Hip-Hop Artists, Scholars & Celebrities

Hip-Hop Speakers Bureau

Find Hip-Hop Speakers

Find Hip-Hop Speakers

Hip-Hop Artists, Scholars & Celebrities

Aaron McGruder

Aaron McGruder

American Cartoonist, Creator of The Boondocks View Details
Afeni Shakur-Davis

Afeni Shakur-Davis

Hip-Hop Activist & Mother of Tupac Shakur View Details
AJ Calloway

AJ Calloway

Hip-Hop TV Personality View Details
Al Letson

Al Letson

Hip-Hop Playwright, Performance Poet, Actor and Public Radio Host View Details
Amanda

Amanda "Diva" Seales

Hip-Hop Comedian, Spoken Word Poet, Artist, Host & DJ View Details
Amy DuBois Barnett

Amy DuBois Barnett

Editor-in-Chief of Ebony Magazine View Details
Bakari Kitwana

Bakari Kitwana

Hip Hop Author & Black Youth Culture Expert View Details
Bassey Ikpi

Bassey Ikpi

Poet / Author View Details
Black Ice

Black Ice

Hip-Hop Artist, Emcee & Poet View Details
Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman

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Bruce George

Bruce George

Hip-Hop Poet & Activist View Details
Cheryl

Cheryl "Salt" James-Wray

Rapper, Salt-N-Pepa View Details
Chuck D

Chuck D

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Common

Common

Grammy Award-Winning Artist, Actor & Author View Details
Coolio

Coolio

Rapper & Music Icon View Details
Christopher Emdin

Christopher Emdin

Hip-Hop Author & Professor of Science Education View Details
Conrad Tillard

Conrad Tillard

Preacher & Hip-Hop Generation Leader View Details
David Banner

David Banner

Hip-Hop Artist View Details
DJ Drama

DJ Drama

America's Top Hip-Hop DJ View Details
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Hip-Hop Minister, Scholar, Public Intellectual, Professor & Author of Several Best-Selling Books on Music, Politics & Black Culture View Details
Dr. Mark Lamont Hill

Dr. Mark Lamont Hill

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Dr. James Peterson

Dr. James Peterson

Hip-Hop Scholar & Public Intellectual View Details
Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins

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Ebony Utley

Ebony Utley

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Giles Li

Giles Li

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Harry Allen

Harry Allen

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Hill Harper

Hill Harper

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James Spooner

James Spooner

Hip-Hop Film Director View Details
Ice-T

Ice-T

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Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang

Hip-Hop Journalist & Music Critic View Details
Jessica Care Moore

Jessica Care Moore

Internationally Renowned Hip-Hop Poet, Playwright, Performance Artist & Producer View Details
Joseph

Joseph "Reverend Run" Simmons

Minister & Hip-Hop Icon View Details
Justin Bua

Justin Bua

Award-Winning Hip-Hop Artist, Author, Speaker & Entrepreneur View Details
Keith Ellison

Keith Ellison

U.S. Congressman View Details
Kevin Liles

Kevin Liles

Hip-Hop Author, Philanthropist, Motivational Speaker & Consultant View Details
Kevin Powell

Kevin Powell

Hip-Hop Activist, Writer & Public Speaker View Details
KRS One

KRS One

Hip-Hop Master Teacher View Details
Leota Blacknor

Leota Blacknor

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Lil Kim

Lil Kim

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Lisa Cortes

Lisa Cortes

Hip-Hop Film & Music Producer View Details
LL Cool J

LL Cool J

Hip-Hop Legend View Details
Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco

Hip-Hop Artist, Emcee, DJ, Record Producer & Entrepreneur View Details
Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige

Queen of Hip-Hop Soul View Details
Mark Anthony Neal

Mark Anthony Neal

Hip-Hop Author & Professor of Black Popular Culture View Details
Michael Ellison

Michael Ellison

Hip-Hop Musician, Actor & Activist View Details
Murray Foreman

Murray Foreman

Hip-Hop Author & Professor of Communications View Details
Mylessa Ford

Mylessa Ford

Star of Blood, Sweat & Heels, HIV/AIDS Awareness & Prevention Advocate View Details
Nas

Nas

Hip-Hop Legend, Rapper, Songwriter & Actor View Details
Black Thought

Black Thought

Hip-Hop Artist and Lead Emcee of the World Famous The Roots View Details
Will Power

Will Power

Hip-Hop Playwright and Performer View Details
Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean

Hip-Hop Recording Artist, Musician, Politician, Actor & Activist View Details
Vanessa

Vanessa "the Hebrew Mamita" Hidary

Hip-Hop Actress, Poet & Playwright View Details
Aaron McGruder

Aaron McGruder

American Cartoonist, Creator of The Boondocks

Aaron McGruder (born May 29, 1974) is an American cartoonist best known for writing and drawing The Boondocks, a Universal Press Syndicate comic strip about two young African-American brothers from inner-city Chicago now living with their grandfather in a sedate suburb, as well as being the creator and executive producer of The Boondocks television series based on his strip. Through the exceptionally intelligent Huey (named after Huey P. Newton) and his younger brother and wannabe gangsta Riley, the strip explores issues involving African-American culture and American politics.

A combination of childhood antics, contemporary political-social satire and a young man’s love of hip-hop, Aaron McGruder’s groundbreaking comic strip, The Boondocks, has turned into a national, thought-provoking hit in both print and on television, challenging minds and attitudes with a searing satirical bent.

