Sanford may not seem like the breeding ground for a pioneer of the Hip Hop world. But it is.
Both transplants from New York City, Andres “Dres” Vargas Titus and William “Mista Lawnge” McLean met as teenagers in Sanford and formed the rap group Black Sheep while students at Lee Senior High School.
Titus moved to Sanford as a teenager when his parents divorced, and met McLean as a junior at Lee Senior. McLean had moved to Sanford at a much younger age.
Titus reflected on the group’s origins in Sanford in an interview on HipHopDX.com in 2011.
“We studied Hip Hop,” Titus said. “We were in North Carolina; there was nothing else to do. We studied Hip Hop every day. And there was no chance of making a record. We did it because that’s what we wanted to do, every single day.”
After high school, the group moved to New York to join the Native Tongues movement of alternative Hip Hop in the early 1990’s, joining the likes of top tier acts such as De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers.
Their debut studio album “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” was a hit and was lauded as one of the top albums of the scene for their “playfully satirical, witty, and incredibly imaginative” lyrics, according to one review.
“The Choice is Yours (Revisited)” was a breakthrough hit for the duo, and peaked at #1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. VH1 recently ranked the song #73 on its 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs list.
The song also was played heavily during the 1992 presidential campaign thanks to the repetitive lyrics “You can get with this, or you can get with that.” It continues to appear in commercials and movies, including the blockbuster 2018 film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “The Last Dance,” the popular documentary on the 1996 Chicago Bulls. Black Sheep’s single “Strobelite Honey” also made it to #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.
— Jonathan Owens