HHF October

Starting out with a super nice interview with indie Detroit MCs Flyboi Rich and Shakk Sport by Warnell Jones, this month’s Hip Hop Forum digital magazine magazine is a great mix of opinion pieces and interviews to give you a fine taste of hip-hop culture in the broadest sense.

Nobodee Jones takes a look at ‘Barfest’ – a competition that brings together the best underground MCs and producers – while Big Momma ‘Miz’ talks about music/politics with Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas” and the ‘Homeboy Hotline’ – an organization he established in 2000 to help people make a successful transition to life in the community after time spent in jail.

Warnell Jones considers the popularity of the recent series The Get Down while Omi Muhammad in a very thoughtful, expansive interview with André de Quadros, Professor of Music at Boston University speaks about the music programs he runs in prisons, in the US and internationally, and also the role music can play in disrupting political power structures and challenging social injustice and oppression.

To close, Hip Hop Forum digital magazine has instituted a new section – HHF Freestyles – and is  opening it up to MCs to share their rhymes with us with a chance of being included in the magazine. This week, it’s Mr  Boricua Boy. If you want to be included in HHF Freestyles, contact Madeleine Byrne or James Mayfield on Facebook.   

Thank you for your ongoing support of Hip Hop Forum digital magazine and Hip Hop Forum.

Join us, become part of the magazine, write for us; we’re still looking for writers to join our team. No experience needed, just a love and passion for hip-hop, a strong desire to get published and a need to … express yourself.

HHF Interview: Flyboi Rich & Shakk Sport

Interviewed by Warnell Jones

Despite all the questions about hip-hop’s future (is hip-hop dying; has it been dying since its emergence?) and those claiming that the art of rhyming has died because of a lack of syncopated rhyme, let alone the rising popularity of “mumble rap”, there are many artists who say no and argue that hip-hop is as strong now as it’s ever been. And that lyricism, style, and originality still exists, even if media outlets say otherwise.


Enter Flyboi Rich, a native Detroit MC, who is determined to show the hip-hop world that real rap, real lyricism, real hip-hop is prevalent and on the rise. Hip-Hop Forum Digital Magazine’s Warnell Jones sat down with Flyboi Rich, and his lyrical partner, Shakk Sport to talk about their endeavors and hear their take on the culture.

Hip-Hop Forum: First of all, I wanna thank you guys so much being here, kicking it about hip-hop. I’ve listened to your music, which is rife with similes, metaphors, and other literary tricks. What’s your approach to rapping, do you write?


Flyboi Rich: Yeah, I still write rhymes. As far as rapping, for real, a lot of times it just depends on the beat. When the beat is nice, I usually get done with the song quick, like quick as hell.

HHF: Who’d you listen to as a hip-hop youth that made you feel like you wanted to rap?

Flyboi Rich: I’d say who I listen to now, like J. Cole, Fabolous, Jay-Z – I like all the lyrical people really. I was listening to Lil’ Wayne for a while, like ‘04 – ‘06 Wayne. Then Fabolous came out with the “no competition” joint – that’s what made me say, “I gotta step my bars up.”

HHF: How long have y’all been spitting for now?

Flyboi Rich: We’ve been playing with it for a minute, but like, I don’t know, what you think? (looks at Shakk Sport)


Shakk Sport: Seriously? We’ve been serious about it for like, two years now, as far as pushing it. We was always doing it for our people, but we never thought about putting it out on our own until a few years ago.

HHF: What’s the business side of music like for you guys as artists?

Flyboi Rich: Man, it’s the promo. The promo is crazy. Here in Detroit, it’s hard to get on the radio because they latch on to their “people”. But the whole thing is about promo. I actually tried to go outside of the city – Memphis, Philly – they was showing more love than here. I don’t know, maybe if they hear it from outside, it’ll catch on. I feel like that’s how it’s gotta go. Kanye West, Eminem – happened to them the same way.

Shakk Sport: I think the city overall supports, but it’s the hoods, the people listening to the music – they not listening to nothing really lyrical. They used to the same stuff from the radio and the clubs.


HHF: So do y’all fit the stereotype of “Detroit Rappers”? I know people that write off Detroit artists, like, “They’re all the same, they talk about the same stuff.” Do you fit the “Detroit” style of hip-hop?

Flyboi Rich: It’s so many different Detroit styles, though. J-Dilla and Slum Village got a different sound than Eminem & D-12. All real rap, though.

Shakk Sport: But that’s hip-hop overall. A lot of people get overlooked for one reason or another. Like Fabolous, J. Cole – even though Cole sells and drops radio singles – still overlooked. I feel like the only thing people listen to is what’s playing on the radio or in the clubs. It’s like alot of lyrical shit you don’t dance to, so it gets curbed.

