Cey Adams, a New York City native, emerged from the downtown graffiti movement to exhibit alongside fellow artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. He appeared in the historic 1982 PBS documentary Style Wars, which tracks subway graffiti in New York. Adams served as Creative Director for Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons’ Def Jam Recordings, where he co-founded the Drawing Board, the label’s in-house visual design firm. While there, he created visual identities, album covers, logos, and advertising campaigns for Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Notorious B.I.G., Maroon 5, and Jay-Z.
He exhibits, lectures, and teaches art workshops at institutions including: The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, Museum of the City of New York, School of Visual Arts, Temple University, MoCA Los Angeles, Stanford University, Howard University, among others. He co-authored DEFinition: The Art and Design of Hip-Hop (Harper-Collins); designed Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label (Rizzoli); and designed the award-winning Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap (Smithsonian/Folkways), a box set including a 300-page book and 9 CD set.
Adams draws inspiration from 60’s pop art, vintage sign painting, and comics. His work focuses on themes including pop culture, brand identity, cultural, and community issues. He has collaborated with many global brands including Levi’s, Mattel, The Recording Academy, IDEO, Apple, Bacardi, Foot Locker, Converse, Pabst Blue Ribbon, YouTube, and Google.
Bill Adler wrote about Kurtis Blow for the New York Daily News in 1980 and about Disco Fever for People magazine in 1983. He worked as the director of publicity for Def Jam Recordings/Rush Artist Management between 1984 and 1990. Tougher Than Leather, his biography of Run-DMC, was first published in 1987 and republished in 2001. He curated and wrote the text for Janette Beckman’s Rap: Portraits and Lyrics of a Generation of Black Rockers – one of the very first rap photo books -- in 1991. In 2004, he wrote and produced And You Don’t Stop: 30 Years of HipHop, a five-part documentary series for VH1, in conjunction with Perry Films. Between 2003 and 2007, he ran the Eyejammie Photo Gallery, which was devoted to hip-hop photography. A collection of 400 of the exhibition prints shown at Eyejammie was acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2015. In 2008, he teamed up with the artist Cey Adams to write DEFinition: the Art and Design of HipHop. The Adler Hip Hop Archive – a detailed collection of hip-hop-oriented newspaper and magazine articles, press releases, artist photos, advertisements, flyers, posters and ephemera – was acquired by Cornell University in 2013.
Billboard Women In Music, 2020 Executive of the Year, Brianna Agyemang has made it her mission during her tenure in music to move with both purpose and kindness. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Brianna first started in the music industry through a string of internships including Bad Boy Records, Columbia Records, as well as local nightclubs and radio stations during her college years at Carnegie Mellon University. Following graduation, she interned at Violator Management under the legendary Chris Lighty, later simultaneously interning at Roc Nation in Digital Marketing. From there, she went to Roc Nation’s International Marketing Department. Her love of music coupled with the desire to make it global became her impetus, as Brianna was the liaison between the United States and the rest of the world for artists including J. Cole, Vic Mensa, Mustard, and Justine Skye among others.
By 2015, Brianna was brought on to work with Meek Mill as his day-to-day manager at Roc Nation at the height of his groundbreaking project Dreams Worth More Than Money. She then formed the in-demand community collective The Brownies with fellow industry maven Ayanna P. Wilks, coordinating events and building artist and peer communities. By 2017, Brianna joined Atlantic Records as their Senior Director of Marketing, where her first project was the late Nipsey Hussle’s Grammy Award nominated breakthrough album Victory Lap. It was followed by Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer, as the Grammy nominations racked up for Brianna’s roster with the aforementioned Nipsey and Monáe, along with Meek Mill and Nigerian phenomenon Burna Boy. She continued her international momentum with UK artists like Stormzy and Mahalia.
In the Spring of 2020, Brianna joined Apple Music’s multi-faceted artist services platform Platoon, as her expertise in both domestic and international markets allow her the insight to work with artists spanning all corners of the globe. She and Wilks have taken The Brownies virtual, hosting and curating a number of events during the pandemic. A co-founder of #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, Brianna’s goal through her music career and activism is to remain consistent: “I just want to make sure that whatever I do, I stay true to myself.”
Ivie Ani is an award-winning, internationally recognized journalist, writer, editor, critic, and on-air host covering culture. Ivie is a Nigerian-American Bronx native and New York University alumna with a dual degree in Journalism and Africana Studies. Her writing has been published in The New York Times Women in The World, The Village Voice, NY Mag, GQ, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, VIBE Magazine, The Fader, NBC News, BBC, PAPER magazine, Pitchfork, Complex, LEVEL Magazine, OkayAfrica, Grazia UK, NYU’s Social and Cultural Analysis Journal, and more. She is the former Editor In Chief & Editorial Director of AMAKA Studio and the former Music Editor of Okayplayer, and has held positions at Facebook as a Trending News Content Curator, at BET Networks, and Associated Press. She currently hosts her live radio show In Full Effect on Amazon Music’s AMP.
Ivie is the recipient of Harvard's 2022 Eminence Award and has spoken at Harvard University, Yale University, New York University, Wesleyan University, Fordham University, and Howard University. She has moderated panels for Sony Music, United Masters, Audiomack, Afrochella, Twitter, Instagram (META), and more. She's done on-air commentary for BBC Radio, NPR, BET, Entertainment Tonight, Sirius XM, Genius, Hot 97, MTV News, Netflix, and Revolt TV, with more commentary that has been featured in Nylon, Tidal, The Cut, Bustle, Racked, and more. She's been profiled in The Washington Post & APM Reports podcast and has appeared as a guest-hosted on Red Bull Radio.
Ivie speaks on and moderates panels about media, music, journalism, identity, pop culture, the diaspora, and history and has worked in print, television, social media, and on the red carpet to enlighten, engage and produce work with a purpose.
Alvin aqua Blanco is the Director of Content, Men's Division for iOne Digital, steering Cassius Life and Hip-Hop Wired. Representing the Bronx, he was nurtured by a steady diet of Hip-Hop culture and music. He graduated from the University of Virginia, with a B.A. in African American Studies and Psychology. His prior work has appeared in XXL, The Source, Vibe, The Village Voice, and other notable print and online publications. Other stops in his over 15-year journalism career include BET, MTV News, and AllHipHop.com. Alvin is always making sure the culture—be it music, business, fashion, sports, sneakers, and everything in between—is thoroughly and accurately documented, follow him on Instagram @alvinblanco and Twitter @aqua174.
