MVRemix: Do you think itís tougher to teach them when they know you are a rapper? Because they see you as "cool" like them, but you have to draw the line, since all the teachers who try to be "cool" are the ones who always get taken advantage of.
Asheru: Na, I tell them and draw the line with all of that. Because if you try to be too cool, you are not giving them what they need. So I give them what they need first, and then after that we can be cool. I got kids who don't like me, who have their problems and cuss me out, but I stand my ground. Because if I know they are wrong, then I let them know. So I try to be fair, but I don't cut no corners, or let them think they are doing good, when they really are not. I try to mold and shape these kids to be all they can be. The school we have been at has only been in existence for five years, and me and Rock have been there for three years. In that short period of time, I went from being a class room teacher, to being a director, to having a partnership with the school to build educational products. I have been doing a lot of stuff in the last two years, but we are at the point now where we have kids going to college. And that was never heard of before we got there. We never had a kid graduate and go to college until now, and we got five now enrolled for the fall. So itís a big accomplishment, and it shows our leadership. So we try and do our best at the school. Itís tough though, I'm not going to front, its very difficult. Because going to the studio, coming out at 2:00 A.M., going home, waking up at 7:00, and going to work is a grind. Most days I'm working 12/13 hours. But its all good in the end.
MVRemix: Can you tell us about your upcoming album While You Were Sleeping?
Asheru: While You Were Sleeping is my solo project, and a lot of people have reached out and shown support so far. Production wise, I got J-Rawls, DJ Kali, Oddissee, Kev Brown, and a lot more. But the vibe and the feel of the album is exactly what I wanted to put out. And the title While You Were Sleeping is two fold, its playing on that title of being conscious. Also its just saying, people are paying attention to this bullshit going on in the music and in the world, and people really aren't doing anything about it. So I just wanted to speak on it, and thatís my project. But the problem I'm having now is finding distribution and getting a suitable deal for what I want to do. Because now I'm doing this without the support of 7 Heads, so itís a little harder because I have to retrace some of my steps and get what I want done. But we are looking to have it out by the end of the summer, as I'm targeting a couple of labels and distributors. But in the mean time, thatís why I put out this Insomnia Mixtape. So the people can get the vibe of what the album is going to be like and also get some unreleased and unheard tracks.
MVRemix: Why aren't you going with 7 Heads for this album?
Asheru: We are just moving in a different direction. My main thing is ownership, and having more creative control. Not only with the music we make, but how it gets marketed, distributed, and promoted. But 7 Heads is still family, me and Wes speak on a regular basis. But I wanted to do this my own way for now.
MVRemix: You were speaking about Oddissee producing on the album. But do you think he is a new version of Pete Rock, because I kind of feel that way after listening to that new instrumental mixtape he dropped?
Asheru: Yeah, Oddissee is dope! He does remind me of Pete Rock, and thatís because, like I said earlier, we were raised on Hip Hop. So I'm sure Pete Rock is one of his big influences. But I'm glad he is here, because Hip Hop needs cats like that, to remind us what this culture and art form is about.
MVRemix: What types of songs, topics, and issues can we expect to hear on While You Were Sleeping?
Asheru: On "Revolution", I am talking about things I see and what I feel needs to be done. Specifically with the black community, but it can also apply to the country in general. The title track talks about my day to day experience of being an educator and an emcee. I also have a song on there about my family, because me and my wife just had our daughter last year, so I did a song about my son, daughter, and my wife. Because people don't talk about their families, and a lot of these guys are married and have seeds, but nobody talks about it because I guess its not marketable. But I wanted to address that and show my family my appreciation. I also have songs where I talk about the black experience in general. I have a song where I talk about how my mom is still scratching off lotto tickets, trying to hit the number every week. And the kids I see in school that are basically raising themselves. I also got songs on some regular emcee shit, just so everybody is clear that I'm still doing it like that. I just trying to show people on this album that, yeah we are all emcees, but rap is not your entire life. You still have to live your life, and there are other things that interest you. It is possible to have more than one passion, and I want to show a multi dimensional side of an emcees existence. That is really the whole purpose of the album.
