If New York Is ‘The Place Where Stars Are Born,’ Then Consider Pop Artist Renita Cotton Reborn

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

BROOKLYN — It’s one thing for an artist to have work ethic, but when you couple that with an “It” factor, that artist is destined for greatness.

Pop singer and songwriter, Renita Cotton, has both the work ethic and the God-given talent to take her career to great heights, and she’s already off to an impressive start.

Her singing career might have only started a little over a year ago, but there’s something about her stage presence, confidence and pizzazz that leads me to believe she might have told a ‘little white lie’ when I asked her how long she’s been pursuing a singing and songwriting career professionally, in which she responded so modestly, “So, I’d say, professionally, probably about a year and a half I started doing some background work for people.”

I interviewed the young entertainer this past spring, and after spending some time with her on that beautiful day in Brooklyn, I now understand why she’s climbing up the ladder so quickly.

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Renita has that trait most people would kill to have.  Her mix between discipline and the assurance that she has in her ability is immediately evident when you interact with her.

Renita was the perfect featured talent for an interview that was set in one of the busiest and most attractive sites in Brooklyn, NY; Brooklyn Bridge Park.

She came prepared with her exuberance and her stylist, showing me just how seriously she takes the idea of being a walking brand.

She’s a young New Yorker who has figured it out, so to speak, making “the city that never sleeps” work in her favor.  As many of you already know, New York is the place for stars to form and chase their dreams and aspirations from the ground up.  If it wasn’t, then I most certainly wouldn’t be here myself.

Renita’s ability to not only write her own music, but to also do a masterful job of performing it in front of audiences of all sizes, is proof that she’s built for this. And if she ever slips up and let’s that left arm hang too much while on that stage, I’m sure her mother will correct her, maybe saying something like “You know you have that one arm that’s a little dead there.” A comment that Renita would likely respond to by saying, “Well, haha. Thanks mom,” with a slight bit of innocent sarcasm.

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Renita understands the concept of “journey,” but that hasn’t stopped her from carrying herself as if she’s already reached her destination.

It might be hard for some of us to admit it at times, but I think it’s safe to say that in whatever we do, we have to have at least a small chip on our shoulder. That way we’re able to keep our eyes on the prize, understanding that mediocrity is never an option.

Renita’s coming off of a few very successful performances — performances that brought more music lovers along for her journey as an artist with two sides to the story; singing and songwriting.

In hip-hop, there’s a much bigger focus placed on writing your own lyrics, despite the 2015 “beef” between rap stars Drake and Meek Mill, a beef that started over Meek’s disbelief that Drake authors his own lyrics. However, it’s not really considered a big deal if singers elect not to write their own music.

Even the great Beyoncé has ghost writers.  That being said, it’s very rare and absorbing when we come across a Pop artist who is able to both write and perform their own music while also exemplifying a strong stage presence.

That description has Renita written all over it, and her journey has now been added to the Intern Media wall — a wall that includes many other journeys, even some that are still being written.

Checkout my interview with Renita and support her journey as an independent artist in the beloved Big Apple.

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Renita,

It was great hearing your story and being able to share it with my audience.  You have a lot of talent and you’re just at the beginning of your career, but more importantly you have great character.  That’s why there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll do great musically and that you’ll inspire tons of people along the way.  Stay true to yourself and continue to walk around with that exuberance and confidence that you so greatly possess.  I know we joked about the day when reporters will be knocking on your door begging for an interview, but just remember that every joke has a little bit of truth to it! Welcome to the Intern Media family Renita!

Karl Nelson II, Founder of Intern Media

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Charlamagne Tha God takes on Tomi Lahren following her Beyoncé remarks

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

In the clip above, you’ll see American television and video host, Tomi Lahren, commenting on Beyoncé’s (Singer-songwriter) performance at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show.  Outraged by the “stand” that she believed the 20-time Grammy Award-winner took during one of the most-watched sporting events of the year, Lahren took to the issue during the “Final Thoughts” segment of her show.

“There are much better leaders out there to advance your message than the Black Panthers,” Lahren told TMZ.  “[Beyoncé] wasn’t saluting someone like Martin Luther King, [Jr.].  She was saluting a group that is known for violence and intimidation.”

In addition to Lahren’s remarks about Beyoncé, she also mentions the singer’s husband, Jay-Z (Rapper), during her rant.  Lahren brought up his past as a drug dealer — a past that she actually attached a time frame to (14 years to be exact).

If you didn’t catch the performance or some of the dialogue following it, allow me to bring you up to speed.  Beyoncé performed alongside fellow entertainers, Coldplay (Rock band) and Bruno Mars (Singer-songwriter).

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During the Pepsi Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show at Levi’s Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.

While it was a very entertaining performance, it wasn’t the quality of the performance that captured viewers the most.  Instead, it was the stand that many people believed Beyoncé and her dancers took during the performance that raised many brows.

The outfits worn by Beyoncé’s backup dancers appeared to pay tribute to a group widely known as the Black Panther Party or the BPP (a group seen throughout the Civil Rights Movement).

The Black Panthers were founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.  They founded the BPP in the midst of the injustices that were taking place against black Americans and other oppressed groups, at the time.

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Bobby Seale (left) and Huey Newton (right)

The Black Panthers had a belief that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful methods had failed the black community.  They also felt that a lot of the things that they wanted to see implemented would be ignored.  So, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

However, their focus was not senseless violence as Lahren eluded to.  Their focus was to protect the members of their community, even if that meant policing the police back in those grueling times in our American history.  Obviously, for those who know the history, you’d understand why the BPP sometimes had to result to violence.

Tomi Lahren’s comments weren’t the only controversial remarks made after Beyoncé’s performance.  However, a lot of the backlash from others did echo the points that she made.

Lahren’s remarks earned her the “Donkey of the Day” on one of the most listened to hip-hop radio shows in the nation; Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club.

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DJ Envy (left), Angela Yee (middle) and Charlamagne Tha God (right)

One of the co-hosts of the show, Charlamagne Tha God, runs a segment called “Donkey of the Day.”  In that segment, he usually puts someone on the hot seat.

You could probably guess where I’m going with this next.  Charlamagne made sure that he put Lahren on the hot seat immediately following what she said about the music industries power couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.  He argued that Lahren misinterpreted Beyoncé’s performance, which I agree with.

He made it clear that Beyoncé wasn’t taking a stand against all of police across America.  Instead, the “Girls Run The World” singer was simply using her platform as an entertainer to take a stand against “police brutality.”

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s fair to say that police brutality is a relevant subject today, considering the horrific events that have plagued our society in the last couple of years, involving black men.

Many would even take it a step further to say that police brutality has been a problem in our society for years now.  For a lot of us, the Trayvon Martin incident and the media coverage that surrounded it is what got us talking about this subject on networks across the nation all over again.