DeForrest Brown, Jr. is an Alabama-raised rhythmanalyst, writer, and representative of the Make Techno Black Again campaign. As Speaker Music, he channels the African American modernist tradition of rhythm and soul music as an intellectual site and sound of techno-vernacular expression. On Juneteenth of 2020, he released the album Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry on Planet Mu. His written work explores the links between the Black experience in industrialized labor systems and Black innovation in electronic music, and has appeared in Artforum, Triple Canopy, NPR, CTM Festival, Mixmag, among many others. He has performed or presented work at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Paris+ par Art Basel, Paris; Camden Arts Centre, London; Unsound Festival, Krakow; Sónar, Barcelona; Roulette, New York; and elsewhere. Assembling a Black Counter-Culture is Brown’s debut book.DeForrest Brown, Jr. is an Alabama-raised rhythmanalyst, writer, and representative of the Make Techno Black Again campaign. As Speaker Music, he channels the African American modernist tradition of rhythm and soul music as an intellectual site and sound of techno-vernacular expression. On Juneteenth of 2020, he released the album Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry on Planet Mu. His written work explores the links between the Black experience in industrialized labor systems and Black innovation in electronic music, and has appeared in Artforum, Triple Canopy, NPR, CTM Festival, Mixmag, among many others. He has performed or presented work at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Paris+ par Art Basel, Paris; Camden Arts Centre, London; Unsound Festival, Krakow; Sónar, Barcelona; Roulette, New York; and elsewhere. Assembling a Black Counter-Culture is Brown’s debut book.
As a music industry veteran of 25 years, Sean has launched the careers of legends as a label executive, contributed to over 30 million records as a producer, and most recently focusing on music supervision and advising for television and film networks such as Netflix, Hulu, and Apple+.
Sean C’s music dreams began in Harlem as a founding member of the legendary DJ collective Xmen/Xecutioners. He was taught the art of DJing and song construction by Dougie Fresh’s Get Fresh Crew.
Simultaneously, Sean set out to learn the business side of music while growing as a producer. He took an internship with Steve Rifkind’s Loud Records and quickly grew into a Vice President of A&R. During his tenure at Loud, he worked on groundbreaking acts like Mobb Deep, Dead Prez, Linkin Park, and more. Although an executive, Sean was a producer first. At the legendary record label Loud Records, he provided Big Pun with the Puerto Rican anthem “100%” while on the outside of Loud Records, he produced Jay-Z‘s first hit record, the Mary J Blige-featured “Can't Knock the Hustle.”
In 2002, Sean partnered with a young DJ/producer LV and launched his own production company Grind Music, which eventually secured a production deal with Bad Boy Records. Sean reunited with Steve Rifkind as VP ofA&R for his Universal-distributed label SRC Records. At SRC he facilitated Fat Joe and Terror Squad's #1-charting record Lean Back. While composing for acts like Jadakiss, GhostFace and Ice Cube, Grind Music was tapped by Jay-Z to produce the American Gangster album, including the Grammy-nominated single “Roc Boys.”
When Sean C isn’t in the studio producing classics for icons, he can be found consulting for brands Serato, Akai, and television series such as “The Get Down” and “Luke Cage.” He was an on-set music consultant for the hit Hulu series WuTang: An American Saga, coaching actors on their rap performances, advising directors on authentic dialogue, and set design. Sean is taking on the same role in Sara Bareilles’s new JJ Abrams-produced Apple+ series Starling. Look out for his score contribution on the indie animated short film Unalienable Rights.
Sean recently produced "Streams of Thought Vol3: Cane & Able" a Black Thought project which includes features by Swizz Beats, Pusha T, Killer Mike, and Portugal the Man. He also serves as executive producer in this collaboration with the frontman of the ground-breaking group The Roots, Black Thought.
If that weren't enough, Sean is consulting on and appears in 50 Cent's Power Book 3: Raising Kanan series.
Sean is the music supervisor in the Liongate/hidden Empire film, Fatale, starring Hillary Swank.
Ms. Gloria Carter is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Shawn Carter Foundation. The Foundation was formed in response to Ms. Carter’s desire to create “something that would enhance the future of our young people.” Through the Foundation’s signature programs, youth and communities in need have benefited and been able to overcome obstacles to success.
Ms. Carter has received numerous honors for the impactful contributions made through the Shawn Carter Foundation to local, national and global communities.
Whether on stage receiving awards, in the boardroom making decisions on the Foundation’s strategic direction, on a charter bus motivating students on the annual HBCU tour, in the office reading scholarship applications, in the housing projects distributing meals to families impacted by natural disasters, or on the ground handing toys and spreading holiday cheer to residents of the Marcy projects, Ms. Carter proves that service is both a responsibility and lifestyle.
Chief Ayanda Ifadara Clarke (respectfully known as “Chief Ayanda”) is an esteemed African American master percussionist and arts educator. A GRAMMY® Award-winning musician, he is respected globally by juniors, peers, and elders alike for his knowledge of music and culture, ranging from hip hop to traditional African music throughout the Diaspora, and popular music.
Over the decades, Chief Ayanda has performed or shared the stage with many greats, including Randy Weston, George Clinton, Michael Jackson, Doug E. Fresh, KRS-One, Erykah Badu, and countless others. He has toured throughout North America, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Canada, and Europe several times over. Select performing credits include Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall, Good Morning America, America’s Got Talent, the U.S. Open, The Late Show with David Letterman, and more. He’s also performed, recorded, and licensed music that has been featured on television, in film, and Off-Broadway.
In 2014, Chief Ayanda was a featured percussionist on Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra’s award-winning work, The Offense of the Drum. The project won the Best Latin Jazz Album GRAMMY® award.
Regularly, Clarke (a Dalton School and Wesleyan University graduate) is asked to speak, perform, or curate programs at The Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, Cleveland Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Yale, Howard, Apple, and at Microsoft, among many other corporate, cultural, and academic spaces.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Chief Ayanda is proudly African. He’s intentional about intertwining music, culture, and spirituality in all endeavors. For his lifelong commitment to traditional African culture, Clarke was installed as a chief in Nigeria by his mentor Chief Agbongbon Fakayode Faniyi. He also consults as an officiant for ancestral veneration ceremonies (recent clients include Wesleyan, Princeton, SUNY Purchase, the Bowery Resident’s Committee (BRC) Advisory Group for the Inwood Sacred Sites, and others).
Chief Ayanda founded THE FADARA GROUP, as well as AJIBILU MUSIC to house his educational programs, public performances, community initiatives, and recorded music projects.
Naima Cochrane is an award-winning music marketer and leading voice in Black music and culture whose superpower is storytelling.
A music industry veteran of more than 20 years, Naima honed her craft at culture-shifting labels Bad Boy and Arista Records, then legacy majors Columbia and Epic Records, working with mold-breaking acts including Beyoncé, John Legend, and Tyler, the Creator as a marketing executive. After leaving the label side of the business, she continued her career with EGOT Legend and later Oscar-nominated, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony award-winning actress and singer Cynthia Erivo as management.
