Aug 2011 Feature – Dred Scott – Tyler Ward
By Jenn Cohen
In 1847, a slave named Dred Scott sued for his freedom, and ten years later, the U.S. Supreme Court answered that, “all blacks, slaves and free, could never become citizens of the United States.”
No, this is not a history lesson, but an important case to many people, including a 16-yearDenver streetmusician who goes by the name Dred Scott, to honor the relevance of this case, (as well as a reference to his dreadlocks).
Born David Adebonojo inCalifornia, Scott was discovered by local artist and producer, Tyler Ward. Recently, they both took time to talk with me about some potentially big changes coming for Scott.
CMB: Tyler, the story, as I’ve heard it, is that you were walking home one night
Tyler: Yeah, it was after dinner and I heard his voice. I didn’t know who he was, and I walked by [Arby’s] and just stopped, literally, for about 20 minutes. After he played I was like, ‘Here’s some money, brother. Wanna chat?’ We went to 7-11 and got him some food, and about a week later is when I came down with all the equipment and recorded him.
CMB: Dred, what did you think about Tyler coming down with all the equipment?
Dred: Well, I’ve always wanted to go online and everything, I just don’t have a way to do it, so, I was ready. It was just a way to do what I want to do; otherwise, I would’ve had to come up with all the equipment and all that myself.
CMB: How old were you when you realized that had this talent to play the guitar and sing?
Dred: I started singing when I was really young, and then I started playing guitar when I was 11 or 12, but I didn’t sing for a long time because my voice changed. And then probably in my 20s, I started singing again. I mean, singing is like one of those things where you just start off finding people whose songs you like, and whose songs your voice-type fits. Then you sing kind like them, and gradually develop your own voice.
CMB: Did you ever have any formal training?
Dred: No, nothing like that. Most people I know who play guitar don’t [have formal training].
CMB: Tyler, what is your background in music?
Tyler: I’ve been doing music now for about five years, but really seriously for about a year. My main nitch is that I run an online music label. We’ve had over 170 million hits on You Tube, just under 100 videos, and literally, as of today, we’ve broken the top 100 most subscribed to channels in the world. I play locally sometimes, and I produce artists, that’s kind of my main passion. When I heard [Dred’s] voice I was like, ‘This guy’s gotta be exposed to a large audience.’ I’m sure he’s never had a huge audience here (16th Street Mall). So we put it out there and within a week it has just under 500,000 views, which is pretty incredible. People are really, really taking to it and supporting him. The song he recorded live, it’s called, “Live at 16th Street Mall,” and we put that on iTunes, and the funds that come through there support him to create a better lifestyle; somewhere to sleep, somewhere to stay, somewhere to change [clothes]
CMB: Dred, have you seen a difference since your music has been on iTunes?
Tyler: Well, it takes about 60 days for iTunes to process that, so we haven’t seen any of it yet, but we kinda did an advance, and we got him a cell phone, so now we can actually contact each other.
Scott was born inCalifornia. He lived there until he was five, then he moved toPhiladelphia, where he stayed until he was 12 years old. He lived inNigeriafor two before moving back toPhiladelphia, then back toCaliforniafor college, and eventually ended up inDenverin the 90s.
CMB: Dred, what brought you to Denver?
Dred: When I first came out here, there were a lot of music opportunities and stuff like that. It was the 90s; I had a great time. Nowadays, I guess more of the opportunity in online. You can’t rely on local people to make things happen, you have to have an overall audience that you have to be able to reach.
CMB: Tyler, are you a Denver native?
Tyler: No, I’ve been inDenverfor about 12 years.
CMB: Do the two of you have any plans to play together in the future
Tyler: We haven’t even talked about it. I kinda do my thing, and he does his thing.
CMB: Your performance name, Dred Scott, is that in honor of the Dred Scott case?
Dred: The name is from the Dred Scott case. I use the name, it has reference to the dread locks—it fits. What I usually tell people is, ‘Read the case,’ and they’ll get a good understanding of why I use the name.
CMB: Tyler, what is your goal for Dred?
Tyler: My goal is to expose him to a large audience, and be able to take his amazing talent from the street, and—not to say [the street] is bad, just to say, ‘You can do better for yourself with a larger audience,’ because if he can do that, then it just helps everybody.
CMB: How many hours a day do you play?
Dred: A lot. Probably six, maybe more. I spend a lot of time down here.
CMB: Is the Arby’s location your favorite spot to play, or do you play in different places?
Dred: I have spots that I like to play, depending on who else might be in that spot or what construction they might be doing, or other sounds. The main thing is sound. I have to be in a place where there’s not that much sound.
CMB: If people want to hear you perform, where would they be most likely to find you?
Dred: Usually, on the weekdays, I’m between Stout Streetand about Glenarm on 16th Street. On the weekends I go down by Larimer Square, up and down on 18th and Market. Friday and Saturday night I go down there. When the bars let out, there’s a large concentration of people.
I play music, and always kind of felt like I was born in the wrong time. If I could’ve been around 40 years ago, you could just go out and play, you know, things were simpler back then. Now everything is more revolving around online. I’m not a hard person to please, you know?
To support Dred and his music, find him on the 16th Street Mall, or via iTunes.
For more information on Tyler Ward, check out