Isaac Fontes wears plaid flannels for the drip, not because it’s a national pastime.
Even though Detroit rap duo Drego and Beno don’t particularly look alike, they come across as brothers – and this is because of an immensely tight bond that they’ve shared since an early age. They credit this to just naturally being into the same things – music, sports and making jokes. They share a similar goal too: to make people laugh and tell their stories through their music. They’re fighting demons because of their times growing up in the streets of Eastside Detroit, but they’re simultaneously listening to their auntie telling them to wash their dishes when they’re done in the kitchen. “We want you to be able to feel like we really going through this, or we was going through this at this moment in our lives,” says Drego.
The first thing you realize is that Beno is the quieter of the two – Drego is the more talkative one. But he also won’t hesitate to sit back and let Beno talk about certain topics, like how they grew up on hip-hop and how bars just come to them at any given point throughout the day. The two always agree with each other’s point of view anyway – they just expand on each other’s analogies. Beno refers to R&B and hip-hop as “real life cinema” before Drego dives deeper: “Even before words came to music – jazz or whatever it was, it always had a feeling to it. Jazz got a story to it, even without the words.”
The two are godbrothers, attending school together all the way up to graduating high school. Classic R&B like Luther Vandross and Al Green was always played around their houses and they were fans of rap groups like Team Eastside and StreetLordz in the 2000’s, whose tales seemed relatable to a young Drego and Beno. In middle school, they attended a performing arts school, where Drego played drums in a jazz and concert band. But they’ve only been seriously rapping for four years, and they never actually wanted to do it. They used to poke fun at their friends through funny disses and rhymes at school. Sometimes one of their classmates would play a beat by banging on the desk too, but at the time, it was just kids having fun.
Beno went viral doing the “Geeked Up Challenge,” a simple gimmick popular on Vine around 2016, where people would just rap to the instrumental of Jeezy and Fab’s “Geeked Up” – usually coming up with funny one-liners that would make their crew surrounding them laugh. This style of rapping organically suits the charismatic personalities of both Drego and Beno, allowing for their punchlines about accidentally driving the Foreign the wrong way down the one-way street to slide off their tongues naturally. They are trying to be funny, but it’s also just who they are.
The response to their take on the challenge was overwhelming, as friends and peers suggested that they really make a song. “I guess people just started to like it, so us playing around at school and sh*t, that’s the only reason we really rap for real,” says Drego. They began to take rapping seriously not too long after.
Their debut mixtape, 2019’s Sorry For the Get Off was an instant hit thanks to the undeniably catchy and blatantly honest track “Recipe 2,” on which they admit to choosing the money and the drugs over a girl, before taking it all back – “I’m lying, I’m in love with you, boo.” The song went on to make waves not just locally, but nationally. The mixtape is now widely considered a modern-day Detroit classic – all 14 of the project’s songs boast the type of raunchy punchlines and candid storytelling that have gone on to be key characteristics of Detroit rap. They took full advantage of their rising popularity that year, dropping one more mixtape and their debut album, Meet Us Outer Space.
Drego and Beno grew up as the youngest siblings in their respective families, in what they proudly call the best cartoon era in history. Quick-witted characters who are full of adventure in shows like Dexter’s Laboratory and Pinky and the Brain contributed to the duo’s overall sense of humor. They’ll get vulnerable in one bar – “I done felt so much pain, you just can’t see the wounds,“ raps Drego on the hook of “Recipe 2,” before cracking a joke only a few bars later; “I’ll crash the whip, dawg, ‘fore I spill the juice.”
All of these characteristics bleed through their music, which is highlighted by reflections on their times in the streets and comical bars about not remembering a girl’s name or calling their plug Dr. Doolittle. It’s not all jokes though. While the philosophy of having fun is still very much prevalent in their raps, the way they balance it with street tales helps underpin their strengths as rappers, and showcases why they should still be taken seriously. Their real-life characters shine through their music. “We don’t fake nothing. We’re not fake family, we’re real. We keep it one thousand. We keep it as real as they keep it. If he’s playing fake, then I’ma play fake with him,” says Beno.
