Dregs One is a rapper, activist, and community worker born and raised in San Francisco, CA. Dregs has been rapping since he was 14, and his music has always been deep. After studying ethnic studies at UC Riverside, however, his music took a turn for the political.
His latest album, The Wake Up Call, is a jolting, metaphorical alarm clock, meant to stir the apathetic masses into action. With tracks like “Letter to the President,” “Feels So Good,” and “Individuality Pt. II,” Dregs’ hip-hop poetically addresses hard-hitting issues such as Obama’s continuance of the war in Afghanistan, the beauty industrial complex perpetuated by the narrow standards of beauty facing women, and capitalism’s entrenched hold on our individuality. In his moving last line of, “Letter to the President,” Dregs raps: “This letter has an unhappy ending / when I lick the envelope stamp it and send it sincerely signed by Dregs One / a man taking a stand against the lie you’ve become,” giving listeners chills with his courageous lyrics.
Not only is he an independent rapper, making his music and producing beats outside of his regular 9-5 job (where he works with youth around housing issues in the notorious Tenderloin district of San Francisco), but Dregs also stays true to his roots by constantly engaging with the community. Most recently, he hosted a workshop at Rock the School Bells 5, titled, “The Legacy of Bay Area Hip-Hop History & Culture.” He also blogs, and his “The Wake Up Report,” a video documentary series, highlights local injustices. His most recent episode on “The Wake Up Report” unpacks the ever-pervasive issue of police brutality.
Guided by the belief that music is the most powerful tool he has to make a difference, Dregs continues making meaningful hip-hop starkly in contrast to the capitalist, misogynistic mainstream hip-hop we hear on the radio today.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Dregs One. (And just for our special Feministing readers, I asked Dregs One to do a quick little freestyle on feminism. Check it out plus more dope videos after the jump!)
Anna Sterling: What does feminism mean to you?
Dregs One: Women can have an equal voice. And not just equal, but a strong voice and a strong role in society, free from discrimination and bias. It’s the answer to the misogynist, male-centered view that most societies have where women are confined to specific roles and a lot of violence, sexual and physical, is carried out against them. Feminism is the answer to that and a way to empower women. If we have powerful, strong women, that just makes our whole society better.
AS: What do you see as men’s role in feminism?
DO: To support women in all their causes and movements and to be an example for other men because it’s by design that men are so oppressive to women. For example, I feel like there’s a lot of training around women’s rights for women, but for men, as boys, even me personally, we’re trained to try and dominate women. There’s the double standard of you sleep with hella women, you’re a player. You sleep with hella dudes, you’re a ho. The way I was trained was just like: “Man, we gon’ get a bottle, get these bitches drunk,” that’s what it was all about. You get clowned on for being a virgin and stuff like that. There needs to be more education for men to see what gender discrimination does, what it’s effects are, and why it’s wrong. Men who are conscious of that have the responsibility to pass that on to other men around them.
AS: What is the connection between hip-hop and feminism?
DO: The way its being used is against feminism. It’s not in the best interest of feminism. But that’s wrong. It hasn’t always been like that. Hip-hop in its purest form is resistance against the social mainstream and social norms, whether it’s for racism or equal rights for everyone; it’s a voice and tool of people who are oppressed, people of color, people in inner cities, and people who understand and are really down to create this type of hip-hop culture community. Women have and need to play a strong role in that.
AS: What’s the hardest part about being a political rapper?
DO: The fact that it goes over a lot of peoples’ heads, even people that’ve fucked with my music for years. They not trying to hear some of the stuff I’m talking about. They be like, “Yeah, I hear you, but I just wanna have fun. I just wanna party. I don’t wanna hear all that. Rap about something cool.” So to me, it got me re-analyzing ways I can break through that barrier, get my message heard and still have a wider appeal. I don’t want to be one of those political rappers where the only people that listen to me are college students. I want to reach those kids on the block. I want to have some stuff you can party and dance to, but still be consistent with my message.
AS: What is the biggest challenge to feminism?
DO: Rap music. [Laughs] Nah, just the media, in general. The fact that I’m having such a hard time thinking of a fictional heroine. Women aren’t presented with enough strong role models in the media. The gender roles are still very set out. If you watch TV, from the weather girl to the Girls Gone Wild, it’s just everywhere. The voice of the Nicki Minaj type of girl is stronger than the feminist voice right now. Even the youth I work with, I work with 8 year old girls and they play games on the computer where they dress up a cartoon girl. The cartoon is some skinny, hourglass shaped chick. They put all this makeup on her and stuff. Its 8 year old girls, you know what I’m saying? There’s not a lot of opportunity for women to see the possibility of feminism, why it’s important and why they don’t have to confine themselves to those types of gender roles.
AS: You’re going to a desert island and you get to take one drink, one food and one feminist. What do you pick?
DO: Water because if I don’t drink that I’ma die. One food, organic quinoa. One feminist, my ex-girlfriend. Fuck it.
“Letter to the President”
“Inspiration” (About 2:13 in, a special someone makes a cameo at the house party scene! Tell me if you see her! *wink wink*)