In 2017, Naima created #MusicSermon, a curated storytelling series on Twitter about pre-blog era Soul and Hip-Hop. The series was a viral hit, with Sunday “services” drawing engagement from esteemed artists, creatives, and storytellers such as Ava Duvernay, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Missy Elliot. #MusicSermon transitioned Naima into journalism, and since 2018 her voice and work have been featured in outlets including Billboard, Essence, and the NY Times, as well as published works including 2021’s Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap. Partners including Spotify, LeBron James’ SpringHill Company, and Sirius XM/Pandora have tapped Naima’s unique expertise for special and scripted projects, including Sirius/Pandora’s Webby-award-winning All Music is Black Music podcast. She remains entrenched in the business side of the entertainment industry as a marketing consultant and led the creative strategy for Empire Records’ Clio Award-winning campaign for late singer Aaliyah’s highly anticipated catalog re-release in 2021.
Passionate about both framing music within a broader cultural and historical context and using that work in ways that serve both current and future Black artists and executives, Naima leads mission-critical research as a founding board member of the Black Music Association, an advocacy organization of music managers and lawyers working to address systemic racism within the music business. Naima is additionally a visiting professor at The Clive Davis Institute at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, preparing the next generation of entertainment industry creatives for the road ahead.
At home, Naima watches too much TV, weaves riveting threads as a Twitter raconteur, and teaches herself how to DJ.
Growing up, the Texas artist was no stranger to music. Johnny was always deeply immersed in music with his mother and sisters teaching him how to sing and going to church, but his own personal interest piqued after graduating high school. Johnny has now spent almost a decade perfecting his craft drawing inspirations from the likes of James Brown, Russ, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Drake, and J Cole. His music is heavily focused on Black power, unity, self-love and the positive progress of society.
Johnny’s continuous stream of singles and projects over the years has culminated in his debut project To The World in 2021. Throughout the project, he showcases his versatility as an artist, delivering bars and fan favorites “Thuggin’ By My Lonely” and “Man in the Mirror.” The project also features the popular song “Letters from Itachi” – inspired by one of the recording artist’s favorite anime shows, Naruto.
The Texas native followed up with his 2021 fall single release “On God” which has racked over 1.9M+ views to date, earmarking the track as his highest streamed single. The soulful track blends reggae tones and vocals with captivating storytelling told through his raps.
Johnny’s latest 2022 single and visual “Free Bird,” captures a liberated world when folks fully embrace free-spirited nature to go after what’s theirs for the taking. The single release precludes the artist’s I AM WHO I AM release – a 9 track EP project that arrives in tandem with Johnny’s official record deal signing with Roc Nation which the label announced just last month.
The southern artist has already caught the attention and public support of music and pop culture icons such as Drake and Kanye West who have recognized his adept fusion of hip-hop and R&B. With his sharp sense of songcraft, hustle and drive, Johnny continues to carve out his own lane in the music industry with promise of the world's next breakthrough sound.
A product of Ravenswood and Queensbridge Houses in Queens, New York, Todd Craig is a writer, educator and DJ whose career meshes his love of writing, teaching and music. His research inhabits the intersection of writing and rhetoric, sound studies and Hip Hop studies. His forthcoming book “K for the Way”: DJ Rhetoric and Literacy for 21st Century Writing Studies (Utah State University Press) examines the Hip Hop DJ as twenty-first century new media reader, writer, and creator of the discursive elements of DJ rhetoric and literacy. His writing has appeared in Fiction International, Radical Teacher, Changing English, Modern Language Studies, Sounding Out!, Kairos and Composition Studies. He teaches courses on writing, rhetoric, African American and Hip Hop Studies. Presently, Craig is an Associate Professor for the City University of New York (CUNY) where he teaches in the African American Studies Department at New York City College of Technology and in the English Department at the Graduate Center.
Dapper Dan pioneered high-end streetwear in the 1980s with his now-legendary store on 125th Street in Harlem. Dapper Dan's remixing of classic luxury-brand logos into his own innovative, glamorous designs led to him emerging as a world-famous designer whose looks went on to define an era. He has dressed cultural icons including Eric B. and Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, Mike Tyson, Alpo Martinez, LL Cool J, Jam Master Jay, Diddy, Naomi Campbell, and Jay-Z. His work has been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution, The Museum at FIT, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the City of New York, and London’s Design Museum. His eponymous boutique was open from 1982 to 1992, and reopened in 2017 in a major partnership with Gucci.
Donwill is an award winning Brooklyn based multi-disciplined creative. He host/producer of the Webby Award winning podcast The Almanac of Rap and has served as music supervisor on Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas (HBO). He has done music production for several award winning shows including Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO), Slow Burn Podcast (Slate) and continues to release underground classics with his group Tanya Morgan (Brooklynati).
Ana "Rokafella" Garcia is a NYC native who has represented women in Hip-hop dance professionally over the past two decades. She co founded Full Circle Prod Inc- NYC's only non profit Break Dance Theater company with her husband legendary dancer Kwikstep generating theater pieces, original poetry and NYC based dance related events. She directed a documentary highlighting the Bgirl lifestyle entitled "All The Ladies Say" with support from the Ford foundation. Rokafella performs original music based on her experiences growing up as an Afro Puerto Rican in NYC. She is hired internationally to judge Break dance competitions based on her knowledge of the classic Hip-hop dance style and offers unique workshops aimed at evolving and preserving its cultural aspects. She has worked within the NYC public school system exposing young students to the possibility of a career in dance. She is presently working with Works in Process at the Guggenheim Museum and is an adjunct professor at The New School. In May of 2017 she launched Shiroka-- a T shirt fashion line with Shiro, a Japanese Grafitti artist. She has been featured in pivotal Rap music videos, tours, film and commercials as well as choreographed for diverse festivals/ concerts such as Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Momma's Hip-hop Kitchen and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Rokafella is a multi faceted Hip-hop artist who references street and Latino culture as her foundation.
Natiba Guy-Clement is a 20 plus year research and special collection library professional, and Assistant Director for Collections and Public Service at Center for Brooklyn History.
Born and raised in Trinidad, Natiba Guy-Clement immigrated to Harlem, NY and started her library career at New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as a library page. Her profound interest and love for working with special collections motivated her to obtain her master's degree in library and information Science, with distinction, from Pratt Institute. She has been a part of the Brooklyn Library team for the past 6 years, first as the Manager of Special Collections at the former Brooklyn Collection at the Central library. She currently oversees the Center for Brooklyn History’s collection of archival and rare book collections, digital assets and institutional archives.
As a Brooklynite, Natiba enjoys using her special collections experience in service of the borough.
Fredara Mareva Hadley, Ph.D. is an ethnomusicology professor at The Juilliard School in the Music History Department. Hadley teaches courses on jazz history, African American music, and ethnomusicology, and her research centers on the diverse musical legacies and impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Her publications include the ICTM Yearbook and Journal of Popular Music Studies as well as outlets including The Washington Post and Billboard Magazine. She's presented her research at academic conferences both domestically and abroad. Hadley’s other area of research focuses on Shirley Graham DuBois and the influence of musical pan-Africanism in her opera Tom Tom (1932) and her ongoing political engagement. Hadley earned her undergraduate and Masters’s degree from Florida A&M University and Clark-Atlanta University, respectively, and her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Indiana University. Her forthcoming book is a survey of the musics that HBCU campuses nurture and the broader cultural impact of those musics. Hadley has been a faculty member since 2018.
