An Interview with M-Tri

One of the longest-standing veterans of the Rapathon, M-Tri has always been a welcome and show-stealing presence at every Rapathon event. With the Rapathon this Saturday being only a 12-hour incarnation this year, it’s a sure thing that M-Tri is going to pack a weekend’s worth of ill freestyle rhymes into every one of his times on the mic. We spoke to M-Tri about his previous Rapathon experiences and his work with Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E.

What was the story behind “Stop Another Violent End,” your song from the Anti-Gun Mixtape?

I met with Jean Corbett Parker and she shared her story about her son LaTraun. I wanted the song to focus on who he was as a person, their relationship and how she dealt with the unexpected loss of her son.

What was the experience like recording the song?

Writing this song was a very emotional experience. From meeting Jean and hearing her story to actually penning the verses was the most challenging thing for me as a writer. The next day after I met with Jean, I sat alone in my studio room and became choked up when I started writing to the point where I cried. The recording was a little easier. I didn’t want to make the song sound sad musically so I created a track that had a brighter vibe to it. The choir sounding chorus is actually DJ Leecy T and myself on multiple vocal tracks. I also had my Dad play piano on the outro of the song.

How do you feel about gun violence in the city?

It’s sad, scary and confusing all at the same time. Besides the many cases of police shooting innocent people which is out of control, most of the civilian gun violence is teens killing teens. Where are the guns coming from? How are kids able to get them? There are many misguided youths and adults who don’t realize the consequences of their actions. Life isn’t valued anymore. We live in a very violent society.

Do you have any favorite Rapathon memories?

So many. I’ve met a lot of great mcs and djs plus made lots of friends because of the Rapathon. Being selected in Rapathon 2 to record a song with the other artists and shoot a video directed by Ralph McDaniels has got to be one of my favorite memories.

Cee-Rock the Fury Interview

What was the story behind “Kill Da Killin’?”

KILL DA’ KILLIN’ came from hearing and watching the news on various types of killing in the city and throughout the globe. The DIALLO shooting especially hit home. It was a sad thing to watch and I was saying in my own mind that the only thing people has yet to kill on this planet was the actual “killing” itself….hence the song title.

How do you feel about gun violence in the city?

I think gun violence is getting out of hand. You have to keep in mind that when our era was growing up we didn’t have the Bloods and Crips gangs throughout New York like we do now (we had crews and we mostly settled beef with fisticuffs and pure knuckle game). Years ago, Blood/Crip gangs were in places like in Washington, California, Chicago and places like that, but it migrated over here to NY and spread throughout the bouroughs. You got kids who today who would kill just to be initiated into a gang/cult or just to belong to some sort of family. The glorification of guns in music acts as a daily movie score or soundtrack of everyday life. People seem to train to this type of lifestyle music like a Rocky theme montage. It’s sad to say, but the only time I hear most people talking about a ‘Stop The Killing’ movement is when someone in their own camp falls victim to the same stuff they’ve been glorifying and talking about. So basically, murda*murda*kill*kill anthems are okay and acceptable…just as long as it doesn’t effect anyone in their own camp (contradictory, right?). This type of thinking, I feel, contributes to the chaos that we see today. A change for the better is very much needed.

Do you have any favorite Rapathon memories?

There are so many great memories of Rapathon that we could talk about this for quite some time. I would have to say the last Rapathon that we had in 2011 was incredible. A highlight is when we would catch our fellow “Rapathonians” sleepin’ on the chairs (couches or whatever) and we would creep up behind them and take the craziest photos and post them up for all to see! The ones that we got with Uncle Ralph McDaniels were some of the funniest (we all luv you Uncle Ralph!). Also, the final cypher we all did when all the emcees came up to the stage and performed their favorite classic Hip-Hop tracks (from Biggie, Audio Two, Run-DMC, NWA, Sugar Hill Gang, Gang Starr, Nice And Smooth and more). Me winning in 2010 as ‘Team Captain of the Year’ was also incredible and such an great honor.

I personally wanna thank H2C2, Curtis Sherrod, Ralph McDaniels and all the emcees involved for making Rapathon what it was, what it is and what it will continue to be! I’m glad and proud to be an official alumni.

The Stop Gun Violence Rapathon Auditions/Rehearsals

On April 6th The Hip Hop Culture Center in Harlem will host a Rapathon at the Kennedy Center located at 34 W. 134th St. starting at 10am.
This event will showcase talented Emcees helping to change the culture of gun violence through “Positive Bars”!

The Rapathon is open to anyone with a love for Hip Hop and the ability to rhyme for 90 seconds straight without cursing. If you think you got what it takes, come be part of this positive community event.

Auditions/Rehearsals will be held at the Kennedy Center/ Harlem Mothers Save office on;

Sunday March 17th 2:30 – 5:30 PM (@Harlem Mothers Save office 2471 Frederick Douglas Blvd & 133rd St. )

Tuesday March 19th 6:30 – 9:00 PM (@Kennedy Center 34 W. 134th. St.)

Thursday March 21st 6:30 – 9:00 PM(@Kennedy Center 34 W. 134th. St.)

