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Michael Skolnik

Michael Skolnik is an entrepreneur, activist and storyteller. He is the proud father of Mateo Ali. He is a Disciple of Russell Simmons. He is a Board Member of the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

Rhymes: Run DMC “Peter Piper,” Nas ft. Lauryn Hill “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),” and Dave Matthews Band “#41”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Michael’s interview

posted: June 8, 2016


David Luke

David Luke is a music producer from Albany, GA and a network producer for NPR’s Microphone Check.

Rhymes: Reflection Eternal, “The Blast,” Little Brother, “Morning,” and Slum Village,”Go Ladies”

Reasons: Click here to listen to David’s interview

posted: May 17, 2016



On a cold snowy day at a downtown Chicago hospital, K’Valentine made her entrance into this world. She served as an early Christmas gift for her mother. The news of her birth also excited her father, Valentine Ogilvie Reid, who at the time, was incarcerated in another state. At an early age, in spite of many family hardships, K’Valentine excelled academically and in the Arts. Anything associated with creativity was and still is her forte.

K’Valentine began her lyrical journey by writing poetry to get out emotions she wanted to express. After a chance meeting with world renowned poet laureate Dr. Maya Angelou before she passed, K’Valentine was encouraged to practice until she mastered her craft. On the advice of Dr. Angelou, K wrote poetry non-stop, and those poems eventually transitioned into songs.

After reciting poetry at numerous spoken word events and receiving positive feedback, it was time for K to finally get in the booth. Shortly after, she released her debut project, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” 2011. Breakfast at Tiffany’s gave listeners their first look into K’Valentine’s heart. She wrote about personal subjects but she also wasn’t scared to get down and dirty on the microphone. On Valentine’s Day 2013, K’Valentine dropped her second mixtape, K’Valentine’s Day, which picked up where Breakfast at Tiffany’s left off.

In 2014, K’Valentine linked up with Javotti Media, a label owned by hip hop star Talib Kweli, and began to work on her third mixtape, Million Dollar Baby. Million Dollar Baby finds K’Valentine rhyming over tracks that are new as well as her versions of existing hits, giving the listener a well rounded perspective of a young lady that can lyrically spar with the best of them. Million Dollar Baby puts on for the city of Chicago by featuring great Chicago artists like Bubble Eye, Vic Spencer and Mikkey Halsted, but it’s undoubtedly K’Valentine’s showcase. You can also find K’Valentine’s contributions to the world of music on Javotti Media’s mixtape, The Cathedral, which placed K in the company of esteemed artists such as Big K.R.I.T. Joell Ortiz, Curren$y, NIKO IS and more.

Rhymes: 2Pac, “Keep Ya Head Up,” Lauryn Hill, “Tell Him,” Eminem, “Lose Yourself,” and Drake, “Make Me Proud”

Reasons: Click here to listen to K’Valentine’s Interview

posted: May 3, 2016


Jon Connor

Undeniably one of hip hop’s most prominently rising stars, Jon Connor was recently handpicked by the legendary DrDre to sign to his Aftermath record label after years of independently releasing a series of acclaimed mixtapes and underground projects. The self-appointed “People’s Rapper” from Flint, Michigan was also featured in the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards cypher as well as on XXL’s 2014 Freshmen cover.

Prior to signing with Aftermath, Jon Connor worked with some of hip hop’s greatest luminaries, including Royce Da 5’9, Freddie Gibbs, Talib Kweli, Danny Brown, Jarren Benton, Rittz, Chris Webby, Hopsin, Slum Village, Statik Selektah, DJ Kay Slay, DJ Drama, and more. Propelled by noteworthy career milestones such his guerilla-style takeover of SXSW, scene-stealing freestyles/interviews on Hot 97, Shade 45, and BET’s ‘106 & Park,’ and making his Billboard chart debut with his independently-released Unconscious State album, Connor has earned public praise from industry veterans and superstars like Nas, Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross, and Big Sean. And through his working relationship with Dr. Dre and the legendary inner circle of Aftermath, the list of his collaborations and accomplishments is on the verge of exploding in size and scope.

With an absolutely ferocious live show and his debut Aftermath/Interscope album on the way, the world at large will soon see what the die-hards have known all along – Jon Connor is a musical force to be reckoned with.

Rhymes: Souls of Mischief “93 ’til Infinity,” Keith Murray “The Most Beautifulest Thing in the World,” and Pharcyde “Runnin'”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Jon’s interview

posted: April 19, 2016

Kristiana Rae Cólon.

Kristiana Rae Colón

Poet, playwright, and actor Kristiana Colón earned a BA at the University of Chicago and an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her poems explore romantic and personal transformation, often making use of unconventional punctuation and capitalization. The author of the chapbookpieces of shedu (2008), Colón has also performed on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Her honors include a Pushcart Prize nomination, and her work has been included in Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web 2010 and the anthologies Not a Muse: The Inner Lives of Women, a World Poetry Anthology (2009) and Chorus: A Literary (Re)Mixtape (2012).

Colón has taught at Chicago State University, Malcolm X College, and Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. Assistant editor for the online literary journal Muzzle and artistic associate for the theater company Teatro Luna, she lives in Chicago.

Rhymes: Nina Simone, “Blue Prelude,” Bone Thugs-n-Harmony ft. 2Pac, “Thug Luv,” and Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment, “Sunday Candy”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Kristiana’s interview

posted: April 5, 2016


Glenn E. Martin

GLENN E. MARTIN is the founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA, an organization that aims
 to cut the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030 by elevating and amplifying the voice of people most impacted by crime and incarceration, and positioning them as informed, empowered reform partners. Mr. Martin is co-founder of the Education Inside Out Coalition (EIO Coalition) and the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy. He is a 2011–2012 America’s Leaders of Change National Urban Fellow and a member of the Boards of The College and Community Fellowship and Prisoners Legal Services. He currently serves on a number of boards, and has often served as a re-entry and criminal justice policy reform expert on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and local media outlets.

Rhymes: Notorious B.I.G. “Gimme The Loot,” Nas ft. Lauryn Hill “If I Ruled the Word (Imagine That),” and Jadakiss ft. Anthony Hamilton “Why?”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Glenn’s interview

posted: March 22, 2016


Daryn Alexus

Daryn was born and raised in Washington DC and came to Chicago to attended Columbia College.  While there she won the Biggest Mouth Competition, the schools most competitive music competition.  After graduation she decided to stay in the city, calling Chicago her second home after living here for nearly 8 years now. In 2014 she released an EP titled GREEN that led to a few articles from The Chicago Tribune and the Red Eye, and opened the door to many other wonderful unforgettable opportunities and friendships. Daryn now continues to make music with her producer Dee Lilly in her South Side Apartment. Currently releasing tracks for her “Wild Flower Series” and moving towards another EP at the top of the year, Daryn is sure to keep busy creating.

Rhymes: Lil Wayne, “Go DJ,” Black Star “Definition,” and Kanye West “I Wonder”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Daryn’s interview

posted: March 8, 2016


José Luis Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator for a middle school in the Inwood / Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, NY. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in mathematics education from the City College of New York. He’s also a committed writer, activist, web designer, and father.

Rhymes: Talib Kweli and Jean Grae, “New York Shit Freestyle,” Wyclef Jean, “Year of the Dragon,” and Kanye West, “Dark Fantasy”

Reasons: Click here to hear José’s Interview

posted: February 23, 2016


Diamond Sharp

Diamond Janese Sharp is a poet and writer from Chicago. She is an alumna of Wellesley College. She has performed at Chicago’s Stage 773 and her work has been featured on Chicago Public Radio and published in PANK, JoINT Literary, Wellesley Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Say What Magazine, GirlSpeak Webzine, BLACKBERRY, Women in Red [a publication of the University of Wisconsin-Madison], AREA Chicago and Bop, Strut, and Dance: A Post-Blues Form for New Generations, a forthcoming anthology edited by Tara Betts and Afaa Weaver.

Rhymes: The Roots ft. Erykah Badu, “You Got Me,” Kanye West, “Through the Wire, ” and Noname Gypsy.

Reasons: Click here to listen to Diamond’s Interview

posted: February 9, 2016


J. Davis

Julio Davis heads The J. Davis Trio. Following their musical heart, The J. Davis Trio continues to thrive. They thrive not only because of their connection to real hip hop and jazz music, but also because of their ability to grow and change. Starting as trio, they now have as many as 8-10 people on stage, utilizing many types of instrumentation and styles. Their independence has allowed them to explore and incorporate from unexpected sources, resulting in a sound uniquely their own. Began as an actual trio, the band is now Julio Davis, Dave Smith, Dave Winer, Sam Sharp, Ryan Murphy and Chris Greene.  The J.Davis Trio arrived on the Chicago scene with their debut eponymous album, The J.Davis Trio, in 1999 where they created national buzz with a North American tour that included famous Chicago venues like The Metro, The House of Blues, the historic Green Mill Jazz club, and many colleges in the midwest. Tours to the east coast, the CMJ Music Fest in New York, down to the SXSW Music Fest in Austin, TX., to L.A. soon followed.
Rhymes: Boogie Down Productions “The Bridge is Over,” Young-Holt Unlimited “Soulful Strut,” and A Tribe Called Quest “Luck of Lucien”
posted: January 26, 2016

Danielle Belton

Danielle Belton

Born and raised St. Louis, Mo. on a healthy diet of news programming, pop culture, black history and “snark,” Danielle Belton, daughter of loving “regular folk” and wife of no one, examines the irreverent side of American life.

With two million readers in less than two years, Belton is best known as the editor/writer of the pop culture-meets-politics blog The Black Snob.

Currently Belton is an Associate Editor for The Root. Previously she was Editor-At-Large for Clutch Magazine Online, and in 2012 was the head writer for the late night television show Don’t Sleep hosted by T. J. Holmes on BET.

As an advocate for mental illness, Belton has also blogged about Bipolar Disorder for BP Magazine’s online site. She penned her own profile in BP Magazine summer 2011 and recently wrote about her battle with mental illness for the January 2012 edition of Essence Magazine. has a readership spanning political junkies, journalists, fellow bloggers, political pundits, authors, academics, legislators and political strategists.