HHF: In lieu of that, how did it feel when 97.9fm & 107.5fm was playing your songs as “Unsigned Hype”?

Flyboi Rich: It was cool…it was nice, but really, man I wasn’t even really feeling those tracks like that. They were “radio tracks”. People was calling me, and that was cool. I had just been submitting everywhere. Those songs really latched on. I had people from London hitting me up. Overseas, they was with it. I see that, like, alot of overseas artists come over here and get love, so why not vice versa?

HHF: How did DOPEish Records get started?

Flyboi Rich: Alright, DOPEish Records started as DOPE – shorthand for Da Ones People Envy. I wanted the original name to be DOPEshit Records, but ASCAP wouldn’t let us put the “shit” in the title, so we changed it to “ish”, so you have DOPEish Records. We put it together because we make dope music.

HHF: So what’s next for Flyboi Rich, Shakk Sport, and DOPEish Records?

Flyboi Rich: Well, we’re shooting the video for “In My Mind” tonight. Vevo wants me to open a page with them, so I’ll be shooting more videos. I just finished my tracks for my new EP, but I got like 10 tracks, so I gotta narrow it down. After that, we’re doing a mix tape, and just promoting heavy. I’m in talks with XXL and Fader. I submitted a track to Sway, and he got back to me, so I’ll be with him soon. Just pushing.

HHF: Thank you so much for taking out time to kick it with us, brothers.

Check out Flyboi Rich and Shakk Sport on Soundcloud:





Detroit writer, Warnell Jones is a hip-hop enthusiast and all-around music lover and  loves to write about hip-hop culture, music, love and society. Warnell is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.


HHF Report: Raising the bar/What you know about Barfest

Written by Nobodee Jones

I always speak to the artistry of hip hop music. Real rap that pulls at a cat’s mind with entangled metaphors and words grounded in veracity that either leave a cat sayin’ shiiid or damn. It’s that much mo’ important as we in a time when tunes like this aren’t heard in the culture (on mainstream, but what’s new?)

That ish is a testament to the need to refocus on the roots and get back to the essence of hip hop, the underground. I chopped it up with one such cat that embodies this drive, mindset, work ethic, and fellowship that the culture has lost in it pursuits of fame, money, marketability, and chasing that tabby and then check this! Yea this cat can rhyme!

What you folks know about Diggz a.k.a Diggz the Prophecy?  It’s the bullishery going on now in the culture that got some folks looking for deep ish in the dark but its cats like Diggz that stoke the fire for the culture and helps bring real hip hop out the depths back to its proper position. This 27-year-old Jersey cat. Hood raised mind elevated. Says he been rhyming since like 11 years old.

Pulling inspiration from various artist. Diggz –  “Main one is basically Nas but I’m influenced by anyone that picks up the mic and chases the dream because its hard as fuck to get into, especially now days where; it’s oversaturated nowadays. Talent really doesn’t matter nowadays it’s all about image and all other stupid sh!t, but that’s another topic.

If I had to go with main influences Nas, Pac, Biggie, even people like Cassidy, Lord Banks I mean I got a different set of inspirations and influences depending on what we talking about but the main influence is definitely Nas.”  (Sidebar: Diggz is an artist is his rite but he run rhymes with a clique of other lyrical beast in AClass Company, S/O)  


But we on that Barfest, right?  Diggz is the architect, he started this ish on some never forgot the lessons, chances, and opps he had in life (despite doing a lot on his lonely). So he took a local idea some time back (bout a year), gave it the Diggz and BARFEST was born.  

First jumping off a year ago and it was well received with 16 enter with one cat walking away, that being Walter the West Nile (bullishin’ it’s just Walter West, but he sick).  Only 2 and a half judges that first year, that half in case a tie. This year just got underway and although it’s now a closed set and cats are locked in the prelims this year where around 55 folks and 5 judges now!   Yet it’s not done with just rappers, we got producers in on this as well, even though the focus it bars.

“I also let the producers drop whatever beat they want, like I said because even though this competition is mostly for artist. I wanted some producers who normally don’t get people to check out there beats to get some recognition.” – Diggz.  

So this competition has the rawr heartbeat in it. We all love a good beat but that whole concept is subjective to the cat listening to it (kind of a deep area, perception). The thing is so many hip hop heads or those that claim that title overlook the underground scene and it’s now more assessable than ever. (Sidebar: Why you think this bullish they call rap is so easy to get nowadays) Yet if a cats work ain’t heard on the radio you deny credibility or you either given credit where it isn’t due.  

Barfest is Hip Hop, it just brings those cornerstone park and rec battles to everyone with www access.