At times throughout our Zoom talk, Beno flosses his teeth and occasionally hits some sort of vape. When Drego joined the call, he was shopping at a Guitar Center in Detroit and went to his car to take the call. A couple of my questions were met with a simultaneous “yeah” from both, before one of them allowed for the other to expand. When I asked them each to describe each other’s personalities, their answers were along the same lines of calling each other funny, but all about their business when it comes down to it.
A halt in dropping more music, partly due to the pandemic, allowed for them to take a step back and reflect on what the world was going through. Also, they’re businessmen, so dropping new music when they couldn’t perform it live didn’t make sense. Looking at the future optimistically and ready to reclaim their spot in the rap game, Drego and Beno officially returned in July after a three-year hiatus for their new project’s lead single, “You Hip.”
I had the opportunity to speak to the Detroit duo a few days after the release of their newest album, Sorry We Was Trapping. We talked about their faith, their experiences growing up in Detroit, how they found their style and much more.
(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
What were each of you guys like as kids?
Beno: Man, we had a blast!
Drego: We went to a music middle school. They demolished it now, like it’s not standing no more. But we was always really into music. We never thought that we would be doing music, but we always had a passion for music and stuff like that. So just coming up, we used to play and beat on the tables and rap, you know what I’m sayin’? Just play around making music and playing sports and just doing what kids do.
That school, was it specifically a music school?
Drego: It was like a performing arts school.
So you guys have been doing music for a long time.
Drego: Yeah, since we were about 9-10.
Beno: We’ve been rapping only for about 3-4 years.
Do you remember any music being played around the house while growing up? What was being played?
Beno: R&B, old school. Gerald Levert, Luther Vandross, all that.
Drego: Michael Jackson, Prince, Al Green.. Classics!
So when did you get introduced to hip-hop then?
Beno: Well we always grew up on hip-hop. You know, I grew up listening to Lil Wayne, the Hot Boys, Juvenile.. I grew up listening to them. Then we transferred over to our own city, ‘cause back in the day, they used to have these groups that used to rap, like Blade Icewood, The Street Lordz and Eastside Chedda Boyz, Team Eastside with Peezy, Dame, Babyface Ray and them. So we grew up listening to them. They’ve been rapping for about 15 years, so we grew up listening to them all our life for real. We always been into hip-hop, for real. We really like both for real – R&B/old school and hip-hop/new school.
And how would you say, if at all, growing up listening to and being exposed to R&B and that stuff, has helped you guys in your career now?
Drego: Well how I think about it – back in the day, R&B was more real. It had more soul to it, it had more feel. You could tell they were probably really going through that, you know what I’m sayin’? So we try to reiterate that type of stuff into our music. We want you to be able to feel like we really going through this, or we was going through this at this moment in our lives.
Beno: And back in the day, they were playing real instruments. Today, you can just make the instruments on the computer. They were really actually on the drumset, guitars, all that. They were real authentic back in the day.
Yeah, for sure. R&B and hip-hop are pretty similar, at least when it comes to the storytelling and authenticity.
Beno: Oh yeah, for sure. Real life cinema. It’s just a different sound and different aspect they go about it.
Drego: Yeah, just sped up a little bit! Music has always been music. All of the music really still the same, no matter what it is. Even before words came to music – jazz or whatever it was, it always had a feeling to it. Even jazz got a story to it, even without the words! So music always got a story. The instruments really are saying words, you know what I’m sayin’? Like, I played in a band before.. You can make it to where your instruments are saying the words to the song. So it’s all about the feeling. You just gotta catch that feeling and when you do, put the words to the music.
For sure. What kind of band did you play in?
Drego: I played in a concert band and I played in a jazz band. I played the drumset in the jazz band and I played the snare and bass drum in the concert band.
Were either of you guys class clowns growing up?
Drego: Oh yeah, we’re still class clowns – and we ain’t even in school! (laughs)
Beno: Yeah, we some jokesters. We like to play a lot, just have a good time for real.
Yeah, I could only imagine the two of you guys in a classroom together.