Sunday March 24th 2:30 – 5:30 PM (@Harlem Mothers Save office 2471 Frederick Douglas Blvd & 133rd St.)

Tuesday March 26th 6:30 – 9:00 PM(@Kennedy Center 34 W. 134th. St.)

Thursday March 28th 6:30 – 9:00 PM(@Kennedy Center 34 W. 134th. St.)

For more info and to contribute, check out:

Our Interview with Sean Conn of Triboro

With the Rapathon auditions starting this weekend, MCs all over New York are being reminded of what it means to freestyle in a cypher. More than just individual glory, it’s about interacting with your fellow artists and making something greater together. This philosophy is exemplified by longtime Rapathon veterans Triboro who year-after-year have contributed some of the most memorable moments of the event by playing to each others’ strengths and rocking the crowd no matter what time of day it is. Triboro were also gracious enough to contribute their song “Change the World,” which they’d written with the help of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., to help raise awareness of the Rapathon.

We spoke to Triboro member Sean Conn about the making of “Change the World,” gun violence in the city, and his favorite Rapathon memories.

What was the story behind “Change the World?”

The story behind “Change the World” is, if a emcee had the power to change the world, what would those changes be? Would you change it for the better or worse, and how powerful can a positive change be?

What was the experience like recording the song?

When we where in the studio with the Hip Hop Chef DR, he made a powerful hook and had Brandy (from the R&B group Issis) sing it. When I heard it, I felt like this song needed to be heard worldwide. TRIBORO wrote their verses and magic was made.

How do you feel about gun violence in the city?

Gun Violence is a horrible thing. I feel there are too many young men and woman that don’t truly know the quality of life or self love, and Violence is their cry for help. I feel more positive music and more community events that include the youth would lower gun violence in the city.

Do you have any favorite Rapathon memories?

Some of my favorite Rapathon memories would be [in] Rapathon 1, when my team went in so hard with the bars, we ended up going to Summer Jam! Also, [during] Rapathon 5, it was about 4:30 AM and people where running low on energy. But, when DR pulled out that good corn bread, we ended up doing a (Corn Bread) Hour just spitting about how good it was and anything you can think of, we rapped about with that corn bread.

Our Interview with Purple Haze

As the Rapathon draws closer, there’s been a lot of excitement and generosity in the air!The Hip-Hop Culture Center would like to give a humongous hip-hop THANK YOU to HARLEM USA for their generous $5,000 DONATION to HARLEM MOTHERS S.A.V.E.! We’d also like to give thanks to one of our own Rapathon MCs, Purple Haze, who not only gave contributed her song “Harlem Brown Blues” for us to use to help spread the word about the Rapathon, but took the time to speak with us about gun violence. Here’s our Exclusive interview with Purple Haze!

“Harlem Brown Blues” was originally on the Anti-Gun Walk mixtape which saw several rap artists working with different mothers from Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. to write songs on their experiences with gun violence. What was the story behind “Harlem Brown Blues?”

The story behind Harlem Brown Blues was a father witnessing his only son, Mike being shot and killed. They had just reconnected after many years. As a father his natural instinct was to run after the shooter who then shot him in the hand…he ran back, held his son until he took his last breath and died in his arms. Borgie, struggled with leaving his son in Beliz in search for better opportunities in the US but things where different when he got here and for many years they were estranged. Fortunately, they rekindled their before he was killed. As the story was told to me, Borgie cried and I didn’t take that lightly. It was a risk to even be so vulnerable and trust someone to express so many emotions and personal information. I felt I needed to write a song that told the story, incorporate, anti violent message and most importantly move people in a way we connect to the struggle of Borgie and the other parents. If people listened and felt something I believed, they would think about in a deep way which could have more [of a] potential impact. Borgie was the only father with Harlem Mother’s SAVE at the time and [I] thought that said a lot about his willingness and need to be supported while coping with this tragic loss. Mike was just married 16 days before he was killed…he didn’t have any children except this huge pit bull…I am terrified of dogs especially pits, however Borgie invited me to his home to meet Mike’s pride and joy “STONE” who Borgie kept and helps him feel close to Mike! Stone was intimidating yet gentle and I sensed he was also grieving. We walked the neighborhood and Stone & Borgie were identified as Mike’s fam by so many. This brother was something to many! Harlem Brown was a term I was familiar with and reference to brothers, Harlem Blues was an incredible song that had a range of emotion like this story…I incorporated the two after searching the net and discovering this instrumental that was strong with a gentle voice…like Borgie!

How did you first feel when you heard the story?

I felt a range of emotions, sad for sure. I also felt privileged, honored and capable at the same time! I thought it was a good opportunity to lend my talent and voice to extend Borgie and apart of my purpose as a Hip Hop Griot. With the details Borgie shared I and my passion to tell it lyrically thru song, I thought we have the potential get someone to listen up and remember! I set high expectations for myself and promised Borgie I would show my respect and appreciation lyrically!

How do you feel about gun violence in the city?

