Geri Dobbs’ self-titled mixtape is both a detailed resume highlighting the rapper’s current strengths and a journal full of personal insights. It’s as much a representation of Dobbs the artist as it is a glimpse into Dobbs the person.
The dense 20-track mixtape reveals Dobbs’ ambitions as a rapper, his attitudes toward hip-hop as a whole, as well as the experiences which have fueled his love of music making. Dobbs will celebrate his mixtape release party -- presented by 4Worn Records -- 8 p.m. Saturday (April 14) at Whiskey Dick’s. The Weekender had a chance to speak with Dobbs’ about his debut release:
Within the first three or four tracks of your mixtape, there’s this overarching theme of wanting to make it. And you really hammer that in. So is it safe to say this is more than a hobby to you?
Geri Dobbs: Oh man. This is the best thing I got going for myself. I feel like it’s this or… I don’t know what else. Truth be told, I’m going to college for carpentry because I want to learn the trade, and I’m also going for my general liberal arts just because I want that associates degree to at least give me a better chance of falling back on a job or something. This music, this is all I’ve ever known since I was 14. This has consumed my life. My family knows it. My friends know it. I look at this music as my shot to get a better life.
Music is ultimately what you really want to do in life?
Geri Dobbs: Of course, man. I feel like God gifted me this talent for a reason. Only reason I can think of is to take it all the way and to one day give my family a better life, give myself a better life, keep myself out of the streets. This music is also something positive. It keeps me out of doing bad things. I think God wants me to use this and take it all the way.
You mention somewhere in the album about finding your place. Do you feel like you’re still trying to find your place in this world? Have you found it yet?
Geri Dobbs: No, I don’t think I’ve found it. Finding my place also has to deal with me being young and not having everything figured out. But you’re right I do want to find my rightful place to serve this world. Your job in the newspaper, you write and stuff. Mine, I want it to be music. That’s how I want to serve the world. I’m trying to find my place with this music and try to get to that place where it can be my job and I’m just serving the people.
You’re clearly a very spiritual person. What does believing in a higher power do for you as an artist?
Geri Dobbs: God is the biggest part of my life. I’m a spiritual man. I get emotional when I think about it because I think God has done so much for me and my life. I owe it to him.
In what was do you think God has helped you?
Geri Dobbs: In that “July 4th" song, I was going through depression. I was praying because that’s the only thing I can do to keep me in it. I was so down and out on myself. I was praying to get away from that. When you talk about what God has done for my life, He’s the reason I’m here. He’s the reason you’re interviewing me. Certain songs would not have been made like “July 4th" and “Let It Ride” – the whole tape! If it wasn’t for my spirituality and my obligation to make those kinds of songs. God has put me in this spot where I am today. And I’m just extremely blessed.
Let’s talk about “July 4th.” Near the end of that song, it sort of deconstructs itself. You mess up a verse, call it out and then keep on recording. What’s going on here? And what’s the significance of that date?
Geri Dobbs: That song was emotional for me, man. Here’s the story: A year before I recorded that song, for that July Fourth, I wasn’t in the best of places. I was kind of depressed. I was literally in my room by myself during July Fourth during the evening when everybody was shooting off fireworks. I was laying there praying, in tears and sh**, just saying, “Man, next year has to be better.” That night I spent it on my roof looking at the sky. Spent that July Fourth by myself. The next year it was a total change. I was with a label, I was dating a girl, I was sitting by the river watching the fireworks. I was so thankful for life. Things had flipped for me. They changed for me. I felt like I had to make that song to remind myself how things can get better. You document your journey, you take a part, you keep walking and things can be better for you.
I think what really made that song even more interesting was you breaking it down and restarting that verse over and over. It seemed like you were making a song right there as I was listening to it.
Geri Dobbs: I did that for “Let It Ride” too because the verses were all recorded in one take and at the end I messed up. I was like, “You know what, this is one! I’m going to keep going.” Lo and behold it came out how it did. For “July 4th,” the same thing happened. I just messed up but was like let’s keep it going. So that’s what I did.
A figure that frequently pops up in the mixtape is your grandmother. How does she fit into all this?
Geri Dobbs: Oh man. She took me and my sister in when we were four years old. She has been more than a guardian. She’s like my second mother. My mother, throughout some years in my life has been incarcerated. My father was never there. So my grandma stepped in and played that mother and father role to me, and that grandma role too. That’s why you hear a lot about her. She means a lot to me.
And do you still see her?
Geri Dobbs: I live with her! (laughs) She’s letting me stay there because I’m going to college. If I wasn’t working or going to college, she probably would have given me the boot. Since I’m going to college, she sees that as something so I get to stay there.
I definitely want to talk about the song “Break The Mumble Rap.” What are your thoughts on this newer edition to the hip-hop music culture?
Geri Dobbs: Being an avid music listener and a hip-hop head, I can appreciate different lanes that artists take in terms of their creativity and artistry. But when it gets to a point where I’m listening to it and they’re going on about their money or their – they’re not saying anything of significance and it just seems like it’s purposefully put there to put down the masses. That’s not right. So I’m like, “I’m going to do something about it.” I hear about this mumble rap all the time in the media and how the old heads don’t like it, and I relate to ‘em. When I listen to it, I don’t feel it.
So then by that account, do you see yourself as making music that consumable for the masses in a positive way? Is that the approach that you take?
Geri Dobbs: Definitely. With my music, I look to be -- it’s kind of cliché -- a voice for the people. Me? I don’t come from nothing fancy. My grandma took me in and we’ve lived in trailers our whole life. I have those humble roots. I recognize that the money, sex, weed that these rappers talk isn’t real. What’s real is bills. What’s real is sometimes needing government assistance. What’s real is being there for your family when they need you. I look to just reflect that in my music definitely.