Drego: (Laughs) Yeah, our teachers used to try to separate us and all that!
Beno: You might not get your work done, man.
Yeah, but we’ll have a good time though.
Drego: A great time!
What would you say drew yourselves to each other at a young age, besides from the family connection? I feel like regardless of that, in order to get a long for as long as you guys have, there still has to be a connection there or a want to hangout.
Beno: We came up with this rule when we were younger – everything we do is 50/50. Everything me and bro do, we just split it up, no matter what it is. We could be in the club, you feel me. We going half on everything. We built that relationship at a young age and we stuck by it.
Drego: And we really into the same things, without even trying. We’ll be doing the same thing. I don’t know, that’s just my dawg for real, I ain’t gon’ lie. Like, if we had a third one of us that didn’t rap or something, I don’t know what’d be going on in this world! We’d probably be running for president or some sh*t. (Laughs) We’d be unstoppable. I feel like we need one more of us though, ‘cause we got enough on our plate. We need one more of us.
That 50/50 mindset.. Obviously you guys still believe in that and carry into your work as a duo?
Beno: Yeah, ‘cause all you got is your word and your name out here. If I’ma lie to my main mans, then how is everything else gon’ work? Ain’t nothing else gonna work with nobody, if I’m lying to him and not honest with him.
Drego: Then it’s like, we don’t just rap together. Even if we didn’t rap, if we quit rapping right now, that’d still be my dawg.
Beno: We still gon’ be together everyday, all day.
Drego: That’s how it is. We could be in two different states for 3-4 months, we still gon’ damn near talk everyday or every other day. We ain’t gon’ ever just not talk for a week, two weeks. I don’t think we ever did that.
I heard you guys mention in the past that you used to make fun of each other at school. Was that through little rhymes and stuff like that? I interviewed Damedot a while ago and he said that he used to do the same thing before he started rapping seriously. So I’m just curious, is that a thing in Detroit – poking fun at each other through rhymes and stuff like that?
Drego: I mean, nah, you know when you a kid and you bad as hell? You just do little bad sh*t, you know what I’m sayin’? When no adults [are] around, you do little bad sh*t, that’s just how it is. We’d just be cracking jokes on each other, one day you [might] let somebody play a beat. We just talking sh*t, having fun. Just talking about what’s going on.
And do you think doing that — engaging in that, helped you rap? Did any of that transfer over?
Drego: That’s the only reason I ever even rapped. The only reason I ever even made a song, me and bro. We had went viral. Well, it was more so – Beno had went viral on this little thing called the “Geeked Up Challenge,” like the old Fabo song. We played the instrumental and we’d just be rapping in the hallways of high school, just playing around, saying little funny stuff here and there – like how we really rap. And it had went viral on Twitter and Instagram, and we was probably about 19. After that, people told us, ‘man, y’all sweet as hell! Y’all should f*ck around and make a song!’ So we started making songs, but we wasn’t really putting nothing out with videos or nothing like that, but we just started recording a little bit, getting in there and I guess people just started to like it, so us playing around at school and sh*t, that’s the only reason we really rap for real.
That’s cool that it kinda transferred over into actually rapping.
Beno: We never planned on rapping, for real. Everybody else wanted us to rap. The stuff that we were saying, they’d be like, ‘oh, that sounds like it could be on the radio or something!’ Or ‘it could be on a real track.’ So we just went and started rapping, and it happened! (Laughs)
You guys grew up in the Eastside of Detroit. What was the most difficult part about growing up there?
Beno: For us, it wasn’t really difficult for real, because everybody around the city loved us and we got love through the city, so it really wasn’t difficult. Everybody was just like, ‘oh yeah, that’s lil bro and them. Show ‘em love. Keep ‘em straight.’ You know what I’m sayin’? There wasn’t really no hard nothing growing up, for real.
