stuff bothered me for years. There was another time where I was at Bond St. Sushi with Tip (Q) and Jarobi. They left me at the table and went over and sat with Maxwell for a minute. You know one of them “We may be friends with dream, but (expletive) that!” (We crack up) So I was sitting at the table all alone with my little opinions and criticisms. I don’t need to be friends with people. It’s not like me and Maxwell then went out to sushi or dinner later. It’s just…I didn’t need to do what I did. I made a rule after that. If I didn’t like or love something, I wasn’t going to write about it. Other people can do that, but that’s not what I am going to do.
Mizzo: Who do you read?
dream: Well because of what is going on in Palestine, I reread Orientalism by Edward Said–who I think is just one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century. Right before that I finished Toni Morrison’s A Mercy. Anything she writes, I just worship at her feet. She is a real writer. That book was so heavy that I ended up reading Carl Hiaasen, you know the Miami-Herald columnist and hilarious author. The best book I read last year was Paul Beatty’s Slumberland. He of course wrote White Boy Shuffle and was on the poetry scene in the 90’s. This is like his third awesome novel and it was the most amazing thing I’ve read in ten years. When I realized that Jon Shecter and Joe Levy were going to give me work as a journalist I went back and studied the masters because I’d never taken a journalism class. I read Gay Talese’s pieces on Floyd Patterson (He wrote more than 30). I read the Q&A’s Alex Haley did in Playboy. It gave me a certain permission. Zora Neale Hurston. She believes in this thing called immersion journalism (an example you might be familiar with here is Buzz Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights). So did the filmmaker Maya Deren. When Maya did a documentary about voodoo in Haiti, she became initiated into voodoo culture. It’s about going all in. Same with Zora Neale actually. So it didn’t feel wrong of me to write about something I was also a part of.
Mizzo: That’s deep…whew. I definitely have to read up on that because it’s something I summarily grasp indirectly with sports.
Changing the flow a little bit but still on the serious tip. What’s going on with Palestine? Could you please tell people why we all should be paying close attention to what’s going on over there.
dream: Well, I’ve always been politically inclined. When I was 15, I used to stand in front of a Shell gas station with a sign that said Boycott Apartheid. So I care. When I got to New York in 1990, I reconnected with a sister I’d known in Atlanta–Monifa Akinwole Bandele. We co founded the Brooklyn chapter of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. We are a racial justice and human rights organization. When I first got here, we were dealing with police brutality issues because that’s so big in New York. I can say that as a member of my organization, Palestine is a stage where one of the most important human rights struggles is being fought.
It’s being fought with rocks!
They are not a people who will not be slaves. They’ve been occupied since ’48, but they didn’t have hundreds of years to have broken their spirits or separated from their land. They do not know how to be slaves. Their resistance is your obligation. I’m not even talking about in an Islamic sense. It’s our obligation to struggle against injustice. What’s going on in Palestine is Apartheid. On one hand it’s land occupation.
Mizzo: History of course is written by the victors.
Since we are on a political vein…
I think we are going through a revolution in all forms and facets of our souls. What does this powerful moment mean to you personally in regards to President Obama’s historic inauguration?
dream: I’m caught up. I’m in New York. I wasn’t going to go to D.C. because I’m on deadline. I’m invited to Stevie Wonder’s private party so I’m being magnetized by blackness (we laugh). I didn’t plan to go. I was pregnant during the Million Man March. I know it was supposed to be for the boys, so I wasn’t supposed to be there anyway but the fervor of it all just pulled me down to D.C. It was the best time ever. I was so glad I went. This is like the hundred million man march, you know? Every Black person in America is headed to this.
Mizzo: I’ll never forget the feeling I had at the march (John Brown…if you are out there I need that picture of us. Quit holding out bruh).
As far the inauguration, I haven’t decided on going. I thought my sister and I were gonna pull a rabbit out of a hat and get down there, but I don’t think it’s happening because of both of us working. She’s a nurse who is the most dedicated person I know. She inspires me.
dream: Michael you gotta go.