That being said, I found absolutely nothing wrong with Beyoncé’s decision to use her tremendously large platform and influence to express her feelings on the recent tragic and unfortunate events that we’ve had to encounter as a nation.  And just like Charlamagne, I too thought Lahren’s comments mirrored the fact that she’s simply misinformed, if not also insensitive to the facts.

However, one thing I have to respect Lahren for is the fact that she faced the music, so to speak, and had Charlamagne as a guest on her show to debate this topic even further.

This is where things got even more interesting and there has been a lot more dialogue surrounding this matter since Charlamagne’s appearance on her show.

In the video below, you can take a look for yourself and see what all went down.

I was happy to see Charlamagne come right out of the gate strong, providing Lahren with the story behind the Black Panther Party — a story that I hope she saw for herself as a documentary on the group aired on PBS last week.

Lahren had the audacity to draw a comparison between the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the BPP.

Let’s just be clear on something.  The BPP was not the KKK in any way, shape or form.  The KKK is known as one of the oldest hate groups in America (developed in the 1860’s).

Black Americans were their target from the beginning, but they also have a history of attacking Jews, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and Catholics.

One of the aims of this group was to prevent blacks in the South and any whites that supported the black community from “enjoying simple civil rights.”

Violent attacks, such as lynchings, tar-and-featherings and rapes became a hallmark for the KKK.

Now, does that sound like the Black Panther movement to you?

I’m not saying that I condone violence over promoting peace.  I’m simply saying that I don’t believe Lahren approached this topic with the understanding that life in the 1960’s (when the BPP was heavily present) was completely different than it is today.

Black Americans, other minority groups and white Americans that supported the Civil Rights Movement, were denied their basic rights and not only that, but they were targeted through vicious violent attacks.

They weren’t targeted in retaliation, but simply because of the color of their skin and their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.  And must we remind ourselves that the Civil Rights Movement was geared towards ending racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans.

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I believe that the facts above speak volumes to Lahren’s lack of knowledge of what the BPP movement was and why it’s a point of acknowledgement in the black community today.

There’s one more thing that I’d like to touch on though, in regard to the debate between Lahren and Charlamagne.  Charlamagne also made sure that he called Lahren out for bringing Jay-Z’s past into the conversation.

Now, I agree with her premise that the black community needs to be concerned with addressing and fixing all issues impacting the community negatively.  There’s no question that things like drugs, alcohol abuse and senseless violence plague the black community.  Statistics will show that.

Those things definitely need to continue to be addressed and I want to see improvements in my community.  However, when Lahren brought Jay-Z into the picture, I couldn’t help but think about when I was younger and my dad would reprimand me about something that I did wrong.

As a kid, I didn’t always know any better, and I would try to deflect the attention off of my wrongdoings by bringing up issues that I believed my dad had within himself.

I’ll never forget how he would always say to me, “We’re talking about you and this particular matter right now and that’s all that matters son.”

The difference between Lahren and I is that she’s a grown woman and I was a mere child when trying to take the focus off of the issue at hand.

Instead of Lahren focusing on the topic at hand (police brutality), she saw it fit to remind the public of Jay-Z’s past.

And based on the fact that she followed that up with no real facts to support her claim, all that did was make matters worse, in my opinion.

Bringing up Jay-Z’s history as a drug dealer was almost like making a contrast between police brutality and the dealing of drugs.

As a young black male, I view that as very disrespectful and all it does is take the focus off of one of the biggest issues in America today — an issue that affects all Americans.

I applaud Charlamagne for rising to the challenge and backing up his bold statements in regard to Lahren’s remarks.  And quite frankly, to bring things full circle, I respect Lahren standing by her statements and I’m not advocating for the idea that she’s somehow a racist.

I simply believe that her comments were a bigger representation that there are still a lot of individuals that are misinformed and insensitive to the history and the present day racism that, unfortunately, still exists in parts of the world.

As a Journalist, one thing I’m adamant about is using my platform and my passion to speak out on certain issues that I feel affect not only my community, but the world at large.

I believe that I was able to do that here and I respect anyone who might have an opinion on this matter that differs from mine.KarlHeadShot

K Rokk: Professional Drummer out of Queens, NY

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

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Video work by my videographer Austin Dancy (Brooklyn, NY)

I recently took my platform Intern Media on the road, just a borough over from Brooklyn, NY to Queens, NY, to sit down with longtime musician (Drummer), K Rokk. It was humbling to sit down with a guy who has dedicated himself to his artistry for over two decades, demonstrating an even stronger love for music today compared to 21 years ago when he first started.

Our interview took me back to a year ago when I was coaching alongside one of my mentors at the Park School of Baltimore. On the first day of tryouts, my mentor expressed to our players that there was “a huge difference between doing something for the fun of it and actually loving what you do.”

My mentor brought this up to the kids because at the time we had some guys playing because they simply found fun in playing the sport. While that’s fine, that mentality can cause a problem for the guys on the team who are playing competitively out of a true love for the game.

Well, what my mentor said must have really sunk in because that had to be one of my most memorable seasons as a coach given not only our success that year, but the passion that the guys played with day in and day out.

What he said that day resonated with me and it’s a statement that has stuck with me to this day. K Rokk is a perfect example of someone who is in the music industry for the true love of it.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s all about having fun with his craft, but for something to be considered your craft, one must work at it too, right? That’s something that K Rokk understands, which is why he’s performing several times week in and week out, always looking to add a staple to his resume.

K Rokk has been doing this for years, and if anything, his work ethic has only grown since the day that he first picked up those drum sticks, introducing the world to his unique sound.

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K Rokk is able to literally wake up and do what he loves daily, and his journey has paid dividends for him as he’s been able to perform across the country, surrounding himself with what he would refer to as “seasoned” musicians, and he’s now working on a couple new projects that will reinvent him as an artist in an industry that is constantly evolving. 

K Rokk is blessed to be still having fun performing on the drums, expressing his serious love for the stage and drawing a crowd based off of his talent.

Speaking from the perspective as someone who was able to watch him perform, I’m telling you that his talent is what triggered my approaching him shortly after the show. And thank God that I did because I might not have learned of how great of a guy he is outside of his talent. Here’s a guy that has made his artistry his life and you can see how much ‘life’ the art of music gives him when he’s out there on that stage.

K Rokk stressed the importance of networking and connecting with others in your respective industry when we set down for the interview. Well, it’s those relationships that he’s developed over the years which keeps him constantly at venues performing week after week. It’s also those relationships that have enabled him to travel outside of New York to showcase his talents as a musician, impacting the lives of many.

And how ironic that it was my relationship with my good friend and artist L. Green which made this story possible.

