A new dawn is undoubtedly on the horizon for R&B veteran Dawn Robinson. The Connecticut-born beauty, who saw her claim to fame as one-fourth of R&B supergroup En Vogue, is now forging a solo path and turning the page on her already storied career.
With new music, books, and television in her sights, the Funky Diva dishes exclusively to That Grape Juice on her involvement with hit series ‘R&B Divas’ spinoff ‘R&B Divas: LA’ (alongside Kelly Price, Chantae Moore, and more), new solo music endeavors, and talks about her very public split with En Vogue.
As ever, Dawn doesn’t hold back. This is a must read:
Dawn Robinson Shouts Out That Grape Juice!
That Grape Juice: Good morning Dawn! How are you?
Dawn Robinson: I’m fine! Thanks for asking and thanks for having me this morning!
TGJ: Our pleasure! So, let’s hop right in. Fans were thrilled by reports indicating you would be participating in the new ‘R&B Divas’ spinoff (‘R&B Divas: LA’) on TVOne! Tell us, what inspired you to be part of this?
Dawn: I am so excited! I was contacted last year around June by [television producer] Phil Thornton and was asked to do the ‘R&B Divas’ premiere show in Atlanta. I had two concerns though: I don’t live in Atlanta and I’m not willing to relocate. I was also busy with Maxine [of En Vogue] doing an album ‘Heir To the Throne’. I told him I was committed to that project and didn’t want to break away from it.
Well, he said if something else came up, he’d get back around to me. Sure enough, a couple of months ago he did.
TGJ: That’s awesome!
Dawn: It really is. Honestly, I was running from the reality show stigma because I thought it’s going to be dramatic in the negative sense and have women catfighting against each other. That’s not the world I, or any of the En Vogue members, come from. So, I didn’t want to be known for that. I kept avoiding it.
Yes, I’ve met with many production companies over the years, but nobody seemed to understand the show I wanted to do. I wanted to do something positive and uplifting for our people and women. But, when Phil told me the premise of ‘Divas’ and the other cast members, I thought they didn’t want the drama either. And, after I met the girls, everything was positive so I decided to do it.
TGJ: What should we expect from your involvement with the show?
Dawn: Well, I can’t say much now. But, I will say it’s going to be positive. I’ll be talking about my life and all that I’ve gone through as far as where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m going.
It’s like the underdog on her way back to the top. It’s the story I’ve always wanted to see on a reality show, but never do. We never got a chance to know who Pep really was. Yes, we know her from Salt-N-Pepa, but we never knew who Sandy was. We know Chilli, but we don’t know who Rozonda is. Even Flava Flav – he’s a great character, but who is he as a person?
So, I hope the show really shows who we are as people and not just as artists.
TGJ: Well, we look forward to that. When should we expect it on the air?
Dawn: I think around June. If not, it will definitely earlier in the year than later.
TGJ: So, switching gears a bit, let’s talk about your budding solo career. What new music is in the works?
Dawn: I have a lot of things in the works. I’m listening to tracks now and trying to find producers. If I could find a team or even just one producer that works for me, that would be great.
I’m just looking for the best fit for my voice. Not every producer is equal to the artist and vice versa. I’m not just looking for tracks. Like Michael Jackson did with Quincy Jones – they created a masterpiece, not just a record full of tracks. I’m looking to create an amazing body of work. I’m really wanting to do an album with more of a live feel.
TGJ: Who would be your “Quincy Jones” so to speak? Any dream collaborators?
Dawn: I like to find young, up-and-coming producers that no one knows yet, mainly to give them a chance to be heard. There’s a lot of untapped talent out there and I want to find the next Timbaland or Rodney Jerkins.
But, I’d love to work with Alicia Keys and Missy Elliott because there aren’t a lot of female producers. Believe it or not, I’d also like to collab with Bruno Mars! He has a great energy about him.
TGJ: We certainly weren’t expecting that! So, any word on when we should expect a finished product?
Dawn: No, it’s just in the early stages of development. I’m also developing a couple of books, clothing line, and a lot of other things. So, I’m just excited and thrilled about all of that coming up!