Drego: Yeah, more so when we got older for sure. People wanted us to do good, so they just tried to keep us out of trouble the best way they could. You know when you growing up, you still gon’ hit your head a little bit here and there, get in some trouble, but we always had people in our corner that’d come talk to us, like ‘it ain’t nothing really out here for real. Even if you gon’ do your thing, make sure you keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t fall off, ‘cause you’ll f*ck around and look up, and be like, damn, I let some good sh*t go to waste.’
I was gonna ask what the best part was too, but it sounds like that probably is the best part – just having a community around you and support?
Drego: The best part is not even really the community and the support, to be honest. The best part is the people that don’t even know you from a can of paint and just love you, you know what I’m sayin’? That be the best part. People be f*cked up about you when they see you, like ‘damn, that’s really him!’ Sh*t like that. Or they be like, ‘damn, I swear to God, you got me through something.’ That’ll make a person wanna keep going, besides the people that’s around you, ‘cause it be love and hate too. Only way somebody can hate you is if they really know you or be around you. The hate ain’t gon’ come from somebody who don’t know you at all. There’s a thin line between love and hate. Love and hate is pretty much the same thing.
Did you guys grow up going to church?
Drego: Yeah, when I was younger I went to church a lot. That’s probably one of the reasons I love music too, ‘cause I love that authenticity. Church [is] still one of the only things going on that still uses natural instruments, you know what I’m sayin’? Ain’t nothing off no computer or nothing like that. It’s a real feeling. You’ve got a real feeling to it. I haven’t been to church lately though, probably like the last couple years.. How old am I? Damn, I ain’t been to church in a minute! (Laughs) I hope God forgives me.
Do you still believe and have faith, even though you don’t regularly go?
Drego & Beno: Yeah!
Beno: You gotta have faith and believe. That’s the whole key to success – faith and belief.
Drego: Yeah, that’s one thing I believe in. Just to go to church and listen to somebody pray and tell you stories out of the bible, that don’t mean that you’re saved, you know what I’m sayin’? That don’t mean that you’re spiritual, just because you’re listening to the stories. You gotta build your own relationship [with God]. Like I’m not a religious person, but I’m real spiritual. I believe in all that. I don’t believe in religion.
What do you mean by that?
Drego: Because it’s, what? Muslims, Christians… All the different religions and we all talking about a God, but everybody is talking about it in a different way. So I don’t really believe in religion, but I believe in spirits and stuff like that. If I whisper a secret in your ear and there’s 10 people, by the time it gets to the last person, it’s gon’ be a different story, right? That’s how I really think about it. I don’t believe everything I hear.
Was that sense of faith something that was instilled in you guys since early on, when you went to church regularly and all that as a kid?
Drego: Nah, that’s just something about me moving around in different cultures, being in different places, going to L.A., Miami and just listening to different people and their aspects of life. My Pops and Moms, they [are] religious. They’re real religious. Forget spiritual, they’re real religious. But I don’t judge people on what they believe in, because that’s your own belief. I’m not saying that it’s not true, I’m just saying that I’m just a spiritual person. Because I don’t know what really went on, I wasn’t there. I can only go off my situations.
Not to change the topic too much, but I’m really curious… What cartoons did you guys watch growing up?
Beno:Tom and Jerry – that was a classic, I ain’t gon’ lie.
Drego: Man, Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Pinky and the Brain… You know, we grew up in the best cartoon era in the world! (Laughs) We grew up in the ‘90s-early 2000’s.
Where do you guys think you got your sense of humor from?
Drego: We’re the youngest! I’m the youngest out of my brothers and he’s the youngest – he’s got two older sisters, you feel me? We’re both the youngest, so we were always childish. Running around our older siblings, just cracking jokes and irritating their friends. I guess it just stuck with us, ‘cause we were always just childish, messing with people.
Drego, I’ve heard you say that you hit the streets around 16, after you stopped playing sports. Did those experiences at such a young age help shape you into the man you are today, would you say?
Drego: Yeah, it definitely shaped me into the man I am today, ‘cause it showed me that if you don’t work, you ain’t gon’ eat and nobody gon’ care about you. People only care about you when you’re winning. If you’re losing, your Mama don’t even care about you. If you ain’t got no money, your Mama even talking down on you, so..