K Rokk’s emphasis on this is what reminds us that we cannot make it out here on our own. You need people. You need that one person to say, “Look. I support what you’re doing. Keep inspiring.”

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Me, K Rokk and my videographer Austin Dancy

You need that person who’s going to invest their time and even sometimes their money into your passion. I know that I haven’t made it to where I am all by myself. I’ve had a core group of supporters and quite frankly, it’s their encouraging words and God’s love that keeps me going as a journalist in New York City, one of the hardest cities to make it in.

K Rokk has had the opportunity to perform with some of those he considers gurus in the music industry — individuals he’s learned a ton from. Little does he know though that it’s his two decades of dedication to his craft and his upcoming work that has a guy like myself looking at him as a guru in the realm of music.

These stories are meant to inspire those who come into contact with them, but what should also be highlighted is the fact that it’s me who’s inspired by those that I cover stories on. They make what I do that much sweeter and worthwhile.

Take a look at the interview below (in video form) and hear directly from K Rokk as he talks about how he got to where he is today as a musician, where his love for music comes from, what projects are on the horizon for him, and more.

Also, here’s a chance for you to grow with me as I take my gifts as a writer and translate them into my aim to develop as a reporter while putting my vision on camera, making journalism just what I’ve promised it can be; a production.

K Rokk,

Thanks for growing with me my man and becoming apart of the Intern Media family, stamping your spot in this movement. Continue to inspire and educate, not only the up-and-coming musicians out there, but the media outlets that you cross paths with. More media professionals need to learn about these artists beyond the surface, not simply latching onto their talent, but more so showing appreciation for their journey’s. That was part of my aim for this interview and I pray that my approach as a Digital Journalist made you feel like family bro.

Karl Nelson II, Founder of Intern Media

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Intern Media Week: Day 3 – Andrew Somuah, Writer for Dime & The Source Magazine

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

“You can do it too.” ~ Pharrell Williams, Singer-songwriter 

This is a quote you’ll find if you go searching for Andrew Somuah’s social media profile, and if you know him, then you understand why it’s a quote in which he lives by as a young journalist from Alexandria, VA, who believes that he too can attain greatness and success at the highest level in his industry.

A lot of us get to watch shows like Nick Cannon’s Wildin’Out on the television or hear from Powerhouse 105.1’s Charlemagne Tha God on New York radio, or even see footage of NBA players doing interviews from their team locker rooms.

These are things that a lot of us are able to access thanks to the evolution of technology. However, wouldn’t it be cool to be right there on the set for each of these scenarios?

Well, my good friend and journalist for The Source Magazine Andrew Somuah has been privy to those experiences, up close and personal, and rightfully so.

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Here’s a guy who I’ve witnessed dedicate himself to his craft since his college days.

Whether it’s been pulling an all-nighter to ensure that work was done, jumping through hoops to get a ground-breaking interview, or stopping a Hip Hop mogul at a music festival to set up a future interview, Somuah has done all of these things plus more.

A lot of those who are not in the journalism field or the media industry for that matter, have no idea the kind of adversities that lie there waiting for us young journalists, but Somuah knows all about that.

He chooses not to use those setbacks as an excuse though. He’s learned early on in this business that if you want something, you have to go for it and try your best to exhaust all options within your own abilities before venturing out for help.

Somuah has worked at mastering several pieces to the puzzle that come along with being a journalist in the urban culture; writing, interviewing, researching, studying the culture, and being one with the culture.

Somuah exemplifies each of those things as he’s not just working in this industry to say he has a job or for the glamour, but he actually loves Hip Hop, the urban culture and both music and sports.

He’s been living and breathing these things since I’ve known him.

As far as Hip Hop goes, the fact that he’s remained an objective fan of the likes of Jay Z and Kanye West, speaks to not only his knowledge of rap music, but something else too; he enjoys studying the greats.

And what happens when you surround yourself with greatness, you ultimately enter into a realm of greatness as well and that’s what Somuah is working towards on a daily basis.

The urban culture is something else that Somuah is very familiar with as he’s always in the know about local events taking place in the DMV area to what’s happening on the Hip Hop scene in New York to even festivals and other happenings on the West coast.

This was all even before he had landed a job with Source, started writing for Dime Magazine, or even began his internship at 93.9 WKYS in his senior year of college.

We all have things we’re passionate about. You showed automatically be in the know of whatever it is that you’re interested in by taking the time to read up on it.

Why? Because it’s your passion. So, when that passion becomes your career path, it should be like waking up doing what you love everyday.

Now, granted every passion doesn’t allow one to live comfortably, at least not right away, so when one chooses that path anyway, you know that they truly love what they do and that’s what it’s about.

My good friend Somuah falls into that category as someone who truly loves what he does.

When it comes to music, Somuah is always looking to keep his options open, not staying within the boundaries of what’s considered mainstream, but by making mainstream what he wants it to be.

And last but not least, sports. What can I say about sports?

That’s where our friendship began and I’m pretty sure that’s what got Somuah so in tune with the Hip Hop scene, considering both seem to go hand in hand.

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How many times have you seen athletes and artists team up?

It happens a lot. You’ve had former NBA All Star Allen Iverson and Rapper Jadakiss team up for a Reebok commercial. We’ve seen famous Filmmaker Spike Lee and his Airness, Michael Jordan, team up to market Jordan’s sneakers.

And how about prize fighter Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Hip Hop mogul Lil Wayne? They’ve too teamed up to bring sports and music fans entertainment, something we’ve seen exemplified through Mayweather’s usual walk out of the tunnel before a championship fight.

Andrew Somuah has accomplished a lot within this realm of journalism, but you can rest assure that he is far from finished.

In a recent off-the-record conversation I held with my good friend, he expressed to me that there are a prethala of things that he has planned moving froward in his career, and if I was reading this, I’d be sure to tune in to this young and humble brother.

Like those I’ve chosen to highlight on my blog before, Somuah represents uniqueness, hard work and passion. And that’s why you’re reading about him today.

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Rapper Kenton Dunson looks to defy all odds as a true ‘Outlier’ in Hip Hop

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

When I came out with “Kenton Dunson: A True ‘Outlier’ in the Evolution that is Hip Hop,” the rapper out of Maryland was working on maybe the biggest project of his music career thus far; Outlier, which will drop this month. I was able to catch up with the “outlier” himself at his album release party in May where he showcased several songs from the new album at the 8×10 in downtown Baltimore.

Outlier couldn’t have been a more perfect title for Dunson’s newest album as it is a good representation of him not only as an artist, but as a person too. The term “outlier” refers to “a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set.” Dunson’s music exemplifies this definition. His music has one of the most unique sounds I’ve heard in recent years. That’s what jump-started our dialogue.

The beautiful thing about talent is it sparks dialogue, but when you get to see who the person is behind their art, that’s what establishes real content.

