Screenshot 2020-09-21 at 19.20.59

Alex Mazzaev

Drei Ros and RobYoung on Their Last Single and Movement ‘Excuse my Accent’

Following up from their individual releases ‘Tables Turn 2.0’ and ‘Heathen’, respectively, Romanian born artist Drei Ros and American artist RobYoung have released their latest single together ‘Excuse my Accent’. The track is a hard driving rally cry for human rights and sheds light on the immigrant experience in America. Directed by Richard Stan, the music video features gut-wrenching scenes of police brutality and other issues happening in America today. ‘Excuse my Accent’ is also a platform founded by both artists and features creative content committed to humanizing the multi-cultural experience. We talked with Drei and Rob on their inspiration for the catchy anthem and the growing movement behind it.

For each of you, what first inspired you to get into music, particularly with hip-hop?

Rob: For me personally, I was brought up in a very creative household. My dad’s a motivational speaker and a poet, so I grew up watching him do very, amazing one-man shows. That’s what got me into writing in the first part. So, I started writing literature and poetry as a young buck, around 11 or 10 years old. Around 12, I discovered 2Pac, Nas, Goodie Mob, Dead Prez and all these very strong, artistic influences, which helped me realize that I could put that poetry to music. That’s what got my foot really in the passion of it. Then, I fell in love with performing after watching my dad perform. We used to own an African art museum as well. So, I was brought up with that background and identity of using music and words from a cultural standpoint to influence and empower.

Drei: For me, I grew up the same in my household. There was a lot of music, and my dad played different genres like rock and reggae. Then, in the early 90s, I started listening to hip hop, and that was really inspiring for me. I’ve always enjoyed writing and creating. Also, growing up, I used to burn CDs and give them to my friends. It’s like one of my passions, too. Then in 2004, it was the first time I went to a studio. I was back in my hometown in Romania because my dad was very sick at the time. He was going through liver cancer, and I felt like doing something to take my mind off the whole situation. So, my friend invited me to the studio and that was the first time I recorded a rap song in Romanian. I just did it because I loved it. Then, I recorded my first album called ‘Between Life and Death’. It was never released, but it was more like a passion project. Then, I continued recording, and developed an even bigger passion for it as time went by.

How did your paths cross and what did you felt clicked between the two of you?

Drei: We first met in 2010 in Seattle, Washington. We have a mutual friend and we all met at the studio. Rob and I became friends instantly. I really liked meeting Rob because he is very creative and always has very spontaneous ideas about songs and different concepts. So, I really liked his creative energy. We connected really well, and we started to do some songs together, even back then. As time went by, we came up together with the concept of ‘Excuse my Accent,’ and that’s where we at now.

Rob: I mean on my end, I really respected Drei Ros’ unapologetic hustle. He’s one of the hardest workers that I know from an independent-level, and we partnered our creativity in his hustle together. I came up with the concept and he said, “let’s shoot the music video in one day.”  That’s kind of been the synergy between our relationship as creatives. So, from that moment on, we have always leaned on each other when it comes to just empowering each other. I mean, we both see music from different backgrounds and viewpoints. It mixes to make something different.

What was the catalyst behind the ‘Excuse my Accent’ movement and single? Was there a certain event?

Drei: You know it started from a phone conversation. I was telling Rob I need to figure out a way to sing differently because everybody is talking about my accent. Even though they like my music, they ask, “Where is that accent from?” “Why don’t you talk like you’re American?” It just started from me telling Rob like “Yo man, they keep talking about my accent,” and Rob was like, “You should just do a song about it called ‘Excuse my Accent,’ and then, really tell people who you really are, and basically tell them to accept you for the real you.” Then, right after we got off the phone, I thought about the concept.