Diggz – “Anybody who follows me, follows my circle of friends, that may have reposted when I made the announcement or post. If you want to join, go ahead, I don’t have to know you personally. It’s like what yall do on Rawr Radio, if you feel as though you need the platform to showcase what I call “The Bars” then join. It’s for the artist, it’s not for my artist or my friend it’s for THE artist; anybody who feels as though they slept on, I’m underrated. Well join and prove yourself.”

Barfest 2 is already running with the preliminaries over and the tourney underway starting with 16 cats. Vespa, Hero, Shara, Asce, Seis, Manga D, Neb, Peace, Jools, Detox, Sax, Shogun, La Dub Z, Maikis, Jason, and Gatzby who can all be found online via SoundCloud.

(Sidebar: Whatever you do, you do it Rawr and if I didn’t address this, a cat wouldn’t be doing it in the Rawrligion Way. I thru a shout to AClass Company earlier, these cats are Diggz Da prophecy, LA Dub Z, Walter West, WarrenPeace, Nosticthepoet, & Magnetic The Shaman.)

If you notice or know Diggz is the architect and one of the judges, as well as Walter West and, Nosticthepoet and two of the cats in the comp are in his group. In fact, this is what Diggz had to say about that.

“The bad thing about have three judges in AClass. Everybody thinks we going to be bias against the members. I tell people all the time, if LA and Peace come weak they would hear it from me first because they in the group. I would have said no offense but yall might night make the next round.

“Like they would get the judging even more because they in my group. I’m not bias at all If they win, blame yourself. You didn’t muthaf#ckin out bar them. It’s not my fault that yours, I’m not like everybody else I don’t pick friends over who is actually good. Yall got me f#cked up if think that’s what I do.” -Diggz. Gotta luv that and the smooth ish about it, he answered that with us just chopping it up.

Check it you can find Diggz Da Prophecy on SoundCloud and YouTube and you can follower the Barfest 2 on his SoundCloud page as well. On another note RAWR Radio will also be doing a special ShowCast when the Barfest is all said and done. The broadcast will cover/highlight the event! Date and times are still on the table so stay posted and stay RAWR!!

Nobodee Jones, co-owner, online broadcaster, personality for RAWR Radio based in Ardmore, Ok. Born in Ardmore, OK raised in Atlanta, GA. Pays homage to hip hop culture through RAWR Radio Weekend ShowCast via Mixlr.com online. RAWR Radio itself grew from a personal need that mainstream hip-hop is failing to produce. Although still in the early stages the shows continue to see growth. We feature Unsigned Underground artist. Real radio, just like you like your Hip-Hop! From the heart but not for the overly sensitive. Check out the RAWR Radio website and stay connected with Nobodee Jones and RAWR Radio on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud, Google+. RAWR!


HHF Interview: Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”

Interviewed by Big Momma ‘Miz’
Hip Hop Forum digital magazine’s Big Momma ‘Miz’ talks politics and music with Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas” from Oakland, CA and also the ‘Homeboy Hotline’ – an organization he set up 16 years ago to help people make a successful transition to life in the community after time spent in jail.


Hip Hop Forum: First off, tell me this, as a Niner’s fan; how do you feel about Kaepernick’s stand, do you think it’s right on time, or long overdue?

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: It’s long overdue, but it’s also right on time. It took a whole lot of courage to do what he did in that limelight; I’m trying to connect with the brother.

HHF: You know what I thought was kind of strange, all the backlash that he received from it; especially from US (black people). You’d think he have more support giving the current circumstances of the culture and the point he’s making. Not just from other football players, but any of them that’s in the spotlight talking all the time.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: Well, you know a lot of them are scared to risk their financial stability, and losing endorsements. That’s what makes Muhammad Ali who he was; that’s the difference between a real hero and a person just involved for the entertainment. They not on OUR team, like Jordan & Barkley, they never been on our team. I’m kinda glad when those Unlce Tom’s speak out, it lets you know who standing right beside you and not really with you ya know!

HHF: Most definitely, I heard a brother speaking the other day that I agreed with; all these ma’fuckas were so quick to bash Kaepernick for his actions towards the flag, but not acknowledging the root of it, but then don’t run to the mic or media when bodies are dropping in the street left and right! I felt that was some real coward shit right there.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: I love my people, and it’s not easy to sacrifice your career for what you believe in and stand for. Even the people that Harriet Tubman went and rescued from the plantation, some of them niggas tried to turn around, she had to pull a pistol on them. It’s always been house-niggas and field-niggas; and a continuation of white supremacy, always will be, it’s part of the mathematics.

HHF: You right, like it’s embedded in our DNA or something. When I watch certain documentaries about our history, or read certain books, I can see the same spirit/actions in our people today!