As a series on Cartoon Network, The Boondocks continues to entice, engage, and enrage with its racially-charged and edgy commentary on the way the world is today. When McGruder started crafting the original comic strip ten years ago, he just wanted to improve the state of racial discourse and expand the humor on newspaper comic pages. Now a cultural phenomena, The Boondocks thrives on McGruder’s unapologetically political, socially confrontational, and entertaining viewpoint.

The Boondocks has been published as anthologies in Public Enemy #2 and A Right to be Hostile, and McGruder has co-authored the graphic novel, Birth of a Nation. Pulling no punches, he skewers any and all politicians, leaders, and social targets with equal parts honesty and scathing commentary. As one of the youngest, freshest, and sharpest humorists today, he tackles the prickly issues with his outspoken and subversively funny perspective.

Afeni Shakur-Davis

Afeni Shakur-Davis

Hip-Hop Activist & Mother of Tupac Shakur

Afeni Shakur, the former revolutionary, activist, Black Panther, and mother of rap superstar Tupac Shakur, took on the duty of finishing the work her son was unable to complete after a bullet took his life in 1996. She is currently working to make his dreams a reality as founder and CEO of Amaru Entertainment, Inc., a record and film production company, and creator of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, Inc.

For Amaru Entertainment’s first project as a record company, Afeni put together the first posthumous album release, R U Still Down? (Remember Me), a double CD of 24 songs selected from the over 150 unreleased works Tupac had recorded. The triple platinum album sold over half a million copies and hit number five on the national pop charts in its first week of sales, a first-effort feat Shakur describes as “stunning.” Subsequent to that release, Shakur has released six additional albums containing the unreleased music of her son, all of which were executive produced by Shakur.

In addition to releasing the previously unreleased music of her son, Shakur published The Rose That Grew from Concrete, a posthumous collection of Tupac’s poetry, and a spoken-word version of the book by the same name. In 2000, she partnered with MTV Films to present the first and only feature documentary about Tupac Shakur, entitled Tupac: Resurrection, which was released in 2003 to great acclaim.

Shakur’s life story is now the subject of a brutally honest and fascinating biography by Jasmine Guy, entitled Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary. She was introduced to the Nation of Islam and the teachings of Malcolm X, and even though she never joined the Nation, she did become involved with the Black Panthers.

AJ Calloway

AJ Calloway

Hip-Hop TV Personality

AJ Calloway, always knew he was destined to be in the entertainment business. While still in high school, he started producing and promoting parties, fashions shows, and fundraisers. Upon entering Howard University, he parlayed his experience into a business, launching a promotion company responsible for some of Howard University’s most memorable homecoming events. Calloway continued his marketing and promotions career after college, and moved on to New York City to master his skills. This allowed him to create some of the city’s hottest and most widely acclaimed special events.

It was in New York City that the BET network found Calloway thanks to a social introduction by the infamous independent record retailer George Daniels. It seemed like destiny when BET asked him to audition for the role of co-host on their new video countdown show. In 2000, he landed his dream job — hosting 106 & Park BET’s Top Ten Live, the show that tapped into the teenage hip-hop and R&B audience with a mixed format with celebrity guests, live performances, and the viewer’s selection of the hottest videos. It was BET’s most popular show and earned the network outstanding ratings, becoming the #1 rated video-countdown show in America, knocking TRL out of that position. The show’s success was due in part to Calloway’s interviewing technique, charisma, style, and down-to-earth personality. After working at BET for five years, Calloway knew it was time for a change, so in 2005 he said his heartfelt goodbye to the 106 & Park audience.

The executives at Telepictures recognized Calloway’s talent and proven success on television and offered him the position of correspondent on the popular entertainment news show Extra. Calloway is now once again interviewing some of the most popular performers in the entertainment industry.

On the big screen, Calloway had a cameo appearance in the film Drumline. He also created, produced, and starred in his own sitcom pilot for UPN, The Show with AJ Calloway. The pilot gave him the chance to act alongside TV veterans Justine Bateman, Kim Coles, and Kel Mitchell.

Calloway believes in giving back to the community and accepts speaking engagements to talk to young adults about the importance of striving for academic excellence, pursuing entrepreneurship, and responsibly avoiding the negative effects of drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex. He is also currently serving as a guest professor at Howard University in Washington, DC, where he majored in international business. He is co-instructor of a graduate course, “Hip-Hop Culture and Its Relation to Public History,” the university’s first course of this kind.

AJ Calloway also owns and operates Calloway Entertainment Group, a management, promotion, and event-planning company based in New York.

Al Letson

Al Letson

Hip-Hop Playwright, Performance Poet, Actor and Public Radio Host

Soul-stirring, multi-genre creativity has garnered Al Letson national recognition, critical acclaim and devoted fans. Early in his career, Letson established himself as a heavyweight in the poetry slam movement, reaping artistic credibility and becoming renowned for his dynamic works. He has performed on a number of national, regional and local stages, including such venues as HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and CBS’s 2004 Final Four Pregame Show.

Letson was one of three finalists out of more than 1,500 applicants to win the 2008 Public Radio Talent Quest. The Talent Quest is an effort by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to find new voices and innovative programming to launch nationally on public radio. Letson’s program State of the Re:Union launched this past February on NPR, with a robust multimedia campaign that coincided with Black History Month. State of the Re:Union travels to an American city or town to discover the interesting things that people are doing to create a community atmosphere and transcend their circumstances, while placing focus on the vital cultural narratives.