Thirty minutes later, we called each other like “Yo, that concept is crazy. I think it’s bigger than us. It’s not just about me and you. It’s about a lot of people going through similar situations from different places, or are minorities. They’re all going through daily confrontations to be accepted for who they really are.” That’s how the whole concept of the song started. Once we finalized the song, we contacted my friend Richard Stan. He is a video director from Romania, and he developed the whole concept for the music video. When he came to LA, we did the whole casting and production for the video. Then, at the video shoot, Rob invited Hector Barajas, who is a deported veteran, and it made us think again that this is bigger than just a song. It’s a movement that we have, and we need to figure out a way to present these stories to the world. That’s how the movement and the media company ‘Excuse my Accent’ was born.

Rob: Yeah, the only thing I could do is piggyback after that. When we thought about the concept in that thirty-minute pause, it was one those moments where we both kind of had a-ha light bulbs over our head. We realized that the thought process of ‘Excuse my Accent,’ even just being a phrase, is a lot of what immigrants, or people who are foreign, are going to say. This is especially true when we talk about America, as a whole, being a quote-on-quote melting pot. Even specifically listening to Drei’s story, still feeling isolated in that melting pot, which is kind of a contradiction to the ideology of the melting pot in the first place.

So, we quickly realized that ‘Excuse my Accent’ actually means so much more than just a singular story, because it’s not only a national story of America, but it’s a global story of what it means to be human. It’s a story of what it means to be able to celebrate your cultural experience, and your cultural background, from a place of pride and understanding that celebrating your cultural background doesn’t impose on anyone else’s celebration. They could be equally celebrated in the same party. ‘Excuse my Accent’ is really a monumental and special. We truly believe that the song is extended by the meaning that’s going to live forever.

It’s true what you said Rob in terms of America being called a melting pot. There is a lot of different people here from different places, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be accepted. Just like the experiences you had Drei. I believe you both hit on something important.

Rob: I mean, I always combat the idea of xenophobia. For us as human beings to, pretty much, long story short, get over ourselves, especially when we start to see something like a virus that’s been slapped on the world. We are really starting to understand our own humanity, and we have an opportunity either lean-out or lean-in to each other. More than ever, this is the time for us to lean-in. At some point, we have to understand that we’re all getting through this thing called life together, you know?

The music video for ‘Excuse My Accent’ is a heart-wrenching video featuring scenes of police brutality, and women and children being deported and detained by ICE. How did you decide to align both of those two important issues together?

Rob: Well, I mean, I definitely want to give a lot of credit to Richard Stan, the director. He really was able to take the song, look at the American diaspora of the American problems and ills that we face, and mobilize it beautifully. If you watch the music video a few times, you’ll notice there’s a lot of different issues in there. There’s Muslim issues, sex trafficking, immigration issues, and the police brutality issue, because there’s such a wide range of historical ills in America. It’s not like “Oh, this [issue] is historic right?” No, this happened last week. I believe the reason why the music video is so gut wrenching, so important and beautiful is because you’re following a child witnessing what’s going on around us.

At the end of the day, we’re setting up the foundation, and the concrete for our children to walk on. So, to have a child look at this chaos, knowing that we have a responsibility to give them that American freedom, I mean, cutting to the chase, we’re messing it up. We’re really not putting our best foot forward for people, who are coming behind us, to walk on a foundation where there isn’t this chaos. That’s the gut-wrenching part. We’re all fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers at the end of day. We’re all holding all these roles.

Drei: You’re going to get a lot of the same answers from both of us. Because we’re really on the same page with all these subjects [laughs]. Yeah, we wanted to sum up everything that’s been happening, not just within the last year, but within the past the forty or fifty years. It’s the same type of event, only with different people in different stages at different times. The American society has been running through the same issues regarding immigrants and minorities for a long, long time. So, what we wanted to do is present them, so the people that are going through something similar can watch it. Only together we can fight through this and make a better world for our kids. There’s hope for a better life.

I definitely agree with you, Rob. I think I missed maybe some of the other scenes in the video. I also think that is very gut wrenching because you see it from the child’s perspective. Something else that really struck me was your ‘Excuse my Accent’ support to the Deported Veterans Support House. Honestly, I had no idea that this was happening, and after learning more about it, I was horrified. Why did you guys choose this organization as part of your pledge for the ‘Excuse My Accent’ merchandise?