Belton currently splits her time between the East Coast and her hometown of St. Louis, Mo. where she maintains her site and works as a social networking/media consultant.

Rhymes: Neneh Cherry “Buffalo Stance,” Lil’ Kim “No Time,” and Princess Superstar “You Get Mad at Napster”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Danielle’s Interview

posted: January 12, 2016



Hailed as a “music guru” by Rolling Stone and cited among the “world’s Top DJ’s” by The New York Times, J.PERIOD is a master of his craft: a musical storyteller whose work bridges cultures, generations and styles.

J.PERIOD’S resume boasts collaborations with Grammy winners Common, John Legend, Joss Stone & Mary J. Blige. He has been called, “The most creative mixtape producer of all-time” by music icon Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots.

For years, J.PERIOD’s “musical documentary” projects have redefined the hip hop landscape, merging music with narrative to tell stories in a powerful and unprecedented way. His work with hip hop and R&B titans including Nas, Kanye West, Lauryn Hill, and Q-Tip has received countless awards and earned millions of listeners. This legacy of groundbreaking work was recently celebrated in the exclusive J.PERIOD X 10 Collection.

In the past year, J.PERIOD has produced the original score for the EMMY® award-winning The Doctor, the original theme song for the relaunch of NBA TV’s flagship Inside Stuff, plus critically-acclaimed remix tributes to James Brown, 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G.. For his efforts, J.PERIOD was nominated for DJ/Remixer of The Year at the Global Spin Awards and featured on Okayplayer’s annual Best List.

As Music Supervisor for the Brooklyn Nets’ at Barclays Center, J.PERIOD’s custom-curated soundtrack won rave reviews and was praised as the new standard for music in the NBA arena (ESPN). J.PERIOD is also credited with producing the Brooklyn Nets’ opening theme song in both of its first two seasons at Barclays Center.

Outside the studio, J.PERIOD is equally adept onstage, whether providing the soundtrack for Norman Lear or performing as Tour DJ for artists including Black Thought, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, Q-Tip & Kanye West at venues ranging from Summer Jam 2014 to Johannesburg’s Coca-Cola Dome.

Rhymes: Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five “The Message,” Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five, “Beat Street Breakdown,” Nas “N.Y. State of Mind,” A Tribe Called Quest “Midnight Marauders,” De La Soul “De La Soul is Dead” and Ice Cube “Death Certificate”

Reasons: Click here to listen to J.PERIOD’s Interview

posted: December 15, 2015

Nitty Scott

Nitty Scott

Nitzia Scott, better known by her stage name Nitty Scott, MC, is an emcee via Brooklyn, New York. Her breakthrough came in 2010, when the video for her freestyle over Kanye West’s “Monster” went viral. She has performed at the BET Hip Hop Awards and has been featured in Billboard Magazine and The New York Times. Scott released her debut street album The Cassette Chronicles in 2011, followed by her critically acclaimed EP The Boombox Diaries, Vol. 1 in 2012 and her latest offering The Art Of Chill. She headlined her own national tour in 2014. Always known to bring both substance and lyricism, Nitty’s message is about spreading peace, empowering women and progressing culture.

Rhymes: Sam Cooke, “Summertime,” Blue Oyster Cult, “Don’t Fear the Reaper” TLC ft. Andre3000, “Sumthin Wicked This Way Comes,” and India.Arie, “Back to the Middle”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Nitty’s Interview

posted: December 2, 2015


Ric Wilson

Ric Wilson is a 19 year old black self-proclaimed Artist and Prison Abolitionist from the South-side of Chicago, is also 1/2 of Chicago Rap Duo “Fuck Yo Institution”. On April 1st, 2015 Ric dropped his first solo Debut Project “Penny Raps” which tells Ric’s story of going and dropping out of college due to Financial Aid reasons, and also takes a deeper look into who Ric is and how his up bringing formed him into the person he is now. Since such Ric performs often around the city of Chicago has appeared on panel discussion and led workshops at University of Illinois at Chicago, Depaul University, Roosevelt University, Loyola University, and more.

Ric also, is one of the 8 delegates chosen to travel to Geneva, Switzerland in November of 2014 representing the We Charge Genocide coalition. They successfully presented a shadow report and testified at the United Nations, charging the Chicago Police Department with genocide and torture actions on black and brown youth within the city of Chicago helping to create a worldwide connection.  The trip was covered all over the US and countries foreign including Daily Mail (UK), 20 Minuten (Switzerland), MSN France, Japan Times, Zee News (India), Gulf Times (Qatar), IOL News (South Africa), Straits Times (Singapore), Business Reporter (Pakistan), Breitbart.

Rhymes: 2Pac “I Ain’t Mad At Cha,” 2Pac “Changes,” and The Black Eyed Peas “Where is the Love?”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Ric’s interview

posted: October 20,2015


Naledge Evans

The MCing half of progressive rap duo Kidz in the Hall, Naledge was born Jabari Evans in Cincinnati, OH, but grew up on Chicago’s South Side since he was two years old. Raised by two Ph.D.-educated parents, the high-school valedictorian academically had an easy time in school and found his niche in poetry and writing. However, it was cousin Memo, one-third of Chicago production outfit the Molemen, who convinced him to transform his writing prowess into hip-hop rhymes. He first met his DJ/producer partner, Double O, in 2000 on a recruiting visit to the University of Pennsylvania, and the two became good friends and musical collaborators. While still attending Penn, Naledge acquired a solo deal with Rawkus Records, but ended up bringing the Kidz in the Hall brand under Rawkus management as well, once he and Double O finally decided to start the group. Soon after Naledge graduated from Penn in 2004, he released The College Graduate mixtape, which was a nod to Kanye West’s breakout debut album, The College Dropout. After a few Kidz in the Hall mixtapes and an aggressive Internet-promoting campaign, Naledge and Double O dropped their debut, School Was My Hustle, in 2006. Naledge’s solo debut, tentatively titled Naledge Is Power, was intended to come out not long after the Kidz in the Hall LP, but the two wound up severing ties with Rawkus and signed on with Boot Camp Clik imprint Duck Down in 2007. Kidz in the Hall’s fourth studio album, Occasion was released November of 2011. Naledge has created his company, The Brainiac Project Inc., with hope of helping local artists have a creative outlet to have their work heard. Jabari is graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work. Aside from music, Jabari frequently speaks as guest lecturer at high schools, colleges and universities in the Chicagoland area and he is committed to doing community service within around the South Side area where he was raised. In 2009, Chicago Magazine named him one of the city’s “Most Interesting Single Men” and he currently resides in South Shore and enjoys playing sports with his son Caleb.

Rhymes: Twista “Overdose,” Nas ft. Lauryn Hill “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),” and Common ft. Kanye West and The Last Poets “The Corner”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Naledge’s interview

posted: September 22, 2015


Aamer Rahman

After years of performing as half of the critically acclaimed duo Fear of a Brown Planet, Aamer Rahman finally appears in his long-awaited debut solo show.

Rhymes: Public Enemy, “Give It Up”, Dead Prez, “Hip Hop”, and Black Star, “Definition”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Aamer’s Interview

posted: September 9, 2015


Dr. Walter Kimbrough

A native of Atlanta, Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough was his high school salutatorian and student body president in 1985, and went on to earn degrees from the University of Georgia, Miami University in Ohio, and a doctorate in higher education from Georgia State University. He has enjoyed a fulfilling career in student affairs, serving at Emory University, Georgia State University, Old Dominion University, and finally Albany State University in 2000 where he became the Vice President for Student Affairs at the age of 32. In October of 2004, at the age of 37, he was named the 12th president of Philander Smith College. In 2012 he became the 7th president of Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Rhymes: Kool Moe Dee, “I Go To Work,” Public Enemy, “Burn Hollywood Burn,” and De La Soul, “Stakes is High”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Dr. Kimbrough’s Interview

posted: August 31, 2015


The Boy Illinois

Every once in a while, in those gusts of Chicago winds, you’ll come across something worth keeping. And that’s precisely what happened when The Boy Illinois crept onto the music scene. The 25-year-old University of Illinois college drop-out is on a mission to grab the ears of listeners with slick delivery, sharp wordplay and most importantly by doing what he does best – being himself. And the mission, though not complete, is well underway.

Many have tried to compare him to other hip-hop artists but, The Boy Illinois or better known as Illi, is in a league of his own. With honest, heartfelt lyrics coupled with hard hitting beats mostly from in-house production duo, The Baron Boys, who’ve produced for the likes of Drake, Nipsey Hussle, Bow Wow and more; the young lyricist, performer and songwriter plans to follow in the footsteps of Chicago artists before him, while carving out his own place in music history.

Rapping since the age of 15 and with almost 4 official years in the game, The Boy Illinois isn’t a fad. He’s not just selling great singles but is creating a timeless music catalog that can be revisited over and over. He isn’t an artist that was meant to “blow up” quickly either, but rather an artist you take the time to get to know and begin to appreciate over time. The greats often take time to reach greatness, and if anything can be said for William Dalton, it is that he will without a doubt reach greatness in his own time and on his own terms. “Yer.”

Rhymes: Al Jarreau, “Never Giving Up” and Toro y Moi, “So Many Details”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Illi’s Interview

posted: August 19, 2015

VannNewkirkVann R. Newkirk II

Vann R. Newkirk II, also known as fivefifths, is a writer, editor, graphic designer, and activist entrepreneur who is currently Chief Scribe and founder at Seven Scribes, a new online destination for millennials of color. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and UNC-Chapel Hill, and is deeply passionate about social justice, environmental justice, Afrofuturism/speculative fiction, and hip-hop, and in the intersection between them all. His work has been featured in Ebony, GQ, and Grantland among other outlets.

Rhymes: Outkast “Aquemini,” Blackstar ft. Common “Respiration,” and Gucci Mane “Lemonade”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Vann’s interview

posted: July 16, 2015


Jean Grae

Critically acclaimed lyricist, producer, writer, director, cinematographer and all around consummate entertainer- Jean Grae has been challenging the boundaries of artistry since her debut in 1996. Whether creating music with imaginative narratives that immerse the listener in a dark world of  Grae’s design, or spilling her most personal stories of love and life experiences,  she always delivers an honest performance that strikes the most vulnerable parts of her audience and keeps them wondering, “what will she do next?”

