Dre Dollasz: Man on the Mountain

 

According to Wikipedia, Albrightsville, Pennsylvania isn’t a city or town, but a “census-dedicated place” — whatever that means. The area is in Pennsylvania’s beautifully named Carbon County, along the Pocono mountains. The “things to do” list on a tourist website includes white water rafting, fishing and hiking. Those activities may be the pinnacle of recreation for some, but for Brooklyn-raised producer and current Albrightsville resident Dre Dollasz, beat-making and rhyme-spitting are his norm.

In 2015, he dropped his Mountain (Ra The Second) EP, with the title derived from his life in Albrightsville living on the Pocono mountain range. How did he go from Brooklyn to Pennsylvania mountains?

Blame gentrification.

 

In 2012, Dollasz was studying at Five Towns College in Long Island and living with his mother in a “cramped” basement apartment in Brooklyn. By then, gentrification was in full force in New York, and the two had been having trouble sustaining a living situation. Dollasz’ mother decided the best decision was to move out of New York altogether. She took him out of school and they moved to Pennsylvania.

This kind of displacement is an all-too common occurrence thanks to the “urban revitalization” going on in New York City and every other American metropolis. Not only is gentrification disrespectful (were areas not worthy of being revitalized when they had minority residents?), it’s threatening to suck the spirit out of the city’s art scene.

Dollasz, as a producer, rapper and DJ, knows this all too well. He’s a founding member of Mogul Club, a collective of Brooklyn MCs and producers. Mogul Club is known for their energetic live shows, and they’ve been tearing stages down throughout the city for over four years. Unfortunately, Dollasz has performed sparingly with the crew since moving to Albrightsville.

The ceaseless inspiration of Brooklyn is nonexistent in his area. Dollasz describes the local music scene as “bleak.” He was used to the fast-paced streets of New York, but in Albrightsville there are streets without sidewalks. For a burgeoning artist like him, being forced into simple living can be disheartening. The circumstance initially made him feel like he wasn’t “going anywhere” as an artist.

Though he was discouraged, his artistry proved irrepressible. Dollasz has been a producer since the age of 12, and gave himself a “five-year-plan” to expand his craft. He credits teachers at Francis Perkins Academy and Urban Assembly for Music and Art for teaching him Fruity Loops music software, music engineering and music theory.

Dollasz is no fly-by-night beatmaker making ripoff “Lex Luger-type beats” on stolen software. He was bred to be a professional producer, and no amount of distance from his crew was going to hinder him.

He continued making beats and writing rhymes in Albrightsville. In 2013, after making his hypnotic “Cost of Life” track, he decided to craft an entire mixtape. ”Cost of Life” is a layered, dreamy take on Trap peppered with aspirational lyrics, including his “if you sell a bit, I’ll sell a bit and we gon’ get this cheese” mantra. Dollasz says the track is him “telling people that if we work together we can thwart all the B.S. obstacles trying to hold us back.”

The track was a fitting springboard for Mountain (Ra The Second). The title not only refers to his physical place in life, but his figurative outlook on it. Dollasz notes the 7-track mixtape is about “establishing myself as a God of the sun, and that like the sun I will rise from this.”

The project developed over three years, and took some e-mailed verses from rappers Double A and Riz Allah (the latter recorded by producer FifthGod) to complete. Dollasz laid his verses by himself, rapping into a dynamic microphone that’s more apt for live performance than recording. He had to use his engineering expertise to work around the mic while mixing and mastering.

Upon release of the mixtape, Dollasz says Imran Majid, VP of A&R at Columbia Records got to hear the project and even complimented “Cost of Life.” With the internet, I guess the industry isn’t so far from Albrightsville after all.

“The internet is very powerful, and I feel we all should get acquainted with it more,” Dollasz says. “Most of us ‘90’s babies was the ones who grew with the internet and have made many changes to society already. As an artist I feel you should have a connection to the internet, there’s so many people across the world just waiting for you to speak to them about your art.”

Dollasz uses the internet to stay in the New York loop, supplying artists like Mogul Club partner Radamiz with heat such as “Sumner.” Additionally, he’s been exploring new genres online. He credits his friend DJ TVH for introducing him to electronic/dance music and aspires to create a full-fledged dance project.

“I want to make people move and feel good, too. I don’t believe in genre boxes, because I wouldn’t be able to say I’m being creative following the guidelines of a genre,” he says. “I would love to dabble in it because my uncle, who passed two-three years ago, was a DJ. The last thing I received from him was his laptop with a lot of old school reggae. In honor of him I would love to learn and take his laptop everywhere because I know he could’ve done it.”

For now though, Dollasz will continue to create on the mountain, building with his crew from a distance. He may live in Albrightsville for now, but more than anything else he’s a founder and proud resident of #MogulCity. No greedy developers can stake claim to that.

 
Andre Gee