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Hip Hop x Public Health

13 May

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is getting creative in how they address public health issues amongst teens:  they’re turning to hip-hop. Although African-Americans consume less tobacco than our racial counterparts, tobacco-related diseases are still the leading cause of death in our community.

The Fresh Empire campaign, which initially aired during the 2015 BET Hip-Hop Awards, uses hip-hop style, music and slang to appeal to and normalize tobacco use-prevention conversations amongst teens. Through their short video clips (an average of 30 seconds each) featuring aspiring spoken word artists, break dancers, rappers, and DJ’s, all whom have strong community ties, Fresh Empire promotes their message: “Keep it Fresh. Live Tobacco Free.”

 

 

In addition to the campaign’s interactive and lively official website, they’re social media’s lit too. Fresh Empire’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube platforms are full of contest announcements, live-event photos, calls for tobacco fact retweets, and supporter shout outs.

The campaign recently teamed up with the Russell Simmons’ founded brand Global Grind and and America’s Best Dance Crew contestants Kinjaz to promote their Fresh Moves Dance Challenge where teens can submit home-made dance videos sharing why they’re living tobacco free and enter to win an all expense paid trip to Los Angeles for a meet-and-greet with the group, Fresh Empire gear or free tickets to a local concert of their choice.

If there’s anyway to encourage our young people to talk about public health issues, this campaign is definitely ahead in the game.

 

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For Afeni:

3 May

Can You See the Pride In the Panther

Can You See the Pride In the Panther
As he grows in splendor and grace
Toppling obstacles placed in the way,
of the progression of his race.

Can You See the Pride In the Panther
as she nurtures her young all alone
The seed must grow regardless
of the fact that it is planted in stone.

Can You See the Pride In the Panthers
as they unify as one.
The flower blooms with brilliance,
and outshines the rays of the sun.

-Tupac Shakur

Things That Inspire:

13 Jun
(via Kanyewest.org)

(via Kanyewest.org)

“I used to have tracks that sounded like Timbaland; I had tracks that sounded like [DJ Premier]. But Jay-Z was an amazing communicator that made the soul sound extremely popular. And because I could make the soul sound in my sleep, it finally gave me a platform to put the message that my parents put inside of me and that Dead Prez helped to get out of me and Mos Def and [Talib] Kweli, they helped to get out of me: I was able to put it, sloppily rap it, on top of the platform that Jay-Z had created for me.

Before, when I wanted to rap, my raps sounded like a bit like Cam’ron; they sounded a bit like Mase; they sounded a bit like Jay-Z or whoever. And it wasn’t until I hung out with Dead Prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write “All Falls Down” in 15 minutes.

Is that true?

Yeah, that’s how I discovered my style. I was just hanging out with them all the time in New York. I would produce for them. You know, I was able to slip past everything with a pink polo, but I am Dead Prez. And now, because I was able to slip past, I have a responsibility at all times.”

-Via The New York Times

Free will.

20 Aug

We were kids without fathers…so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history, and in a way, that was a gift. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves…Our fathers were gone, usually because they just bounced, but we took their old records and used them to build something fresh.

Jay-Z from his book Decoded

Beyond Reviews: The Fun-Ta-Mental Mixtape

24 Aug

“Rappers” are everywhere. Like lit-er-ally. 

 But seriously, there’s no lack or shortage of rappers (girls and guys alike) in the city of Boston. It’s become a cliché to log onto to any social network and see ”studio sessions” (I swear I’m not taking shots), live performance invitations and  promises of taking over the game:  they run rapid throughout newsfeeds and Twitter timelines everywhere.

But to keep it absolutely a hunnit’ and fitty’ percent real: not everyone’s got the proper skills. 

That’s no shade thrown to Boston rappers, that’s just the reality of the field. But every now and then a certain someone does come along, throw on his or her latest and  you really pause, lean in and listen.

Which is why it was nothing less than refreshing to hear the Fun-Ta-Mental Mixtape; an impressive collection of short songs from Boston MC Jerard Rhoden who goes simply by JRod.