22-year-old HAWA, seems to find herself outside most boxes people try to put her in. From her upbringing in Guinea , to her entrance in the musical universe by way of the New York Philharmonic as their youngest-ever composer, to her reclamation of her creative voice by striking out on her own, her story as an artist is one that’s not seen too often. HAWA has honed her craft in R&B, rap and Afrobeats, solidifying her place as one of the most exciting rising artists of today.
HDBeenDope doesn't follow trends — instead, he embodies a New York City energy rarely seen in hip-hop that can't be duplicated. The 28-year-old underdog makes music that forces you to believe in yourself with an unmatched sound that's both braggadocious and earnest, plus straightforward yet bold. HD's music cuts through the trendy NYC drill scene — showcasing charisma, style, and lyricism that's unmistakably his own.
His success led him to sign with Roc Nation in 2022, making him the only Brooklyn artist on Jay-Z's label. His sound got him press from Complex, Billboard, Vibe, UPROXX, and Hot 97. His music has garnered millions of views and plays from fans around the globe, with placements on Madden 2021, NBA 2K, and UFC 4. His energy has captivated arenas, performing at Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Nets and Citi Field for Rolling Loud New York 2021. Most recently, HD skills were fully displayed for Roc Nation's first "Set the Bar" cypher session hosted by Jadakiss and Young Guru. There isn't anything Darius can't do if he puts his mind to it. But even with his gifts, people try to count him out.
His latest EP, What Can They Say, is a culmination of his musical genius. Executive produced by Dizzy Banko, the five-track EP hits unlike any hip-hop music coming out of NYC. The in-your-face attitude bleeds through and HD raps with the confidence of a heavyweight prize fighter. HDBeenDope is well ahead of the game.
With his newest chapter in motion, HD will continue trail-blazing his lane in hip-hop with his dynamic sound and unique creative approach. "I'm just documenting life; all my music is just human," HD says. "I'm focused on growth, being the version of myself that I see."
Mitchell S. Jackson is the winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing and the 2021 National Magazine Award in Feature Writing. Jackson’s debut novel The Residue Years won a Whiting Award and The Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. His essay collection Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family was named a best book of 2019 by fifteen publications. Jackson’s other honors include fellowships, grants, and awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, the Cullman Center of the NYPL, the Lannan Foundation, PEN, and TED. His writing has been featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Time, and Esquire, as well as in The New Yorker, Harpers, The Paris Review, The Guardian, and elsewhere. Jackson is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Esquire. He holds the John O. Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professorship in the English Department of Arizona State University.
Dominique Jean-Louis is the Chief Historian of the Center for Brooklyn History at the Brooklyn Public Library. Previously, she held the position of Associate Curator of History Exhibitions at New-York Historical Society, where she co-curated Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow (2018), Our Composite Nation: Frederick Douglass' America (2022), and Black Dolls (2022). She is a former Mellon Predoctoral Fellow in Museum Education at the Museum of the City of New York, where she also contributed to the flagship exhibition New York at Its Core (2016). She received her B.A. in Comparative Ethnic Studies from Columbia University, and her Ph.D in History from NYU, where her dissertation work focused on race, education, and immigration in post-Civil Rights Era Brooklyn. Dominique regularly writes and lectures on Blackness in America, schools and education, and New York City history.
Brandon 'JINX' Jenkins Born and raised in New Jersey. A graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Brandon is a multimedia creative; an accomplished journalist, TV host, award winning podcast host, writer, photographer, and DJ.
He’s previously appeared on camera as the founding anchor of Complex News, a host of State Of The Culture on Revolt, Conference Room C on MSG Network. Additionally, he’s co-hosted the No Skips with Jinx & Shea podcast, as well as the award winning Mogul.
Currently you can find hosting The RapCaviar Podcast, a weekly video talkshow on Spotify and listen to his work on Conviction, a true crime podcast.
Topaz Jones is a rapper, producer, and filmmaker from Montclair, NJ. Rooted in an independent ethic, Jones’ oeuvre moves to document and preserve the intimacy and intricacies of Black life. His music builds from a deep investment in community, concerning itself with all measures of time at once; his vantage effortlessly weaves through the (sur)real with generous detail and the sensitivity of one who’s lived many times before. It’s hip-hop for now, as informed by the depths of tradition - funk, soul, jazz - and a grand imagination for what’s to come.
To experience Topaz Jones is to be greeted with unseen flavors of a collective familiar. A performer both decorated and versatile, Topaz Jones is a trailblazer across medium and genre. He shapeshifts with ease, rendering no stage or space unfit for his presence. He’s shared stages with Future, David Bryne, The Roots, and Moses Sumney, and been featured at Bonnaroo, Wireless Festival, and Rolling Loud.
Jones’ music has amassed over 50 million streams, earning features in the likes of Vogue, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Pitchfork, The FADER, and Okayplayer. In 2021, Jones released his critically- acclaimed second album Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma. The album’s accompanying short film, a collaboration with directorial duo rubberband., received a Short Film Jury Award at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, and was acquired by The New York Times Op-Docs.
Ilana Kaplan is a freelance music and culture writer who lives in Brooklyn. She is currently writing a book on Nora Ephron for ABRAMS and was most recently a senior editor at Alternative Press. She has written for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NPR, Vogue, Vanity Fair and more.
Kidd Kenn is finally growing up. The Chicago rapper, named in homage to his idol Nicki Minaj (you know, like Barbie’s boyfriend), broke out when he was just a high school freshman with gleefully gay twists on street hits from his hometown, most virally FBG Duck’s “Slide.” He built on the hype with a string of projects—Childish, Child’s Play, and Problem Child—that lean into the image of a precocious rascal flinging spitballs and texting your boyfriend from the back of the bus. But now, after years of nurturing his rep as a problem child, Kenn realized something about himself. “I’m old as fuck,” the 20-year-old says with a laugh. Kenn’s new EP on 4th and Broadway/Def Jam Recordings, Grown, fashions a new mold. He’s rapping with the wisdom and self-understanding of an adult.
Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Jasmine is a multimedia journalist, AR and radio host. She is especially passionate about hip hop, Black culture and sneaker news. She holds a broadcast journalism degree from Middle Tennessee State University and a certification from the Radio Talent Institute's Tennessee Association of Broadcasters. She holds years of experience in media: developing stories for several radio/television networks and online news platforms. In 2016, she started her own radio show on WMTS Murfreesboro 88.3 where she served as a DJ, also interviewing local hip hop and R&B artists. The show welcomed many guests including Grammy award winning producer Tay Keith. Since leaving the station, Jasmine has worked at companies that include Fox 13 Memphis and digital newspaper The Daily Memphian. Through her hometown paper, she has written more than 400 stories, having interviewed artists such as NLE Choppa, GloRilla, Premo Rice and "F.N.F." producer HitKidd.