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: I’ll never apologize for being black, I love my people, I’m blessed to be able to visually grasp a concept and think it would be selfish of me not to use my platform as a way to speak out against the injustices. This country was built by people who committed crimes against other people.

HHF: Ok, tell me about your platform, and what it is that you strive to express to everybody.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: We use art, film, the music and books as an opportunity to talk about bigotry and racism. Two things that always rub people the wrong way and create a difference of opinion and perspective; is race and religion, so most of our music is surrounded by those two. Hopefully you can find a solution when you get into these conversations of the things that affect people.

HHF: Let’s talk about one of my favorite expressions of opinion and perspective; your song “Bang On ‘Em”.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: “Bang On ’Em” represents the frustration in America from the Urban community, you got people that’s posing as police officers that are really gang bangers, and most gang bangers eventually get banged on and get their heads busted, people get at’em! That’s what we mean by banging on ‘em.

These people are running around and getting away with murder, and one thing for certain, and two things for sure it’s only one way to deal with bully; its bust the in the head in front of everybody, 9 times out of 10 they leave you alone. So that’s what we mean by “Bang On ‘Em”, they took an oath to disrespect our human rights, and they love doing it, but supposed to be getting paid to protect us.

With technology today, we are now seeing what black people have been talking about for years, and even though it’s on film and tape, the justice system is showing that they are part of this corruption because they continue to find these people “not guilty”, sending them on a paid vacation while the trial is going on.

HHF: Hell yeah!! They not for US, never have been since the beginning. Remember back when they released us from slavery, all uneducated and the only employment experience was in the cotton field, Congress funded a plan of colonization to send our asses back to Africa because they didn’t know what the fuck to do with us, they got scared and wasn’t prepared!

We were an asset as long as we stayed slaves, we’re a liability when set free. Over and over they tried to implement plans to wipe out our race, but had to be politically and socially correct about it. They came up with something called the Eugenics Movement, which is basically black genocide, with the help of Margaret Sanger, who was the force behind “birth control” aka dropping our population. We still see it happening today.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: That’s why it’s very important that we educate our youth about these situations. My first documentary is called “I just Wanna Ball” about 4 high school girls from a championship basketball team in Oakland. I covered the triumph off the court, overcoming single parent homes, parents that were abusive to drugs and physically, and that breeds a certain element of violence.  

If you remember the movie The Mack it was true, there is two sides to Oakland, the pimping/hoeing and the revolution. There aren’t any strip clubs in Oakland, never have been, so all the young girls are on the corner, human trafficking is big in Oakland; Too $hort didn’t make that up, all that’s real. A lot of these young girls are dealing with sexual predators, young teenage mothers are out on the hoe stroll, and it’s a bad rap on our little sisters.

I’m proud say I’m from the Bay Area, Oakland & San Francisco, so I want to show the true essence of Oakland. It was the sistas; the black women that held the household down when Huey Newton and all them was in the streets, not giving up or giving in and that’s what those 4 sistas represent. They are all in college right now, a lot of people say they want to ball, but these sistas are doing it for real with a real ball. I have another documentary about a fella who picked cotton for 18 years and never got paid; Bishop Henry Williams.

HHF: Interesting!

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: Cotton Pickas is a film series and also our band, were coming out with a new documentary “Gimme Mines Reparations” about that mule & 40 acres; why they killed Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, basically what we gotta do to get these reparations. We use art to create dialogs that instill self-esteem to the youth, so they understand they come from hardworking people that never gave in.

HHF: Dope! Im loving it. When I left you a voicemail, I heard you mention something about the “homeboy hotline”, tell me what that’s about.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: The “Homeboy Hotline” is an organization that I created in the year 2000 as an opportunity for people to have resources when they get out of any form of incarceration. Most times people want to change, but going around from pillar to post can get frustrating and can lead you back to what got you incarcerated in the first place.

So what I want to do, is find all the resources I can find from housing, resume preparation, job leads, getting records expunged, help with child support, legal aid etc. all on one website and see everything you need right there. We wanna keep the motivation going, and keep that fire lit that people have when they first get out, instead of putting them back into the cycle of what got them down in the first place. That’s what we do! We offer resources.

HHF: Beast! So in 16 years, how has it been progressing?

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”:  Its doing pretty good, we started in California, and we got resources in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, our goal is to get nationwide and just build in every state. Actually I was talking to James (HHF’s C.E.O) about putting together a youth empowerment conference, bring out books keep our youth towards the literacy, maybe shoot a film and talk about the business of music.

HHF: Now it’s a whole mob of yall right? I know of Mr. Zo, who else?

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: Yeah, Mr. Zo is on the song with me “Bang On’m” with me, we got a video show in Arkansas that reached Oklahoma, Texas, & Louisiana it’s called ZONE 24 TV the contact is Buddha Ali.