To meet Jerard in person he’s a complete gentleman. To hear his skills on the tracks he’s an absolute BEAST.

The mixtape has a great balance of hardcore rap (See: “Say I’m Wack”) mixed with more melodic, soulful serenades such as “Under the Moon Over the Sky.” His lyrics are thought-provoking and clever with the kind of flow that’s reminiscent of old school hip hop, but with current hip-hop hunger. Other notable tracks are “Hangovers and Contradictions” and “It’s a Shame”  (featuring fellow MA MC Notoriety). JRod says the project only took a very focused two months to complete and lists his main musical influences as Jay-Z, Little Brother, Mos Def, Common and Sade.

Not bad for someone really just getting warmed up. I can only imagine what’s to come.

For an official download of The Fun-Ta-Mental Mixtape: click click boom—> http://bit.ly/qDDm7L

And keep an eye out for JRod’s next musical drop coming in late September, another mini mixtape entitled “Au Revoir Summer.”

Delight, delight.

18 Jul

“I think we can expect a well-considered collection, you wouldn’t expect less from a pair of professionals and I warn against dismissing it in haste. There are those who might assume Louise will be doing all the work and Kanye is just the face, I don’t believe this will be the case – he researches thoroughly and is hands on and committed to his work.” British designer Louise Goldin on Kanye West’s upcoming women’s fashion line, which they are currently co-designing.

Via- New York Magazine

(photo via Luxpresso.com)

Young, Fresh and New

1 Jul

I have this thing for being extremely happy when I come across great  underground or unsigned artist. Its been said before that the best music is made during the “grind” time.  I also have this thing for supporting my all my artistic friend’s creative endeavors. So every now and then when I find a moment (sorry Catch) I try to visit my friend Jesse’s blog over at Catch Wreck Music   Jesse is an extremely talented poet and extremely outspoken rapper to say the least (later on that in another post). But it was on his blog that I discovered a super talented and midwest artist worthy of some cross-country attention. 22-year-old  Krysta Rayford, also known as “K.Raydio”  has an amazing voice and a musical buzz going for her in throughout the midwest. After hearing just one of her tracks ( a sample of J Cole’s “In the Morning”)

–I’ve fallen in love with her sound. Her voice is soulful and sweet, giving off a smooth, mellow feel with beautiful lyrics weaved throughout each song.  Check out the quick but informative conversation Beyond The Radar had with the self proclaimed “Daughter of the Midwest.”

You’re fresh into the music game so to speak, and it took you a while to come out publicly with your talent, what held you back?

Ultimately, I was holding myself back. Pursuing music has been my dream since I was a little kid, but I had such debilitating stage fright that I couldn’t bring myself to perform in front of other people on a regular basis until this past year. I sang in musicals in high school, and this may sound strange, but although I was singing in front of an audience, I still didn’t feel as vulnerable because I was “in character.”

When I graduated from college last spring, I felt this huge void in my life and I knew deep down that it was because I was allowing fear to get in the way of giving music a chance in my life.  No one, not even my family, knew how badly I wanted to make this singing/songwriting dream a reality. Now it’s all taking shape, and that’s a beautiful thing.

  What was the turning point in you breaking out and really starting up your music career?

People talk about having that “eureka” moment and I can honestly say that I experienced one of my own. After graduation, I went with three of my close friends to Chicago to see Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae (two of my biggest musical heroines) perform at the Chicago Theater. At this point, I was fresh out of school, unemployed and searching for a sign to help guide me in the right direction. Lena Horne had recently passed away and Erykah Badu covered “Believe In Yourself” which she sang in the film version of The Wiz, one of my favorites. I knew right then and there that I needed to pursue music. That was my sign. I got goosebumps and started crying right then and there – I know the people sitting next to me thought I was crazy. That line “If you believe, within your heart you’ll know/That no one can change the path that you must go” – it spoke directly to my heart.