Rob: I got this one Drei [laughs], stop me in coach! For one, when I stumbled onto Hector Barajas’ story, it baffled me also. It’s a very common, yet unique story, which makes everything about it a contradiction. It’s unique, but it’s happening all the time. We wanted to bring him in the music video because we wanted to honor his story as a representation of what ‘Excuse my Accent’ is at its core. Then when we met him, and really diving in and hearing his plight, we also realized how hard Hector Barajas works to solve the issues. He got deported. He walked up to the border every day wearing his outfit. Until he finally screamed at Bernie Sanders across the border, until he finally got recognized, and finally became a citizen. Then, after becoming a citizen, he could have easily shut the door behind him, but he decided to make a pledge to himself. He said, “I want to make sure that I fight for anybody who has gone through what I’ve gone through.” Hector’s such a hardworking human being. I could probably call him right now, and he’s probably in Tijuana because he has a bunker out there where he houses and fights for the deported veterans. He helps them get pensions and citizenships. Drei went there and met a lot of them. Hector really dedicated his life to sacrifice his own happiness, to be honest.

Another reason why we felt it was so important and compelling because, one, it didn’t make sense. How can you fight for a country and not be recognized? That’s one of the most disheartening parts of the story. If you aren’t a citizen, you can be deported. Yet, they will honor you when you die as a veteran. That means they can literally be deported because they aren’t citizens, after fighting for the war with whatever trauma they carry is a veteran, which is normal, and be placed on the other side of the border. Yet, when they die in Mexico, [the U.S.] will allow them back only in a coffin. That’s mind boggling. Very angering, to be honest.

We interviewed with Hector recently on our platform, excusemyaccent.co, and the concept of deported veterans is not secluded to the Latin community. It includes a wide range of culture, like Kevin Martinez is black from Belize. There’s also deported Russians, Germans and Asians. We’ve heard so many complex stories from a variety of veterans who are now fighting for their citizenship, and in a lot of ways, fighting for their lives. If they get deported back to Korea, they pretty much got a mark on their head. So, it’s very complex and honestly, an easy fix situation that isn’t recognized enough. We really show that this very, unique story exemplifies ‘Excuse my Accent.’ In our documentary, that we’re going to be releasing soon, Drei went down to speak with some of the deported veterans on the other side. Want to hop on that Drei?

Drei: So, I was going back to Tijuana to meet Hector, while he was there at the bunker with the deported veterans. On my way there, I asked “did you want me to bring anything from the states?”, and they’re like “bring us some In-N-Out Burger.” I went to San Diego to go to the In-N-Out Burger and brought a bunch of burgers. When I came to Tijuana, they all came to eat and that’s how we talked. When you hear about this subject in the states, some people think if they got deported, they could figure out a way to come back. When you actually hear these veterans talk about their stories, it’s different.

There was this 72-year old gentleman there. Basically, he was in the military for many years and was driving in a car when something happened. Some people got arrested and he was involved in it. He got deported since he had a green card at the time. There was a felony assigned to him and now he cannot see his family. He has grand-kids and everybody lives here in Los Angeles. He had a regular job for over thirty years, finished with the military, and now he cannot even go back. So dramatic talking to them when you listen to these kinds of stories. People that fought for the United States are now outside the country and can’t come back. There were so many of them. So, I don’t remember all their names because, but it was very emotional talking to them and learning about their situations. That guy’s name is Mauricio. He fought in combat missions with the United States. He was in the front lines, and now he’s been deported for over fifteen years in Tijuana. It is very sad, and it’s not just in Mexico. There are deported veterans all over the world.

Rob: Yeah, there literally isn’t a moment where one person shows his knife wounds and talks about how many kills, how much trauma and PTSD he has from fighting these wars. I went with Hector to go meet Bernie Sanders. Bernie was attentively listening to the issue and looking to find a way to solve it. That was amazing. Yet, the thing that was disturbing, on my side of things was like, how do you guys not know about this? How is this new? As we’re starting to develop conversations again on immigration, which always will be in America, it still baffles me how this is not something that very much should be solved and reconciled. It’s not a big issue from the right side of things or from the left of side things. It should be a very bipartisan thought process that we should honor our veterans, no matter where they come from. They fought for the freedom that we’re all trying and working our hardest to enjoy, you know? So, I think that’s another thing that’s so angering about this situation. How come you just found out about this? How did I just find out about this? Yeah, it’s crazy.

