Black Sheep’s Dres Talks Crafting His J Dilla-Produced Project in 'The Choice Is Yours' Documentary

The hip-hop veteran also discusses his new Paramount+ documentary, 'The Choice Is Yours.'

When Andres “Dres” Vargas-Titus reached the pinnacle of hip-hop success in the early ‘90s as one-half of the legendary rap duo Black Sheep, he never pictured decades later he’d be vying to get back on top again as an independent solo artist. Paramount+’s “The Choice Is Yours” documentary, out on Nov. 21, catches up with the emcee today to reveal what he’s been up to for the last few years, namely showing an intimate look at his latest passion project: a J-Dilla-produced album.

According to Vargas-Titus, that’s where the journey of the film started. “It actually began once I bumped into the opportunity to put the music together,” he tells “I initially met Dilla's mom [Maureen Yancey] in, I believe it was, Chicago, her and her husband were backstage at a show. I was asked, ‘Would you like to meet Dilla's mom?’ I was in the dressing room like, ‘I would love to.’”

That was Vargas-Titus’s first intimate encounter with Dilla’s life, as he’d only met the hip-hop visionary and producer once in passing before he died in 2006. Little did he know, though, that wouldn’t be his last interaction. A month later, in 2019, Vargas-Titus ran into Dilla’s mom, affectionately known as Ma Dukes, again at a charity event in Puerto Rico, after which he was invited back to her and her husband’s home for a meal. Then, an opportunity fell into his lap.

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“We started talking and eating and chopping up. They had some DJs that were hanging out with us playing music. It was just a great, great night, and we literally broke day,” he recalls. “By the end of it, we all felt so close that they were telling me how they had the opportunity to do some stuff under the umbrella of [Dilla’s] estate and asked would I be interested in putting some stuff together. I was blown away.” 

Not only did Yancey offer her late son’s archive to Vargas-Titus, but she also granted the latter a chance to put together a full-length project with Dilla’s beats. From then on, the Black Sheep titan committed to learning everything he could about Dilla’s life. 

“That was the beginning of me wanting to take this journey to find out exactly who this person was because I knew it was a great honor,” Vargas-Titus shares. “I wasn't well versed in his entire catalog and his life, walk, and things thereof, so I just started to pay attention. I started to look at everything online and every interview. Slowly but surely, the cosmos in the universe started putting the people from his life right in my life, and I was getting this firsthand account from different people of who he was.”

“The Choice Is Yours” follows much of Vargas-Titus’s study of Dilla and the early creation of his yet-to-be-released project. It also shows the pushback he received along the way, as many had mixed feelings about hearing of a Dilla-produced album without the collaboration of the late producer. Vargas-Titus admits at times the backlash was discouraging, especially “some of the places that it appeared to come from.”

“In those moments, I honestly feared being viewed beneath my character,” he says. “... But at the end of the day, I'm not going to go back and forth about who I've been. Any foul on me leads you to the same place. I am who I am, and it's for me to stay in touch with that. I will advise the same to anyone that's being viewed beneath their character. You don't need to go back and forth about something you know … In my heart, I knew where I was coming from and I knew what I was trying to do and I know what I'm capable of, period, so I just kept pushing forward.”

Some may still question Vargas-Titus’s intentions behind his project, seeing as though he’s already solidified himself as a hip-hop icon through Black Sheep’s success. What more is left to accomplish? 

“I honestly feel like Black Sheep has done everything except get paid,” Vargas-Titus says frankly. “I look at the world, and not that I'm jealous of anything. I'm more grateful than anything. I'm one of the luckiest people on earth. But there are certain things that I know my career should have afforded me that I just don't see.”

J Dilla in The Choice Is Yours, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Brian “B+” Cross

It’s no secret that early hip-hop acts weren’t always adequately compensated for their music, between signing unfair deals and a lack of royalties. Vargas-Titus certainly isn’t the only artist to voice these concerns, but he’s one of the few actively fighting to get his just due, and he firmly believes his Dilla-produced project (which he refers to as “D&D”) will get him that.

“I've had the opportunity to share and experience with amazing people globally and for them to tell me so many things that the music means to them. I'm very grateful for every opportunity for people to listen. That means the world to me. That is such a payment within itself,” he says. “But there's also the part of me that doesn't deserve to be a struggling artist from this point forward. I don't mind having struggled at all. It's built my character, and it's made me the artist that I am. But I've earned a retirement.”

Vargas-Titus hopes to eventually drop his “D&D” project, though a release date has yet to be set. There are more things on the horizon though, like new Black Sheep music following the duo’s long-awaited reunion in “The Choice Is Yours.” For now, though, Vargas-Titus takes pride in continuing as one of hip-hop’s elder statesmen nurturing the next generation of artists — like Lola Brooke, who appears in the documentary to pay homage to Black Sheep and “The Choice Is Yours” with her single “Just Relax” released earlier this year. While we wait for Vargas-Titus’s next move, fans can get better acquainted with his musical journey in his new documentary. 

“I just wanted it to be a real look at what it is today and to even get across some of the things that I think I stand for and that our music stands for and to create a balance that is really missing right now,” he says of the film’s purpose. “Hopefully, it does what I intend it to do and be something that's thoroughly entertaining but, at the same time, leaves some notions of what it can be and of who you can be.”

“The Choice Is Yours” hits Paramount+ on 11/21.

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