Well into an almost 20 year long career that maintains not only relevancy, but continues to push the envelope of perception, marketing and branding. Grae has worked alongside Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Pharoahe Monch, and a list that this very small bio cannot contain. Sorry, bio.

Rhymes: Aimee Mann “Save Me,” Duke Ellington & John Coltrane “In a Sentimental Mood,” and James Blake “Retrograde”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Jean’s interview

posted: June 30, 2015

Hex Hectic

Hex Hectic

Hector “Hex Hectic” Danniel was born in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood and raised by his mom. Hex Hectic has fused his passion for multimedia, music and mission into one of the city’s most supported brands.

In 2009 Hex Hectic founded the The Knights of Chicago volunteer team. With only a few members, they were able to partner with the Chicago White SOX. Additionally, they organized a charity basketball game in which 8 teams competed for cash prizes. Shortly after that, he formed Hectic Media, a media arts and entertainment group.

In 2010 Hex Hectic made his debut as a solo artist and for the first time performed alongside the Rocksteady Boys. It wasn’t until 2011 that he himself became a part of the rap group, adding the Rocksteady Boys to his official entertainment roster. Together, the Rocksteady Boys have opened for artists such as Snow Tha Product, Joell Ortiz, Mystikal, New York DJ, Tony Touch and even Reggaeton duo, RKM y Ken-Y at Chicago’s Congress Theater.

In March 2014, Hex Hectic was one of 30 selected to participate in Kanye West’s “Donda’s House” artist development program. Not long after that, his radio show, “Midnight Owls”, was launched on 88.5 FM. Hex Hectic kicked off April with the production of his mini-reality television series that will be airing on CAN-TV/Comcast, a venture in conjunction with Trinidad Productions. Additionally, Hex joined the Donda’s House Design Team regularly creating promotional materials for the organization. Hex’s single “Imma Blow Up” can be heard on Power 92.3 FM in Chicago & Northwest Indiana on Sundays 7-10pm.

As a father, Hex is motivated by his family and continues to set the trends in design, music and philanthropy.

Rhymes: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five “The Message,” Fast Eddie “Yo Yo Get Funky,” and Joe Budden “Are You In That Mood Yet?”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Hex’s interview

posted: June 11, 2015


Rahiel Tesfamariam

Rahiel is a public theologian, social activist, writer and speaker. She is Founder / Publisher of, a cutting-edge online lifestyle magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. She is also a former columnist for The Washington Post. Rahiel is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a Master of Divinity from Yale University where she was the inaugural William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Scholar for Peace and Justice. 

Rhymes: Jay-Z “Where I’m From,” Mos Def “Umi Says,” Sweet Honey in the Rock “Ella’s Song”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Rahiel’s interview

posted: May 27, 2015

Wade Davis

Wade Davis

Wade Davis is a thought leader, advocate, writer, public speaker and educator on gender, race and orientation equality. Davis played for the Tennessee Titans, the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks, as well as for two different teams within the NFL Europe league. In 2014, Davis began consulting for the NFL to ensure that LGBT athletes have a safe and affirming space.

In his role as Executive Director of the You Can Play Project, an organization dedicated to ending discrimination, sexism and homophobia in sports, Davis works to develop curriculum, programming, training and conversations that are focused on inclusion and diversity. The You Can Play Project has partnerships and/or relationships with organizations and leagues including the NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS, WWE and the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Rhymes: Jay-Z “Lucky Me,” LaBelle “It Took A Long Time,” Kendrick Lamar “Sing About Me/I’m Dying of Thirst,” and Erykah Badu “Bag Lady”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Wade’s interview

posted: May 11, 2015

Mychal Denzel Smith

Mychal Denzel Smith

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute, contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, blogger for, as well as a contributor to and Salon. His work as appeared online for publications such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Gawker, and many others. As a social commentator, he has appeared on MSNBC, Al Jazeera America, CNN, NPR, BBC radio, HuffPost Live, and more. In 2014, he was named to named by Ebony Magazine’s as “What’s Next” in politics and civil rights, as well as The Root 100 list of most influential African-Americans, and nominated for a National Association of Black Journalists award for online commentary. He was among Planned Parenthhood’s 99 Dreamkeepers for Black History Month in 2015, and made the list of New Social Justice Leaders by Sean Combs’ Revolt TV.

Rhymes: Public Enemy “Prophets of Rage,” Pete Rock & CL Smooth “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” and Jay-Z ft. The Notorious B.I.G. “Brooklyn’s Finest”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Mychal’s interview

posted: April 16, 2015

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones joined ProPublica in late 2011 and covers civil rights with a focus on segregation and discrimination in housing and schools. Her 2012 coverage of federal failures to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act won several awards, including Columbia University’s Tobenkin Award for distinguished coverage of racial or religious discrimination.

Prior to coming to ProPublica, Hannah-Jones worked at The Oregonian and The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. She has won the Society of Professional Journalists Pacific Northwest Excellence in Journalism Award three times and the Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism. She has also gone on reporting fellowships to Cuba and Barbados where she wrote about race and education.

Rhymes: X Clan “Heed the Word of the Brother,” 2Pac “Keep Ya Head Up,” and Method Man ft. Mary J. Blige “All I Need”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Nikole’s interview

posted: March 24, 2015

 Frank Waln

Frank Waln

 Frank Waln is an award-winning Sicangu Lakota artist, performer, and producer from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He currently lives in Chicago.

Rhymes: Nas “One Mic,” OutKast “Elevators (Me & You),” and Robbie Robertson “Coyote Dance”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Frank’s Interview

posted: March 10, 2014

Bettina Love

Dr. Bettina Love

Dr. Bettina L. Love is an award winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on the ways in which urban youth negotiate Hip Hop music and culture to form social, cultural, and political identities to create new and sustaining ways of thinking about urban education and social justice. Her research is focused on transforming urban classrooms through the use of non-traditional educational curricula and classroom structures. Dr. Love is one of the field’s most esteemed educational researchers in the area of Hip Hop education for elementary aged students. She is the founder of Real Talk: Hip Hop Education for Social Justice, an after school initiative aimed at teaching elementary students the history and elements of Hip Hop for social justice aligned with core subjects through project-based learning. Dr. Love also has a passion for studying the school experiences of queer youth, along with race and inequality in education.

Rhymes: The Fugees “Ready or Not,” OutKast “In Due Time,” and Kendrick Lamar “Black Boy Fly”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Dr. Love’s interview

posted: February 10, 2015


Kevin Beacham

Kevin Beacham has been an MC, producer, artist manager, record promoter, journalist, DJ, radio show host, record label manager, and now back to radio show host. He first got his start in radio in April of 1995 on WNUR 89.3 at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. His show Time Travel was a conceptual hip-hop show that used the music as a medium to educate listeners about the culture of hip hop, the artists and pioneers involved, and the many factors surrounding it. He moved to Minneapolis in 2002 to help manage the Rhymesayers Record Label. He now makes his return to radio with Redefinition Radio where he hopes to continue to entertain and educate people on hip-hop culture and rap music.

Rhymes: Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee, Grandmaster Melle Mel & the Furious Five, “Beat Street Breakdown”, Treacherous Three “Gotta Rock”, Sir Ibu of Divine Force “I’m the Peacemaker”, Funkytown Pros “Fallin'”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Kevin’s interview

posted: January 21, 2015

Kevin Coval

Kevin Coval

Kevin Coval is the poet the Chicago Tribune called “the voice of the new Chicago” and who the Boston Globe says is “the city’s unofficial poet laureate”. Author of Schtick, L-vis Lives!: Racemusic Poems, Everyday People, Slingshots: A Hip-Hop Poetica, and More Shit Chief Keef Don’t Like, Coval is the founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival and Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, LTAB’s non-profit home. Coval teaches hip-hop aesthetics at The University of Illinois-Chicago, is a 4x HBO Def Poet, and has written for a wide variety of publications including, The Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, National Public Radio’s Chicago affiliate WBEZ, The Spoken Word Revolution Redux (Source), Handbook of Public Pedagogy (Routledge) 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History (Haymarket) & It Was Written: Reading Nas’s Illmatic, ed. by Michael Eric Dyson (Basic).  Coval won a New Voices/New Visions award from the Kennedy Center for a play co-authored with Idris Goodwin about graffiti writers called, This is Modern Art, that will premiere in the winter of 2015 at Steppenwolf Theater and is currently editing an anthology, The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket) due out February 2015.

Rhymes: Herbie Hancock “Rockit”, Boogie Down Productions “Why is That?”, and A Tribe Called Quest “Scenario”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Kevin’s interview

posted: January 13, 2015

Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang currently serves as the Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University. His first book, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, garnered many honors, including the American Book Award and the Asian American Literary Award. He edited the book, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop. His new book, Who We Be: The Colorization of America, is available as of October 2014. He is currently at work on two other book projects: Youth (Picador Big Ideas/Small Books series), and a biography of Bruce Lee (Little, Brown). Jeff has been a USA Ford Fellow in Literature and a winner of the North Star News Prize. He was named by The Utne Reader as one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World”. With H. Samy Alim, he was the 2014 winner of the St. Clair Drake Teaching Award at Stanford University. Jeff co-founded CultureStr/ke and ColorLines. He was a Senior Editor/Director at Russell Simmons’ He has written for the The Nation, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Believer, Foreign Policy, and Mother Jones, among many others. Jeff received a bachelor’s degree from U.C Berkley and a master’s degree in Asian American Studies from the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1993, he co-founded and ran the influential hip-hop indie label, SoleSides, now Quannum Projects, helping launch the careers of DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truth Speaker. He has helped produce over a dozen records, including the “godfathers of gangsta rap”, the Watts Prophets. Jeff has lectured at dozens of colleges, universities, festivals, and institutions in the U.S. and around the world. He was an organizer of the inaugural National Hip-Hop Political Convention and has served as a board member for several organizations working for change through youth and community organizing, media justice, culture, the arts, and hip-hop activism.

