By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
1Hood Media isn’t necessarily looking to break the next Wiz Khalifa or Mac Miller out of Pittsburgh.
Rather, the Pittsburgh-based organization is out to nurture young hip-hop talent, raise awareness about social justice matters and guide young rappers toward making an impact on the community.
Thursday (5-10 p.m.): Repair the World, 6022 Broad St. East Liberty: With Patience Roy’al, James Perry, Lyn Starr, Chris Butler, Dejah Monea, Jermalle Jones, Torra, Bird, Ink, DJ Austin, Zende, Level Up Studios.
Friday (5-10 p.m.): Anthony Rivers Park, 200 Penn Circle, East Liberty: Hosted by David Banner with jessica Care moore, Jasiri X, Boaz, Blak Rapp Madusa, Idasa Tariq, livefromthecity, LUC, Tyhir Frost, Jacquea Mae, Jordan Montgomery, Coach Blue, M.A.N.-E., DJ Big Phil.
When he isn’t traveling the country as a speaker, activist and performer, Jasiri X is at the controls of 1Hood, now in its 11th year, working with artists in his home studio or doing after-school programs at Pittsburgh CAPA. Along with being a respected political/social issue rapper, Jasiri, who hit the scene in 2007 with “Free the Jena 6” and continued with songs like “What if the Tea Party Was Black?” and “Occupy (We the 99),” holds an honorary doctorate, from the Chicago Theological Seminary, and has received a USA Cummings Fellowship in Music, a BMe Fellowship and a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artist as Activist Fellowship.
1Hood Day, a showcase of that talent, begins tonight at Repair the World in East Liberty with high school-age rappers and speakers from Turn Up For Freedom (TUFF), a group of young female activists that has been organizing rallies here.
It steps outside on Friday at Anthony Rivers Park on Penn Circle with special guests David Banner, jessica Care moore and Boaz joining some of 1Hood’s more established talents, including Jasiri X, Blak Rapp Madusa, Tyhir Frost and Idasa Tariq.
This is a group of artists, and a genre, that’s shunned by a lot of other local festivals and doesn’t have much of a home base in Pittsburgh.
“After the Shadow Lounge closed, it was was like, ‘Where do young artists go to perform?’ ” Jasiri says. “Most of these festivals do not include hip-hop, or if they do maybe it’s an older [act]. We did the Three Rivers Arts Festival last year, but we didn’t do it this year, and I didn’t see anybody else do it.”
“What we’re trying to say is you can have hip-hop if you do it in the right way. We’ve never had anything even close to violence at any of our events, and we’ve done 25 to 30 events. We’re doing it in a socially conscious way. We’re bringing artists that have a real care and love for the community, and the type of art that they do is art that uplifts and inspires the community and not something that’s going to have your mind in a more negative way. You’re not hearing ‘kill your brother’ from that stage or [misogyny] from that stage. Not that there won’t be cursing, but you’re hearing a more intelligent form of hip-hop.”
In Banner, he has a rapper and actor (“The Butler,” “Ride Along”) from Mississippi who has run the gamut from thug to conscious rap, with a sexed-up hit “Play” in the middle.
“David Banner was one of the first artists to give me mentorship and guidance,” Jasiri says, recalling a panel he did in Mississippi. “He represented the streets but also is socially conscious. After Hurricane Katrina, he was one of the first artists to step out there and raise money.”
It won him the Visionary Award from the National Black Caucus of the State Legislature.
“I brought him to Pittsburgh three years ago,” Jasiri says, “and he said, ‘I love what you’re doing here.’ ”
He’s also excited to bring in moore, a Detroit artist, playwright and performance artist who has ventured into hip-hop in recent years.
Jasiri says it’s a good time for socially conscious rappers like the 1Hood crew who have been doing events across the country. Patience Roy’al is getting play on WAMO, and there’s a lot of love for LiveFromTheCity. Jordan Montgomery released his debut album, “Driving While Black,” earlier this year, and his song “Only Thing” will be remixed as part of a 1Hood group effort this week.
Mr. Montgomery, a 21-year-old rapper from Hazelwood raised on Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G. and Kanye, joined 1Hood during 10th grade at Pittsburgh CAPA.
“After the Jordan Miles case,” he says, “the Arts Greenhouse program [run through CMU] wanted to do a hip-hop songwriting workshop with the literary arts department, and I had been part of that program throughout high school.”
He met Jasiri and 1Hood co-founder Paradise Gray at the program’s year-end showcase and says, “I was an instant fan of them and 1Hood.” He signed up for its Media Academy and within five years has gone from student to teaching artist.
1Hood, he says, “showed me how to use hip-hop and media to showcase my own truth instead of how society and mainstream media portrays it.”
His goal as a rapper is “to create art that not only represents my story but speaks on behalf of those who may not have the chance to tell their story. My music is fun, honest, conscious and human. I try to represent the human experience on all levels.”
Part of what inspired Jasiri to work with young rappers was seeing the direction that commercial hip-hop was going in and hearing the criticisms from the older generation.
“You can sit back and judge how these young people are rapping, but if they don’t have any guidance or direction, what do you expect?” he says. “If someone comes and says, ‘Here’s an alternative, check this book out, check this blog out,’ then what you begin to see is as they become more aware, the music becomes more aware. When I hear older people disrespecting young rappers like they don’t know anything, well, how would they know something if the elders don’t tell them? I feel like I’m obligated.”
What he has found is that these younger rappers are becoming more aware.
“They’re on social media, and they’re seeing these killings, and they’re seeing this lack of justice, so I would argue young people are probably more aware than I’ve ever seen, at least in my generation. I wasn’t alive in the ’60s. I’ve never seen young people more aware than I have right now.”
Each week, 1Hood releases a new song as part of Black Friday.
“We’re actually doing very well,” Jasiri says, “because as this movement for black lives goes mainstream, people began looking for music from artists that support the movement going on in the community. That’s what we do as 1Hood.”
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576.Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.