Dawn Robinson, former member of the singing group En Vogue, recently opened up about the behind-the-scenes dissatisfaction that led to her departure.
“Our producer was kind enough to let us write on the first album,” she began. “Cindy was actually talking to MC Hammer and told him we weren’t making money. That’s when everything changed. MC Hammer was like, ‘You guys are the biggest things on the charts right now and you’re making two cents a record, there’s something wrong with this picture.”
“So, he paid for us — after we came back from overseas — he paid for us to go to his attorney. He paid for the whole day. Take your contracts and you guys ask questions. Because the fact that we were so big on the charts but making such little money, it blew him away.”
Robinson said that their producer eventually found out about the attorney and wasn’t pleased. However, the singer asserted that, with their success and popularity, En Vogue was entitled to ask for a lot more than what they were making.
“Once our producer found that out, that we had seen MC Hammer’s attorney, he wasn’t having it. He was pissed off,” she continued. “But it’s like we have to find out what’s going on with our contracts ourselves. So, you feel betrayed? We’re betrayed. We should be making a lot more money than two cents a record.”
She added, “Your first deal, you’re not going to have the contract, you don’t have the leverage to ask for what you want or what you think you deserve. So you take what you can get and what they give you. But after you go platinum, all that goes out the window. Now you’ve proven yourself as an artist. You have the right to ask for what you think you deserve and go in for more money than that. We deserved a lot more.”
Despite their attempts to assert some form of financial independence, the group was duly punished for stepping out of line, and their writing privileges were rescinded.
“When Denny found out we went to MC Hammer’s attorney, he was pissed and said, ‘You guys aren’t going to write on the second album. I’m revoking your royalties.’ He had the right to distribute our royalties the way he wanted to at that point. We had to sign an addendum,” Robinson said.
“But we didn’t see that anything was wrong with it. It’s almost like the slave owner mentality. We didn’t have anything before this, so it was like ‘we’re just going to do what they say.’ ”
The situation apparently remained stagnant. Robinson remarked that, “As things went along, I started asking questions, like, ‘Wait a minute. Why aren’t we making money? We’re already multiplatinum right now. We’re on our second album that’s even bigger than the first, so where’s the money?’ ”
Robinson’s question was seemingly never sufficiently answered, and she left En Vogue in 1997. She was eager to air out her past grievances about the minimal payment, but was discouraged from doing so.
“Back in the day, when I first left En Vogue in ’97, there was no social media,” she explained. “And I mean none. If you had a publicist, you had to pay a lot of money. One publicist I had at one point…I paid her $5,000. When I paid her that $5,000, I was shocked. I said, ‘You’re not doing enough work in month for $5,000.’ So, I couldn’t afford to keep her. And she really couldn’t do much at that time. I was also told by my team, ‘Dawn, wait until you have a new record out. Wait until you have a few hits under your belt, then you can tell your story.’ So, I kind of kept it to myself.”
Now, with the availability of social media, Robinson said that she will use all of the platforms available to finally broadcast her truth to the world, and dispel many of the nasty rumors that followed her after she left En Vogue — some of them perpetuated by her past group mates.
“Cindy, Terry, and Maxine were out there saying — Maxine admitted this,” she said. She was like, ‘Dawn, we told the press that you were being a diva, that you left En Vogue because you were being a diva.’ ”
I’m like, ‘Umm, when I left En Vogue, I did another group,’ ” Robinson added. “So, if I was being a diva, why would I do another group? If I was being a diva, I’d be on my own.’ I don’t know why you lied to the press. She was like, ‘We were angry at you.’ I was like, ‘Why were you angry at me?’ ”
She continued, “I was only trying to make sure we got our just due. I wasn’t speaking for just Dawn Robinson personally. I was speaking for the whole group to make more two cents a freakin’ record. You guys should have had my back because I was saying the right thing. We’re doing the bulk of the work and we’re not making the lion’s share of the money. And that made no sense to me.”