After the show, my friends and I were all trying how to get back to our hostel at midnight and we ended up running into Janelle Monae and members of the Wondaland Arts Society as they were getting on their tour bus to head to Detroit. We ended up getting to talk to her and being filmed for her website, which was surreal. I went to bed that night with the world’s biggest smile on my face because I knew that it was time to follow my heart.

 Your fan base has grown drastically over a year, is it weird to suddenly have this kind of recognition?

June 3rd marked exactly one year since I decided to make “K.Raydio” happen, so when I look back at all of the amazing things that have happened in one year, it really is crazy. What gets me are the amazing messages that people leave me and who is listening to my music. The Internet gives you so much more exposure than you realize. I’ve had people from Colorado to France who have told me that they’re fans of my music, and that’s amazing. It has also been really cool having growing fan bases in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. And the demographic of people that are feeling my music stretches all over. I have had both teenage boys and elderly women tell me that they love the EP’s. This is so unique and I definitely am not taking it for granted. It’s beautiful and I’m so thankful.

 Tell us about your sound and who’s influenced you most musically?

My sound is very authentic. I grew up in a household where Joni Mitchell and Sting’s voices blended with the sounds of Motown and B.B. King’s guitar. I was exposed to all different genres of music from the moment I was born and that influenced me immensely. My mom was a guitarist and singer for much of her life and my grandfather was a Memphis blues musician so I believe that both of those sides really show in my music. As I grew up, hip-hop became a huge factor in my life as well. Lauryn Hill, Freddie Mercury, Stevie Wonder, and Donny Hathaway all resonate with me. Because of that, I really believe my music appeals to a lot of different people. I’ve heard that it’s “R&B for hip-hop heads” but since I also write my own material, there’s a folksy songwriter element to it as well.

You’ve come out with two EP’s, Significant (Other) Part One and Two. What’s your favorite tracks?

Ooh, tough question. They all have their own significance (no pun intended) in my life, but there really are a couple that stand out. “My Outro” on Part I is the most personal and really sums up my sentiments at the beginning of this journey. It’s like opening my diary to the world. I close out every performance with that. “Protocol” would probably be my favorite on Part II. I think it was my first successful attempt at writing a ballad.

 “Prayin” is your newest single out right? It’s a dope track. Tell us about Charlie Kim and the inspiration for that song.

Thanks! Charlie Kim is not only a very talented artist but also a very good friend of mine. I really admire his drive and definitely think he’s an artist that’s going to “blow up” in the next couple of years. We had been meaning to work together for some time and he sent me the production for “Prayin’” and said “Here’s a collabo that needs to happen. Write your heart away.” We ended up writing it within an hour and then performing it in Madison at Just Bust! (an open mic at the University of Wisconsin), and people loved it. I wrote my verse, he wrote his, and then we worked out the vocal harmonies. We wanted to convey two perspectives within a relationship and when two people aren’t on the same page. It’s all about communication, which is something that everyone can relate to.

What’s up next for 2011?

A lot! I’ll be performing most of July, trying to get my name out there. I have a full-length project that I’m hoping to have out by the end of the summer/early fall. I have a number of collaborations coming forth as well. I’ve been working with a lot of Minnesota artists on both the production and performing sides, so the next few months will be magical. I’m flying out to Denver to shoot the video for “5th Horseman” with Time that we recorded months ago, shooting more videos for tracks on Significant (Other) and trying to just enjoy this rollercoaster ride. It’s all happening very fast, but I love every moment of it.

Describe your music in three words.

Refreshing, honest, soulful.

You can hear more of and support K.Raydio here:

Youtube: www.youtube.com/kraydiotv

Music: www.kraydio.bandcamp.com

**Happy 39th**

16 Jun

Comedy.

12 Apr

What’s Affion Crockett up to now?