Her portfolio includes nationally recognized stories including the death of Memphis rapper Young Dolph, the late Gangsta Boo and the Tyre Nichols case. From 2021-2022, Jasmine produced and hosted a show called For The Record with Jazzy Lo, a discussion based podcast covering controversial Hip Hop topics. She currently hosts a radio show on WYXR Memphis 91.7 titled The Lo End Theory, where she continues to DJ and announce the latest local and national news events. She serves as the senior marketing coordinator for Memphis based performing arts organization Collage Dance Collective and the host of the city's artist showcase Tapped In.
Additionally, she has curated more than 40 playlists on Spotify and Apple Music that make up a range of genres from Reggae and Soul to Classic Jazz and Old School R&B.
Sidney Madden is a host and reporter for NPR Music. Since 2020, she has served as co-host and co-creator of Louder Than A Riot, NPR Music's first narrative investigative podcast that traces rhyme and punishment in America. Season 1 of Louder Than A Riot focuses on the relationship between hip-hop as an art form and mass incarceration and was recognized by The American Bar Association Silver Gavel Awards and the International Music Journalism Awards for outstanding reporting. Season 2 of Louder focuses on the relationship between hip-hop as a culture and misogynoir, the racist sexism against Black women and femmes. In addition to Louder Than A Riot, Madden serves as guest host of All Songs Considered where she interviews artists and musicians who push the boundaries of the music industry.
Madden joined the NPR Music team in 2017, serving as editorial lead for digitizing music stories that air on NPR's premier news magazine programs. She's produced Tiny Desk Concerts with a special focus on bringing burgeoning, left-of-center artists from the worlds of R&B and hip-hop to the desk. To date, her Tiny Desk Concert productions include Jorja Smith, Megan Thee Stallion, Snoh Aalegra and more. Madden is also the creator of the Heat Check playlist series and has reported out stories online and on-air that contextualize Black music and culture within society's larger strata — whether it's unpacking the genius marketing of Cardi B, Tyler, The Creator's subversive heartbreak or the socioeconomics that fuel Solange's downhome Afrofuturism.
Originally from Boston, Madden graduated from Hofstra University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and sociology. Before joining NPR, Madden was on the editorial team at the hip-hop pillar XXL Magazine and a freelance reporter for MTV News, Nylon and Billboard.
Known as “The Voice of New York”, Angie Martinez is recognized as one of the most influential personalities in popular culture and media. In addition to her 30+ years of on-air hosting experience, Angie boasts a diverse portfolio of entrepreneurial endeavors, having served as a New York Times best-selling author, Grammy-nominated recording artist, actor, brand spokesperson and activist.
Angie’s captivating interviews and influential reputation earned her an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Rutgers University and was inducted into The Radio Hall of Fame. Most recently Angie launched her podcast IRL (In Real Life) that was nominated for an NAACP Image award in less than a year of its debut. She has interviewed a variety of people in the entertainment and sports world such as Kim Kardashian, Kelly Clarkson, Lauren London, Mike Tyson, Usher, Mary J Blige, and Ashanti among others.
For More information on Angie Martinez follow her on IG @Angiemartinez and her podcast @angiemartinezirl. You can also tune in to New York's Power 105.1, weekdays from 2pm - 6pm. And through iHeartMedia.com and the iHeartMedia app.
Mélan, hailing from the South Bronx & to describe my music it’s raw, sultry, poetry & boom bap heavy. Growing up in the environment I did, music became my outlet, and it was heavily consumed. Falling in love with various genres & musicians, I find myself meshing the today's vibe with a flare of old school within my music. However, I like to make it still resemble me with my cadence, lyrics and beat selections. I create art in all forms, could be through music, painting, & video editing.
Kenneth Montgomery is a lifelong resident of Brooklyn and originally honed his trial and litigation skills first as a young prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, litigating cases in the busy Red Zone and the newly formed Gang unit from 1997-2001. After leaving the prosecutor’s office in 2001 Kenneth started his own law firm specializing in Criminal and Civil Rights litigation. His practice includes Federal Capital defense and both state and federal criminal defense. and As a talented and well-respected criminal defense attorney in both federal and state court, he has defended clients charged with federal capital murder, terrorism, murder, drug conspiracy, RICO and other serious crimes. He has tried over 100 criminal trials in his career and over the last 9 years have represented over 25 Federal capital murder defendants as both lead and learned counsel.
Kenneth is in private practice but is a member of both capital and Federal CJA panels in the Eastern and Southern districts of New York. He serves as learned capital counsel across the country in several federal death eligible matters in the District of Pennsylvania, Vermont and Colorado. He is also a committee member of the Death Penalty Working Group in Washington D.C. For the last 15 years Kenneth has lectured students at Fordham Law on trial advocacy and students in the African Studies department at Brooklyn college. In addition to the profession He is a founding member of a community and political based non profit organization called the Brooklyn Combine where he and his partners create education and community solutions in underserved communities of color in Brooklyn. Kenneth is still a resident of Brooklyn where he lives with his wife Candace Montgomery, his mother Barbara Montgomery, and his 3 children Stone, Jade and Jett.
Pete Nice was a founding member of the Def Jam Recordings group, 3rd Bass. He also founded the 1990s record label Hoppoh Recordings and was the executive producer and manager of the rap group KMD, which later included the late MF Doom. In 1987, he started his career in Hip Hop by establishing the first Hip Hop radio show on WKCR in New York City.
He is also an Emmy-nominated writer and producer, has published two books, and is currently working on a book covering the illustrated history of Hop Hip from 1983 to 1992. He is also executive producing television projects featuring Hip Hop history and is currently the co-curator of the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx.
Appearing on the rap scene in 1986 as Boogie Down Productions releasing his first hit single “South Bronx” with his late DJ Scott La Rock, KRS “the one” made it clear that Hip Hop was going to have to take itself a lot more seriously than simply being a music genre.
KRS, an acronym for ““Knowledge Reigning Supreme”, has been called the “conscience of Hip Hop” (Rolling Stone), “the greatest live emcee ever” (The Source), the “spokesperson for Hip Hop” (Wall Street Journal), “master teacher” (Zulu Nation) and the “son of Hip Hop” (Kool DJ Herc). With 20 published albums to his credit and his numerous appearances with other artists, KRS-One is believed to have written the most rhymes in Hip Hop’s history. In the 1990s as “hip-hop” grew more and more commercialized and corporate, it was KRS-One that openly rejected such cultural exploitation and materialism grounding Hip Hop in its original principles of peace, love, unity and safely having fun. Teaching everything from self-creation to stopping violence; from vegetarianism to transcendental meditation, from the establishment of Hip Hop Appreciation Week (every third week in May), to establishing Hip Hop as an international culture at the United Nations (2001), KRS-One has single-handedly held the history and original arts of Hip Hop together now for over two decades.