Along with his radio show, Letson works as a professional playwright, and actor. Drawing on his background as a performance poet, he seamlessly weaves spoken word into the fabric of his theatre work. His solo play, Summer in Sanctuary, will be produced Off Broadway by The Abingdon Theatre Company at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre. The Baltimore Sun has stated, “Letson is a powerful performer who tells his story by moving fluidly from one role to the next.”

While his many interests are diverse, the common theme in Letson’s work is his effort to bring people together. By examining difficult topics and influential historical themes, he strives to focus on our common humanity and always presents with consummate artistry.

Amanda

Amanda "Diva" Seales

Hip-Hop Comedian, Spoken Word Poet, Artist, Host & DJ

A finder of the funny and commentator on all things worth and not worth talking about, Amanda “Diva” Seales has earned her credibility as a culture critic! Seales is a multi-faceted artist who got her start as a young actress on Nickelodeon’s My Brother and Me and went on to perform on the spoken word poetry scene before being chosen to appear on Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam in 2002 and 2005.

By combining her experience in the entertainment industry (MTV, VH1, Def Poetry Jam, Sirius Satellite Radio) with her academic background (master’s in African American studies at Columbia University), Seales has made a name for herself as a respected voice on hip-hop and pop culture, women’s issues, and the Black Diaspora. Her uncanny ability to seamlessly blend humor and intellect landed her on VH1′s Best Week Ever and numerous specials; kept her radio show, “Breakfast at Diva’s,” on Sirius Satellite radio for five years; made her original web series SealesSpeakTV an Internet sensation; and made her a favorite speaker within the circuit.

A music buff, Seales has a love affair with the industry that grew as she became a recording artist herself. She released numerous EP’s and went on to tour and work with greats like Q-tip, The Roots, Lupe Fiasco, and others. Her focus, however, remains on the screen. She serves as a comedy commentator and music expert on VH1; the host and creator of Diva Speak TV, a humor-based news/sketch comedy web show; host of Speaking Of… on Music Choice; host and creator of The Spark on AOL’s BlackVoices.com; and star of the reality Web show Technicolor Lover on Dame Dash’s CreativeControl.tv.

A unique brand of speaker, the focus of her work lies in building a bridge of discourse between herself and her audience. By restructuring the typical speaking format of the talking head and encouraging a forum for discussion, she urges her audiences to not only take in her information but also to provide, amongst themselves, examples and ideas for cultural/social solutions and character strengthening.

Whether she is speaking to a room full of women on how to be a “SupaWoman” through mental, physical, and emotional independence, a room of elders on how to connect to the younger generation to work together for a better future, or a room of college students on ways to preserve the hip-hop culture many feel is slowly dying, Seales combines her gifts of performance, comedy, and compassion, working to engage her audiences and leave them thinking on new levels.

Articulate, grounded, experienced, and fearless, Amanda “Diva” Seales serves as a representative of the voices of the Internet and hip-hop generation, and as a leader working tirelessly to raise the bar of intellect, self-respect, and integrity amongst them and the rest of the world.

Amy DuBois Barnett

Amy DuBois Barnett

Editor-in-Chief of Ebony Magazine

An award-winning media executive and brand architect, Amy DuBois Barnett is of one of our nation’s premier curators of American popular culture. Her vision has shaped the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Essence, Teen People, Honey magazine, and Ebony – the oldest and largest black magazine in the country where she is currently editor-in-chief. At Ebony, Barnett executed the publication’s first top-to-bottom redesign in its 66-year history to critical acclaim. She also introduced key new editorial franchises, such as the Ebony Beauty Awards and the “Black Wealth” and “50 Finest” issues, as well as groundbreaking editorial packages, such as “Multiracial in America,” “Can We Save Detroit,” “Black Men in America,” and “Election 2012.”

Under her leadership, Ebony grew its base by 11 percent in 2011, was listed as one of Ad Age’s 25 fastest growing magazines in the country based on circulation, and won a record-breaking eight Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists in 2012. Ad Age also listed Ebony as a “2012 magazine brand to watch” and MinOnline listed Ebony as one of the top five advertising gainers in the industry for its June 2012 issue. Barnett was named the “2012 media executive of the year” by Target Market News.

Barnett has appeared weekly as an on-air correspondent for CNN’s American Morning and has been featured on many national television shows including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, Nightline, and on various programs on VH1, MTV, and BET.

For her pioneering work as a journalist, style expert, and writer, Barnett received the Trailblazer Award from the New York Association of Black Journalists, an Aldo Award for fashion journalism from the Fashion Association, and a Hurston/Wright Award for creative writing. She is on the board of the American Society of Magazine Editors and is a member of the Fashion Committee of the School of the Arts Institute in Chicago.

From race relations and female empowerment to business leadership and branding, Amy DuBois Barnett speaks on a wide range of pertinent topics perfectly suited to college and corporate events.

Bakari Kitwana

Bakari Kitwana

Hip Hop Author & Black Youth Culture Expert

The former executive editor of The Source, the magazine of hip-hop music, culture and politics, Bakari Kitwana has edited hundreds of articles on hip-hop and youth culture. He has been acknowledged as an expert on youth culture, hip-hop politics, and activism by The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Salon.com, USA Today, CNN, The O’Reilly Factor and numerous other leading publications and news outlets.

In addition to the column “Do the Knowledge,” which he writes for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, his writings have appeared in The Source, Savoy, the Village Voice, the Progressive, BET.com and more. Kitwana has the ability to enlighten not only through writing, but also through his incredible presentation skills. He has lectured on hip-hop at Harvard University, Columbia University, Vassar College, Hamilton College, and the University of Rochester, as well as many other colleges and universities across the country.