HHF: Ok, so far this has been one of my most interesting interviews; is there a motto you have, or words of advice you want the readers to remember?

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: Nothing works unless you do.

This interview was done by Big Momma “Miz” a North Philly native, out of Harrisburg Pa., She is now the C.O.O for an indie label ILL CRE (Illustrious Creations of Entertainment) where she is also signed as an artist under the moniker “Penelope”. The Hip Hop culture is embedded in her style & personality; she likes to compare her persona to “Shock G & Humpty Hump”, meaning its two sides to the coin. Big Momma Miz handles the biz, while Penelope handles the mic!
Miz is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.

HHF Opinion: Making A Case For The Get Down

Written by Warnell Jones

Amidst the fleeting knowledge of the origins of the art we all know as hip-hop, we were given a TV show that gave America a true glimpse of the musical shift in the 70s that would change the course of time.


The Get Down – a television program exclusive to Netflix – is that show. The show debuted as a 6-episode “half season” in August 2016, and has since received critical acclaim, as well as harsh critique. Most importantly, is that in the midst of this “Love & Hip-Hop, Real Housewives of (where the f**k ever)” nation, we have been graced with a program that purposes its intent on enveloping the history and development of our culture, hip-hop, in a head-crashing love story, one hour at a time. The hip-hop “purist” would surely agree – hip-hop needs this show.

The negative opinions and reviews that the worldwide media displays, just shows us that the demand for history and culture isn’t as high as it should be. This is actually interesting because seeing these results show a parallel to the similar need for historical, intelligent, and thought-provoking lyricism in hip-hop music. There’s actually more parallels in this dynamic, one including that The Get Down was very poorly promoted, similar to so many of the lyrical juggernauts that hip-hop bred.

As far as the numbers go, it’s a tell-tale of interest as viewership goes. Amongst Netflix originals, views after one month of a season or series debut go as follows:

Orange Is The New Black – 15+ million viewers

Fuller House – 15+ million viewers

Stranger Things – 13+ million viewers

Making A Murderer – 12+ million viewers

Marvel’s Daredevil – 8+ million viewers

The Get Down – 3.2 million viewers

This statistic is touchy for more than a few reasons. At first glance, it’s an insult to those of us who love hip-hop culture, that there are a number of topics perceived to be more entertaining than the art and origination of the music and culture so widely accepted today.  According to this metric, that list consists of superheroes, framing a murder case, Bob Saget, 80s style creepiness, and a women’s prison. All more interesting than the birth of hip-hop. Think about that.

Another interesting statistic about The Get Down is its price tag. $120 million. That’s right. 12 episodes. Insight from hip-hop legends. Two and a half years of production. $120 million. Netflix’s most expensive show yet. With a long list of issues during the production, from cast costs to production drama, including constant script rewrites, The Get Down’s 3.2 million viewers don’t justify its $120 million price tag.

Surely, all of that “numbers jive” is credible. But let’s be clear, no program EVER has brought more hip-hop history to the television format. A number of hip-hop legends – Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambataa, and hip-hop historian Nelson George – were integral in the creation and development of this series. They were very careful not to limit the scope to the music of the era, blending in the political and social information needed to understand our culture.

The Get Down is cavalier in its effort, showing the disco scene of the times, in its drug trafficking, sex enthralled, dance fevering glory. Its notwithstanding in its display of what was a real-life horror story – being a minority in the Bronx from the late 60s to the late 70s. Burning buildings, low employment, street gangs, dilapidated community – all REAL factors of the environment. The political truth is even touched on, as we see a portion of the rise of Mayor Ed Koch.

The show doesn’t shy away from any controversy of the time – we get to see drug cartels, murder, sexuality, rape. They even show the truth of the underground influence of the LBGT community on what the people heard on the airwaves.

All this, in only 6 episodes. With 6 more riveting shows sure to educate, entertain, and enthrall its viewers; hip-hop heads worldwide have every reason to get down with The Get Down.


Detroit writer, Warnell Jones is a hip-hop enthusiast and all-around music lover and  loves to write about hip-hop culture, music, love and society.

Warnell is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.

HHF Interview: André de Quadros , Professor of Music, Boston University

Interviewed by Omi Muhammad

Boston University Professor of Music, André de Quadros is a conductor, ethnomusicologist, music educator, and human rights activist has conducted and undertaken research in over forty countries. Professor de Quadros also holds affiliated faculty appointments in other BU departments: the African Studies Center, the Center for the Study of Asia, and the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations.

In this interview with HHF digital magazine Professor de Quadros talks about his political work in the realm of music education, asking questions about how musicians and music educators can use their work to challenge existing power structures, with a particular focus on his Music in Prisons program and Empowering Song project.