Dunson’s music, his oneness with his audience and his passion for mastering his craft is why I’m finding myself writing this story — a story that has combined the talent of a young journalist on the rise and a young artist looking to create a lane of his own. This is the story you might not typically get when typing an artists’ name into a search engine. I guess in a way, this collaboration is also an outlier in its own right.

Dunson says that he’s striving to create a similarity between he and a few of the big names in the hip hop industry today; guys like Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Don’t get the wrong idea though, Dunson does not want to be these guys nor does he want to make the same kind of music as them. Dunson simply admires the fact that they were each able to make “mainstream” what they desired for it to be.

Kanye made the mixture of hip hop and fashion mainstream. As Dunson would say, Drake made being a black rapper from the suburbs mainstream. Kendrick made storytelling and an intellectual-style of rap mainstream again.

This is the impact and the wave that Dunson looks to create as his own man in this industry. The jury is still out on what exactly Dunson’s “mainstream” will look like, but I would have to take a wild guess and say that it would involve him being an outlier, standing out from what’s considered the norm and to be honest with you, he’s got the talent and the discipline to do it.

I’ve referred to Kenton as a “dope” artist in the past. I know that in our society today that’s become the cool thing to say and many people have their own definition for what “dope” actually is. For me though, “dope” is all about being different, having substance and being for the people. That’s why Kenton is dope. His music is different because it stands out from the rest. His art — which is also his music — contains substance and he’s for the people.

How do I know this?

There are not many artists who embrace the “underground” way of doing things and I’m not talking about in terms of music. I’m not the conventional type of journalist. I’m going to search for the unknown, the message that lies between the lines. Dunson has embraced my style of journalism, but I’m not surprised.

Why?

It’s because he strives to do the same in his music. His location, the company he surrounds himself with and his bourbon are all elements in his developmental process when it comes to making good music. Dunson’s the kind of artist that also searches for the unknown between the lines of his lyrics when thinking about what he wants to convey to the people.

Now you see why he couldn’t have picked a better title for his newest project and when you go to pick up this new sound — which you will because you long for music with substance — you’ll too see why Outlier is more than a title or a term; it should be the way we live out our careers and our lives.

After all, Dunson always reminds us that “we are all outliers,” right?

Checkout the interview I did with Dunson just moments before he took the stage in front of a packed crowd at the 8×10 in Downtown Baltimore the night of his album release party.

Q. How long have you been a full-time artist now?

A. Since 2010. February 2010, I quit my job at T. Rowe Price as an Investment Advisor. So, ever since then man.”

Q. Since you’ve done that, what would you say has been the biggest challenge as a full-time artist?

A. Well, of course you deal with the financial and like losing your apartment, losing your car. You know, it’s all a domino effect. Losing a lot of material things, but gaining a lot of artistic freedom I guess.

Q. How has that changed your perspective on life?

A. I guess it simplifies life like what’s important to you. If you can really make it through it and tough it out, you’re meant to do it. It just makes life a little more simple and helps you focus on what’s important and why did you do it.

Q. What do you have planned for the fans tonight with your set?

A. Being that it’s the Outlier first listen and pre-release party, I’m playing six new joints. Never played them before. They’ve been living in the studio. So, six of the tracks that are going to make Outlier, I’m doing live tonight in its purest form. So, I hope I remember all the words haha.

Q. Now, you have Progressions, you have Creative Destruction I and II, you got the Investment and now you have Outlier. Where does Outlier rank among those? 

A. They’re all separate entities. They’re different periods of my life. Even though they all dropped within the last four or five years, they definitely live on their own. So, I can’t really rank them. I respect each of them as kind of a stepping stone.

I really appreciate each project for what it is, but I’ll say Outlier is really a combination of everything that I’ve learned over the whole time and what I’ve wanted to say. I feel like I’m finally at a place where I know what I represent and I know what I want people to take away from me at the end of the day. So, it’s definitely a combination of those past four projects.

Q. Now, you’ve actually been quoted saying that in terms of Outlier, this album is your best work and most important work up to date. What do you mean when you say that?

A. When you’re a full-time artist, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors when it’s studio time and when you’re recording that album in the closet. This right here is the moment where I got to do some soul searching. I got to figure out what do you want to say? Okay, it’s wide open. You’ve got a million hits on a song. You got this. You got that. What do you want to say right now?

I made this album like everything depends on it. I probably made 40 or 50 songs. 10 make the project. So, I’ve never taken this much care to a process. Some people say that’s being a perfectionist. Nah, I just really want to deliver something that can live on.

Q. What’s next for you man?

A. Man, it’s Outlier season. We’re in Baltimore tonight. This is going to be the first listen for people. June is the month man and I’m dropping a single called “Tremendous.” I don’t really consider it a single, meaning it’s like made for radio or anything like that.

It’s going to be the intro to Outlier and I’m going to drop it next week. So, it’s Outlier season. We’re just really trying to make sure that anything we drop right now reaches the most people possible and that message just spreads. It’s Outlier season and after that we’re hoping to get on the road for sure.

Q. You talked about the soul searching you’ve done in this time putting together this project. What’s something new you learned about yourself in this process man?

A. I learned that I’m not scared to delete a dope line even if it’s the sickest bar. I’m not afraid to delete them if it doesn’t meet the purpose of the song. There’s a lot of people that can freestyle real dope, but I really learned that I am becoming a songwriter and I’m not afraid to bring up stuff that has affected me in my life.

I’m really putting it all out there right now. So, I learned that I’m gradually opening up. I heard Kanye say the other day that as an artist your job is to get away with as much as you can get away with and I finally felt like with this Outlier period, I let it go.

I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s like a cathodic process. It’s really helped me get over a lot of stuff I didn’t understand growing up and when you hear it on the track, it’s like ‘damn I really released that.’ I can move on, so I learned that art is my true calling, it’s my truest expression and I think a lot of people are going to relate to it for that simple fact.

To stay tuned for more blog features, follow my blog karlsinternmedia. Make sure you also subscribe to my YouTube channel while you’re checking out the feature. Most importantly, stay tuned to Kenton Dunson’s movement by visiting dunsonmusic.com and pickup his new album Outlier. Follow him on Instagram @kentondunson. 

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Kenton Dunson: Full Interview in ‘Limbo.’ I call it the ‘Tease.’

by Karl Nelson II, InternMedia

“People relate to honesty and my music has become more and more honest. I can’t help it. It was a song that needed to happen for me. It re-established a tone for me so now there is nowhere but up! So it was a fresh springboard for me in terms of the upcoming music and message!”

This is what Kenton Dunson had to say during our interview in regard to his biggest single, “Broke Ass Dope Ass Rapper,” which dropped last summer.