Kitwana authored The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture, The Rap on Gangsta Rap, and the recent Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has hired Kitwana to be a hip-hop consultant, which he does in addition to teaching a course in the political science department at Kent State University called, “The Politics of The Hip-Hop Generation.”

Bassey Ikpi

Bassey Ikpi

Poet / Author

A Nigerian-born poet and writer, Bassey Ikpi has appeared on HBO’s Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry five times and her poetry has opened shows for Grammy Award-winning artists. Ikpi appeared at the NAACP Image Awards as part of a tribute to Venus and Serena Williams, and has been a featured cast member of the National Touring Company of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show, “Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam.”

Ikpi was a part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. In the summer of 2009, she was a featured performer for Johannesburg, South Africa’s annual arts festival, Joburg Arts Alive. She has graced the pages of magazines such as Nylon, Marie Claire, Glamour, and Bust, and recorded an original poem for the Kaiser Foundation’s HIV/AIDS campaign, Knowing Is Beautiful.

Ikpi’s personal and heartfelt work has made her a much sought after performer. She is currently working on various screenplays and is a freelance writer for social media outlets. Her first published collection of poetry and prose is entitled Blame My Teflon Heart: Poetry, Prose and Post-Its for Boys Who Didn’t Write Back.

Black Ice

Black Ice

Hip-Hop Artist, Emcee & Poet

Hip-hop poet Black Ice began spreading his words of revolution back in 1993 when he was known as Lamar Manson. A captivating performer with a pro-family, anti-establishment message, Black Ice worked Philadelphia’s coffeehouse and poetry slam circuit hard, earning himself a loyal local following along the way.

It wouldn’t be long before he was taking his performances on the road. At a gig in New York City, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons caught his act and the poet’s quest for nationwide recognition kicked into overdrive. Black Ice went on to appear on five consecutive seasons of the Simmons-produced Def Poetry Jam on HBO, which led to a starring role in the Tony Award-winning “Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.”

It was 2004 when he made his breakthrough into hip-hop, appearing on both Method Man’s Tical 0: The Prequel and Pete Rock’s Soul Survivor II. In 2006, he would team with producer Eric “Booty” Greene and release his debut album, The Death of Willie Lynch, on the Koch label. That same summer, he opened for R&B superstar Mary J. Blige on her world tour.

Black Ice continues to tour venues across the country for performances and speaking engagements and is currently working on his sophomore album project.

Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman

Bruce George

Bruce George

Hip-Hop Poet & Activist

Bruce George is a visionary, executive producer, writer, poet and activist. He has written poetry, prose and articles for over 37 years and his work has been published in major magazines, anthologies, and literary publications.

George has his own online social network Ning: The People Power Network, a grassroots platform. He has joint-ventured with Harold Whaley, the COO of Mongram Virtua, and Terry Cyrus of OutSpoken Media as Virtual Consultants within Second Life, which is an entire virtual world.

Since 2007, George has been involved with numerous business ventures. He is one of the founders of an anti-violence/poverty initiative entitled “The American Experiment Peace Project” and is the Executive Consultant of Gumbo for the Soul Publications. George is also the Executive Consultant/VP of Business Development of the International Hip-Hop Speakers Bureau.

In 2006, George joined the Host Committee of Kevin Powell’s 6th Annual Holiday Party Clothing Drive to benefit the homeless at The Safe Horizon Street Work Project. He also became the Executive Consultant for Audible, Inc., creating and providing podcasting content of celebrities.

George has won multiple poetry contests, talent contests, and awards such as a Peabody Award for Russell Simmons Presents, Def Poetry, a Miky Award for Russell Simmons Presents, Def Poetry Jam, an Upscale Showcase Award, and a Trail Blazer Award for his outstanding vision, production, writing and performance.

George is the Founder/Executive Consultant of Ebony Energy Talent Network featuring major talent such as Paul Mooney, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Amiri Baraka, The Last Poets, Malik Yoba, Dawn Robinson etc. He is also co-founder of the critically acclaimed, award-winning Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam and the founder and Managing Editor of The Bandana Republic, an Anthology of Poetry & Prose by Gang Members & Their Affiliates.

George is the founder and executive producer of a spoken word documentary entitled: Bone Bristle, A Spoken Word Documentary that features critically acclaimed writers, poets & spoken word artists.

Cheryl

Cheryl "Salt" James-Wray

Rapper, Salt-N-Pepa

She entered our lives as “Salt,” a member of internationally acclaimed female hip-hop and pop group Salt-N-Pepa. From entertaining kings and queens and standing before the great Frank Sinatra to creating a worldwide AIDS awareness campaign, Cheryl “Salt” James-Wray has made an undeniable impact on our culture.

Growing up in the boroughs of New York City, James-Wray lived among individuals such as LL Cool J, Spike Lee, Kid-N-Play, and Martin Lawrence, all of whom have become some of the most influential players in entertainment today. Her own beginnings took root in a school music project, which, unbeknownst to her at the time, would land her a spot in the most successful female hip-hop group of all time.

For over ten years, Salt-N-Pepa followed in the footsteps of greatness. Their mass appeal and dedication allowed them to share the stage and collaborate with artists such as Queen Latifah, Sheryl Crow, En Vogue, and many more. Although most of their songs were party and love anthems, their commitment to the issues facing society always stood out in their music. Even after winning a Grammy, three MTV Music and Video Awards, and the Lady of Soul Honors – and showing sales of over 15 million records worldwide – James-Wray still believes that the best is yet to come.