In addition to lecturing at over 500 universities in the United States and publishing three ground-breaking books; The Science of Rap (1995), Ruminations (2003), and the Gospel of Hip Hop (2009), KRS-One has also established the Stop The Violence Movement (1989), influenced the creation of the “West-Coast All-Stars’ anti-gang anthem “We’re All In The Same Gang” (1990), warned the Hip Hop community against giving up their humanity for technological advancement (H. E. A. L.—Human Education Against Lies-1991), and has established the Temple of Hip Hop for the spiritual exploration of Hip Hop’s culture (1996). It was KRS-One who first argued that “rap is something we do; Hip Hop is something we live” and introduced the “I am Hip Hop” philosophy in 1994 which Black Entertainment Television uses as the title of their Hip Hop Lifetime Achievement Award today. Without question, KRS-One has been the loudest voice for the actual preservation and expansion of original Hip Hop worldwide.
When he is not touring or lecturing, on his so-called “down-time”, KRS-One continues to share his unique knowledge of Hip Hop to younger audiences eager to hear the ‘teacha’ speak. Operating as a kind of “pop-up” school, KRS-One’s Temple of Hip Hop has appeared in various cities in USA also in the UK and Europe offering the more serious student of Hip Hop an effective way to live and understand the culture of Hip Hop more deeply.
Jorge "Popmaster Fabel" Pabon was born and raised in NYC’s Spanish Harlem where at an early age he developed his dance and choreography career at Hip Hop jams and clubs throughout the city. His pioneering individuality has been showcased internationally since 1982. Fabel also gained world renown as a featured dancer in the Hip Hop cult classic movie, "Beat Street."
Senior member of the Rock Steady Crew and member of the Electric Boogaloos, Fabel is also co-founder of GhettOriginal Productions Inc. With GhettOriginal, Fabel co-authored, co directed, and co-choreographed the first two Hip Hop musicals ever, "So! What Happens Now?" and "Jam on the Groove" (first official Off-Broadway Hip Hop musical). He has also choreographed various Hip Hop musicals and theater productions throughout the years.
Fabel is the co-founder of Tools Of War© which is an organization that brought Hip Hop culture back to the parks of New York City for 15 years (2003-2018) . TOW represents the grass roots essence of Hip Hop culture.
As an adjunct professor, he teaches Hip Hop dance/movement and history in the Experimental Theater Wing and Open Arts/Collaborative Arts Program at NYU's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. Fabel presents lectures, demonstrations, teaches master classes, and participates in outreach programs and conferences internationally.
Fabel is currently a master teacher and national reviewer for the National YoungArts Foundation. He was recently the Artist, Scholar in Residence and Fashion Curator for the Universal Hip Hop Museum’s [R]Evolution of Hip Hop exhibit in the Bronx.
Currently, Fabel is the Artistic Director for the European launch of the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop (50HHA™) and will have some of his archival vintage fashion displayed at the Museum of F.I.T.’s “Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style” exhibit.
Dr. Bryan Pierce is the current curator of the National Museum of African American Music. He previously held the position of Digital Archivist at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. In both his academic work and as a museum professional, Bryan has specialized in subterranean African American aesthetics in music and decorative arts. He pursued a PhD from Arkansas State University and throughout his time at ASU, Bryan worked at the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum. He was also on the exhibition development team for the Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash. After completing the doctoral program, Bryan accepted an Assistant Registrar/ Curator position with the Department of Arkansas Heritage.
In the saturated market of music and entertainment, consumers live with a constant craving for outliers and one-of-ones. In the sphere of hip-hop, Rapsody is that outlier. The Jamla/Roc Nation artist has spent the better part of the present decade lapping peers and counterparts while mesmerizing fans whom still prefer their rhymes detailed and nutritious. The Snow Hill, North Carolina native has more than held her own alongside greats like Kendrick Lamar, Black Thought and the late Mac Miller (in 2011, she toured with Miller on his Incredibly Dope Tour). She has been broadcast and hailed by media giants––from NPR to USA Today to TIME Magazine to BET (2013’s Hip Hop Cypher) to NBC (The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, 2015). In 2014, XXL named her one of the 20 Greatest Female Rappers of All Time. The following year, Dr. Dre crowned her his “favorite female emcee.” In 2018, The Netflix/Mass Appeal 8 part documentary series, RAPSURE Rapsody is featured as the only female artist and role model in Episode 6. She toured with Big K.R.I.T. in 2019 and hit the road in 2020 for a tour to support her latest album Eve. The North Carolina native called the tour “A Black Woman Created This” continuing the theme of her sophomore LP of Black women empowerment. All of her hard work paid off as BET recognized her as the “Lyricist of the Year” at the 2020 Hip Hop Awards. Later in 2020, she was featured in Stevie Wonder’s song “Can't Put It In The Hands of Fate”. Rapsody is currently one the hosts for Revolt’s show “Off Top” alongside Tiger. This 4x Grammy Award winner is also active in philanthropy and plays an important role with social justice and social empowerment.
The one-of-one is Rapsody’s latest album EVE. Named after the Bible’s original woman, the summer release is dedicated to the celebration and empowerment of brown sistas worldwide. Each song is titled after a legendary black female. From the beautifully jazzy “MAYA” to the melanin-affirming “IMAN” to a summertime breezy “MICHELLE,” Rapsody’s latest–– produced primarily by 9th Wonder and Eric G of the Soul Council production team and featuring giant guests like J Cole, D’Angelo, Queen Latifah and GZA, to name a few––is a collector’s item in a current climate of disposable compositions.
The lead single “Ibtihaj” introduces the succeeding 16 tracks (including an interlude) and their historic theme. Rapsody’s pen accomplishes much as she weaves the story of the first black, Muslim woman to get an Olympic medal for fencing in the Rio 2016 games. The incomparable features of The GZA and D’Angelio make the track swing “it’s been a long time coming since we had someone swarming with the bees (Killah) the bird and the Killah bees.”
The follow-up track of “AFENI,” in the form of separate love letters to black men and women, smells award-winning. 9th Wonder’s sonic bed is made with the Deniece Williams classic “Free,” Tupac’s “Dear Mama” a capella and decorated by the golden vocals of New Orleans crooner PJ Morton. On “OPRAH,” Rapsody ensures that the girl party is as fun as it is inspiring. Over a stream of buoyant baselines, she and masked sparkler Leikeli47 spit with the freedom of ocean water. “It ain’t uncommon to borrow a dollar/Invite me over to eat with your mama/I like them checks with the commas on commas.”
EVE is Rapsody’s third studio album, succeeding her 2012 debut The Idea of Beautiful and 2017’s Laila’s Wisdom, named after her grandmother, which featured a constellation of guests (Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak, Busta Rhymes, Musiq Soulchild, etc) and launched the spitter into a rap star. It was nominated for both a Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song GRAMMY. The groundwork laid prior to Laila’s Wisdom included her outstanding verse on Paak’s 9th Wonder-produced “Without U” (off of his beloved major label debut, Malibu) and her first GRAMMY nomination for her exceptional performance on Kendrick’s sophomore standout To Pimp A Butterfly. Rapsody would later earn an invitation from President Barack Obama and Herbie Hancock to perform at the International Jazz Fest with Aretha Franklin, Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin and Terri Lyne Carrington in honor of the late great Prince. With her finest work ready for release, the Carolinian’s horizon forecasts more triumph, success, and, most importantly, little brown girls around the world who will love themselves more. They will have Rapsody to thank.