HHF: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with us at Hip Hop Forum digital magazine, Professor de Quadros. To begin, I saw you have been working with refugees in Sweden, was it a part of one of your programs?

André de Quadros: With Afghan refugees, yes. I teach a conducting course over in Stockholm. As a part of the project, the people I was working with, we went to three different locations; a young women’s prison, the second was a high school with lots of issues of demographics and so on, and the third place was where they would send Afghan teenage boys who were refugees.

HHF: When I had looked at your bio, I’d seen some of the other work that you’re doing so I was actually pretty interested in that, it’s very diverse.

André de Quadros : Well my background is in conflict in different places, my bio is very out of date, I haven’t updated that in over two years but I’ve been doing a lot of work in the Middle East and other places dealing with displaced peoples and incarceration.

HHF: So it sounds like you do a lot of work across the board dealing with people in conflict situations. Can you give us a little bit of a background on your Music in Prisons program and your Empowering Song approach?

André de Quadros : Sure, well we’ve been working, I and three other people that I work most closely with, in two prisons in Boston; one is a men’s prison which is a medium security prison, and the other is the only women’s prison in the state. In both prisons we work as part of a University program that allows students to take a course in music while they are incarcerated. It is offered as a college course.

There is no selection process to be a part of this course, we don’t audition. Some programs only work with people who are going back into the community, we work with a lot of people who are never leaving the prison. In the women’s prison we’ve had relatively smaller groups of ten and twelve and in the men’s groups we work with about twenty-six or so.

With the Empowering Song approach, we believe fundamentally  in creating conditions for personal power, personal expression, community transformation; a lot of experimentation and improvisation. I also use Empowering Song approach in the Middle East with refugees, teaching and performing in my own ensembles and so on.

There is no high ground for any particular style of music; in the prisons for example, a lot of the men rap and that becomes part of the work, there’s classical music in there or pop or music of the Muslim World. It’s pretty inclusive, it’s about potentially reconnecting music to the body. We not only reconnect the music as in moving in time with something but we use the body to get inside the text and to portray the text.

Say there is a rap that might have a text about being in prison or missing one’s family, so we might create a series of body pictures that relate to that. So I don’t like calling it theater, I don’t like calling it drama because it’s actually much deeper than that. But it is essentially theater school exercises.

How can the body tell the story, how can the body be part of the story. So there is a lot of story work that we do in the prisons, in other words they write narratives to rapping to writing poetry to writing song text to writing about genres. We have an unrivaled unequaled archive of papers that they’ve produced. There is also a lot of visual art that is produced, we take into the prisons a lot of people that practice visual art to work alongside us.

HHF: So you have found this connection between music and social change; what sparked your desire to do this? What made you think to connect the two in your programs?

André de Quadros : I guess when I was in college in India, I became very influenced by text and books and other writings that talked about asymmetrical relationships of power within societies, within communities, within countries. Oppression is so systemic all over the world; from within a country  like the oppression of black people in the United States, to the oppression of whites to the third world through colonization and so on.  

So I fell under the spell, if you like, of important writings such as the Pedagogy of the Oppressed (by Paulo Freire) and other associated authors. So I was motivated by that, how can we overturn the existing power dynamic? How can we displace them? How can we interrogate them? And to what extent can I as a musician contribute to displacing power as existed and as it exists? How can we speak truth to power? How can we use this as protest, how can we move the world forward?

I think music has immense power but on the other hand I don’t think we have fully understood its capacity in contemporary society. We see music as something to listen to or something to make, but at its full capacity; it can mobilize a people, console a people, change lives in ways unimaginable for people who are forgotten in society. We allow the forgotten to become consumers but never the makers of music. So in the prisons we have men who have never rapped before, who’ve never sung before, who’ve never written poetry before; now they’re writing, they’re singing, they’re moving, they’re rapping, it’s incredible. Just listening is not enough to experience the power of music as a human being, its more fully realized by active participation.

HHF: If you could send a message to artists specifically or even the community at large, what would you say to them in regards to music and the work that you do?

André de Quadros : I would say it like this, What kind of world do you want to live in? I don’t think anyone is entirely satisfied with the state of the world. I think they’d say, I don’t think we are heading in the right direction. I would say to musicians for example, What kind of a world do you want to live in? How can your art making, or music making change the world and move it into the direction that you want it to go?

HHF: Wow, yea that’s a good question.

André de Quadros : Let’s say I stop someone on the street and ask them a question. If they were to say, I can’t stand all those black people protesting, what are they protesting about? I would say, how can music help you to understand their problems, and how might you seek to build a better world through music? This is not to suggest using music to give voice to your whining or complaining, but how will music help to achieve greater understanding?