That single took Dunson to new heights as an artist. Why? Well, sounds like a relatable title to me. How many of you would agree?

Think about it for a second. “Broke Ass Dope Ass Rapper.”

If you think, for one second, that the only dope artists are the ones we hear about on the radio or see on television, you can think again because that is so far from true that it’s not even funny. Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of dope rappers out there right now, but following that passion has demanded a lot of sacrifice. We must, at times, remember that for every one artist who makes it to mainstream, there are hundreds of good artists who don’t – they are usually referred to as ‘Underground Artists.’

When Dunson made that single that’s exactly where he was at the time. He was truly starting from the bottom, “from poverty, to college, to the corporate world and back to the struggle for the sake of my passion.”

It’s that journey that makes Dunson’s music so compelling and relatable to the average listener.

You might be one of the dopest artists out there, but people don’t see the two or three hustles you have on the side to stay afloat while you do your music. You might be one of the most talented basketball players in the area, but no one is watching the countless hours you’re putting in outside of games and practices in order to be in a position to make that big check.

We have teachers out here who are responsible for some of the most important parts of our educational makeup, but they’re not taking home six-figure salaries.

Even right now, I’m writing to you guys after hours of entertaining other work which allows me to do what I love right here and now without stress. However, at the same time, I’m far from rich or well known.

I know it’s someone who is going to read this and be able to relate right away.

I think that’s what makes Dunson and his music such a good fit for the people. He has a real story that a lot of us can grab onto and feel the correlation.

What makes him special is he’s willing to, as he would put it, “struggle” for the sake of his passion, which is making great music.

“I have seen so many walks of life and my music reflects a broad experience,” Dunson said during our recent interview.

If you are a fan of music — not mainstream. I’m talking about soulful and honest music then Kenton Dunson is your guy.

In the limbo of a blog feature that is going to provide you with our full interview, check out the link below and hear for yourself — that feel good music that so many of us long for.

http://dunsonmusic.com/

Rich Westerlund: Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Crossroads College in Minnesota. Looking back on my Unsung blog features from 2014.

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

Back in early November, I had the great opportunity to do a story on my friend and basketball coach at Crossroads College, Coach Rich Westerlund. This came as a blessing because I hadn’t known Rich for that long. I met Rich while working Five Star Baltimore’s basketball camp for two summers.

Not only is Rich a very talented young basketball coach and basketball minded individual, but he’s also a great guy and I respect the character that he has exemplified in my time knowing him, which made this story even more of an honor.

When I interviewed Rich, he shared with me the ups and downs of his coaching career. It just so happens that the ups carry a lot of weight in Rich’s case. He’s found himself in the history books on a couple different occasions. The first came in the beginning of his coaching career when he became the youngest high school basketball coach in the country. The second came when he took the job as head coach at Crossroads College. It was there that he found himself in the history books again as the youngest college basketball coach in the country.

Both of those great moments share a common denominator. They both started off with their share of stresses and adversities. However, the great thing about Rich’s story is that he and his team prevailed in the end in both cases.

How ironic is it that Rich and his team find themselves in another tough circumstance in his second season as head coach? I won’t “sugar coat” the fact that both Rich and his team aren’t having the success this season that they had in the second half of last season as they went on to win a championship after an 0-13 start.

They are experiencing some of the same rough times that they did in the beginning of last season, but that won’t stop them from fighting. If it’s one thing that Rich has instilled in his guys, it’s a mentality of fighting – fighting through the hard workouts, the tough losses, the post-game speeches and the naysayers.

This is why I have all of the confidence in the world in Coach Rich and the Crossroads Men’s Basketball squad that they will leave this season better than they entered it. After all, greatness is not defined by those who respond well during the “ups,” but it’s defined by those who respond well during the “downs.” I have confidence that Rich and the Crossroads College Basketball Program are the kind of individuals that take pride in their attitude and mentality in the midst of the “downs.”

I’m pushing for them to prevail and I encourage those who read this article to do the same. 2014 is no longer here, but a sketch of 2015 is only in the making.

Chiésa Mason: Professional Dancer. Guest Artist with Eisenhower Dance. Dance Instructor in Maryland. Looking back on my Unsung blog features from 2014.

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

“Without uttering a word, we tell a story or send a message through our bodies. To pull emotions from someone just by moving your body is beautiful to me.”

These were Chiésa’s exact words some months ago when she touched on the beauty of telling a story through the art of dance in an interview with me. We are often accustomed to witnessing the best stories being told through words. That’s technically what I do as a writer, but if there is one thing that I find even more impressive than that, it’s watching a flawless dancer tell their story without having to utter a single word.

Chiésa finds excitement in this aspect of her career. While some dancers might not jump at the opportunity to get on a stage in front of large audiences, Chiésa enjoys performing. “The thrill I get before going on stage and sharing my talent is one of the most amazing feelings in the world!”

Chiésa will have the opportunity to experience such a thrill once again come February, as she’ll be performing on a southern tour with Eisenhower Dance – the same company she was under contract with last season.

While she’s in training for her guest appearance with Eisenhower Dance, Chiésa is also teaching dance to aspiring professional dancers at a charter school in Baltimore as well as at two local dance studios.

Going into a new year, Chiésa knows what she wants and is moving without hesitation to go get it. In a society where strong men are glorified, women like Chiésa serve as a reminder to everyone that there are tons of strong and talented women out there impacting those around them as well as the world at large.

When asked about her 2014 experience, she simply said “I am very happy with my accomplishments and success this past year!” Stay tuned for what Chiésa has up her sleeve for 2015 as she looks to walk into this new year with some momentum of her own.

D.J. Lil Mic: Paying homage to one of the best D.J.’s to ever do it. 15+ years as the soundtrack for the music scene in Baltimore and across many states and countries.

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

DJ’s provide the soundtrack for the environment and for the people within that environment. A good DJ can change your current emotion at any given moment with the scratching of a record.

A lot of people place their main focus on the performer (the singer, dancer and rapper), but the performance isn’t much of a performance without the soundtrack. That’s what a good DJ provides. They make sure everything is on one accord with what’s being played, whether it’s a party or a performance.

DJ Lil Mic embodies what being a true mixmaster is all about. When Lil Mic is on the turntables, you’re in for a treat.

DJ Lil Mic has been a prominent mixmaster in Baltimore and beyond for over 15 years now. He’s performed with some of the country’s most talented artists, which includes the likes of MC Lyte, Raheim Devaughn, Mario, Mya, Jazmin Sullivan, Marsa Ambrosius and Cee Lo Green.

Lil Mic’s been mixing since he was nine years old and playing records since he was 18 months. One might say that he was maybe destined to be a DJ, but he says that DJ’ing is something that chose him, not the other way around.