Beno: ‘So what you doing? I ain’t raised you like that!’
Drego: (Laughs) So it shaped me for sure, ‘cause sports were pretty much all you got in Detroit. It’s either you play ball or you going to school or you in the streets, so after I lost sports – sh*t, I had to go for what I know. It was never like I was a fool though. I just had some trials and tribulations that I needed to learn from and see the best way I could play it.
And then you guys started rapping around 18-19 years old. That’s not too long ago.. The inspiration to start was just having people telling you guys, ‘man, that would sound good on a song’?
Drego: I mean, yeah, we’d probably be dead or in jail if we weren’t rapping, I ain’t gon’ lie. To be honest, it ain’t really nothing here for you. It’s a hating ass city. Your own cousin will hate on you. Your own cousin will be hanging with somebody you don’t like or you can’t rock with. It’s no loyalty here.
Beno: It’s the best man wins here.
Drego: It’s the best man wins. You know how it used to be, like you got a whole squad? Hell nah. Everybody wanna be the top dawg.
I’ve heard you guys mention Eminem and the older generation of Detroit rappers, and how they’re kinda hesitant to show love to the new generation…
Beno: Yeah, I never understood that.
Drego: I mean, but Eminem is like, 50 years old. And he’s a white boy too, so it’s like, Eminem ain’t about to just come to the hood. He don’t know us. Eminem don’t know us, to be honest.
Beno: He don’t know us, but I feel like he should get to know us. We from the same city. He’s already at his peak of success, so he should be able to want other people that’s from the same environment and same city as him, to be as successful as him. He shouldn’t be on some, ‘oh nah, I’m scared to go to Detroit,’ ‘oh nah, something might happen.’ He shouldn’t have that thought in his mind at all, because there’s some people in Detroit that probably really need him or need his help.
Drego: He do got a lot of f*ckin’ money too! He coulda mothaf*ckin’ came and made a mothaf*ckin’ label here or something. It’s just the point of you giving somebody the same opportunity that somebody gave you. That’s all it really be. There’s a lot of good people and they die right before they made it out. Maybe if they had somebody to help them get here or get there, where they’re tryna go, maybe they’d still be alive. Then they can come back and grab more people. But that sh*t don’t always work out like that. Some people just don’t think like that. They’re probably like, ‘sh*t, I worked hard to get to where I had to be myself, so you gotta do that sh*t too.’ There’s some people that’s like that.
Does it mean more to you guys when you do get love from somebody of that caliber?
Drego: It’s always a good thing to learn and experience new things, so yeah, we feel good about it. We’d never not feel good about it, but at the same time, it’s like, this sh*t is music. People gotta stop thinking everybody is your friend in the music game. It’s a business, so when some business opportunities come, you handle your business. Don’t get mad when you see somebody not f*cking with you everyday – it’s not your friend. Y’all may grow to become friends, but don’t get mad when somebody don’t do something that you want them to do. That’s fake as hell.
Beno: Because ain’t nobody obligated to do anything for you.
Drego: Mothaf*ckers will get mad, like say I’m f*cking with a famous mothaf*cker from out of town or something, we kicking it while he’s in town with me – he’s in my town, we’re kicking it. We’re kicking it hard, but next time we’re in a different town, like he’s here and I’m here – I just happened to be here, but we can’t link, he got some other sh*t going on, and I get mad, like ‘oh f*ck him, we’re about to beef. He acting funny.’
That ain’t no real n*gga sh*t. People got other sh*t going on. You ain’t gotta be acting like that, it’s not really your friend. If y’all kick it when y’all kick it, that’s cool. Lebron James might link up with KD here and there, but they ain’t about to be at each other’s mothaf*ckin’ family reunions and sh*t! (Laughs) But mothaf*ckers be divas like that, for real. So I be tryna stay away from these mothaf*ckers, they be divas and they like to really try to steal your mothaf*ckin’ sauce. You gotta watch these mothaf*ckers – style stealers.
Beno, you used to make Drego rap for people because you used to believe in him so much. What can you tell me about that – just having so much belief in your brother?
