The craft of song

Old school hip-hop blended into a fresh sound

Dre Runn in his element.

Dre Runn in his element.

Photo by shoka

“As a person, I’m pretty boring,” Dre Runn says with a chuckle.

This sentiment does not translate to his music. In his latest hip-hop release, “Ride N’ Smokin (Ft. Lonnie Oceans),” a hook repeats the words “I’m perfect” over smooth keyboards, hat rolls and warbling guitar. The song oozes a laid-back braggadocio. Dre spits with a stony confidence that comes off as effortless. In one month, the track has amassed more than 40,000 listens on his SoundCloud—not the usual accomplishment of a boring person

Dre Runn was born in Arden and has lived in Sacramento his whole life. “I loved growing up here,” he says, then adds “even though it was boring sometimes.”

He started rapping at the age of 8 after seeing a televised Snoop Dogg performance, and he began recording songs when he was 11. Now the 24-year-old has released several mixtapes and single tracks on his SoundCloud page.

Dre hits a wide range of sounds; he lists Juelz Santana, Lupe Fiasco and Kendrick Lamar as some of his most notable influences. “Melanin” and “Melanin Pt. 2” are a pair of ego-fueled anthems over clean samples of bells and horns. “Ms. Arizona/The Flaws” is a mournful remembrance of a failed relationship accompanied by psychedelic synthesizers and a cymbal-heavy drum line. “31:13” is a raw elegy for a dead friend: “Day after the funeral, drinking until we throw up / Grown men wipe they mouth before the po’ up.”

Despite his versatility, Dre blends a clean and contemporary presentation with an old-school hip-hop sensibility throughout all of his music. “I’m trying to figure out a way to translate the hip-hop I grew up on, and know and love, into a form that can live nowadays,” he said.

Dre’s philosophy: Lately, the bar is set much higher than being a talented lyricist.

“I don’t just rap, I make songs,” he says. “It’s not enough to just be good at rapping.”

For Dre, a song must be cohesive with a consistent sound and a strong hook. The “Melanin” series serves as a good example. The chorus cranks his pitch way up, reminiscent of M.A.A.D City-era Lamar, and creates a captivating dynamism.

“As long as the sound sounds good, and it does so consistently, I think people will eventually take notice,” he says.

As of late, Dre has taken a step back from live performances to focus on several projects in the works. He remains tight-lipped about the specifics, but says that there will be some exciting releases in the coming months. He will be making a rare appearance on August 26 at The Boardwalk for “Off With Their Head 2,” where he’s on the bill to rap battle as well as perform an interim set.

Alongside his passion for making music, Dre says his family and friends are the driving force behind his continued efforts. He values producing quality songs more than building a character or brand, and this attitude is reflected in his motivations and musical philosophy.

“I feel like I have to do something with this, so everyone around me can be good. Because we’re all struggling,” he said.

Despite his assertions, he is by no means boring. A better word is humble.