MVRemix: What has been the biggest headache you have had to deal with in this Hip Hop game?
Asheru: Well, itís not really a headache, but I guess its people asking me, "When is this joint going to drop, blah, blah, blah". And they don't take into account all the other shit that goes into putting out a record and raising a family. But other than that, I really don't have too much to complain about. Hip Hop has been good to me, as far as going overseas and collaborating with a lot of different cats from all over the world. So I have been fortunate, and if I was getting a little more money I would appreciate that as well. (Laughter) But I'll take all the perks for now. But the biggest thing has been getting people to understand my mission and understanding what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. If people really understood that, I could get a lot more accomplished. But its slow and steady, and I'm staying strong.
MVRemix: Do you have a main career goal you are striving for?
Asheru: What I'm really working towards is being able to merge Hip Hop and education in a way that has not been done before. I'm going into a doctorial program at UPenn this summer for educational leadership. My Masters work was in curriculum and instruction, so I have been working towards building the perfect Hip Hop curriculum. Hip Hop can be an educational product that can be used in schools. That is really my ultimate goal. I want to write books, articles, and do sessions to let people know that Hip Hop is a real culture and has a real value that is being untapped. Since itís the language of the youth, itís the most direct way to speak and communicate with them. Hip Hop is not just thugs and materialism, there is value to it and a lot more depth. So thatís my career goal, to bring that to the forefront. And I just started this program called HELP, which stands for Hip Hop as an Educational Learning Program. I actually have a website up now, and it shows a sample of the product, but its something that should be coming out this summer. I have done this as a partner with an organization called EduStar. What we are doing is, we are going to put these CD-Rom packages out all over the D.C. area, and these packages use Hip Hop to promote literacy. For example, the first issue that we have is using Nas' "Bridging The Gap". We take the songs, video, lyrics, and MP3, and we create vocabulary lessons and literacy activities for beginning, intermediate, and advanced readers. Itís really a big thing that is coming out this summer. We have been writing grants and getting support for it, so its real dope. Check out the site, its www.edu-help.net
MVRemix: That sounds great man, I really like that idea.
Asheru: Yeah, its going to be really big. And once we get other artists to endorse it and jump on board, its going to bigger than any of us can imagine. We have had focus groups, and have had kids use it, and all the responses have been incredible! All the kids love it, and they want more of it. Itís not common for an emcee to be so into academia, but thatís what helps me stand apart from everybody else. This is what I do, and its not a gimmick. I really go to school and earned them degrees, and pay that money. So in a couple of years they are going to call me Dr. Ben, or Dr. Asheru, or whatever it is. So I'm going to be able to go into bigger circles and promote Hip Hop as a culture in the future. But check the site out now, and you can see the samples. The first issue is Nas, and the next one is going to be Common with "The Corner". We are working on a schedule to do one a month, and it will probably debut in June or July over the summer school session, then into the fall for the upcoming school year. Itís going to be all of D.C., just like how you see all of those AOL CD's. It will be that accessible in D.C. for parents, kids, and teachers, and itís free.
MVRemix: What else do you have going on in the future?
Asheru: I am also working with Aaron McGruder of The Boondocks, because he has a TV show coming out on Comedy Central. So I have been working with him on theme music, scoring ideas, and things like that. I have actually known Aaron since he was at University of Maryland doing the strip. So we are old friends, but we still keep in contact and are working on getting some songs knocked out for his show coming out in October. And the album While You Were Sleeping is basically done, I'm just doing a couple more joints with Blue Black. After that, then we'll start working on the Unspoken Heard album, and do the same old thing over again.
MVRemix: Any last words for the fans?
Asheru: I just want people to know, like Dead Prez said, it's bigger than Hip Hop, and I really want people to understand that. Hopefully, when they hear my music and hear my message, they will get that. www.Asheru.com
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"I think if it wasn't for Hip Hop, that a lot of these races wouldn't be coming together. I think itís the one thread that unites everybody. Because if you grow up in the Hip Hop culture, the color of your skin really doesn't matter."