In 1997, she recorded “Stomp” with contemporary Gospel sensation Kirk Franklin and God’s Property. This non-traditional, out-of-the-box sound crossed over into every radio station and mixed tape, and even played in most nightclubs around the world. After witnessing this phenomenon, James-Wray’s vision for the next stop on her journey became clearer.

In 2007, James-Wray became painfully aware that she needed to mend fences with her partner in rhyme, Sandra Denton, aka Pepa. The two old friends came together and decided to do a reality show. The Salt-N-Pepa Show aired on Vh1 and served as an opportunity for them to explain to their fans the reason for their sudden disappearance. The show allowed them to explore and heal old wounds and gain some perspective on the issues plaguing their friendship.

Taking a brief respite from the industry, she decided to take some time for introspection. After dedicating the past ten years to strengthening her faith in God, sharing life with her family, building her businesses, empowering youth, and being active in her community, today she considers herself “much wiser now… happier.” She has also spoken around the globe at universities, churches, youth rallies, and women’s organizations.

Chuck D

Chuck D

Common

Common

Grammy Award-Winning Artist, Actor & Author

In 2006, the Grammy Award-winning artist Common made his big screen debut as a musical performer in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. In January 2007, he made his acting debut co-starring opposite Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Alicia Keys, and Ryan Reynolds in Smokin’ Aces for Universal Pictures. Since then he’s co-starred opposite Denzel Washington in American Gangster, directed by Ridley Scott; in David Ayer’s Street Kings, starring Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker; in Wanted, opposite Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, and Morgan Freeman; and in Terminator Salvation, directed by McG and starring Christian Bale. His latest movie, out April 2010, is Date Night, which stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey and is directed by Shawn Levy. Common wrapped his first lead role in Just Wright, starring opposite Queen Latifah for FOX Searchlight.

Prior to acting, Common rose to prominence as one of hip-hop’s most poetic and respected lyricists having recorded over seven albums: Can I Borrow a Dollar?, Resurrection, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Like Water For Chocolate, Electric Circus, BE, and Finding Forever. To produce both BE and Finding Forever, he joined forces with Chicago native and rap music mega-star Kanye West. This dynamic partnership resulted in four Grammy Award nominations in addition to two MTV Video Music Awards nominations, including one for Best Hip Hop Video.

Nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Rap Album, Universal Mind Control is a powerful testament to Common’s fearlessness. Inspired by the 24-hour party scenes of Prague and Barcelona, the MC teamed up with The Neptunes and OutKast affiliate Mr. DJ to create a body rockin’ blend of hardcore hip-hop, retro electro, sinister funk, and sticky-sweet soul. “With Universal Mind Control, I’m commanding people to dance and get loose. The subject matter I address isn’t as serious. These are some of the most spontaneous, fun songs I’ve ever done.” Universal Mind Control reflects Common’s newfound goal to create a body of work that represents the future of hip-hop. Highlights include the Afrika Bambaataa-inspired, Neptunes-produced title track which was featured on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

“I’ve always been passionate about what I do, whether it’s rapping, acting, writing, break dancing, or whatever it is,” says Common. “I put my heart into Universal Mind Control, and I think it’ll reach audiences I’ve never touched before. This music has a progressive, international spirit to it, but it’s still very much hip-hop. It’ll take you to a new place, but it’s still Common.” He is currently in the studio working on his next album, The Believer, due out in 2011.

In 2007 he launched the Common Ground Foundation, dedicated to empowering urban youth to realize their full potential. In 2009, Common was able to motivate and empower collegiate minds across the country, speaking at such prestigious institutions as California University of Pennsylvania, University of Memphis, Wright State University, University of Rochester, and KIPP Charter Schools.

Common also offers a younger generation a better understanding of self respect and love, utilizing the cultural relevance of hip-hop, in the children’s books he has written. The first one, entitled The MIRROR and ME, teaches lessons of life, the human spirit, and human nature. His follow-up book, I Like You But I Love Me, was recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and his third book, M.E. (Mixed Emotions), was released in 2008. His next book, Someday It’ll All Make Sense, a memoir about life and growing up, is due for publication in September 2011.

In addition to his music, film, and literary pursuits, Common is also the face of the Diesel men’s fragrance Only the Brave. He also partnered with Microsoft on their Softwear clothing line, as well as other companies like Microsoft Zune, Lincoln Navigator, and AMP Energy Drink. In 2007, he launched his Italian hat line SOJI.

Coolio

Coolio

Rapper & Music Icon

Coolio began rapping from a young age and performed in many local Los Angeles rap contests as a youth. He recorded two singles in the late 80s, titled “Watcha Gonna Do” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me”. Neither single was successful, but Coolio had made connections in the Los Angeles rap scene, and ended up joining the group WC and the Maad Circle in 1991.

Three years later, Coolio signed to Tommy Boy Records and released his debut solo album, It Takes a Thief. The album contained the single “Fantastic Voyage,” which became Coolio’s breakout song. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the biggest rap singles of the year. Overall, the album was very successful, peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 200 and being certified Platinum. The album received praise for bringing a humorous and lighthearted perspective to often violent and profane themes of typical gangsta rap.