Elena Romero is a journalist and Assistant Chair, Marketing Communications, at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and TV Correspondent and Producer for LATiNAS on CUNY TV. She spearheaded the project Fresh Fly Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style, which consisted of a fashion exhibition at the Museum at FIT (MFIT); a coffee table book published by Rizzoli; a one-day symposium and the development of a permanent fashion archive at MFIT. Romero is the author of Free Stylin’: How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry (Praeger). She is currently working on a hip hop TV series for CUNY TV to launch later this summer.
Tricia Rose is the author of two highly respected books on Hip Hop. The award-winning Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (1994) and the Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop and Why It Matters (2008). She currently teaches at Brown University. www.triciarose.com
Chad Sanders is a writer, director, actor, and musician based in New York City. He has written and co-written TV series and feature films with collaborators such as Spike Lee, Morgan Freeman and Will Packer. Chad is a writer on HBO Max's Rap Sh*T and his op-ed pieces have appeared in The New York Times, Time, and SLAM magazine. Before his writing career, Chad worked at Google and YouTube and as a tech entrepreneur in Berlin, London, and Silicon Valley. Chad is a graduate of Morehouse College. He was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland.
April R. Silver is a nationally respected communications and marketing executive, cultural arts curator, community activist, and published writer/editor. She founded AKILA WORKSONGS, a public relations firm based in New York, in 1993 and it has emerged as a leading agency of its kind for the past three decades. Silver is regarded for her holistic, principled approach to public relations and for servicing a wide range of esteemed clients, ranging from aspiring artists to multi-national philanthropic foundations. For her successes, she has been mentioned or featured in Ms., ESSENCE, EBONY, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Roland Martin Unfiltered, JET, as well as CNN, BET, HuffPost Live, Tom Joyner Morning Show, and many other outlets (nationally and internationally). April R. Silver is also a founding TV host of BET Network's former talk show My Two Cents. In 2014, Mayor Ras J. Baraka appointed Silver to Newark’s Arts, Cultural Development, and Tourism Transition Committee.
AKILA WORKSONGS’ distinguished clientele (past and present) ranges from poets, filmmakers, and public intellectuals to social justice organizations, cultural arts institutions, and universities. Over the years, Silver has represented or partnered with the late Amiri Baraka, Nana Camille Yarbrough, Sonia Sanchez, Kevin Powell, Sister Souljah, Chuck D., KRS-One, Heather B., Marc Lamont Hill, Byron Hurt, Toni Blackman, asha bandele, Adesola Osakalumi, Stanley Nelson, Chief Ayanda Clarke, Mott Foundation, Romare Bearden Foundation, Carnegie Hall, The Public Theater, Brooklyn Museum, PEN World Voices Festival, the Center for Black Literature, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Still I Rise: Maya Angelou documentary, Temple University, Howard University, Virginia State University, Florida Memorial University, most Black theater productions on and off Broadway, and hundreds of other clients nationally and abroad.
Representing Brownsville & Bed Stuy Brooklyn, rap duo Smif-N-Wessun, Tek and Steele, first appeared on Black Moon’s debut album Enta Da Stage in 1993. Adding relentless rhymes to tracks "U da Man" and "Black Smif N' Wessun," the pair paved the way for the Brooklyn Supergroup Boot Camp Clik.
Smif-N-Wessun released their classic debut Dah Shinin’ January 10, 1995 on Nervous Records. The album was noted for its hardcore lyrical content and gritty production, handled by Da Beatminerz production crew and was selected as one of The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums of all time.
After receiving a cease and desist letter from Smith & Wesson firearm company, the duo rebranded themselves Cocoa Brovaz in 1996. Under this new moniker, they released their second album The Rude Awakening.
In late 2005 they reactivated their original moniker and released Smif-N-Wessun: Reloaded. They followed that with Smif-N-Wessun: The Album, two years later. In 2011, they collaborated with hip-hop legend Pete Rock on the album Monumental, which also featured guest spots from Styles P, Memphis Bleek, Raekwon, Bun B and others. In late 2013, they drew on their reggae influences for the EP Born and Raised that included contributions from Jahdan Blakkamoore and Junior Reid, among others. The duo's seventh album The ALL was released in 2019 produced by 9th Wonder & The Soul Council.
LeBrandon Smith (he/him) is a cultural curator and social impact leader born and raised in Brooklyn and Queens, respectively. Coming from the city, his efforts to bridge gaps, and build community have been central to his work, but most notably his passion for music has fueled his career. His programming has been seen throughout the city including historical venues like Carnegie Hall and The Museum of the City of NY.
From an early age, LeBrandon was actively rooted in the community, his grandfather, Jacob N. Underwood, founded a church and school in the East New York section of Brooklyn— both of which still stand and operate today. After college, LeBrandon began his journey in service, landing his first job working as a Recreation Specialist at a family shelter. In this role, LeBrandon was tasked with providing children, teens, and young adults with positive, fun, and educational activities. From career-learning days at Twitter to starting a library at the shelter, the job ignited his passion for service. This fulfilling opportunity shaped some of LeBrandon’s core methods—collaboration and community decision-making.
After working at the shelter, LeBrandon began working at Carnegie Hall in social impact and curating events and performances to spotlight artists in their programming. His work was pioneering, in 2020 he introduced the first Hip-Hop Masterclass to the venue’s 130-year history, bringing in Black Thought from The Roots. In 2021 Black Thought led the Masterclass for a second time. LeBrandon’s work garnered the attention of other institutions. For the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), he curated “Soul of the City,” an intimate performance series showcasing live musical artists with an acoustic accompaniment that featured Topaz Jones.
LeBrandon’s work remains at the intersection of Black music and the communities he serves. In 2021, he founded Really Just Hip-Hop (RJHH), a company created to help the world’s most prolific cultural institutions authentically engage with Black art. His mission is to ensure Black artists get their shine and connect them to wider audiences. LeBrandon hopes to expand programming for RJHH, and curate projects for artists and institutions around the world.
Professor Belle's primary research and teaching interests lie in Continental philosophy (especially Existentialism and Phenomenology), African American/Africana Philosophy, Black Feminist Philosophy, and Critical Philosophy of Race. She has also taught in African American Studies/African Diaspora Studies. Some of the major figures she writes about and teaches include Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, Anna Julia Cooper and Richard Wright. Under the name Kathryn T. Gines, she has published articles on race, assimilation, feminism, intersectionality, and sex and sexuality in contemporary hip-hop. She co-edited an anthology titled Convergences: Black Feminism and Continental Philosophy (SUNY Press, 2010) and is author of Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question (Indiana University Press, 2014).