Mizzo: I really wish.
dream: I say all that to say…John Edwards early on was my candidate. He was the only one talking about the poor. There is a lot of rhetoric always about the middle class but never about the poor. I think it was Martin Luther King III on Larry King. You know how they just grab every Black person they can find during election time? I didn’t have the volume up, but then I turned it up and he was talking about Obama’s obligation to the poor. I was like thank God someone is being sober about this. I don’t think an empire like this…just like a Fortune 500 company wouldn’t change its leadership every four to eight years. I don’t think you have to be a Five Percenter in the 21st century to know…like people of the Trilateral Commission…who actually runs America. Michael Moore will break it down…the corporations, the businesses, the lobbyists…I have a wave of optimism washing over me because there’s a lot changing on the planet right now and Obama is a part of that. He is living his destiny and that is always beautiful to see. I don’t always agree with Jay or Puff or whomever in terms of how they live their lives or even their politics, but I see them as living out their particular destiny. Obama is doing that 100 times bigger obviously, but I’m not sittin’ around thinking we have a Black President. I’m not a self identified American. I love that quote by Malcolm: “Just because a cat crawls into an oven to have kittens, it doesn’t make them biscuits.” Just because you are born into a Christian household…at least what I’ve heard about Christianity…doesn’t make you a Christian. You have to accept Jesus into your heart. If you are Baptist, you have to be baptized. If I’m born into a Muslim household, I have to take Shahada if I’m really to be considered a Muslim. I don’t have Obama fever in that way. I’m certainly not sick wit’ it. I’d love to see where he’s gonna come down on Palestine but I’m not hopeful.
Mizzo: This is how I see it. I don’t think it’s all about Obama. I think the election will force people to see Blacks differently and expose their ignorance if they don’t. Do I think racism will cease? Heeeellll no! I just think slowly but surely folk who come out their mouths wrong will be marginalized. I want my kids to poke out their chests. I want them to see the total scope of the world with out the absentminded constraints of being naive and blind to the facts. This is for them and their future seeds.
We talk about these issues all the time here. In the sports world, my current focus is making sure Donovan McNabb gets his propers from the media. He has not received the respect he deserves and I will do what I can from my little spot to make sure that happens. The thoughts primitive keep his legacy in a pedestrian state compared with his counterparts who have so much more at hand.
For history’s sake that is the advantage of having Obama as president. People are almost robotic in the way they view leadership and if you have a Black President of the United States constantly in your face, hopefully then will begin to change. What do you say to that Dream Hampton? I know you have something to say.
dream: I think that because of Obama people will begin to look at tall, light skinned, thin, Black men from Harvard differently. I don’t think they will look at thirties babie’s mothers differently. I don’t think they will look at my sometime (she’s joking) crack head brother in Detroit differently. So yeah, if you are six foot two, with a Harvard degree and a winning smile? Then yeah, they may be looking at you differently.
Mizzo: I understand where you are coming from, but I disagree a little. Tell it like it is though.
dream: No one started looking at me different when Vanessa Williams won Miss America and no one began looking at “Shaniqua” differently. “Shaniqua” wasn’t blue eyed and beautiful. Obama? That’s beauty we are looking at right there. He has swagger and intelligence. My whole thing is that I’m not a Darwinist and thinks the prettiest, strongest, most beautiful people should be entitled to have clothes and shelter.
Mizzo: Oh, we wholeheartedly agree there.
dream: I think that food, clothes and shelter is a human right. If you are lazy, fat, dumb whatever, you should have clothes and shelter. Capitalism encourages us to believe the whole myth of education. It encourages us to believe we earn human rights. All three religious books tell us that human rights are ours. That’s the whole thing about divine right.
Mizzo: Did I tell you I had goosebumps? Girl, my readers are going to love you. My goodness. Only thing missing is they can’t hear your voice (dream tries to chuckle silently).