Beno: I mean, because bro is lyrically a genius. He’s really a genius for real, no cap. His wordplay, he’s metaphorically a genius with his wordings. He puts words together that nobody would expect nobody to say. He’s just a genius with this sh*t. He’ll play the piano, he’ll make the beat, then rap on the beat, so bro can outrap anybody off the dome. That’s what we do. We don’t even write our music. We just freestyle everything we ever dropped. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. No cap. We never wrote on a piece of paper or write notes on our phone, we just go in there and rap, and come out with greatness.
Who would you guys label as musical influences?
Beno: I ain’t gon’ lie, I’ve got a lot of influencers in the music game, like Young Thug one of my favorite rappers. Lil Uzi, Wayne, Drake, Future. That’s my top five right there. By them dropping profusely and consistently, they make me wanna [do that too]. Like ‘yeah, I can do the same sh*t.’ I can do the same type of work, just in my own way – my own Detroit way.
Drego: There’s a lot of people. Three Six Mafia, Project Pat, just movements and people. I’ve got a different aspect of it, ‘cause I make beats too, so I like the Juicy Js and the Kanye Wests, you know what I’m sayin’? Sh*t like that, so my outtake on it will be different, but I can say a person that personally kinda influenced me, just seeing how a n*gga move and just keep it 1000 and a real n*gga, I can say Kodak Black.
That mothaf*cker be up until 7:00-8:00 in the morning recording. Just recording. That’s probably when he starts recording. His work ethic. You wouldn’t even think that he’s working like that, but like how bro said I’m a genius, he’s a genius with that sh*t. You wouldn’t expect him to say the sh*t he says. Like one time he said, ‘the judge gave me that look, but he don’t think I’m gorgeous / He gon’ throw the book at me, but he don’t know my story.’ (Laughs) Like he really motivated me. And then just going certain places with bro and seeing how people attach to him, but he’s just like me. You can tell he came up from nothing – he still acts the same, but he’s got everything.
Beno: Then my family influenced me too, you know? I’ve got the biggest support in my family on both sides, so they’re with me right or wrong, regardless. They’re pushing me everyday. ‘When you dropping?’ ‘When you coming out with a new CD? Or ‘When you coming out with a new song?’ ‘When you going to the studio?’ Just the people around me, for real. I make the best music with all my boys in the studio with me, ‘cause they give me the vibe and the push to make the best sh*t.
That’s cool to hear. How did each of you guys find your own distinct voice and flow on the mic? One thing that sticks out to me about you guys is you always sound so natural and the flows never sound rushed, regardless of the beat. How did you guys find that?
Beno: I ain’t gon’ lie, when we first started rapping, that’s when we were figuring [it] out. Like, we already know how it’s supposed to sound, how it’s supposed to look – we already know that from growing up doing music in school and stuff, so we already know how we wanna sound. So we’d go in there, record, like, ‘damn, why my voice sound like that?’ Then we’d go in there, record again and be like, ‘oh yeah, I like it like that. I like my voice like that right there.’ So we’d just train ourselves on rapping on how we liked the sound on the track, you know what I’m sayin’?
So it was trial and error.
Drego: Trial and error, yeah. To be honest, rest in peace to my man H Montana – he really showed me how to record, ‘cause recording is different from everything. It’s different from going in there and just reading off a paper. Recording means you might have to take it up a notch, take it down a notch, you might have to say it with more emphasis. He showed me how to really attack the beat. God rest his soul, but when we first started off for real, he really showed us how to really record and do it our own way. Because nobody can really tell you how to make music, there’s no rules to it, to be honest.
I like that. Speaking on that.. Drego, I heard you say you can usually tell when a rapper writes their raps ‘cause like you just said, it sounds like they’re reading from a book.
Beno: It sounds like they’re just reading!
Drego: Yeah, it sounds like you’re just reading it. I can tell if somebody writes their raps or if somebody freestyles. It don’t matter who it is.
And that’s why you guys freestyle everything, so do bars come to you throughout the day or do you just punch in when you’re in the booth? How does your process work?