Rhymes: Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force “Renegade Chant,” Blackalicious “Swan Lake,” and Ice Cube “Black Korea”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Jeff’s interview

posted: November 25, 2014

Jose Olivarez

Jose Olivarez

José Olivarez is a poet from Calumet City, Illinois. He is a graduate of Harvard University and a founding member of the Teaching Artist Corps at Young Chicago Authors. He has performed and taught at high schools, universities, and book festivals across the country, and his work has been published or is forthcoming in The Acentos Review, Specter Magazine, Side B Magazine, Union Station Magazine, and Luna Luna among other places. His work has also been featured on Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie basketball blog, Chicago Public Radio, and on Mass Poetry’s PoeTry on the T program. His first book, Home Court, is now available.

Rhymes: Commonsense “Thisisme,” Kanye West “School Spirit,” and A Tribe Called Quest “Buggin’ Out”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Jose’s interview

posted: September 9, 2014


Lili K.

Lili K is the 23 year old songstress whose name is quickly popping up in the music world.  Her smooth and sultry sound is countered well by her quirky and energetic performances with her live band.

She’s the voice you hear in your favorite Chicago hip-hop artists’ music (cue Acid Rap and Innanetape), but she has also created an original jazzy, soulful, hip hop sound that is all her own.  With inspirations from Ella Fitzgerald to Erykah Badu to Sharon Jones, Lili’s love and respect for music is heard loud and clear.  The melodic keys, hard hitting drums, guitar licks, and soulful bass of her band are the driving force begind her very musical and fun live shows.

Rhymes: Ella Fitzgerald “Oh, Lady, Be Good,” The Spinners “It’s a Shame,” and India.Arie “Get It Together”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Lili’s interview

posted: August 12, 2014


Dr. Raphael Travis, Jr.

Dr. Raphael Travis Jr., LCSW, is an Associate Professor at Texas State University – San Marcos School of Social Work.  He holds degrees from University of Virginia, University of Michigan, and University of California at Los Angeles.

Rhymes: Boogie Down Productions “My Philosophy,” Public Enemy “Can’t Truss It,” and Talib Kweli ft. Jean Grae “Black Girl Pain”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Dr. Travis’ interview

posted: June 6, 2014

MC Melodee

MC Melodee

MC Melodee has been active in the music industry for over 15 years. Next to being writer, performer and leader of her band La Melodia with whom she performed all over the globe, she leads a Peer Education Project and is director of a platform for female hiphop artists “Dam Dutchess” in her home base Amsterdam.

Rhymes: Slum Village “The Look of Love,” Madlib “Yo Yo Affair,” and Minnie Ripperton “Inside My Love”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Melodee’s Interview

posted: May 2, 2014


Jamilah King

 Jamilah King is a writer based in New York City. Currently a senior editor at Colorlines, her writing focuses mostly on media, race, and culture. Her work has appeared on Salon, MSNBC, the American Prospect, Al Jazeera, The Advocate, and in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She’s also a music junkie and an unabashed Bay Area sports fan.

Rhymes: JT The Bigga Figga “Game Recognize Game,” Talib Kweli “Get By,” and Louis Logic “Dos Factotum”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Jamilah’s interview

posted: April 18, 2014

Toni Blackman

Toni Blackman

Toni Blackman is the first Hip Hop artist selected to work as a Cultural Ambassador with the US Department of State.She is an Echoing Green Fellow, an alum of Soros Foundation’s OSI fellowship, creator of Freestyle Union Cipher Workshop and Rhyme Like A Girl. Toni is both highly respected as an artist and social entrepreneur having performed at a host of festivals and legendary venues including the Roxy in L.A. and with her band at Apollo in NYC.  This influence led to Toni being honored by DOVE soap’s 2012 Real Woman campaign.  Toni has performed, led workshops and spoken in 34 different countries including ASPEN Institute’s World Summit on Creativity in Oman, the Pio Manzu Conference in Italy, the World Social Forum in Barcelona, a featured speaker at Chicago Ideas Week, TEDx UMass at Amherst and most recently at Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturdays. She has shared stages with the likes of Erykah Badu, Mos Def, KRS One, Vernon Reid, Meshell, Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Gokh Bi System and Youssou Ndour. Toni’s next book, “Wisdom of the Cipher” will be released Spring 2014 along with music from her Hip Hop Meditation project, and a memoir of her work in Hip Hop diplomacy, “Travels of a Lyrical Ambassador”, later in 2014. “Inner-Course”, her first book was released in 2003 (Villard/Random House). Toni earned her B.A. and M.A. at Howard University. She was recently featured in Forbes Magazine and on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.  Toni leads workshops, lectures, consults and performs.

Rhymes: Eric B. & Rakim “Eric B. is President,” Goodie Mob “Cell Therapy,” The Fugees “Ready or Not”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Toni’s interview

posted: April 4, 2014


Che “Rhymefest” Smith

Che “Rhymefest” Smith is the quintessential renaissance man as a father, husband, entrepreneur and raptivist. Inspired by his life experiences in a single-parent, working class household, Che has blazed a new trail in art, music and social activism. In 2005, Che won a Grammy for co-writing the historic record “Jesus Walks,” performed by his childhood friend Kanye West. He has served as co-writer on many of Kanye’s albums including Late Registration, Graduation, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus. He is currently nominated for a grammy for co-writing 2013’s hit, “New Slaves.”

In 2011, Che was the first rapper to ever run for city council in Chicago. After successfully defeating 3 other candidates, he lost to the incumbent in a run-off race by a mere 200 votes. He continues to be active in local and national elections.

Che has supported countless community organizations as a mentor and motivational speaker. In 2013, Rhymefest along with Kanye West launched Donda’s House, Inc.  to honor the educational legacy of Dr. Donda West (Kanye’s mother) by implementing arts and literature experiences that transform youth. Currently, he is finalizing his third major music release and first book release Violence Is Sexy, with an expected release in the Fall of 2014. Che “Rhymefest” Smith believes “the only true power is the power to empower others.”

Rhymes: Biz Markie “The Vapors,” Dan Reeder “Havana’s Burning,” and the Commodores “Zoom.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Rhymefest’s interview

posted: March 7, 2014


Psalm One

Psalm One, a.k.a Hologram Kizzie, is a multitalented musician, rapper, chemist, mentor, and philanthropist whose diverse, robust sound and wide-ranging content reflects her multitude of skills and life experiences. A native Chicagoan, Psalm One released her debut CD, Bio:Chemistry, while studying chemistry at the University of Illinois in 2002. In 2006, Psalm One became the first woman to sign and release an album, The Death of Frequent Flyer, with independent record label Rhymesayers Entertainment. In 2011 Psalm One made her national television debut on MTV’s Emmy Award-winning series, MADE, where she was cast as a rap coach for one of the participants. In 2012 she released a children’s album, aptly titled Child Support, in conjunction with ASCAP and America SCORES, a non-profit after-school program, to help raise money for underprivileged youths. She most recently released Free Hugs EP under her Hologram Kizzie pseudonym with Bonafyde Records, and is set to release the follow up Hug Life LP in early 2014.

Rhymes: Stevie Wonder “Don’t You Worry ‘Bbout A Thing,” George Michael “Kissing a Fool,” and Aaliyah “One in a Million”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Psalm One’s interview

posted: February 21, 2014


Jesse “Nap Nat the Napi Natural” Childs

Jesse Childs (pka Nap Nat the Napi Natural) is a Hip Hop artist, author and youth educator living in Oakland, CA.  Originally from Monterey, CA and raised in New Mexico he graduated from the University of Chicago and published two novels, Isaiah Eleven (2008) and Kam Remembered (2011).  The Afromerican Project was formed circa 2006 in Chicago when emcees Nap Nat and aKWErius released the “A Future Now” mixtape.  Since then, other artists have entered the scene including The ReMINDers, ADD-2 and The Mastrs.  Their sounds cross paths so audiences of each can hear the music of the others. The Afromerican Project is spreading a creative message, developing solutions for identifying and fixing problems in our community while delivering top quality Hip Hop through your speakers.  Learn more at

Rhymes: Black Star “Thieves in the Night,” The Roots “75 Bars (Black Reconstruction),” Kendrick Lamar “HiiiPoWer”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Jesse’s Interview

posted: February 7, 2014



YP is a rapper from Chicago’s Eastside.

Rhymes: Jay Z “Lucky Me,” T.I. “Doin’ My Job,” and Nas “Watch Dem Niggas”

Reasons: Click here to listen to YP’s Interview

posted: January 17th, 2014

Queen GodIs

Queen GodIs

Queen GodIs – an international (Poet, Performance Artist, Artistic Director & Performance Art Therapist) whose work serves a host of communities seeking transformation through art. With a holistic approach to content & development, her inter-disciplinary work engages audiences in dialogue and activism that extend beyond the page and stage. As An Artist, Queen is a provocative lyricist with a penchant for Spirited Spoken Word, Hip Hop, Story-Telling, Movement and Soul. She has written and performed three off-Broadway shows including Birth of Power U (2007), directed by Tamilla Woodard of Launch Worldwide, Untitled #69: To Huemen (2008) directed by Una Osato & presented in conjunction with the Hip Hop Theater Festival, and Project Power U Revisited: A Choreopoem (2009) choreographed by director Nicco Annan & commissioned by New York Live Artsʼ Studio Residency Series. Queen’s celebrated debut album Power U! highlights her distinct vocal style and marries musical abstractions with straightforward social commentary. Her poetry is published in several international anthologies including a book-cd entitled Echos: Nubian Voyager, produced by Grammy-nominated duo, Les Nubians and the most recent CHORUS : A Literary Mixtape curated by Saul Williams.