Souleo has been hailed as an “Icon of Harlem” (Ruth Millington, art historian and author of Muse) and “Harlem’s Heart & Soul” (NY Daily News). An acclaimed creative, curator, impresario, consultant, and muse, he seamlessly merges the worlds of art, fashion, literature, media, and music to document and amplify the stories of the emerging and underrepresented via exhibitions, events, and writing. Souleo has collaborated with noteworthy institutions and brands, including New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Brooklyn Public Library/Center for Brooklyn History, Museum of Arts and Design, Columbia University, Barnard College, Newark Museum of Art, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, Nordstrom, and AARP. Souleo's work has been widely covered in outlets including the Associated Press, NY Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine/The Cut, ESSENCE, EBONY, and NBC. For more information: Souleouniverse.com or IG: @souleouniverse
Emerson is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project where he focuses on First Amendment protections. He has served as counsel in multiple federal cases at the intersection of free speech and social justice. From 2019-2020, he was also host of At Liberty, the ACLU’s weekly podcast.
Prior to joining the ACLU in 2018, he was a legal advisor for Africa at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). In that role, he provided technical legal assistance to civil society leaders, government officials, law students, and other stakeholders from across Africa to improve the legal framework protecting the freedom of association, assembly, and expression on the regional and national levels. From 2012-13, he served as assistant general counsel to the New York City Council, where he worked to increase transparency for council members’ discretionary spending, and contributed to the council’s friend-of-the-court brief against the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” program. In 2011, Emerson was a senior policy fellow in the office of a Member of Parliament in Ghana. Emerson previously conducted research and wrote about U.S. foreign policy for The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, and worked for the National Democratic Institute’s Central and West Africa Team.
Emerson holds a J.D. from the New York University School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar for public interest law, and a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. He earned his undergraduate degree in political science at Stanford.
BRIAN TATE is a cultural curator and marketing strategist who develops major public programs that examine the issues of our time. He has built forward-looking projects at the nexus of arts and ideas for more than 20 years, and he is expert at convening fearless thinkers for discussions of ethics, politics, and the future. He is the president of Tate Strategy, a Brooklyn, NY-based consulting firm that advises innovators in the arts, media, philanthropy, and economic development. He is the director of community partnerships for The WNET Group, home of America's flagship PBS station. Tate is guided by the example of his parents, Charles and Florence Tate, brilliant civil rights activists who espoused selfless action to drive social change. tatestrategy.com
Reuben Vincent makes intellectual, socially conscious, and lyrically dexterous rap that firmly plants him next in line among the lineage of North Carolina MCS who’ve left their mark on the genre. Though the Charlotte rapper/producer is only 21 years old, he’s already hustled hard in his home state, releasing records with 9th Wonder, touring with Rapsody, and creating songs full of wisdom well beyond his years. In his growing catalog, Vincent deftly balances incisive social commentary, mature introspection, and sharp, allusion-heavy wordplay tailored for rap scholars. The Roc Nation signee knows where the form has been, and now he’s pushing it forward.
“I want to be one of the greats,” Vincent says. “9th Wonder and Jamla Records are helping, and will continue to help me do that. Now that Roc Nation has put me on a bigger platform, I’ll get there.”
Love Is War, Vincent’s first joint release with Jamla Records and Roc Nation, is a conceptual yet subtly constructed album that will put him at the forefront of debates about new rap greats. He unpacks relationships and romantic entanglements over warm, soulful beats from 9th Wonder, Young Guru, and other producers (himself included) whose work modernizes and morphs boom-bap. With polished and varied flows, he weighs the time spent on love against the hours necessary to pursue his art (“Feb13th”), examines our fascination with money (“Mon’e”), and finds the value of self-confidence (“Butterfly Doors”), a journey that he says is key to the record as a whole. “Instead of looking for love from others, I had to find the love within,” he says.
Vincent wouldn’t be here without both love and war. His parents fled Liberia during the country’s first civil war and settled in Charlotte, where they immersed him and his six younger siblings in West African culture and cuisine at vibrant cookouts and house parties. Afrobeat blared from the speakers, but Vincent fell in love with hip-hop while listening to 2Pac and B.I.G. in his father’s Cadillac. When two older cousins showed him Lil Bow Wow, he knew he wanted to rap. While friends played, got into mischief, or began their first steps down the wrong path, Vincent drew album covers and wrote rhymes. Even as a preteen, nothing deterred him from his goal. The stresses of being a first-generation American only fueled his desire to succeed.
“Your parents sacrifice for you to have a better life, so you have to live up to that expectation,” Vincent explains. “While you’re trying to put on for your country, your ancestors, and your last name, there are all of these barriers, like racism and classism, that you encounter as a Black person. But first-generation kids are hustlers. We’re going to get it regardless.”
An honors student who kept his headphones glued to his ears, Vincent released his first mixtape at 13. Shortly after, an early fan sent his music to 9th Wonder, the celebrated North Carolina producer behind tracks for Jay-Z, Little Brother, and Kendrick Lamar. Vincent then spent high school dividing his extracurricular hours between recording at home and trekking to 9th Wonder’s studio. By the time he enrolled at North Carolina A&T, he’d released Myers Park (2017) and Boy Meets World (2020) on Jamla Records.
“I don’t have memories of hanging out with my friends and getting into trouble. I was in the studio,” he says. “Instead of going to prom, I went to meet Kendrick Lamar.”
No longer in school, Vincent has traded writing essays for composing the witty, poignant, and smooth verses on Love Is War. The accolades will surely come, but for now, he’s focused on being an example to his peers and, especially, representing fellow first-generation Americans. On record and in his career, he hopes to prove you can be brilliant without sacrificing your swagger. For Vincent, being a dedicated student of your craft and your self is how you win the war.
Akanke Washington is a mother, educator, writer, and Orisa priest. Originally from New York, she resides with her family in Philadelphia. Akanke has spent her career working in public education and supporting independent African schools. She is the Social Studies Curriculum Specialist for The Philadelphia School District. Washington is also a children’s book author and serves her hometown community by being on the Roosevelt Children's Academy board. As a board member, she organizes and leads groups of students on 10-day pilgrimages to Ghana.
As a graduate of Howard University, Washington's coming-of-age season was within the Golden Era of Hip Hop. At Howard, in the early 90s, she played a critical role in developing the nation's first hip hop conference on a college or university campus.
Andre C. Willis is the author of Toward a Humean True Religion (2016) and several essays on black music, culture, and the role of race in Western philosophy. He teaches at Brown University and is currently completing a book on Afro-theisms and Post-Democracy.
Briana Younger has been a music journalist for over a decade, focusing primarily on hip-hop and R&B. She was previously an editor at The New Yorker for two years, and her work has been published in Rolling Stone, W Magazine, Pitchfork, Washington Post, NPR and others.