After the success of his debut, Coolio became a legitimate rap star. In 1995, he orchestrated the song “Gangsta’s Paradise” for the movie Dangerous Minds. “Gangsta’s Paradise”, which featured R&B singer L.V., would become one of the most successful rap songs of all time, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. It was the #1 single of 1995 for all genres, and was truly a global hit, reaching #1 in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. The song also created some controversy when Coolio claimed that parody artist Weird Al Yankovic had not asked for permission to make his parody of “Gangsta’s Paradise”, titled “Amish Paradise”

After the massive success of the Gangsta’s Paradise album, Coolio had a tough job to make a proper follow up. In 1996, he had another top 40 hit with the song “It’s All the Way Live (Now)” from the Eddie soundtrack. He was also featured on the song “Hit ‘em High” from the soundtrack to the hit movie Space Jam with B-Real, Method Man, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes. Then, his third solo album, titled My Soul, came out in 1997. Although it did contain the major hit “C U When U Get There”, the album was considered a disappointment. Subsequently, Coolio was dropped from Tommy Boy Records.

While he was not signed to a label during the late 90s, the rapper continued moving forward, pursuing his other passions. Coolio dabbled in the world of acting, where he landed a series of roles on shows such as The Bill, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and The Nanny. In the early 2000s, Coolio was featured with his family in the Oxygen cable television network’s reality show Coolio’s Rules. The program followed Coolio as he tried to raise a family, start a new catering business, and date. Along with television appearances, he was part of the television horror film Pterodactyl as a military officer. Additionally, Coolio appeared in the director’s cut version of Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, where he played a kindhearted man who was accused of murder.

Rapping and acting allowed Coolio to express his artistic side, but in the late 2000s, he decided to show his not so well known domestic side. He hosted an online cooking show along with jazz recording artist “Jarez,” called Cookin’ with Coolio, for the website and network My Damn Channel. A companion cookbook was then published, named Cookin’ with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price, published by Simon and Schuster. Coolio’s wide range of experiences and talents are sure to inspire audiences to follow their dreams. His perspective on rap, empowering youth, and other current events is both unique and relevant to today’s urban discussions.

Christopher Emdin

Christopher Emdin

Hip-Hop Author & Professor of Science Education

Christopher Emdin is a social critic, public intellectual, and science advocate whose commentary on issues of race, culture, inequality, and education have appeared in dozens of influential periodicals, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, and Atlanta Journal Constitution.

He is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he also serves as director of Secondary School Initiatives at the Urban Science Education Center.

Dr. Emdin is an expert on improving urban education, the intersection of hip-hop and education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, politics, race, class, diversity, and youth empowerment. He is also an advisor to numerous international organizations, school districts, and schools where he delivers speeches and holds workshops/professional development sessions for students, teachers, policy makers, and other education stakeholders within the public and private sector.

Dr. Emdin writes the provocative “Emdin 5″ series on a number of contemporary social issues for The Huffington Post and draws on his extensive experience as a former physics and chemistry teacher, school administrator, and urban education researcher to write about topics that range from school bullying and student protests to parental involvement and the political landscape of urban America. He is the author of the recently released, award-winning book Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation.

Christopher Emdin holds a PhD in urban education with a concentration in mathematics, science, and technology; master’s degrees in both natural sciences and education administration; and bachelor’s degrees in physical anthropology, biology, and chemistry.

Conrad Tillard

Conrad Tillard

Preacher & Hip-Hop Generation Leader

Selected in 2009 as “Pastor of the Year” in Brooklyn, New York, by Church Women United and in 2005 and 2006 by Beliefnet.com as one of “The Most Influential Spiritual Black Leaders” in the United States, the Reverend Conrad B. Tillard is an important ecclesiastical voice growing in America. He has been a student activist, minister, and community activist for over 20 years.

Today he serves as the Senior Minister of Nazarene Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation in the Bedford Stuyvesant community in Brooklyn, New York.

One of the oldest African American congregations in the city of New York, Nazarene has a distinguished track record of service to the African American community nationally. The Reverend Jesse R. Moorland, a former minister and trustee of the church, donated his personal book collection to Howard University; the books helped to establish the world renowned Moorland-Spingarn Library at the University located in Washington, DC.

The Reverend Conrad Tillard was born September 15, 1964, in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a graduate of Francis L. Cardozo High School in Washington, DC, and earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, majoring in African American Studies. He has pursued graduate studies at both the Harvard Divinity School and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Reverend Tillard earned the Master of Divinity degree in systematic theology and Christian social ethics at the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, studying under the esteemed scholar Dr. James H. Cone, the father of Black Liberation Theology. Reverend Tillard is also a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, where he earned a Master of Theology in practical theology, with a concentration in congregational ministry.

Reverend Tillard is a Baptist and Congregationalist (UCC) minister, licensed and ordained at historic Abyssinian Baptist Church of the City of New York. He was trained and mentored in the Gospel ministry by the Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, Pastor of Abyssinian. He is affiliated with the United Missionary Baptist Association of New York, Empire Baptist Convention and the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., The American Baptist Churches USA and holds dual standing with the Metropolitan Association of the United Church of Christ New York Conference. Rev. Tillard is also a lifetime member of the NAACP, and active in the organizations Brooklyn branch.

Previously he served as the Project Director for New Yorkers for the Gulf Coast (NY4GC), an organization uniting leaders of the religious, business, and entertainment sectors together to continue to provide support to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The organization is Chaired by Dr. Calvin O. Butts III.

He is the former Interim Pastor of the 170-year-old Eliot Congregational Church of Roxbury, located in inner city Boston. Eliot Church is a vibrant United Church of Christ congregation, with expansive community service ministries.