Rhymes: Method Man ft. Mary J. Blige “All I Need,” Janet Jackson “Rhythm Nation,” and Stop the Violence (Various Artists) “Self Destruction,”

Reasons: Click here to  listen to Queen GodIs’ Interview

posted: January 3, 2014

RahDigga - FROLAB - lores-13_

Rah Digga

One of music’s most respected and premier “rapper’s rapper” – regardless of gender, former First lady of Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad Rah Digga has returned with another classic album and accomplished something that is unheard of in Hip-Hop.  “No female rapper has ever released a sophomore album 10 years later and I hoped to capture all audiences once more and remind everyone why they fell in love with Dirty Harriet in the first place!” states Digga. In an industry ruled by flash in the pan MC’s and a what is “hot” at the moment mentality, Rah Digga is not worried about her absence from the game or her place in it, “I’m not a gimmick; I wasn’t created by a label. I am a natural born talent that broke into the industry based on my ability to rhyme and that’s what people will always expect from me.” With a recent album produced by Nottz, one of the most famed beatsmiths in Hip-Hop, Digga had no problems meeting the expectations of any hardcore Hip-Hop fan. Accolades from music icons such as Amy Winehouse have been ringing aloud thoughout Rah’s entire career. With her creative and progressive outlook, she has returned to prominence as a trendsetter in music. “Classic” was released September, 14th 2010. Keeping an eye on the future and her continual work in directing, editing, business, acting, motherhood, motivational speaking and activism, Rah Digga’s work is never done. A true renaissance women is an understatement. “With all the time that has passed what I’ve learned from all the outpouring of support is that people just want their good ole “Dirty Harriet” back.

Rhymes: Nas “The World is Yours,” Slum Village “Raise it Up,” Gunplay “Bible on the Dash,” and Starlito “Money Cacti”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Rah Digga’s Interview

posted: December 20, 2013


Show You Suck

Born on the Westside of Chicago, raised by a single mother and crazed over alternative & metal music at a young age. Show’s first encounters with Smashing Pumpkins, Anthrax and Slayer had him hooked and turned him into a devoted rock fan. There was a well-known lack of interest for the genre where ShowYouSuck lived, but that wouldn’t stop him from creating the craft he knew he was built for. Not having accessibility to an instrument or people interested in participating in a band drove Show to rap. He was eager to create music he liked, music for people like him.  Although his writing and flow wasn’t your typical hip-hop style he chose to continue to pave his own lane—creating a unique style that fuses punk, Based, Trill, rap with a touch of wit.  After graduating from the Art Institute, ShowYouSuck found himself amongst like-minded people, working at an Art Gallery & tattoo shop, Show felt inspired and welcomed sharing his creations, not realizing fans were growing by the dozens. ShowYouSuck realized there was no turning back for him after he saw the attendance at his sold out “OMPP2” mix tape release party held at Reggie’s Rock Club in 2012. The crowd moshed and crowd surfed as he created the set he’s always dreamed of, he was introducing the crowd to a whole new genre and they didn’t object. ShowYouSuck thrives during his live set and never disappoints. He’s given live hip-hop an entertainment standard. “If you’re not here to party get out!” is ShowYouSuck’s motto.

Rhymes: A Tribe Called Quest “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” Minor Threat “Guilty of Being White,” and the Prodigy “Voodoo People”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Show’s interview

posted: December 6, 2013


Per Bylund Kjaer

Per B. “BluCollaScholla” Kjaer holds a Master’s Degree in American Studies from SDU. He is the author of “…That Real Black Music”, an MA Thesis on Hip-Hop music in an African-American cultural-historical perspective. He teaches American and British history and culture at a Danish three-year college-preparatory program. He is a passionate leisure-emcee in a collective that fuses the aesthetics of hip-hop and rock music. He calls the project “hop ‘n’ roll.”  Born into a working-class family in a rural area of Denmark, struggle was a daily reality and higher education seemed to be a distant goal. He was the middle child of three, both siblings afflicted with severe intellectual disabilities; social stigmas were frequent, while academic success was rare. His childhood home was almost completely devoid of books, art, and music as the focus was elsewhere. But in music, he would soon discover a whole new world far removed from his own. Hip-Hop music colored his process toward becoming a man, an emcee, and, indeed, an academic…and it don’t stop!

Rhymes: Run DMC “Run’s House,” Knoc-turn’al “Peepin’ Tom,” and Eminem “White America”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Per’s Interview

posted: November 15, 2013


Jasiri X

Emcee and community activist Jasiri X is the creative force and artist behind the ground breaking internet news series, This Week with Jasiri X, which has garnered critical acclaim, thousands of subscribers, and millions of internet views. His videos have been featured on websites as diverse as and The Huffington Post and Jasiri has been a guest on BET Rap City, The Michael Baisden Show, Free Speech TV, Left of Black, and Russia Today.  A six time Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Award winner, Jasiri recently became the first Hip-Hop artist to received the coveted August Wilson Center for African American Culture Fellowship. A founding member of the anti-violence group One Hood, Jasiri started the New Media Academy to teach young African-American boys how to analyze and create media for themselves.

Rhymes:  Public Enemy “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” Mobb Deep “Shook Ones (Part II),” and Jay Electronica “Exhibit C”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Jasiri’s interview

posted: November 1, 2013


Amer Ahmed

Amer F. Ahmed serves as Associate Director of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs at the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor, Associate Faculty at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication and a member of SpeakOut: Institute for Democratic Leadership and Culture.  An individual with eclectic personal and professional experience, he is a Hip Hop activist, spoken word poet, diversity consultant and college administrator, channeling his diverse experiences into work geared towards facilitating effective intercultural development.  Amer’s education in Anthropology and Black Studies, his extensive global experiences and role as Co-Chair for the Board of Directors of Hip Hop Congress all supports his efforts to address issues of social justice that continue to face traditionally marginalized communities.  He is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Adult and Higher Education at the University of South Dakota.

Rhymes: Gift of Gab “Up,” Binary Star “I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings (Part 2),” De La Soul “Stakes is High”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Amer’s interview

posted: October 18, 2013



Andre “Add-2” Daniels is an MC hailing from Chicago who recently signed with 9th Wonder’s Jamla Records.

Rhymes: Jay-Z “Bring It On”; Common ft. the Last Poets “The Corner”; Reflection Eternal “Love Language/Love Speakeasy”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Add’s interview

posted: October 4, 2013


Masta Ace

As one of the most imaginative, narrative and prolific lyricists ever to emerge from the mean streets of Brooklyn USA, his albums are like mini-movies. As a matter of fact, the man has been born, and re born, and born yet again. In his 1988 lyrical debut, he took a stand along side Big Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap and Craig G on hip hop’s most important posse cut, ‘The Symphony’. His first full length album, the Marley Marl produced Take A Look Around (1990), established the rookie emcee as a sophisticated voice from the ghetto. Slaughtahouse (1993) was an ingenious conversation with hip hop, as Ace and his incorporated crew took on the entire gangsta rap genre. In 1995, his Sittin’ On Chrome LP unified American car culture as a celebration of rims and rides and rap music. Then after a 6 year hiatus, Ace caught the world off guard with the epic Disposable Arts (2001). This classic theme album, complete with plot, main characters and score, played like a feature film on wax. A Long Hot Summer, (2004), was the prequel to Disposable Arts.  He’s released three more albums since 2004, with his latest, Son of Yvonne, being a dedication to his mother.

Rhymes: Chic “Good Times,” Slick Rick and Dougie Fresh “La Di Da Di,” and Green Day “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Masta Ace’s interview

posted: September 20, 2013


Dr. Andreana Clay

Born and raised in the Midwest, or Mid-South (MO), Andreana Clay is a longtime of Oakland, CA and is an Associate Professor, Department of Sociology at San Francisco State University. She teaches courses on popular culture, youth culture and queer theory. Her book, The Hip-Hop Generation Fights Back: Youth Activism and Post-Civil Rights Politics (NYU Press) explores how youth of color organize and identify as activists in the post-civil rights era. She has also written articles on hip-hop culture, queer sexuality, youth activism, and hip-hop feminism.

Rhymes: EMPD “You Gots to Chill,” NWA “Dopeman,” Basehead “Better Days,” and Me’Shell Ndegeocello “Step into the Projects”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Dr. Clay’s interview

posted: September 6, 2013


Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III

Rev. Otis Moss III is part of a new generation of ministers committed to preaching prophetically that the message of love and justice are inseparable companions, forming the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Rev. Moss is a native of Cleveland, OH, an honors graduate of Morehouse College, Yale Divinity School, and he has earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Chicago Theological Seminary.  The work and legacy of Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the pastoral ministry of his father, Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. of Cleveland, OH, have been primary mentors for his spiritual formation.  He is the former pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta, GA., his first pastorate, where the church grew from 125 members to over 2100 disciples during his tenure.  Rev. Moss is currently Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL.   Pastor Moss is an accomplished author.  He published his first book, Redemption in a Red Light District in 1999 and co-authored The Gospel Re-Mix; How to Reach the Hip-Hop Generation in 2006.  His sermons articles and poetry have appeared in publications such as Power in the Pulpit IIAmerica’s Most Effective Preachers, Joy To The World: Sermons From America’s Pulpit, Sound The Trumpet: Messages of Hope for Black Men,  The Audacity of Faith: Christian Leaders Reflect on the Election of Barack Obama,  Sojourners Magazine and The African American Pulpit Journal.  In 2012, he published, with his father, He Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr.,  Preach!: The Power and Purpose Behind Our Praise.  He is married to his college sweetheart, the former Monica Brown of Orlando, Fl, a Spelman College and Columbia University graduate.  They are the proud parents of two creative and humorous children, Elijah Wynton and Makayla Elon.

Rhymes:  Public Enemy “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” Common “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” and The Roots ft. Jill Scott “You Got Me (Live)”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Rev. Moss’ interview

posted: August 16, 2013



PHENOM, born Teh’Ray Hale in 1977, learned to rhyme at the becoming age of 13 in the back streets of Chicago, Illinois.  In the 2000 Source Magazine Unsigned Hype Emcee Battle PHENOM earned 2nd place to Detroit Hip-Hop legend and D-12 member “PROOF” out of 1000 nationwide contestants. Before being signed to Focus Music Group’s Visionary Recordings, PHENOM took his contagious fire to the poetry scene and founded the exciting poetic theater collective POETREE Chicago, “People’s Organized Entertainment Teaching Righteous Education Everywhere”. PHENOM has dedicated his life to empowering the People through his music. In 1995, First Lady Michelle Obama chose him for the Public Allies program where he had the opportunity to work with and teach youth about violence prevention strategies. PHENOM was influenced to start L.Y.R.I.C, (Let Your Rhymes Inspire Creativity) with co-founder and national poet K-Love in 2009. Today, the L.Y.R.I.C program serves Chicago-based high school students and offers them opportunity to write and perform poetry as a non-violent means to stopping the violence in their neighborhoods.  His goal is to inspire change in the urban neighborhoods of Chi-town and abroad.

