Rap and R&B artist Delray Richardson returns to Annapolis to promote his music - and to reminisce

Robinwood to Hollywood and back again

April 12, 2006|By MAYA T. PRABHU | MAYA T. PRABHU,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Returning home to Annapolis, Delray Richardson couldn't resist a chance to visit the Middleton Tavern near City Dock, where he worked as a prep cook in the mid-1990s.

"I went online and looked at the menu before I left California because I couldn't wait to come here while I was home," Richardson said. "It's that good." (He ordered the trout.)

The rap and R&B artist, who performs as "delray," returned to the area recently to promote the fact that his 2005 release, Robinwood to Hollywood - An Intellectual Property, can now be purchased on iTunes.

Richardson's music has been heard in the 2005 John Travolta film Be Cool and on Tyra Banks' reality show America's Next Top Model.

In 1996, he co-wrote the melody for a Tupac Shakur song completed weeks before the rapper's death. That song, "One Day at a Time," was covered by Eminem and the Outlawz in 2003's Tupac Resurrection soundtrack and earned the songwriter gold and platinum records from the Recording Industry Association of America.

The 32-year old, who grew up in the Robinwood public housing community, said his favorite memories of living in Annapolis are from his time at Tyler Heights Elementary School.

"I got good grades and I liked English," the songwriter said. "I've always loved words and wordplay."

He says he's also always loved music.

Richardson began rapping in the late 1980s with his friend, Charles "Reds" Ford, who had a bedroom studio of two turntables, a drum machine and a microphone. The two would write rhymes, produce songs, beat-box and breakdance.

He suffered from cocaine and heroin addiction, dealt drugs and was in and out of youth homes and drug-treatment centers during his teens.

It was while he was in a drug program at 17 that he began to write music, and that music saved him from the streets, he said. He said he's been off drugs for 12 years and doesn't drink alcohol.

While greeting people at an April 2 memorial tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King at Anne Arundel Community College, Richardson was asked when he was moving back to Annapolis.

"I'm not," he responded.

"I love my city and where I'm from," said Richardson, who has family in Annapolis and Glen Burnie. "But I love the people and opportunities that I'm presented with living in California."

But does he miss Annapolis? Not exactly.

"I can come home whenever I want to," he said, which is usually to do promotion for a project that he's working on.

He added with a laugh, "I miss my friends ... and the seafood!"

Richardson's music was first heard on the radio in 1992 with his song "Stop Sweatin' Me," about a young black man who is hassled by police. The song generated controversy because Richardson, then known as M.C. Delphonic, mentioned the name of a city police officer. He said at the time he wasn't trying to show disrespect to the officer, merely to capture the experience of a teenager growing up in public housing.

He moved to California in 1993 and stayed with family as he pursued his music career.

"You got to leave home for people to appreciate you," he said in a 1999 interview with The Sun.

Since then he has appeared on Extreme Gong, a 1990s version of The Gong Show, MTV's The Cut and the short-lived Keenan Ivory Wayans Show.

Robinwood to Hollywood, which Richardson wrote and produced with his longtime writing partner, Jean-Yves "Jeeve" Ducornet, is a "cohesive blend of rap and R&B," he said.

Carl O. Snowden, an assistant to County Executive Janet S. Owens, said he has known Richardson for more than 20 years. Snowden said the fact that the album is titled Robinwood to Hollywood shows that the entertainer has not forgotten his roots.

"He's a good example of how people, even troubled youths, can turn out to be fine examples of people being able to make positive contributions to their society as a whole," he said. "And, particularly for people living in public housing, it goes to show that you're only limited by your hopes and your dreams."

Richardson, who has a 10-year-old son, Jo-Veon, sees himself being involved in music well into the future. His goals are to run a production company and publish and license music.

"And basically I do that right now," he said. "I just love music."

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