I’ve got to say, no matter how rude, controversial or bordeline offensive his material is, Affion Crockett has his imitations down to a science. If you haven’t experienced his John Legend, Chris Brown and Jay-Z parodies, you’re missing out. It’s straight COMEDY.  His newest project is “Hustles with Russell” starring Crockett and  the Hip-Hop industries 4th  highest paid mogul, Russell Simmons. I love Crockett’s skill of being able to easily transform himself into virtually anyone. I mean it takes skill to go from Jay-Z to Nick Cannon, to Lil Wayne to Drake, and I’m not talking just looks, I’m talking aura.

We won’t even get into Russell’s Rush Card commercials…

Interview with a great: Aliya S. King

6 Apr

Aliya-King

If you’ve picked up Billboard, VIBE, The Source, GIANT, Uptown, Essence, Teen People, Vibe Vixen, Upscale or Black Enterprise then you’ve heard of, or heard from Ms. Aliya S. King. This amazing writer originally hailing from good ole’ Jersey co-authored Faith Evan’s memoir Keep the Faith (released in 2008) which was a New York Times bestseller. Recently Aliya partnered with Frank Lucas (see: American Gangster and I don’t mean Jay-Z) to write and release his memoir appropriately titled, Original Gangster. She’s currently working on her first novel entitled, PLATINUM which is set to release this July.

I was able to steal a few moments of Aliya’s time to get her thoughts on writing well, the game in general and overall advice for young and on-the-come-up writers out there. Enjoy.

How has this journey been for writing PLATINUM and Original Gangster?

“It’s been really good. I have to really get inside my subjects heads. Fiction and non-fiction are very different processes and with fiction you either have it or you don’t. With Faith (Evans) she was the easiest. We’re both from the same neighborhood, she lives one block away from my grandmother, and she knows my brother and we both grew up in the Bad Boy era so there was already a connection there.”

AliyaPlatinum

“Frank Lucas was hard. I didn’t know how to sound like him, I didn’t even know how to say “Yo lemme cop that heroin.” I had to call Frank up and say “Frank, what do you call this?” and he said “baby girl it’s heron” “Well how do you spell heron?” Now I feel so much better I can talk like a seventy-seven year old gangster.”

In Hip Hop culture do you feel writers have a place? Are our voices still valuable?

“Absolutely, as long as there’s people making music their going to need people to write about them. For example take Drake. He became famous over night,

you tell me that Drake doesn’t wanna hold a copy of VIBE with him on the cover and show it to his mother.”

What have been some of the helps and challenges in the writing game for you?

“Certain editors have helped me out a lot. Sheena Lester; I wrote a review of Brandy’s album when I first started out and it was horrible, and she trashed it and told me to start over. I cried when I got the email, but she told me “the best writing (and the best writer’s know) has more substance less style.” I put that on a post-it note and looked at it every day and that’s stuck with me. Also Carlito Rodriguez. Smokey Fontaine at GIANT; he didn’t want, me working at (at that time) The Source, he didn’t think I deserved the job. But now he’s become one of my biggest and best cheerleaders and remains that today.

As far as challenges, sometimes I have to write things because I have to eat plain and simple, and that’s tough.”

When did you know this was your calling? Was there a moment?

“It came from a very tactile place. I was four years old and a teacher had a stack of paper and pen and I just was drawn to it, I’ve been in love with it since before I could write. I wrote my first book in 8th grade, it had three chapters and it was about a girl named Brandy with a little sister she didn’t like just like me (laughs).  But I was in my twenties and still starting and stopping novels, some inner voice just kept saying “you can’t do that.”

I had to stop listening to that, stop thinking in terms of writing to sell and rather writing to finish. You can’t write to be published, just write.”

I’m the worst diva writer in the world when it comes to editing. I throw temper tantrums; shout out to Jermaine Hall at VIBE.

Any brief advice for writers out there?

“I would definitely say write every day. That’s most important. I don’t care if you write in the morning when you wake up, keep a notebook next to your bed. Those are the best words. You just gotta do it, don’t wait for inspiration. And make it a habit. Also, get a blog and update it frequently. Apply for internships; follow your favorite writers on Twitter. But most of all write every day.”

For more on Aliya and to keep up with her writing game and tips visit: www.aliyasking.com