He found joy in working with technology, speakers, gaming and sound equipment at an early age. It’s these things that made mixing second nature to him.

Lil Mic is currently pulling double duty as a radio DJ and club DJ. He DJ’s for the educated listener, providing them with a sound that goes beyond the norm. He takes his crowds back to their high school, middle school and elementary school days with music you haven’t heard in some time.

He goes by the motto, “It’s not what you play, but how you play it.” That’s what makes Lil Mic one of the hottest DJ’s out there. Oh yeah and how can I forget about the spiffiness of Lil Mic when he walks on the scene to DJ. He comes suited and booted every time with a suit and the famous bow tie. Now, here’s a man who takes his craft serious making DJ’ing a gentlemen’s game.

It was my pleasure to chop it up with one of the best to ever do it, DJ Lil Mic.

Q. What’s the transition been like for you, going from a locally known D.J. to having a presence that reaches far beyond your local community?

A. It’s kind of weird, honestly. Some people don’t know who I am and then some people do know who I am. I think it’s because I wear a few hats. I try to keep it as humble as possible because at any given moment, you can be absorbing that shine realizing that God gave you that opportunity and gave you the light and at any given moment, he can just snatch it away. So, I try to remain as mellow as possible and I tell these cats that you can do whatever you want to do if you work hard and stay disciplined.

Q. Who played a major role in you getting to where you are today?

A. My parents supported me. I remember the last time I was carrying pounds of records. I’m talking about 80 pounds of records. I was going to St. Louis to DJ. My mother dropped me off at the curb at the airport. I had a lot of luggage and the cases of my records were in some of my luggage. Some of my records fell into the street. My mother parked and got out the car to help me maneuver all of my records.

My parents supported me and I was both a drummer and a DJ as a kid. You’re talking about two of the loudest things a kid could do, I did. It got to the point that when I got to Morgan, I had to make a decision. I asked myself, ‘Alright, are you going to be a drummer or a DJ?’ Clearly, DJ’ing was making me the most money and had the most prestige at the moment. DJ Quicksilver played the drums as well. I can name you a lot of DJ’s that are musicians first, so when they play and how they play is very rhythmic and melodic.

Q. Did you ever think about trying to become a rapper or a producer first?

A. Hell no (laughs). Sike nah. Yeah, I did produce at one point and I’ll probably get back into it, but it’s just like you can’t serve two different gods. You can’t be the best producer and the best DJ. You can be a great producer and the best DJ or the best producer and a great DJ, but can’t be the best at each.

Q. So, what do you say about an artist like Kanye West who has produced his own albums in the past and rapped on them?

A. I think he’s a better producer than he is a rapper. I think he’s a great rapper, but when he’s on, he’s on and when he’s off, his material can come off as really weird. What I do like about him though, is the fact that as an artist he’s not concerned about what people think. He’s going to do what he wants to do. He’s so far out on another level, so I understand what he’s doing in that sense. I’m not mad at him, but at the same time I’m not a fan of that style.

Q. It’s clear that you chose to master the turntables and allow everything else to fall into place. Do you feel like these young D.J.’s are taking the same “masterful” approach today?

A. Well, I feel like a lot of these new cats aren’t paying their dues. Earlier, I mentioned Quicksilver. Me and ‘Quick’ used to sit down and draw turntables. Yes, draw them. Before we had the DJ’s turntable, we would draw them. We visualized what we were going to become one day. There’s no visualization these days. There’s no process. These kids just get money and go out and buy the equipment. Some don’t even do that. Some go use an iPad or something and then they’re just bedroom DJ’s with a name and everything.

We actually went through different DJ names. The guy who named me ‘Lil Mic’ is like a big brother to me. He’s actually my lawyer. I was actually ‘DJ Micky’ at the time. I changed my DJ name, as you should because you have to mature to get to where you want to be. Before you tell people that you’re a DJ, you should be good. However, there’s a lot of people that just jump out and say ‘Yeah, I’m DJ such and such’ and they’re whack, but if you play the right record at the right time, then it doesn’t even matter because there are so many other things going on. Back in the day, you could be in the park, but if the DJ was rocking, it was a party. The DJ is the essence of Hip Hop. The DJ is the original MC that controls the party and brings that energy. I feel like a lot of that has been lost today.

Q. Now, you started off with an internship with WEAA 88.9, right?

A. I started off DJ’ing in the house doing neighborhood stuff, but I used to sneak out of my parents’ house and hangout with the older guys over there and then they just gave me a shot. So, it really wasn’t the proper internship because clearly I was in middle school and these were college students. I was doing this for about a year and a half and then they were like ‘Okay. We gotta tell your mother yo.’ I was leaving the house and leaving the door unlocked in the middle of the night. Between midnight, 1am and 5 in the morning, I would leave the door unlocked. My parents wouldn’t know I was gone and it wasn’t safe.

Q. That’s inspirational to guys like myself. People who are trying to get a head start in their career and really trying to get that first big break. Was it easy for you to get that first break? During your internship, was there any point when you asked yourself, ‘Man, what am I doing?’

A. My motivation was never money. Even now, I’m just blessed to be able to do what I do and make money doing it, but my motivation was never money.

Q. Yeah, you talk about how you don’t even look at your work as an accomplishment, but more so as a blessing.

A. Yeah, to be able to do what you love to do and make a living doing it is just great. And sometimes I’m annoyed by certain things and might not be in the mood, but when you think about all the other things you could be doing and you’re just playing records for people and they’re having a great time, even though you done put 20 – 30 years into it, it’s still that ‘wow’ factor. You’re making people happy. You’re making them smile.

Q. You’ve been a prominent D.J. on the Baltimore music scene for over 15 years. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

A. I would have to say that the biggest obstacle would have to be myself. Anybody in the game has goals that you set and I feel like the only one who can hinder you from your goal is yourself. I always describe it in terms of sunlight. There’s enough sunlight and sunshine to shine on everybody. So, what God has for you is not going to block me and what he has for me is not going to block you. The only person that is going to block you from reaching your goals is yourself. There are certain things that you’re used to doing, but in order to get to the next level you have to change and re-discipline yourself in order to elevate yourself.

Q. What would you say is the major difference between today’s era of D.J.’s compared to your era?

A. I think the difference between DJ’s of my era and new DJ’s are we grew up with great music. Now, good music is scarce and you have to look for it because there’s an abundance of bullshit. Let’s take ‘Cupid Shuffle’ as an example. That’s a great record, but Cupid is going to be a one-hit wonder. I’d be very surprised if Cupid had another record where as let’s say when Rob Base ‘It Takes Two’ came out in ’86, that record lasted like two or three years. That was still a big record two or three years later. So, now, a classic may come out, but it doesn’t get its length of run the way it should because there’s so many records coming out at a fast pace. And of course the radio is still beating you in the head, playing the same twenty records over and over again.