It is out of hand and I am not sure if there is a true intent to resolve. Responsibility is shared from individuals to community and government in my opinion.
I believe it reflects a systematic American culture of violence and capitalism with racist undertones because it is more profitable for a community that isn’t considered valuable to eliminate themselves. It helps several industries including real estate, health care and pharmaceutical, prison and education systems be able to smoke screen and make money. As an adult I now recognize how traumatic it is for children to live in urban environments and especially when it’s normalize. It is painful because some many people are effected…the person shot, shooter, both indictable family and friends, neighbors even those who hear the shots and story’s as I was recently introduced to this concept by Dr. Joy Degruy in the Presentation of “Post Traumatic Slave Disorder”. I incorporated this belief by acknowledging this at the end of “Harlem Brown Blues”…subtle yet intentional.

Do you have any favorite Rapathon memories?

Yes, I have a few, the one that stands out the most is when the Femcee Rapathon vets Atlas, Kween Cash, Mala Reignz and I were on stage together during Rapathon 4…we had a unified experience, a collective female perspective/voice that bounced & shifted seemlessly! It was suppoetive and we didnt compete or battle! The crowd was so amped and we shifted the energy just before the final hour! I am so grateful I was apart of that and can say WE “caught one” TOGETHER!

Our Interview with New York State Assemblyman Keith Wright

With this April’s Stop the Violence Rap-A-Thon drawing closer-and-closer, it seems everybody wants to get into the action and show their support! With the event benefitting Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., it seemed only fitting we speak to Assemblyman Keith Wright about how he gave the organization their name, as well as gun violence and his plans for the Rap-A-Thon!

How did you first meet Jackie Rowe-Adams?

I feel like I’ve known her forever! Certainly I’ve known her all of my time in politics, which has been over 20 years. I don’t even know [the specifics], but it was at a community meeting.

You also gave Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. their name, what was the inspiration behind that title?

A staff member of mine and I were trying to think of a name that would be appropriate, yet meaningful and somewhat catchy. We tried to think of some acronyms, and we came up with Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. They’re Harlem Mothers and they’re trying to save, and have the influence to Stop Another Violent Ending. It had a little ring to it and we kept it.

Why do you feel Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. is important?

Well, you can start a group anywhere at any time, but this is a community based organization of, by and for women in particular that have been affected by gun violence. It is not a club that people want to really belong to. This is a group where people have lost somebody near and dear to them to gun violence. They’re a community based group who are true to the term community, and they want to put a stop to gun violence in their neighborhood and beyond. Quite frankly, they have a lot of credibility to talk that way, so I thought it was important that they’re a group from the community, about a community trying to take the bull by the horns on their own.

What do you think should be done to best combat gun violence?

It could be a parent taking a more involved position with their children, trying to keep them away from violence, searching backpacks and clothing or what have you. It could be, in terms of the big picture with America being the most violent nation in the world, killing business with anybody that makes these types of weapons and these types of guns from coming into our community. We don’t make the guns in our community, they’re made elsewhere. Certainly, it proved in Newton, CT, no-one is immune from gun violence. We have to take a holistic approach from Washington and the Capitol to a parental involvement to try to steer our children away from gun violence.

Do you plan on attending the Rapathon coming up on April 6th?

I wouldn’t miss it for the world! You kidding? Anything I can do, I’ll be more than happy to be there. Plus, I want to hear if anybody’s going to rap for over 24 hours without taking a breath. Non-stop hip-hop, I can’t wait!

To contribute to the Rap-A-Thon, please visit our Rockethub page here!

Homeboy Sandman on “Tashay,” Gun Violence and Rapathon 2013

This week, the re-release of Homeboy Sandman’s song “Tashay” has set the internet on fire and helped kickstart the Road to the Rapathon. With this year’s event being a special End the Violence Rapathon, the Hip-Hop Culture Center has decided to make the event focus on benefitting anti-gun violence charity Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. We spoke to Sandman on writing “Tashay,” his thoughts on the gun violence epidemic and his experience in Rapathons past.

“Tashay” was originally on the Anti-Gun March mixtape which saw several rap artists working with different mothers from Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. to write songs on their experiences with gun violence. What was the story behind “Tashay?”

Velna was the only mother taking part in the H2C2/Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. collaboration whose child’s death wasn’t the result of gun violence, but I guess the nightmare of losing a child is is something that parents can relate to regardless of how the tragedy took place. We met up and immediately hit it off as she’s an amazing woman. The story’s of her 6 week old daughter’s murder at the hands of her own father, and how rather than sinking into despair Velna had the strength and the courage to use the tragedy to bring her and her surviving daughter closer together, and learn appreciate every single moment in her life.

How did you feel upon hearing her story?

I found to be very heroic. The song was my attempt to make something beautiful out of something horrific, which is what Tashay inspired in Velna, and what Velna inspired in me.

How do you feel about gun violence in the city?

Gun violence anywhere is so shameful. Guns are humankind’s most cowardly invention.

Do you have any favorite memories of the Rapathon?

One time during my first rapathon it was a four man crew. Me and all three members of Triboro; Frsh Aire, Sean Conn, and Elus. All them cats get busy. It was a classic session.