Full 180…besides Hip Hop, what type of music do you like to listen to?
dream: I’m never, ever, ever not listening to Radiohead. The same with Miles Davis. I love my little White boy from Detroit, Jack White of the White Stripes. I just love music. I really hate that I’m not musically inclined. I played the clarinet in band. I was good and could do Pomp and Circumstance and all that. I can rap! If you put Illmatic on I can rhyme the whole thing top to bottom (dream has me cracking up at this point), but if you turn it off I sound crazy! I don’t know…I just love music and always have.
Mizzo: I’m putting you on the spot! What is your favorite Hip Hop track of all time and who do you think is the greatest rapper?
dream: Well for me that’s Biggie. You caught me on the right day. Yesterday I was listening to the radio and was like “Oh my God! Jadakiss is the best!” I’ve definitely taken road trips up to Martha’s Vineyard from New York and back only listening to Jay. That’s a hard one to answer. My favorite track of all time? I really like Streets is Watching. At the same time…I love Somebody’s Gotta Die. It is like a movie.
dream: Chuck D said that?
Mizzo: Yes he did.
dream: I would agree with that. Jay is certainly the Obama of Hip Hop. On so many levels. With Jay, it’s not fair. Jay is not fair. He’s like Obama, the six foot three…he’s not fair you know (dream laughs). He’s definitely like Jordan in that way. You don’t wanna talk about other players. Like, take Jordan out and then talk about other players…or Jimi Hendrix or whomever.
dream: Oh yes. Definitely. Me and Biggie used to sit around and listen to Reasonable Doubt. Big knew that was the future. Hip Hop is not a monotheistic genre. It’s never a king of this or a king of that. There’s always room. Even how people lament the 90’s as being far more diverse than now. That’s not true. We have Andre 3000, we have Jadakiss, Wayne, Fab…It’s always been what it is. I don’t think there’s a Hip Hop culture. I think it’s a Black youth culture and Hip Hop is one of its more prominent expressions. It’s like would Obama have won if Bush wasn’t such a mess up? Maybe not, but probably so. Jay’s swagger is on the positive side of energy. Whatever you feel about him being a former drug dealer, his energy is clearly on the plus. His stuff is not dependent on other people not being there, it’s dependent on him showing up. That’s the thing with Jay, he always shows up.
Mizzo: My favorites are Dead Presidents and All I Need.
dream: Beautiful. I like Friend or Foe. I like it because he was brief. I like All About the Benjamins. I don’t know if I have a favorite. If you asked me what it was with a gun to my head I’d probably say A Love Supreme. Hip Hop? I’d probably die because I couldn’t come up with anything.
Mizzo: (I’m cracking up) dream you just put that picture in my mind. I could see you biting your fingernails, looking around all desperate.
dream: (Laughing) Right! I’d be sitting there for twenty minutes. They’d have to go on and kill the next person. They wouldn’t have time for me to sit there and figure it out.
Mizzo: Jay-Z’s bio not being released. Is it bittersweet?
dream: At the time I’d been studying some twelve and thirteenth century monk stuff. Reading about Buddhism. It is about the journey and not the destination. I got paid for that. I didn’t get a kill fee. Jay paid me. I got paid four times as much as other writers of Hip Hop bios would. That’s important to me. Obviously you spend money, so now it’s gone. Would it have been nice to have a book out? Sure. I’m honestly and for surely not mad at it. I think Jay made the right decision. Once people like the Haven started coming out with tapes throwing it on Jay, I was like he really made the right decision. Again, that’s Jay, he always makes the right decision. His whole career has been a series of right decisions.
Mizzo: What was the first Hip Hop record you rocked that made you want more?
dream: The battle between the Real Roxanne and Roxanne Shante. Yeah, I was a kid. I don’t think I even had my period at that point. I was playing with Barbies. I definitely was not wearing a bra. They were saying things that are way X rated. They were going back and forth with each other. Being from Detroit, it was something I was used to…people crackin’ on each other and saying really violent things. I’d never heard it over beats. Like Biggie said, “I let my tape rock ’til my tape popped.” I certainly had that moment with that battle.