It’s hard to really feel the impact of a record because after one is released another one comes right out. You know how back in the day an artist would do an album and then take two, three or four years before coming out with another album. Now, like Rick Ross has been out for like six or seven years, but it seems like he’s a veteran hip-hop artist because he drops another album every 12 to 18 months. In between those 12 to 18 months, he’s dropping a mixtape, which is like an album. So, it makes you feel like he’s been in the game for a long time, but Rick Ross has been in the game less than 10 years.

Q. That makes me think about Kendrick Lamar and admire him more because a lot of people have been giving him a hard time due to the fact that he hasn’t come out with another album yet. It seems he’s just taking his time to make sure he puts out quality.

A. Absolutely. I think you have to live your life and have something to talk about. Kendrick’s album was a concept album, but we haven’t had any strong west coast albums like that in a long time. Lyrically, Kendrick is up there. I say top 20 or top 30. I say that because people will be so quick to say, ‘Yo. Top five. Top three.’ You know people will give you the whole Jay-Z, Eminem, and Nas spiel. They might throw Andree 3000 in there, but you’re forgetting The Canes, Rakim, and Caresse. You’re forgetting a whole list of MC’s that, in their day, were the best. Even Funky Dividends from Three Times Dope out of Philly.

There are people lyrically from that era that you have to put in the top 20 or top 30 and then add on to that list, but Kendrick is up there. I mean even Big K.R.I.T. I’m a Big K.R.I.T. fan. His albums are okay, but his mixtapes are incredible. People’s mixtapes are like albums now. I think you need to take your time and do your process. There’s enough garbage music out there that when you come out it’s like ‘Man that’s all I’m listening to.’

It depends on what you’re listening to music for. Are you listening to it for thought? Are you listening to it for enjoyment? Is it something to help you turn up in the club? Turn up records aren’t records to me. Turn up records are not house records. Those are specific club records. Club music is for the club. You shouldn’t be in the car trying to eat somebody’s heart (laughs). That’s not for that. So, I just feel like certain music has its place and even some of Kendrick’s records aren’t party records. They’re thoughtful records. While there are other records out like that that can play at a party, the vast majority of records out now are just promoting sex, drugs, and foolishness.

While hip-hop used to be informative and educational, and there is still some education and information, it’s just camouflaged. Bad has gotten worse. Big has gotten bigger and dumb has gotten dumber. But, on the other hand, intelligent has gotten more intelligent. It’s just scarcer now because it’s camouflaged by the foolishness. So, you’ve got your Kendrick’s. You’ve got your Andre’s. You’ve got your Drake’s, even though he sometimes sprinkles in some bullshit too. Drake’s like the most emotional rapper ever. Even Lil Wayne’s got some gems for you, but he got his teeth taken out and all diamonds in his mouth now. When you look at Wayne, clearly you have to look past all the bullshit, but it’s very hard for us as humans to look past all of that.

I believe everybody has something great to share, but do you camouflage it or do you make it very easy to get to? Sometimes too much is literally too much. Instead of art imitating life, it’s like life is imitating art. There can only be one rapper, but there can be 40 or 50 people behind-the-scenes helping support the art and even change it.

Q. You preach education a lot. It’s something that you value as a Mixmaster, a musical educator and as a father. Tell me about that.

A. Let me tell you about the school system. School was not originally designed for education and then our school system was not designed for entrepreneurship. It’s designed to put you back in the workforce to work for somebody else forever. While it’s very blatant, there are a lot of things that aren’t blatant. There are a lot of things that are secrets and we’ll never get to the bottom of the knowledge because it wasn’t designed for us to have it. I don’t mean us as black people, but us as in poor. Rich and poor. Educated and not educated.

The biggest library in the world is the Vatican and they have the power to take books out of circulation. That’s powerful. And now when we don’t even look in books and we just Wikipedia or Google it, it doesn’t even matter. We don’t even have to have books. We just listen to what we’re told so quickly and believe it. Instead of doing our own research and asking questions, we believe what we’re told. We’re taught to say yes and agree and nod rather than to ask why and then when you ask why, you look it up and you figure it out. If you ask greater questions, then you’ll get those answers.

Q. Music is very influential. As we’ve both said, it’s the soundtrack to life in a lot of ways. It’s no secret that some of the music out here today doesn’t contain the most clean or positive messages. As a music mogul, what do you think about the state of our music and how it plays into the lives of our young people?

A. I do think that parents should educate the children on what’s right and what’s wrong because the songs are meant to enjoy. When I play ‘turn up’ records, I’m playing those records for people who go to the club and they literally turn up in the club. They’re not going to necessarily come outside of the club and just fight somebody. The problem is when we play those ignorant records for people who live that ignorant life or have that ignorant mind frame. When you play ‘Knuck if you Buck’ or ‘Dreams and Nightmares.’

Back in the day, before ‘Dreams and Nightmares,’ we had Mob Deep’s ‘Shook Once.’ That was a really aggressive record. That was the most insightful record of the day. You also had Slick Rick’s ‘Hey Young Girl,’ you had very intelligent, strong, positive-message records. You had ‘Self Destruction.’ You just had people who knew the balance of art. Albums back then had ‘Parental Advisory’ on them. That’s crazy. In fact, when I met MC Lyte for the first time, I’m like ‘Yo you’re like one of my favorite artists, but my father wouldn’t let me buy your album when I was younger because it said Parental Advisory.’ And then I found myself DJ’ing for her and she’s now one of my good friends. When your life comes full circle like that, it’s crazy.

Q. Do you think artists should take that into consideration? That younger generation that wants to hear some Hip-Hop and wants to hear some good music. I know when I was younger my parents weren’t letting me rock with any of that kind of music.

A. I believe it’s the responsibility of the parent. I shouldn’t have to change my art because you’re ignorant enough to allow your kids to listen to what’s not for them. My art is life. I teach from the standpoint of the life lessons that I learned that I want to impart, but I’m only giving you the tip of the iceberg. You need to dig deep down below the surface and figure it out. So, I teach from the standpoint of life skills and music. A lot of the life skills impact how you play the music.

If my crowd of individuals is 35 – 60, I’m not going to play French Montana’s ‘Pop That.’ Like a lawyer, doctor, speechwriter, and an actor, you have to survey your audience. Your audience relies on you to know what they need. It’s a leadership role. It’s a powerful role. I feel like a DJ can start a fight and a DJ can also end a fight. A DJ can send you home with a shorty and a DJ can breakup your relationship. A DJ can also make your relationship. Think about how many wedding receptions you’ve gone to where everything was great, but the DJ was whack. What you remember is the DJ being whack. Nobody cares about the ceremony because you’re married now. People want to know if there was a party. A DJ makes you feel good. A DJ plays on your emotions, but guides you to the right place because a lot of us don’t look at the role music plays for us. Music is in us. That’s something that can’t be taken away from us.