 And of course I’m giving an opposite example, I’d be very disappointed if someone said why are all those black people protesting. The history of black oppression in this country is not even fully understood if you read a whole lot of the texts on that.

But to someone like that I would say what kind of fair egalitarian, democratic America do you want to live in? How do blacks, whites, Latinos etc. negotiate their world of equality and democracy? And to what extent can your music making contribute to the discussion of a world in which we can all live in? What does that mean to you?

I think all music making has got to be political in the sense of engaging in these difficult discussions. We think about what it might mean to  be of a different background and find ourselves the same. Some of it might be protest, nothing is wrong with protest. Music has been a part of protest since the beginning of time. Hip Hop’s origins are in political protest, social protest. You know I’m not an expert on Hip Hop but I’m certainly mindful of it.

HHF: In listening to you talk about music and the creation of it, its almost obvious that your musical journey didn’t start in college. So how far back does it go, do you come from a musical family or culture?

André de Quadros : Interesting question, first off, I’m Indian. I grew up in India, attended university in India and so on. I started learning the violin at the age of four and my mother came from a very musical family as did my father. They were not professional musicians, my mother was an elementary school teacher and my father was a physician.

I grew up before the digital world, there was no television in India, at all. There was no television even when I was a teenager. Some people say yea well we didn’t have a television at home but it’s not the same thing, we didn’t have a television in the country.

So I grew up in a world where it was an acoustic world essentially. There was very little technology in the form of radio or anything. So I grew up in an entirely different acoustic world that some can hardly imagine. People made music as they worked, as they sold things and so on.

HHF: So music was a huge part of the culture.

André de Quadros : Yea but I don’t even like calling it music, because it wasn’t necessarily music as we see it. We talk about beats, we talk about genre, about composers. I’m talking about someone is pulling a rope and they’re chanting. A lot of that wouldn’t even be called music because of vernacular etc. I mean I would call it music but the western music, whether its rap or pop or another genre; its about the piece, the beginning, middle and end, the composers. Those kinds of definitions and parameters of music do not apply in the kind of music that I’m talking about. It was a sonic landscape and an acoustic world in which I grew up in very different from that of the United States.

HHF: Wow, I love that; a sonic landscape and an acoustic world. Are there any final thoughts that you would like to share with our readers before I let you go?

André de Quadros : Nothing that comes to mind, It was a pleasure speaking with you.

HHF: You as well, thank you for taking the time out to sit down with Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine.


To find out more about André de Quadros and his work, please visit his website at http://www.andredequadros.com/.

West Baltimore native Omi Muhammad is an artist and writer, now based in Philadelphia. To see her work, please go to http://www.urban-gypsy.net/index.html

Omi is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.

Hip Hop Forum Freestyle: Mr Boricua Boy


Mr. Boricua Boy (Christopher Román) was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico and is almost 25. He’s been rapping since he was 14. As a military brat he’s been all over the world. He’s been in the Army since March 2011 as an Aviation Operations Specialist and in the future will be an US Army Recruiter serving the Denver area. He spent nine months in Afghanistan.
Between 2012-2014, he was part of the United States Army Soldier Show where he was a rapper, emcee, Video Wall Technician, and Social Media Technician. With the team, he traveled anywhere from NYC to Kuwait/AFG to Tokyo.
Chris founded Roman Records LLC in 2013 while he was in Afghanistan but it wasn’t until recently that he was showing effort to bring the company out of the grassroots stage. Once he returns to the States he hopes to perform all over Denver, CO in his off time, while completing his Associates in Business Admin and aiming for a masters by 2020
Thank you Mr Boricua Boy for being part of HHF Freestyles for this month.

HHF Opinion: Manslaughter; We have a charge, will there be a conviction? 

Written by: Warnell Jones

Call me crazy, but I think I just witnessed America showing some form of guilt and remorse. I may be losing it, but did the mighty US of A take action against a white police officer for the unjust murder of a black man?


Perhaps good old America is coming to its senses, realizing that it’s not (never, ever was) acceptable for police officers to use deadly force against situations that don’t call for such. We hope that someone in our judicial system came to see this (and every instance like it) for what it is – a crime.


Allow me to catch you up on current events.


Terance Crutcher

On September 16, 2016, in Tulsa, OK, Officer Betty Shelby killed Terence Crutcher – an unarmed; or otherwise innocent, black man – after shortly being tazed by her fellow officer during a traffic incident. She later gave the press the excuse of Crutcher not following orders and possibly reaching through a closed window for a weapon (that was never in the vehicle). Now generally, these claims are coerced and allowed as fact in these cases. However, multiple videos of the incident have made this case different.