Rhymes:  2Pac “Keep Ya Head Up,” The Roots “Silent Treatment,” and Common “I Used to Love H.E.R.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to PHENOM’s interview

posted: August 2, 2013

Malia Lazu

Malia Lazu

Upon completing a two-year fellowship at MIT, Malia Lazu joins Future Boston with over two decades of experience establishing grass roots involvement in political advocacy and civic engagement.  Malia took over as Executive Director in November 2011 where she serves as chief operation officer of Future Boston, credited for taking Future Boston from concept into reality.   The passion and success of Malia’s work has earned her a reputation as one of the most insightful and critical organizers of her generation, and caught the attention of MTV, Showtime, ABC-TV’s Chronicle, Fox News, and print publications such as Newsweek, The Boston Globe, and Boston Magazine.  In addition to her extensive work advocating for our youth, Malia has managed campaigns for numerous tastemakers including Grammy Award-winner and famed Civil-Rights Activist Harry Belafonte, American novelist Walter Mosley, and Peter Lewis, philanthropist and Democratic Party donor.

Rhymes: Salt ‘N Pepa “Push It,” Public Enemy “Don’t Believe the Hype,” and the Wu-Tang Clan “C.R.E.A.M.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Malia’s interview

posted: July 19, 2013

Uppanotch by Sue Rissberger


Danon and Hosannah combine science with sociology to bring the caliber of hip hop UPPANOTCH. Danon is a Queens native with a sharp tongue capable of decimating a speaker. You can feel his life experience in his rhymes, and he’s gifted in everything from the art of story telling to straight lyrical spitfire: “could take six bars, make it an anthem- F the SOURCE I want my face on the moon, like Ralph Kramden- these ain’t delusions of grandeur- hat tilted like black panthers, the flow is chemotherapy- guess the beat is the cancer.” Hosannah was born in England , and came to New York in ’83. Raised by hip hop, the kid is slick with the gift. The word play is ridiculous- pay attention, you might miss su’m Hosannah finds a way to hold the track hostage- he’d rather surround it than be on top of it: “Link subjects through rough text- pen a curse on a scroll and have the verse plaguing listeners I provide the spirit through words that grasps parishioners and make em give ten percent of they folds to buy innocence…” Danon and Hosannah use different rhyme styles and techniques to touch your eardrums.  Both are also accomplished in the academic world, Danon has a JD and Hosannah is a PhD candidate, which inspired them to start a non-profit named Uppademics which works with youth to incorporate fundamental principles of academic fields such as law and engineering with artistic expression in an effort to help bridge the gap between artistic passions and academic goals.

Rhymes: Nas “The World is Yours”, The Mighty Sparrow “Congoman”, Gang Starr “Dwyck”

Reasons: Click here to listen to UPPANOTCH’s interview

posted: July 5, 2013

eve ewing

eve ewing

Eve Ewing is a writer and educator from Chicago. Currently, Eve is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where her focus is on adolescent identity development, particularly around elements of race, gender, class, and community. She also studies the structure of American inequality, in the public education system and in broader society. Eve is also an organizer for the Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance Collective (MassLEAP), which presents the Boston edition of the Louder Than A Bomb youth poetry slam festival. She is passionate about youth community-based writing programs, teaching and learning, and the philosophy, theory, and practice of comics and cartoons.

Rhymes: A Tribe Called Quest “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo,” M.I.A. “Paper Planes,” and Serengeti “Day By Day.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to eve’s interview

posted: June 21, 2013


Pugs Atomz

Pugs Atomz is an accomplished solo-artist who has graced the stage at some of the world’s largest music festivals including SXSW, Hip Hop Kemp,and Glastonbury. He has worked with countless world renowned artists such as KRS One, Twista , Dj Hitek, Dj Vadim and Fat Freddys Drop, and been mentioned in publications like Rolling Stone, URB, and Sister 2 Sister to name a few. You might have heard him recently on the Fifa 2013 video game sound track with “Got that fire”, or seen him on a recent Episode of F.O.M.. His roots in Chicago’s Hip Hop scene run deep, from co-founding CTA Radio (15+ years), presenting on the TV show Barbershop Hip Hop, to his time in the 90’s leading the Nacrobats collective.  His group The Electric (DJ Vadim/Sabira Jade) released their debut album, in-between tours of Europe, Asia & the Americas, titled ‘Life is moving” a combination of energetic Hip-Hop, soulful lyrical verses, set against killer electric beats.

Rhymes: Whodini “The Freaks Come Out”, Saafir “Light Sleeper”, Thirstin Howl III “Brooklyn Hard Rock”, and Kanye West ft. GLC and Consequence “Spaceship”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Pugs’ interview

posted: June 7, 2013

Allegra Dolores

Kimeco “Allegra” Roberson

Kimeco is Allegra from the group Allegra Dolores.  Mix one-part Joy, and one-part pain; add soul – and taste the sound of Allegra Dolores.  These Chicago-born biological sisters are a multi-talented force of nature.  Dolores is the emcee with overtones of sarcastic humor, while Allegra carries an edgy rocker vibe with an element of negro spiritual. And just when you think you’ve got them figured – out comes the harmony in their singing voices.  Molded out of influences that range from Hip Hop to Punk Rock, with soulfully beautiful harmonies, these ladies have been likened to the Jones Girls.

Rhymes: 8Ball feat. Phoenix Johnson “This is Dedicated,” Ol’ Dirty Bastard “Harlem World,”  The Coup “I Just Wanna Lay Around All Day in Bed with You,” and MF Doom “Potholderz”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Kimeco’s interview

posted: May 17, 2013

J. Kwest

Julian “J. Kwest” DeShazier

For nearly a decade, the ministry of Julian “J.Kwest” DeShazier has been an exploration in the relationship between music and faith. As artist, this Chicago native has used his unique rhythm to tell stories of deep meaning, inside and out of the church. A 2007 Holy Hip Hop Award winner, his song, “So Blessed,” was featured on the Grammy-nominated compilation Holy Hip Hop: Taking the Gospel to the Streets and J has been celebrated as “Living Black History” by Urban Ministries International. In 2012 he and his group, Verbal Kwest, were featured in the OXFAM and Bread for the World-produced documentary The Line, providing a critical voice against poverty and violence in the US.  A graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Chicago Divinity School, Julian currently serves as senior pastor of University Church in Chicago, and is a regular to Sojourners, UrbanFaith and Kidult publications.

Rhymes: Outkast “13th Floor/Growing Old,” Common ft. Lauryn Hill “Retrospect for Life,” and the Wu-Tang Clan “Triumph.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Julian’s interview

posted: May 3, 2013


Asad Jafri

Asad Jafri is a global arts leader, cultural organizer, and multidisciplinary artist with a passion for sustainable social change. As a visionary, Asad recognizes community needs and drives initiatives for local and global change through his love of the arts. As a multidisciplinary artist, Asad utilizes his knowledge in many genres of music, theater, visual art, and dance from around the globe to curate unique captivating fusion productions. He is internationally regarded as an innovator, collaborator, connector and mentor. From 2007 – 2012, Asad served as the Director of Arts and Culture at the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN). Asad also DJs under the moniker Man-o-Wax and has played at venues across continents, blending music from all over the world. As an individual and with his group – the FEW Collective, Asad has travelled far and wide merging art and social change through innovative mediums.  Currently, Asad is based in Kuala Lumpur working with the World Islamic Economic Forum and several other international arts and youth projects. Asad continues on his mission to travel the globe building community and connecting people across cultures through the universal language of art.

Rhymes: Killah Priest “B.I.B.L.E.,” Boogie Down Productions “Why Is That?,” and Pete Rock & C.L. Smoth “T.R.O.Y.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Asad’s interview

posted: April 19, 2013



Rapsody is a North Carolina emcee signed with super producer 9th Wonder for Jamla Records.  With the release of four projects in just a year and a half and a critically acclaimed debut album in August of 2012, she is slowly establishing herself as a major player in today’s rap game.  The Idea of Beautiful was her debut album and XXL quoted that “it might just be on of the best Hip-Hop debuts of late”.

Rhymes: MC Lyte “Poor Georgie,” Method Man ft. Mary J. Blige “All I Need (Remix),” and the Fugees “Ready or Not.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Rapsody’s interview

posted: April 5, 2013

Yoli Zapata

Yoli Zapata

Violence surrounded Zapata when she was growing up. It first touched her mother; helpless to the statistics. Zapata became a number before she could fully comprehend she was a human being. She had to overcome challenges like growing up with single mother, the death of multiple friends, a sibling with special needs, police brutality, and teen parenthood. Zapata used her experiences to break the silence on difficult issues, helping herself and others heal. As a child, it was through hip hop that she was able to understand creative expression. Combining life experiences and the desire to change the world, Zapata has been able to use beats and rhymes as a tool for empowerment. The only femcee in the hip hop group P.U.B.L.I.C. O.F.F.E.N.D.E.R.S. a group recognized for speaking out about all types of oppression. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 6 year old daughter, named after R&B Singer Aaliyah.

