Asheru - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman  

Asheru - More Than Music

June 2005

Asheru is not just a rapper, he is a teacher, motivator, and role model. While the claim may sound lofty, just ask the kids he teaches and guides at his high school in Washington, D.C.. While Hip Hop may be a passion of his, Asheru sees the bigger picture. MVRemix wanted to help Asheru present this picture and get his message out. In a humbling interview, Asheru explains his purpose in life and his goal of educating the youth. With a program to merge education and Hip Hop, Asheru introduces his new program he is dropping this summer in D.C. to help promote literacy using Hip Hop songs by icons such as Nas and Common. While bridging the gap between Hip Hop and academia may not be the norm, for Asheru its not just a job, its his life.

MVRemix: I was listening to your Insomnia Mixtape on "Revolution", you state, "cats are trying to box you in by calling you conscious". Is that something that really annoys you?

Asheru: Sometimes, because they don't expect me to do something that is not stereotypically conscious. But there are many parts to a man, so I hope I don't come across as super preachy, or super conscious. I'm just speaking on my opinions and expressing myself, because that is what Hip Hop is. But I think sometimes that turns people off, coming from this conscious/righteous angle or whatever, but I want people to know that there are different parts of a person. You can be stereotypically conscious to some people, but when you smoke week, go to a strip club, a party, or whatever, that means your not being conscious. But I don't see it that way. So I just wanted to make that point.

MVRemix: Do you think that has to do with being an underground emcee? Because if youre not rapping about killing people, and your underground, then your labeled as conscious.

Asheru: Right, but its all make believe, because I would say 90 percent of them dudes ain't never killed nobody. So what is that? What do we call that? Why is it acceptable, and nobody questions it?

MVRemix: What do you think about race relations in Hip Hop? Because a lot of people stereotype underground emcees as having a completely white fan base, and some people look down upon that.

Asheru: I think if it wasn't for Hip Hop, that a lot of these races wouldn't be coming together. I think its 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. And I wasn't able to really put all of that together until I traveled overseas and see people of different nationalities and races who were digging my shit. Once I saw that, then I realized that Hip Hop is bigger than what we think it is. Its bigger than New York, L.A., or down South. Its a worldwide phenomenon, and people need to realize that. And just because your fan base maybe white, it doesn't make you less of an artist, or any less credible. However, I do think for an artist, it could be frustrating in a way, when you dont see your people supporting your stuff. But unfortunately, our people don't really have any value for certain types of artists like myself. To be honest, they have a value for shit that is detrimental and socially has no value. That fantasy/make believe shit is what is appealing to people. Being an honest artist and speaking truthfully about yourself is a rare thing that should be applauded in Hip Hop though.

MVRemix: I was reading that you are a teacher, is that true?

Asheru: Yeah, I'm actually a high school director in north west D.C..

MVRemix: What are you responsible for as a director?

Asheru: I'm the director of transition, so I basically help kids transition from high school to adult living. Whether that be college, trade school, or just finding an apartment and a job. I basically help them do what they are going to do once they leave high school. My school is mostly special ed, emotionally disturbed or disable individuals, so its little harder for these students, since some are academically deficient. So I have to find a creative way to help them find what they want to do when they graduate. Big Rock, who is also a member of Unspoken Heard, is the program director, so he is basically the principle of the school. And I run the transition, so we both run the high school here in D.C..

MVRemix: That seems like a lot of pressure to deal with. Is your job something that you emotionally end up taking home with you every night?

Asheru: Yeah, man. Being an educator is a 24 hour a day job, and I don't think people realize that. Because my kids have my cell phone number, and they call me on weekends, or late nights, because they need me to pick them up, or because they got caught up in some shit. Whatever it is, I'm there. I have been teaching for eight years, so I have been doing this for as long as I have been putting out records. I have just been fortunate to do both the way I have been doing it. But there is definitely a lot of pressure, and you always have to be mindful of what you say and how you come across. You have to be honest with the students, and let them know what's good. I have kids who come into school high, they are getting into fights in the streets, some have charges and they have to go to court, they have parole officers, they have to take urine tests - so they have real life problems, and they are only 16 or 17 years old! So I have to approach that in a way that I understand what they are going through. But at the same time, I'm trying to help them, so I keep it real with my kids. If they are fucking up, I tell them. If they are doing right, then I tell them. So its a big deal because we are raising kids, and these kids are the future. I look at it as a serious deal for me, and its as serious as being an emcee. So its an all consuming thing, and thats why its been taking me so long with this music. But I guess if I only did music 24/7, I would be a lot more productive and have a lot more stuff out. But right now, I do what I can with the time I have. So I try to do both to the best of my abilities.

MVRemix: Do these kids know you're an emcee as well?

Asheru: Yeah, I have had some kids come to my shows a couple times. You have to think about it, if I'm performing with their favorite rapper, then they are looking at it like, "Damn, you got a show with Ludacris tonight!" I'm opening for Luda, and were on the phone organize the show, and the kids can't believe it. So I get a lot of feedback from the kids, and they appreciate what I am doing. Plus, they know the path I'm taking with this music is the road less traveled. They know its not the most popular, but they know its me. So they appreciate it because they know me as a person.

>> continued...

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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 its 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."