I agree with you 100%. It’s true that it should be a bipartisan fight to give priority to people who fought for our country. There’s just so much politics and fighting back and forth for things that aren’t even a big deal, or if it is, they just can’t get on the same page. It’s great you visited and talked to them. I’m sure it makes them feel they have support.

Drei: I mean, our role was mostly to present this issue to a different crowd then was presented before. We’re try to spread the word about what’s going on. Our music reaches a younger crowd, so we wanted to present it to them in a cool way about the situation and with our documentary.

That related to my next question. I know you mentioned that you have a documentary coming out, so anything else we can expect more from your platform ‘Excuse my Accent’?

Rob: We’re really looking to continue this kind of conversation. I’m also going to piggyback and take like two steps to what you said earlier when we were talking about the bipartisan issues and how they are arguing over these conversations. I believe there is a lack of empathy for each other. What we are doing is using our platform to share and humanize these stories across the board, not only for deported veterans. So right now, we’re doing Instagram live interviews that we’ll be dropping on YouTube. We interviewed Gunna Goes Global from San Francisco, Vicci Martinez from Orange is the New Black, Hector Barajas, Kevin Martinez, and Daniel Torres shout out because he’s the first deported veteran to ever get his citizenship. He’s in the documentary. We’re going to continue doing these Instagram live interviews and then putting them out as we’re finishing up our documentary for a grand release. Then, we’re also looking to continue creating content from a media aspect to highlight the multicultural experience across the board. Dig people inside and outside in the entertainment industry, moving towards entertainment, because that’s what we know, to be able to contribute to a place that matters to society and humanize our story. Our goal is to make people feel comfortable in their own skin, especially in a time where we’re being trained to be divisive.

The reason why ‘Excuse my Accent’ is so powerful is because we’re basically saying past white, past black. Where you from? Are you Romanian? Are you Irish? Are you West African? Are you Indian? If you look to anybody’s lineage, and you break it all down, maybe the melting pot is inside of us. So, we’re all kind of mixed with either different lineages, or thought processes and experiences, which makes us our unique cultural self. So, that’s why ‘Excuse my Accent’ is so powerful. We’re going to continue sharing that message through just different media forms, whether it’s documentaries or Instagram interviews or music. When things open up, hopefully they’ll be shows and festivals as well to spread the message.

Speaking of politics, we have an upcoming election this year. So, for both of you, whoever is going be the next American president, what do you think are some of the main issues that they should focus on?

Rob: I mean, a very complex issue is definitely immigration. I believe that we should start to look at this issue from a very human standpoint which is fair. Historically, in America, immigration, and the conversation, I mean, has been racist, to be honest. So, I believe that should be at the forefront. I’m black, so I would like to see education reform that contributes to minorities to where they could have access and representation in schools. I would like to see prison reform to where it’s not a big business that leans on black and brown bodies. The reality of it is, these are very complicated issues, but I really believe have simple solutions. If we come at it from a place of unity, empathy, and humanism, then we could come up with solutions that works for everybody rather than arguments. With ‘Excuse my Accent,’ we believe in win-win. Capitalism doesn’t have to be a win-lose. There are ways that people can win and feel comfortable, feel safe and feel empowered as human beings in this country.

Drei: I hope whoever becomes the president next, and has the power, will have the strength to restart the economy, especially with these hard times. We have such a weak economy. When people don’t have money, they also don’t have access to education. People are fighting and arguing, especially when Corona damaged everything. So, I think it’s going to be very challenging to sustain a good economy after this whole period. Then, of course, everything Rob mentioned.

Rob: I agree Drei. You’re right. A lot of the things that we face today falls back on economics.