TGJ: Now, as with many interviews, we have a segment called “Five From Fans” where we received five questions from our readers for you. Are you ready?
TGJ: #1 What are your thoughts on the status of R&B, especially as it relates to the absence of groups on charts?
Dawn: As far as groups goes, that goes in phases. Back in the 60s, it was all about the Marvelettes, Ronettes, this -ette and that -ette, the Supremes, and all the other girl groups. Then, it faded away and came back in the 70s with Sister Sledge and more. But, it really faded in the 80s. So, you see, it ebbs and flows.
We [En Vogue] were the first to really hit the ground running in the 90s and then all the other girl groups came after us. It was great for us to start it off and everyone else to follow.
R&B is on “life support” to a degree, but don’t forget about the great R&B artists out now. Usher is doing his thing and so is Alicia Keys and Rihanna. Rihanna is in the middle of pop & R&B, but she’s still doing her thing R&B-wise. Even Bruno Mars, who is more pop, is doing his thing with R&B.
But, I’d love to see acts like Donnell Jones come back out and make true R&B.
TGJ: #2. Have you ever considered putting together a tell-all memoir telling your side about the En Vogue breakup?
Dawn: Well, there’s nothing to tell other than my life story. I’ve lived and had ups-and-downs like everyone else. So, there’s no “tell-all” in the negative sense, but it would just be my life story in my words.
TGJ: #3. You were very vocal about your concerns with En Vogue’s contracts (which consequently lead to you leaving the group). What advice would you lend up-and-coming artists who may encounter similar situations in the industry?
TGJ: #4. Considering that you are about to be on a reality show, what are some of your favorite “guilty pleasure” reality shows?
Dawn: So many! I love Lala [Vasquez]’s show because there’s real-life drama and no cat fights or getting hit over the head with bottles. I also love the Braxtons because they’re a real family. I know Toni [Braxton] personally and I know the stuff that happens with them is real.
They won’t allow negativity to come in the way of their family and they support each other. Also, I love T.I.’s show! He’s a great father and great example of a black man at home. His kids respect him and his wife.
We see so many negative images on television, but those shows give us positive images of black people on TV. That’s the way we’re supposed to be seen!
TGJ: #5. What caused the breakup of Lucy Pearl?
Dawn: I think I trusted him [Raphael Saadiq] too much and didn’t look at that contract as closely I should’ve. So, that’s why Lucy Pearl fell apart. I loved that project thought beyond words. The music, look, and sound was put together by us. Everything was our likeness.
En Vogue was an audition and other people’s idea of what we should be. But, Lucy Pearl was organic. I really wish that would’ve worked out.
TGJ: Thanks so much for that! So, continuing with that, what is your relationship like now with Raphael Saadiq?
Dawn: Raphael and I tried the reunion thing about 4 years ago. I went to his studio in the Valley and at that time he wanted to put [rapper] Q-Tip to the group to bring a voice of rap. The three of us would be talking all the time, but suddenly it was just me and Q-Tip.
If it happens with Lucy Pearl, it does. We had a chemistry that works and I would love for it to happen. But, until Raphael hits me up and is ready to go, I can’t focus on that. I have to focus on Dawn!
TGJ: Is there any chance that En Vogue can re-group?
Dawn: No. Just like any relationship that is over, we’re over. You don’t go back to a job unless they’re offering you an offer you can’t refuse. But, because there is so much personal stuff that’s transpired over the year – not just what’s seen in the public eye – I don’t have a need to go back to something that hurt me so bad. Once you move on, you move on.
I was the one trying to tell everyone to look over their contracts, think about it before making a move, but nobody wanted to listen. But, they put it out to the public like it was my fault. The world thinks to this day that it was all my fault. That’s not fair.
Dawn (continued): I take that personally. I’ve moved on and really wish the best for them, but there’s no reunion. It’s not going to happen. I came back three years ago because I thought it was going to be different. I thought we were older, wiser, and understood what needed to be done. But, I only came back to find out it was the same old mess as before.
TGJ: Last but not least, considering you’ve had a career that’s seen you conquer charts, stages, and soon television, what is the new “uncharted territory” for you? What does the future hold for Dawn?
Interview by: Quinno Rashad (That Grape Juice US)