Rhymes: R. Kelly ft. Nas “Did You Ever Think? (Remix),” 2Pac “Can You Get Away,” Lauryn Hill “Doo Wop (That Thing),” and Aaliyah “One in a Million.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Yoli’s interview

posted: March 15, 2013

Avery Young

avery r. young

2012 3Arts Teaching Artist Awardee, writer, performer avery r. young is a Cave Canem Fellow who’s artwork blends phonetics, linguistics, hymns, jazz and hip hop to depict the politics and inspiring attributes attached to the stories of a people.  Dubbed “sunday mornin jook-joint,”  mr. young’s work merges spiritual and secular aesthetics with dramatic and comedic sensibilities.  young has worked as a teaching artist, mentoring and shaping youth in the craft of creative writing and theatre.  He has written curriculum for Columbia College – Chicago, Young Leeds Authors, True Star magazine and Chicago Public Schools Art Integration Department.  His work has been published in AIMPrint, The Teaching Artist Journal, swaggerzine., Callallou, To Be Left With The Body, Warpland, Coon Bidness, Reverie Review, War Diaries, Make Magazine, The Spaces Between Us and Fingernails Across The Chalkboard.  young has performed in the Hip Hop Theatre Festival, Lollapalooza, WordStock and is featured on such compilations as New World Reveal-A-Solution, Audio Truism,  Catfish Haven’s Devastator and New Skool Poetics.  young has appeared on BET, MTV, ABC and WGN’s Morning News. young is currently a 2012/13 Public Life Artist-In-Residence Program at University of Chicago.

Rhymes: James Brown “Take Some… Leave Some,” Nina Simone “See-Line Woman,” and Gil Scott Heron “The Bottle.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to avery’s interview

posted: March 1, 2013


Syreeta Gates

Syreeta Gates has created an unparalleled connection with young people. As the founder of The SWT Life, Curator for History MEETS Hip-Hop, and author of Just Be Cause: AH HA Moments to Inspire the Next Generation of Change Makers (2013), she has inspired, educated and impacted hundreds of American youth in the past seven years. Syreeta was awarded Glamour Magazine’s “Top 20 Under 25” in 2010 and is highlighted in Tony Wagner’s new book Creating Innovators (2012). Her accomplishments as a youth development consultant and philanthropist have established her as one of the most promising cultural leaders to watch.

Rhymes: Lost Boyz “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz,” Jay-Z “Sweet,” and Nas “Bridging the Gap.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Syreeta’s interview

posted: February 15, 2013



Twin Cities born and raised, DisputeOne (formerly known as Extreme) has been part of the every growing hip-hop culture in Minnesota since anyone can remember.

Rhymes: A Tribe Called Quest “Can I Kick It?,” Ice Cube “A Gangsta’s Fairytale,” Main Source “Lookin’ at the Front Door,” and Main Source “Fakin’ the Funk.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to DisputeOne’s interview

posted: February 1, 2013



Very few artists have successfully held the title of both rapper and producer. Many try, most fail. But Cabrini-Green originator, Tree, plans to shake things up a bit and introduce the world to his unique pairing of words and beats. The official/unofficial member of Project Mayhem has recently gained national recognition with the release of a slew of projects, including his most recent, Sunday School, named one of the best mixtapes of 2012 by MTV.  He was also named one of the Best New Artists by Spin Magazine in August 2012.

Rhymes: 2Pac “Keep Ya Head Up,” Mr. Jinks “Ride 4 U,” and Outkast “Return of the ‘G’.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Tree’s interview

posted: January 18, 2013

Ruby Yo

Ruby Yo

Marilyn Camacho, also known as Ruby Yo!, is a Puerto Rican emcee, singer, songwriter, and actress raised on Chicago’s south side’s of Pilsen and Gage Park. She is the middle child of 8 children, and started singing, writing poetry, and acting out scenes she wrote by the age of 10. While attending a performing arts high school as a drama/music major, she listened heavily to hip-hop, wrote verses, spit them to her friends and discovered she had a knack for rapping. She went on to continue her theatrical studies in college but dropped out and decided to focus on music full-time. Since, she’s established herself as a known actress/director with her company, UrbanTheater Company (UTC), while still working on music, and performing. She played at SXSW this past year and just released her first official musical offering, The Rubyx Cube EP. The concept album shows her diversity as an artist, as she sings and rhymes over a cool mix of 80′s influenced hip-hop, pop rock, R&B, and spanish rock.

Rhymes: Queen Latifah “U.N.I.T.Y.”, Nas “One Mic”, and Lauryn Hill “When It Hurts So Bad”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Ruby Yo’s interview

posted: January 4, 2013



Speech was born Todd Thomas in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the youngest of parents Robert & Patricia Thomas. Speech started the music group, Arrested Development. Arrested Development won two Grammy Awards (Best new artists & Best rap single 1993) with songs that Speech wrote and produced from the album, “3 years, 5 months and 2 days in the life of…”  Speech has released 5 solo albums since 1996 all of which have spawned Top 10 hit singles. Speech became an ordained minister with the Churches of Christ in 2005.  Speech says, “My most proud achievement is my marriage to Yolanda, (we’ve been together over 17 years), our two children Jahi and Zoe Thomas and my faith in Jesus, which is my biggest strength & guidance.”

Rhymes: Public Enemy “Rebel Without a Pause”, and De La Soul “The Magic Number”.

Reasons: Click here to listen to Speech’s interview

posted: December 21, 2012


Christopher “Maddog” Thomas

Christopher “Maddog” Thomas is an extremely motivated dancer and youth mentor. Born and raised in Chicago’s Algeld Gardens project homes he was inspired to dance at age 5 by artists such as Micheal Jackson and New Edition. Throughout his youth, he danced with local groups K-Phi 9, House Arrest II, and Second II None. Chris later joined King Charles’ footwork battle clique, Creation and in 2007 became a member of the FootworKINGz for their appearance on Ellen’s Really Big Show in Las Vegas. Maddog was also the official spokesperson for FWK during their appearance on “America’s Got Talent.”  In 2007, Christopher joined Kuumba Lynx (KL) and KL has mentored and influenced Christopher’s teaching methods and he has become one of the organizations most sought after teaching artists.

Rhymes: Michael Jackson “Thriller,” Guy “I Like,” and Drake ft. Trey Songz “Successful.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Maddog’s interview

posted: December 7, 2012

Dr. Marcia Dawkins

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Ph.D. is a diversity-oriented, technology-loving intellectual entrepreneur from New York City. An award-winning author, speaker, and educator, Dawkins writes frequently on race, diversity, media, religion, and politics for several outlets, including The Huffington Post, Truthdig, The Root, and Cultural Weekly, among others. Her first book, Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity was released in August 2012. Her second book Eminem: The Real Slim Shady is on the way. She earned her PhD in communication from USC Annenberg, her master’s degrees in humanities from USC and NYU and her bachelor’s degrees in communication arts and honors from Villanova. She served as a visiting scholar at Brown University and currently lectures at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Rhymes: Kurtis Blow “The Breaks,” Digable Planets “Where I’m From,” and Eminem “The Way I Am.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Dr. Dawkins’ interview

posted: November 16, 2012

Brotha Ed Onaci

Brotha Onaci is a student, teacher, and turntable liberationist who uses DJing to bring progressive change to the world. A former Chicago resident, he helped co-found Sonic Diaspora and the People’s DJs Collective. Now in Philadelphia, Brotha Onaci spins at various venues and events in the area. You can also check him out during Sonic Diaspora at Patty Boom Boom in DC on the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of each month.

Rhymes: Mos Def “If You Can Huh, You Can Hear,” Lauryn Hill “Lost Ones,” and J-Live “Traveling Music”
Reasons: Click here to listen to Ed’s Interview

 posted: November 2, 2012

Lady *O*

Lady O is the Creative Director of Spoken Free Entertainment and the host of the Lady *O* Show.

Rhymes: The Pharcyde “Runnin’,” The Roots “Water,” and Jay-Z ft. Pharrell “So Ambitious.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Lady *O*’s interview

posted: October 19, 2012

Jacinda Bullie

An activist by temperament, sixteen years ago with the idea to use “Edutainement” (KRS1) as a tool to inspire activism and collective healing”, Jacinda Bullie co founded Kuumba Lynx (KL) and is a wife and mother of three young warriors.

Rhymes: Roxanne Shante “Roxanne’s Revenge” and Method Man ft. Mary J. Blige “All I Need”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Jacinda’s interview

posted: October 5, 2012


A.M. (Abstrak Mind) has become one of Chicago’s most prolific artists to hit the rap radar in quite some time. Most categorize his music as heartfelt, inspiring, creative, and just flat out good. Musically inspired by musical eliteness such as Jay-Z, Eminem, 2 Pac, Andre 3000, and Jadakiss , A.M. tries to live up to the standards of those who have come before him . The music that A.M. writes channels different mediums from his personal struggles and achievements to the economic imbalance that we all struggle from today. None the less he always has an upbeat spirit and likes to rub off those positive energies through song or if it’s just a casual conversation in person. A.M. just dropped his debut mixtape “A Painted Thought” which has shaken the ground beneath, a lot of those who were sleep on his talents and endless capabilities musically. The Hip Hop world should be very pleased at the direction A.M. will take the art as whole in years to come. So world get ready to brace yourself for something historic!

Rhymes: 2Pac “Keep Ya Head Up” and 2Pac “Brenda’s Got a Baby”

Reasons: Click here to listen to A.M.’s interview

posted: September 21, 2012

Sam Seidel

Sam Seidel is the author of Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education. He’s been loving–and making–rap music since 1984. Sam has taught in a variety of settings, from first grade to community college, and directed arts programs for young people in prison/affected by incarceration. Sam has been involved in multiple projects aimed at ending the prison industrial complex, including work with Drop the Rock and the Criminal Justice Initiative.  Sam now works with national networks of innovative high schools, speaks at education conferences and on college campuses, and writes for The Husslington Post, as well as other publications. Sam serves on the boards of AS220, the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings, and Resource Generation.  He is also a recovering sneaker addict.

Rhymes: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five “The Message,” Common Sense “Book of Life,” and Jay-Z “Can I Live”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Sam’s interview

posted: September 7, 2012

Sharrieff Muhammad

Sharrieff Muhammad writes, performs, listens. He is a founding member of Tomorrow Kings Chicago Hip Hop Collective. Sometimes he is known as IL. Subliminal. He is inspired by progressive art. He is an Illinois Arts Council and Fire This Time Grant Recipient. He is a friend, mentor, son, brother, lover, hater, food service worker, comic book collector, song writing aficionado,  film geek, and a self proclaimed hip hop historian.