Reverend Tillard started his career as a student activist, working as a National Student Coordinator in the historic 1984 presidential campaign of Reverend Jesse L. Jackson. In 1984 he joined the Nation of Islam and rose rapidly in that movement; he was appointed the National Youth Minister in 1989 and in 1991 he was installed as Presiding Minister of the organization’s legendary Mosque #7 in Harlem where he served for seven years.

In 1998 he resigned from that movement and started down the road that would reunite him with the Body of Christ. He enrolled at the Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was a class at Harvard on the teachings of the profound Baptist theologian Howard Thurman that gave him new insight into Jesus Christ, the Christian faith, and the mission of universal brotherhood, reconciliation, and love. In 2001 he returned to the church of his youth and walked down the aisle and joined Abyssinian Baptist Church.

In 1998 he founded A Movement for CHANGE, a youth organization credited with creating the thrust of hip-hop political activism that culminated in the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America. He has been both a mediator of hip-hop’s violent conflicts and spiritual mentor to troubled hip-hop personalities such as Sean “P-Diddy” Combs and Jamal “SHYNE” Barrow. He has been an outspoken critic of negativity in youth culture and the hip-hop industry.

Tillard has been featured nationally in such magazines and newspapers as Savoy, Vibe, Source, Esquire, XXL, Essence, Ebony, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Los Angeles Times. Recently, he was featured in Essence Books’ 50 of the Most Inspiring African-Americans, and in 1999, he was among leading African American men in another of Essence Books titled Essence in Celebration of Our Brothers.

He has hosted “New York Roundtable” and “Sunday Night Live,” daily and weekly radio talk shows, respectively, in New York City, on the African American-owned Inner-City Broadcasting Corporation.

Reverend Tillard is a regular guest host on the station’s GBE’s “Express Yourself” and “Politics Plus” programs.

In 2001 he co-wrote and hosted a one-hour television program, Culture Shock, for WPIX Channel 11 in New York City. The program, addressing the issue of negative imagery in the media in youth programming, won the 2001 National Council on Family Relations First Place Media Award and Platinum Best; in 2002 the program won the Show Award and the Aurora Award.

Reverend Tillard is currently working on his autobiography that will detail his ministry and spiritual journey through the African American religious experience. The Prodigal Son Imperative: In My Father’s House will be published in 2009.

The Reverend Conrad B. Tillard, the activist preacher, is committed to a life and ministry that can best be summed up in the phrase “unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian.”

David Banner

David Banner

Hip-Hop Artist

David Banner is one of the most underappreciated rappers to emerge from below the Mason-Dixon Line. Since his SRC/Universal debut Mississippi: The Album in 2003, many have been enthralled by Banner’s obvious dedication to lyrical craft, roaring tracks, and b-boy stance. Still, while past tracks—from the cranked “Like a Pimp” to the electro-bounce of “Play”—have helped build a loyal fan base, the release of The Greatest Story Ever Told finally launched this country boy to national fame.

Exposed to all kinds of music while growing up, Banner’s musical palette is never lacking. From the funky head nod of the Akon-produced first single “Speaker” to the dark path of “Suicide Doors” featuring UGK, to the textured grooves of “Cadillac on 22′s Part II,” Banner proves he can do it all.

In 1999, as a member of the Mississippi rhyme duo Crooked Lettaz, Banner became part of the dirty south revolution, releasing the critically lauded and criminally slept-on Tommy Boy Records debut Grey Skies. A year later, Them Firewater Boys Vol. 1, his introduction as a soloist, saw Banner blazing through the underground; both XXL and Murder Dog named it one of the best albums of the year. Soon the major labels were knocking on Banner’s door, sparking off a bidding war. When legendary music executive Steve Rifkind (Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Big Pun) signed the self-contained Banner and his b.i.G.f.a.c.e. Entertainment imprint to Rifkind’s SRC label, the music industry took notice.

His first single, “Speaker,” which features Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, and producer Akon, proved that Banner had concocted the perfect hip-hop banger. David Banner also made the transition from the studio to the screen, appearing in Black Snake Moan, This Christmas, and Days of Wrath.

A complex man who is both streetwise and book smart, Banner has carried many burdens over the last few years. From providing aid to Katrina victims (his foundation and concert Heal the Hood raised $500,000) to coping with the death of his father, his heart has been heavy. However, the brightness of Banner’s optimism blares brilliantly in the hypnotic “Get Like Me,” a track that features collaborations with Young Joc, Jim Jones, and Chris Brown.

Produced by the man himself, who has stirred massive pots of musical gumbo for T.I. (“Rubberband Man”) and Trick Daddy (“Thug Holiday”), Banner has constructed his most mackadelic track to date with “Get Like Me.”
Banner has also been busy perfecting his skills: “For me music is about honesty, pain and a willingness to cry as well as fight. As a rapper and producer, my goal is to unite with the audience, not trying to rein over them.” Coming straight out of Jackson, Mississippi, with a license to thrill, The Greatest Story Ever Told is a crowning achievement for a rapper whose moment of recognition has come.

Most recently, Banner has created the 2M1 Movement, a grassroots attempt to assert consumers’ control over the music, film, and media industry. By donating a minimum of $1 to the movement, fans receive his upcoming album, Sex, Drug & Video Games, as a free download and are entitled to download the official videos for each of the songs on the album. Additionally, $1 million of the donations will be used to finance the shooting of a movie he is writing, directing, and producing, which is due for release in 2013.