Drei: When there’s poverty and no money, and yet there’s access to drugs, it’s very hard to make improvements in any of these departments. There will also be a lot of homeless people.

Rob: I was going to add that before Martin Luther King passed, his next big wave was the poor people’s march. He recognized the power of classism in economics and how important it is to be able to put people on an even playing field. When the economy’s bad, like Drei said, there’s no access.

Drei: Already, nobody cares about anything else except putting food on the table. So, I hope for a better world. When you’re hungry, you care about food. You don’t care about being nice to your neighbor, you know? So, there’s a lot of challenges ahead. Whoever is going to have the power, they have a long journey and a lot of work to do. However, we’re staying positive that things are gonna get better. After the storm, there’s always the sun. So, we have to stay positive that good things are going to happen and were going to be better than ever.

Rob: Hey Drei, did you write that down? Cus that’s a song bro, “after the storm, there’s the sun.” Phew. Write that down [laughs]

Yeah, that’s a good line! Also, I know you both released two singles before ‘Excuse my Accent’. Rob, you came out with your single ‘Heathen’ back in July. What was the inspiration behind that song regarding your struggle with spirituality?

Rob: The idea behind it actually was kind of this idea of being African American and Christian. It’s kind of contradictory in a lot of aspects, especially when we understand that Christianity was placed on us through slavery. I’m a Christian personally, and I know that’s a contradiction in itself. So, I was looking at it from this place of ‘heathen’ meaning without spirituality. That name was placed on African Americans, as a way to say, it’s okay to have slavery. Same thing that happened with Native Americans. Yet, when we look at the whole entire concept of what’s happened in society, it was basically saying, even through all that, look what’s been created. In the beginning of the music video, it says white Jesus, black Jesus, white Jesus, black Jesus, you could rewrite history, but you’ll never take my spirit. I just want to find God because, at the end of the day, that access point is the most important. So, it’s really about a spiritual conflict as a result of being black and Christian, and still praying every day because right now it’s needed more than any other time.

For you Drei, what was your inspiration for your single ‘Tables Turn 2.0’? How was it like working with Jamby El Favo and Melymel?

Drei: Yes, that was a totally different project. It was a fun song and I tried to combine a lot of artists from the urban world here in the States. It’s kind of like a train starting for me, and I want to do that more with the next song that I’m doing to mix Latin Artists with American artists. For the same reason, to build a bridge between cultures. It’s not like ‘Excuse my Accent’ where it has a meaningful and powerful message, but I wanted to do the same thing with a fun message and combine cultures that brings people together. That was an example for ‘Tables Turn 2.0’. Before that, I released my album ‘Origin’, which is executive produced by 808 Mafia, and on that album, I have 11 songs that kind of give you a story of where I’m from and where I’m about to go. The foundation of what’s coming next.

For people of color and immigrants wanting to get into music, what kind of advice would you guys have for them trying to start out?

Drei: I mean, it’s all about following your dream. Persevering and having a vision for yourself and never giving up, and just continuing to pursue your dream. Whether it’s music or sports, it applies to all fields. So, it’s all about not giving up, and just continuing growing your audience and working on your craft.

Rob: Yeah, I would piggyback off that and say a lot of the same things. I mean, I think that chasing a dream is definitely not easy. It takes a lot of willingness to sell really because it’s a part of it. I think that the biggest story that wraps around back to ‘Excuse my Accent’ is to love you and fall into you as a source for whatever you’re doing, especially if it’s music. Don’t be afraid to be yourself holistically. Understand that being an individual and being unique is what’s going to build your story. Build up to the person or artist you want to be. Just be that person 100%. Whoever it is.

Drei: Also, slowly build the team around you because it’s very important to have a team of people that believe in you. A team that can help you achieve your dream, because without a team, it’s very hard to win. So, that’s something they should keep in mind. Even if it’s a producer, manager, or a sound engineer, just build your team slowly and make sure those people believe in you. They should be willing to help you and be there for you. That’s also important.

You can find more information about Drei Ros and RobYoung at...

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