Betty Shelby

On September 22, 2016, Officer Shelby was charged with Felony 1st Degree Manslaughter – punishable up to life in prison.


This is an anomaly in modern-day American society – history tells us that no matter the offense, the powers-that-be (the judges, in this case) choose the side of the lawman against the side of the victims. So often, the officers that commit these crimes are sent on paid leave, while the system “investigates”, only to determine that the officers in question will not have charges brought against them.


In 2014, 100 unarmed black men & women were killed by police, notably including young Tamir Rice & Michael Brown. No convictions of murder or manslaughter for any officers.


In 2015, 102 unarmed black men & women were slain by police, notably Sandra Bland while in police custody. Of those cases, 2 convictions of manslaughter were found.


This year, the names range from Alton Sterling to Philando Castile, from Korryn Gaines to Keith Lamont Scott. Now Terence Crutcher. This is the 1st charge for manslaughter this year. That staggering statistic means that if the police have a similar number of unarmed killings this year, and Officer Shelby is the only officer convicted this year, the rate would be 1%. Over 3 years, 300 unarmed people killed by police, 3 convictions.  3 / 300 = 1%.


Certainly, in an America where “all men are created equal”, that idea doesn’t fare well for anyone in possession of melanin-heavy skin.


Perhaps I am somewhat elated to see that black people of America are getting a chance of an apology, of recognition, of acceptance.


But then again, history shows me different. That 1% number only happens if a conviction is handed to Officer Shelby. Right now, she’s only been charged……


…….and we know a charge and a conviction are two different things.

Source of statistics: http://www.mappingpoliceviolence.org. 

HHF September

Mixing it up for this month, an interview with NTG – half of the quintessential Philly ‘power couple’ by Big Momma ‘Miz’ and a portfolio of hip-hop inspired paintings by Delaware’s Alim Smith, specially chosen by the artist for Hip Hop Forum digital magazine. Up next, Warnell Jones speaks to Ajawavi Ajavon, who set up an NGO ‘Every Man Counts’ to support men post-divorce/separation to help them stay close to their children. Nobodee Jones writes on the alleged ‘death of the lyricist, while Big Momma ‘Miz’ offers her take on the police shooting of Korryn Gaines and the Sovereign Citizen movement and Vince Comegys-Davis encourages you to check out these great hip-hop festivals in September.
Thank you for your ongoing support: get involved, become part of the magazine, write for us, keep in touch.

HHF Report: Hip Hop Festivals (September, 2016)

Written by Vince Comegys-Davis

Dear Hip Hop,

While you are a part of our everyday lives, it has been a while since we have had a conversation. From the beginning you have been a best friend to many, touched the souls of the world and have helped us through tough times. You have evolved with every new generation and with each one that has taken the torch to pass on your knowledge it has been said that a piece of you has disappeared.

As it is now there is fear that you have already been laid to rest. It was with a heavy heart that these words touched my conscious and I could not help but wonder how it is that this culture that has impacted the world in so many ways has ended. Was it all cleverly laid plans to further alienate a people? If that is the case then we must raise a fist in the air for those who take up arms through hip hop to pass on the knowledge of the past to future generations. So as it is believed that the human spirit does not perish, so too is it that the spirit of hip hop does not fall. Which then begs the question, why is it that we continually hear that hip hop has died? Is it because we are being force fed a watered down version of what hip hop once was? If so, where have you been old friend?


In fact, your essence has been felt. No, not so much because of the mainstream but because of the underground. Through events and organizations that understand the culture and wish to share it with their communities. Allow me to share that information with those who may be reading this ode to you.

In 1973 (as the story goes) Kool DJ Herc was playing at a party and found a way to extend the break beat of songs. There were good vibes throughout these parties and they brought together communities. This is where hip hop, the music aspect, began and it is still alive in the world today at events throughout the world.

If you wish to be a part of hip hop in its purest form, why not check out these events this month in Philadelphia, California and Baltimore …


  1. Allentown Arts Festival

Presented by The Alternative Art Gallery

September 30-October 2, 2016

Allentown, PA



  1. Meeting Of Styles

September 16-18

San Francisco, CA



  1. Skillz Over Politicz

Johns Hopkins University

September 10

Baltimore, MD




Born and raised in the city of Wilmington, DE. Like many other inner city youth hip hop was a major form of self expression, but Vince Comegys-Davis took a different route into the culture. Beginning in musical theater and training in the classical styles, it didn’t take for him to realize that his first love was for the dance element of the culture. Since 2007 Vince has been passing on the knowledge that has been bequeathed to him and it was this mindset that brought forth the creation of Street Xpressions Arts Organization.  A nonprofit organization in which he is the Executive Director. It is here that Vince, his board and the teachers will continue to pass on the history of the culture.  Vince is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.