Q. In your career, you’ve traveled the world with some well-known artists. Name a few. What was it like working closely with them?

A. I would say the first person I consistently traveled and worked with is Raheem Devaughn. I’ve been working with him since the beginning of his career. I also worked with Jasmine Sullivan in the second part of her career when ‘Need You Bad’ came out. She’s a great person and super talented. I’ve worked with Cee Lo Green. He’s a wild character and also super talented. I’ve worked with Mya who is super talented and has a lot of energy on stage and even though she doesn’t have a lot of prominent records out in America right now, internationally she’s still heavy. I’ve done some work with Marsha Ambrosius, MC Lyte, Mario and CJ Hilton.

Q. What do you admire the most about these particular artists?

A. Well, almost everyone that I just named has either been nominated or has won a Grammy aside from CJ. CJ is new, but to have worked with a bunch of Grammy-winning and Grammy-nominated artists, it’s powerful. I was in LA with Jasmine when she was nominated for five Grammys on her first album. For your first major release to have five Grammy nominations is a major accomplishment. To have been apart of that run and that momentum was very strong. It was a great feeling.

Q. Rapper and Entrepreneur, 50 Cent, was on one of your first mixtapes when you started out. He’s respected as an overall business mogul and for having a record- breaking album early in his career, but he catches flack for his music today. What are your thoughts on 50?

A. 50 understood that this rap thing was not going to last forever. And 50’s not a timeless rapper. LL Cool J is timeless. Big Daddy Kane is timeless. Rakim’s music is timeless. Andree 3000 is timeless. Bun B is timeless. I can name timeless rappers all around the world. Regardless of what coast you are from or what country you’re from, there are timeless rappers. I don’t think 50 is timeless. ‘In the Club’ was hot at the time. ‘Wingster’ was hot at the time. ‘Made You Look’ was another record that was hot at that particular time. Mob Deep has some timeless material. There are timeless rappers and 50’s not one of them, but he made enough money at the time and he’s a businessman.

Q. What makes D.J. Lil Mic a “heavyweight” in terms of the caliber of D.J.’s in Baltimore?

A. I always say that eagles fly alone. Do you want to be amongst the elite? Do you want to hang with everybody and be mediocre or do you want to do what nobody else is willing to do and be the best? Because when you’re the best, you’re by yourself. You’re the one who’s willing to do the most work when everybody else is doing the least work. You might have a lot of people who have 95’s, but there’s only one magna cum laude or summa cum laude. You have to be willing to say, this is what I’m willing to do to get to the next level. Personally, I was at a place where I was willing to do that. Then you get to a level of success and realize you have to do the same thing all over again to get to the next level up. That was me and still is to this day.

Q. What makes you a special breed?

A. I think I’m special because God made me special. My process is a little different. Nas has a record on his last album that talks about the process. Sometimes the journey is better than the destination. Who I am and the things that my parents did. You know church, school and band and all of that, that’s made me have a greater appreciation. A lot of people have that Bughatti and Bentley frame of mind. So, when I come in with the ’66 Lincoln Continental frame of mind, which is the classic frame of mind, it’s like wow. That’s like when I DJ. I wear suits when I DJ. I’ve always been into branding. I had a logo 20 years ago. I had a mixtape. I had a website in ’98. Dudes barely had email accounts back then. I had mixtapes in high school. I had freestyles from guys like 50 Cent. Before 50 got shot, I got a freestyle with him.

My mom would front me the money and I would sell tapes in school. It was underground hip-hop at the time. Cats would buy the tapes. I would have them selling up and down the east coast. I remember when I got my license. I remember the first time I went to New York to buy records. I didn’t even have enough money to get home as far as toll money goes. We were dedicated man. I have good childhood friends who really supported me and are still friends of mine to this day and friends for life.

Nowadays, one guy can walk into a party and set up to DJ, but back in my day you had eight or nine guys walking in the party with all of this equipment. It was a learning thing for us. I have students now that are very dedicated to each other and stick with each other. They went to the same elementary school, but are now in different high schools. They understand that they are still very young in their DJ’ing and because I’ve explained to them the process, they don’t take it lightly. When they have the party rocking, they love it and when they mess up, they’re hard on themselves, as they should be. Music is the soundtrack to life. It’s the universal language. So, when you understand the weight of being a Mixmaster, understanding that you can hold the sound that impacts someone’s life, it’s major.

Will Smith has said that when you’re doing something, you shouldn’t have a plan B you should only have a plan A because plan B will get in the way of plan A. He said ‘The difference between me and someone else is not my talent. It’s my undying discipline and my work ethic.’ He said ‘While the other man is sleeping, I’m working. While the other man is eating, I’m working.’ So, I’m playing this over and over again in the car trying to feed my mind that energy.

Q. What’s your message to D.J.’s and people in general who are pursuing their passions?

A. I’d say never give up. Even if you have to slow up your pace just to get back on track, that’s cool. I’m not saying kill yourself, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. As people, we have to figure out if we want to contribute to people’s lives or if we’re going to be takers or simply consumers. No one can be all of one or the other. Individuals like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy were motivated by their communities needs. The question becomes, ‘What is your ultimate goal?’ I feel like Jay-Z is probably the most notable hip-hop figure today. He could have every kid in the streets reading books. I don’t know if he’s doing that though and if he is we’re surely not hearing much about it. I’m not knocking Jay, but I’m saying that powerful artists like he and Beyoncé could be that influence. I know Jay has the S Carter Foundation, but when you sow that seed in your community, you would think that one would become even more popular.

Q. As a D.J., what adversity do you hope to never come across?

A. War scares me the most because nobody goes to the club when there’s war. The 1920’s was the era of the Big Band. What happened to the Big Band? World War I happened. World War I killed the Big Band because everybody had to go to the army. Elvis was one of the major artists in the army. So, you go from having a band of 30 people to Miles Davis and just a few other artists.

Q. Who are some of the D.J.’s from back in the day that were inspiration to you and your artistry?

A. You had the Mally Malls, the Red Alerts, P Rock, Jazzy Jeff, my man DJ B, Jay-Skee from Philly, and Irin from DC. These guys aren’t too much older than me, but I used to listen to them at a very inspirational point of my life. I listened to this Jazzy Jeff mixtape during that transition from high school to college and it changed my life. What he was doing was called multi-tracking. It just changed my whole focus on how I could do things. But, I was a student of everybody like Primo. I was a big fan of Premier who’s like a big brother to me from Brooklyn. It’s crazy to meet these people after watching them on Rap City and on videos and all of that and then when you meet them and it’s love, it’s like wow.