Mizzo: Do you have an era in Hip Hop you personally identify with?
dream: Definitely the nineties. People get real specific. They are like…’88 to ’92. ’92 to ’96 (We laugh). All I can say is the nineties. Then Dead Prez came out with Let’s Get Free. They are my favorite group. I only put Outkast higher. I would put them right under Outkast. They are up their with Quest. But I would have to put them on top because of how they stand as men and their politics. Let’s Get Free was 2000 right?
Mizzo: Yep, 2000.
dream: I would say take that and go back ten years. If I were to write a letter to Hip Hop, it would be from 1990-2000.
Mizzo: Why did you love the nineties?
dream: I love right now. I’m not somebody who is stuck in the nineties. You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to be ten years younger if it meant I missed Brand Nubian’s album release party or didn’t have the these things I had with Tupac and Biggie. I wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t be twenty-six. I knew Wayne was going to be a superstar. I said that when he was twelve and his teeth were all messed up. We didn’t know it then, but the nineties were our sixties. It was a time where commerce, art and culture all met at the crossroads and exploded. Then it became global domination. Clearly, Afrika Bambaataa took it global way before the nineties and I mean that literally because he was an Zulu organizer on top of being a visionary. You had Zulu chapters in Zimbabwe and South Africa in the late seventies and eighties. He was the first to take it global. On a capitalism level, nineties Hip Hop did it. For better or worse. My boy Matty C thinks this is the end of Hip Hop as we know it…the end of good Hip Hop. All of it had to happen.
dream: I went over to J Dilla’s house over there 7 mile and Conant with Q-Tip. He was working on Vivrant Thing. I happened to be in the D visiting for Christmas. Me and Tip get down in his basement. It was dark and he was just being a mad scientist. My other experiences were getting to know who he was importantly…music wise…through my good friend Ahmir…the drummer from the Roots (scroll down for Kamal’s interview). He has always been a huge champion of Dilla’s and helped me see how important a producer her was ten years ago.
Mizzo: Who was Tupac Shakur to you?
dream: Pac was my comrade first and foremost. We belong to the same organization, MXGM. I was working for Flavor Unit whenJuice wrapped. Naughty had a song on the Juice soundtrack. As A&R for Flavor Unit, I was helping produce the music video (on the soundtrack) that Pac was in. While doing that, Pac and I were talking about posters for his stepfather Mutulu’s campaign. He was up for parole at the time and Pac gave me money to get the posters and take back to the organization. We always had that connection in terms of organizing around political prisoners. Most people don’t know there are political prisoners in the United States–people like his stepfather and his own Mother (Pac’s) who were framed for crimes with the government using COINTELPRO. Some are still in jail and have been there practically their whole lives. Our organization does what we can to raise awareness and funds for that work. The most visible of that work being Black August. In fact, in that allhiphop.com piece, I talk about how Biggie performed at Mutulu’s fundraiser at the South Oxford Tennis Club. There used to be rumors that Pac and I slept together. Pac never flirted with me. We were in the car in L.A. and he said, “You’d be cute if you did your hair.” (We laugh) It just shows the corny dude he is. He had poor Kidada (Jones, Pac’s fiance), who was so stylish, wearing panty hose–like black stockings or some stuff. Just corny. He’s a cornball. We listened to music together. I used to play Illmatic for him. I hung out with him for 6 months because I was writing a cover story on him for the Source. I ended up going to all these different trials with him. During that time, he was shot at Quad, showed up at court the next day for the sexual assault trial and got sentenced. He read the piece I wrote, came up to me at Puffy’s 25th birthday party, snuck up on me from behind and gave me a hug. He was wearing a black leather vest with a wife beater under it. Corny west coast cat. I loved Pac. I had a lot of love for Pac. I hated where he took the whole thing with B.I.G., but it wasn’t a big surprise to me. Geminis stay flippin’–especially June Geminis.