Rhymes: Eric B. & Rakim “Microphone Fiend,” Public Enemy “Fight the Power,” A Tribe Called Quest ft Leaders of the New School “Scenario,” Cypress Hill “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” Outkast “Elevators (Me & You),” 2Pac “So Many Tears,” De La Soul “Stakes is High,” Notorious B.I.G. “Everyday Struggle,” and Common “Resurrection (Large Professor Remix)”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Sharrieff’s interview

posted: August 17, 2012

Alexander “DJ RTC” Fruchter

Alexander Fruchter is the founder and current EIC of hip hop music and culture site “Ruby Hornet” as well as co-owner of the independent record label Closed Sessions and an adjunct at Columbia College. He is a Hyde Park native, graduate of Indiana University, lover of the White Sox and Hip Hop culture.

Rhymes: Beastie Boys ft. Q-Tip”Get it Together,” Mos Def “Hip-Hop,” and Kanye West ft. GLC and Consequence “Spaceship”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Alexander’s interview

posted: August 3, 2012

Dr. Ebony Utley

Having never been a gangsta herself, Ebony A. Utley, Ph.D., confidently argues that most gangsta rappers have not been gangstas either. In her critically-acclaimed book, Rap and Religion: Understanding The Gangsta’s God, Utley argues that a gangsta is not a real person, but an identity donned by hip hop artists to establish themselves as authoritative figures. Incorporating her expertise in rap music, religion, and urban history, Utley explains how a God-sanctioned gangsta identity can be empowering.

Rhymes: Snoop Doggy Dog “Murder Was the Case,” Lauryn Hill “I Used to Love Him,” and The Coup “Mindfuck”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Dr. Utley’s interview

posted: July 20, 2012

Bazooka Joe Lopez

DJ/Producer/All-around Hip-Hop junkie and collector since the early 80’s. Started out with a Fearless Four record, a fisher price turntable and a double cassette boom box making “pause” tapes, as we used to call them back in the day. Inspired by mixtape pioneers like Kid Capri, Action PAC, DJ S&S, Tony Touch, DJ Double R & G-Bo The Pro, as well as the Golden Era of Hip Hop radio (Mr. Magic, Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, Stretch & Bob).

Rhymes: Gang Starr “Work,” and Diz Gabran “Brotha”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Bazooka Joe’s interview

posted: July 6, 2012

Sage Morgan-Hubbard

Sage Xaxua Morgan-Hubbard is the new Academic Outreach Coordinator in the School of Fine Arts at Columbia College Chicago currently housed in the Dance Department. She was the cipher organizer for Words, Beats & Life’s Midwest Hip Hop Teach-In “Remixing the Art of Social Change” and the Outreach Director of Young Chicago Authors. She earned her MA in Performance Studies at Northwestern University and is a graduate of Brown University where she studied “Performance Studies: Socially Conscious Art of the Everyday” and Ethnic Studies. Sage is a poet, activist and teacher from Washington, D.C. She is the founder of WORD! spoken word artists and activists, a former DC poetry slam coach and one of the original members of Spoken Resistance and the performance group Sol y Soul.

Rhymes: Public Enemy “Fight the Power,”  Queen Latifah “U.N.I.T.Y.,” and Arrested Development “People Everyday.”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Sage’s interview

posted: June 15, 2012

 Dr. Pancho McFarland

Pancho McFarland, PhD, is a former b-boy, current hip hop head, professor of sociology at Chicago State University, author, martial artist and father.  His book, Chicano Rap: Gender and Violence in the Postindustrial Barrio, is the first book written about Mexican Americans and hip hop.  His next book, Hip Hop and U.S. Mexicans, will be published in 2013.  He is an activist within the food justice and local food movements.

Rhymes: Sugarhill Gang “Rapper’s Delight,” Kid Frost “La Raza,”  and Thief Sicario “Amerika”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Pancho’s interview.

posted: June 1st, 2012

Vic Spencer

A 30 year old Chicago rapper and an employee with the Youth Advocate Program.

Rhymes:   Redman “Tonight’s da Night,” Da Youngstas ft. Mobb Deep “Bloodshed & War,” and Kane & Abel “Black Jesus”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Vic’s interview.

posted: May 18th, 2012

Leida “Lady Sol” Villegas

Leida “Lady Sol” Villegas-Garcia is a street dance professional from Chicago who is recognized globally as a dance manager, choreographer, and youth arts educator.  Lady Sol’s credits include work on MTV, BET, UPN, NBC, TBS and WGN, alongside  super-stars Busta Rhymes, Wyclef Jean,  Cedric the Entertainer, Ellen, & Heavy D.  Lady Sol’s career highlights include the Management & Creative Direction of Chicago’s now internationally recognized, FootworKINGz.  Lady Sol is also co-founding member of Kuumba Lynx, a Chicago based non-profit arts organization that empowers young people through the cultivation of Hip-Hop arts. She actively develops and teaches dance programs in Chicago for Kuumba Lynx, Urban Gateways and After School Matters.  “Young people motivate me and I would like the end result of all my efforts to focus on empowering urban youth,” says the passionate Latina.

Rhymes: LL Cool J “I Need Love,” Heavy D & The Boyz “Now That We Found Love,” and the Fugees “Killing Me Softly”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Lady Sol’s interview

posted: May 4, 2012

Dr. David Stovall

David Stovall is Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Over the past eleven years, he has been involved in social justice education efforts in Chicago Public Schools and across the country.  Currently he works with faculty and students at Social Justice High School in Chicago.

Rhymes: Public Enemy “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” and Organized Konfusion “Releasing Hypnotical Gases”

Reasons: Click here to listen to David’s interview

posted: April 20, 2012

Justin Schloer

Imagine, if you can, the horrible feelings of dealing with death; not just once, but on many occasions. Imagine, if you can, having your best friend die in your arms, because there wasn’t a damn thing you could do to stop it. Imagine being shot for the first time, at the tender age thirteen, while you vigorously fought mind over matter in order to bear the pain. Imagine, if you can, being shot seven more times before you were even old enough to vote; once in the chest, three times in the left side, once in the right knee, once in your lower back and the worst being a shotgun blast to your upper shoulders and head. Now imagine that everything stated herein has actually happened to one man.  A man that wages a constant battle with society just to prove that a man can change.  A man that truly deserves to be called a man. That man is me…and this is my story.

Rhymes: 2Pac “Keep Ya Head Up” and Ice Cube “Us”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Justin’s interview

posted: April 6th, 2012

Kid Jungle 

This interview and songs explains the growth and evolution of myself from a teenager to young adult and now the present.  The impact and my interpretations of each song represent major chapters and changes in my life that have given me experiences that I will never forget.  Never would I have ever thought that I would be this far just from this dance known as “b-boying” or “breakdancing” but I know I was put on this Earth to change the world of people’s lives and especially my own.  Catch me teaching, training, competing, performing, collaborating, and cyphering around Chicago and the rest of the world through my affiliations – Thee Authentic Fewsion Dance, Hip Hop Chicago, Phaze II Crosstown Crew, Awesome Style Konnectionz, Latin Street Dance Academy, Chi-Caribena, and Kuumba Lynx.  Peace….

Rhymes: KRS-One “Step Into a World,” Korn “Alone I Break,” K-Os “Superstar Pt. Zero,” and Nas “Carry on Tradition”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Kid Jungle’s interview

posted: March 16, 2012

Amina Norman- Hawkins

I dreamed of writing songs and poems, sharing them on stage, and finding creative ways to affect change in my world… And when I found hip-hop, those dreams became a reality!   Or maybe hip-hop found me!  Either way, it was a match made in heaven and from the day we met I have never looked back. Hip-hop has given me a platform, a voice, a vehicle.  Hip-hop has given me freedom…  The freedom to live my dreams!  Thank God I found her.

Rhymes: Public Enemy “Burn Hollywood Burn,” Eric B. & Rakim “Chinese Arithmetic”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Amina’s interview

posted: March 2, 2012

Hannaan “HB Sol The Policy King” Joplin

Hannaan “HB Sol the Policy King” Joplin has been described by many as that special, once-in-a-lifetime emcee–gritty, yet intelligent; witty, yet upfront and brutally candid; smooth, yet fiery; universal, yet straight from the block. He works with Chicago producers AntonGenius and Grant Parks. Look for newly  released material from HB in 2012! He currently works as a Career Coach with the Cara Program.

Rhymes: Eric B. & Rakim “Follow the Leader,” Scarface “The Wall,” and Nas “NY State of Mind”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Hannaan’s interview

posted: February 17, 2012

Nate Mathews

Nate Mathews is a student of African and Middle East history currently pursuing his doctorate at Northwestern University. He is the author of the poetry collection, River of Desire, Ocean of Love, and founder of the website Azanian Sea.

Rhymes: Boogie Down Productions “Blackman in Effect,” Common ft Cee-Lo “G.O.D. (Gaining One’s Definition),” and Professor Jay “Zali Za Mentali”

Reasons: Click here to listen to Nate’s interview

posted: February 3, 2012

Shannon Matesky

Shannon Matesky is an artist, activist, educator from Berkeley CA. She has been seen on stages across the country as a spoken word artist as well as featured in numerous documentaries and seen on TV on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Shannon’s acting credits include working with companies such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Hypocrites, The Inconvenience and many others. She has taught with numerous organizations such as Youth Speaks, Young Chicago Authors, and Step-Up Women’s Network. Shannon also works on developing theatrical pieces using personal narrative included her solo show She Think She Grown. She currently resides in Chicago.

Rhymes: TLC “What About Your Friends?,” Lauryn Hill “Everything is Everything,” and Eve “Love is Blind”

  Reasons: Click here to listen to Shannon’s interview

posted: January 20, 2012

  Jasson Perez

Chicago born and raised, Jasson Perez is a community representative for SEIU Local 73 as well as one of the members of the rap group BBU.

  Rhymes: 2Pac “Keep Ya Head Up” and Outkast “Rosa Parks”

  Reasons: Click here to listen to Jasson’s interview

posted: January 6, 2012

6 responses to “Interviews

  1. Yo I think this is a really cool concept. I think it’s great how most of these unknown rappers have carreers as teachers or community organizers. It tells you how POSITIVE an influence on SOCIETAL factors hip-hop can be.

  2. Pingback: My two cents (or 50) on rap and misogyny « My Issues with the News

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