Mizzo: I’ve been around enough of them to know exactly what you are talking about. Trust me on that. Is it crazy you’ve been in the middle of the rise and fall?
dream: Like Forrest Gump (She laughs)? Is that what you are calling me Michael?
Mizzo: Uh…no. Never that.
dream: I’m never in the middle of anything. I sorta just show up like Forrest Gump and…
Mizzo: See, you said it twice. If you are Forrest Gump, then where is that box of chocolates girl?
dream: (She cracks up) Anyway…this isn’t my life. You know? I didn’t marry Biggie. I wasn’t Kidada. I’m not Afeni. I’m not Ms. Wallace. This is just in and out for me. I’m just doing what I do and I just bump into a couple of people. There are people who aren’t famous who are just as important to this whole period. People like Monifa and Matty C who both were just as important in my development as Pac and Biggie were. There was a chance that B.I.G. wasn’t going to be famous. I have many friends I used to hang out with–not as much as B.I.G.–like Supernatural. Everybody I knew was a MC…Djinji Brown. They didn’t end up making it but they are still my friends.
Mizzo: Is it important for journalists to build relationships with those they document?
dream: It’s not important, but if you have any kind of relationship or rapport, you may have more access. Not ever meeting somebody is totally valid too. I’d like to do a piece on Kanye where I never speak to him. I just want to write about him in the tradition of Ali…you know…talking a lot of smack (damn right). I wouldn’t want to talk to Kanye for that article.
Mizzo: Where did you and Biggie meet and what were you doing then?
dream: We met on Fulton Street, in Brooklyn. Matty C may or may not have been there, but he was the one who told B.I.G. I would be introducing myself to him because I was writing a piece in the Crack issue. We never got that issue together. The Source later ended up doing it. We were going to do an issue on crack. I was going to talk to some dealers in my neighborhood. Then we became friends. He started coming to class with me at NYU. Smoking me out everyday. You know?
Mizzo: Everyday huh? All day…
dream: Everyday. (sounding all sultry). Unfortunately.
Mizzo: Ay, I have friends like that too.
dream: I was a very good Easy Wider girl until I met Biggie. Then I had a terrible seven year relationship with blunts–which I no longer have.
Mizzo: I really dug the allhiphop.com joint about Notorious. I really don’t want to talk about it and spoil it. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t want it to be the basis of this interview. What was your first thought when you left the theater?
dream: I teared up. I’m kinda soft when it comes to that. I hate that about myself. I still get sad. Like when I was watching Lumumba and I couldn’t stop balling when they killed him at the end.
Mizzo: I was hot!
dream: I cried my eyes out over Benjamin Button. In that sense, I’m super soft. I had a teary moment. I hate the way Biggie’s life ends so I hate the way the movie ends. It was the most unfair stuff ever. Other than that, I think it’s going to be great and historic and open doors. I think George Tillman rocks. His dedication to detail and his commitment to truth. I think there is still space for other stories to be told. I don’t think they got he and D Rock’s (Biggie’s best friend) relationship right. I think that was the single most important relationship for him in his short life besides maybe his mother.
Mizzo: Who is dream hampton?
dream: Who am I (chuckles)? I don’t know. I’m somebody who eats sushi six days a week. I’m trying to break that habit and go raw vegan. I’m a Virgo who gives thanks to the ancestors. I’m a mommy. I drive way too fast. That’s me.
Mizzo: When you drive are you looking all over the place or are you focused?
dream: I’m an excellent driver Michael. Dudes are always telling me I’m the best female drive they know. That’s such a lie. I’m totally the best driver they know. I’m from Detroit. I’ve been driving since about twelve. I used to drive stolen cars for the boys on my block when I was twelve.
Mizzo: dream, thanks so much. I really wanted to introduce my readers to you. I think you are glorious.
dream: Aww thank you Michael. I checked out the site. I love what you are doing. Keep it up!
Some footage dream took of Big getting kicked out of a hotel
Something for ya mind (explicit NSFW)