DJ Drama

DJ Drama

America's Top Hip-Hop DJ

Ask any southern rap fan to name the most prominent DJ in his region right now, and they will say, “DJ Drama.” Named by Rolling Stone Magazine as number one DJ in the Hip-Hop universe, his hits are certified platinum before hitting the stands. Introducing the rap world to platinum-selling Def Jam artist Young Jeezy and many other Hip-Hop sensations as well as exclusive pre-albums from Lil Wayne, Young Buck, Bun-B of UGK, Eightball & MJG and Project Pat with his Gangsta Grillz mix tape series, Drama has supplied stirring street soundtracks to every block, back alley and trap house like a pirate radio station on disc. The Gangsta Grillz series of mix tapes is the Cadillac of this decade’s demo tapes.

DJ Drama has performed at the 2006 MTV Awards, 2006 and 2007 BET Awards, and as the official DJ for the BET Hip-Hop Awards in 2006 and 2007. He has also made appearances on The OC, Jimmy Kimmel, TRL and Sucker Free, 106 & Park and Rap City, and in such movies as ATL and Stomp the Yard, and on the cover him of The Source Magazine, Billboard Magazine, and NY Times Magazine.

DJ Drama is currently battling with the controversial issue of the legality of the “mix tape,” a promotional, album-length CD that has long been favored by the promotional arms of hip-hop labels, but is also sometimes targeted by record labels’ legal departments.

At the end of 2007, the Atlanta-based mix tape messiah brought this street music to the mainstream with the release of his Grand Hustle/ Atlantic mix tape album Gangsta Grillz: The Album. Following the same formula that branded his trademark, the album flows with blended, mix tape transitions between songs and features many of the hottest names in rap music.

His controversial Gangsta Grillz mix tapes have not only awarded him felony charges, but Vibe Awards best mix tape series, Ozone Awards best mix tape DJ, Radio One Dirty Awards best DJ and best mix tape, and many more. He continues to make an impression on the youth of America not only through his music, but by staying active in the community; acting as the host for a youth leadership summit in Atlanta, the Saggy Pants Initiative in 2007, and as a panelist for a Rolling Out: Youth Leadership Initiative: Feeding Minds.

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

Hip-Hop Minister, Scholar, Public Intellectual, Professor & Author of Several Best-Selling Books on Music, Politics & Black Culture

Hailed as one of the nation’s most inspiring African Americans, Michael Eric Dyson has been credited with revitalizing the role of the public intellectual with the fervor of an ordained Baptist minister.

Infusing intellectual thought with popular culture, Dyson focuses on topics of interest to the public. He eloquently melds scholarly insight with the phenomena of contemporary culture, emphasizing their interconnectedness and force in shaping our society. Most recently, he can be heard doing just that on his hour-long radio show on NPR, “The Michael Eric Dyson Show.”

His books provide some of the most significant commentary on modern social and intellectual thought, interwoven with a combination of cultural criticism, race theory, religion, philosophical reflection, and gender studies. Works such as Making Malcolm X; I May Not Get There with You; Holler if You Hear Me; Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye; Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?; Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster; and the recent Can You Hear Me Now? The Inspiration, Wisdom, and Insight of Michael Eric Dyson, deeply probe social themes and cultural politics.

A popular University professor of sociology at Georgetown University, Michael Eric Dyson bridges gaps between generations, connecting civil rights identity to hip-hop culture while forging links between older and younger Americans, especially black Americans. As a cutting edge historian, he educates the general public on the significance of hip hop, not only in understanding black culture, but American cultural as well. With his powerful voice, Dyson reaches beyond race, addressing the universal commonality of American concern.

Dr. Mark Lamont Hill

Dr. Mark Lamont Hill

Dr. James Peterson

Dr. James Peterson

Hip-Hop Scholar & Public Intellectual

Dr. James Peterson is the Director of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University and a Media Contributor. A graduate of Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania, he is also the founder of Hip Hop Scholars, Inc., an association of hip hop generational scholars dedicated to researching and developing the cultural and educational potential of hip hop, urban, and youth cultures.

Whether composing interdisciplinary curricula or discussing the latest topic du jour as an increasingly important media presence, Dr. James Peterson reveals an acute understanding of both our contemporary American culture and the highly charged political climate with a progressive mindset.

An adamant proponent of educational reform, Dr. James Peterson is a strong advocate of integrating youth culture into classrooms as a way of transgressing the historically divergent borders between lived experiences and the formal educational system. He has trained teachers for the greater part of a decade, working with them to incorporate innovative methods for teaching students from all backgrounds, particularly from minority groups. Drawing from the four elements of hip hop culture — djing, mc-ing/rapping, breakdancing/bboying, and graffiti art – Dr. James Peterson conceived “The Fifth Element of Hip Hop” in which he argues that knowledge is an additional element.

Regularly appearing on Media as a contributor, Dr. James Peterson aptly utilizes his breadth of knowledge to tackle everything from politics to race relations, cultural debates about the greater social implication of entertainers like Beyonce, and the integration of non-traditional approaches to academics. Beyond offering his opinions through media appearances, academics, and blogging, Dr. James Peterson uses his variegated insights for crossing into the limelight of celebrity entertainment, interviewing the likes of Gil Scott Heron, Dr. Manning Marable, Sistah Souljah, Snoop Dogg, Dead Prez, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Nas, and Lupe Fiasco.

Often working in collaboration with others, Dr. James Peterson has ushered in fresh perspectives on continually evolving debates and applies his journalistic and ethnographic skill sets toward groundbreaking academic inquiry as both a voice of reason and a scholar. Much as his academic focus is derived from an interdisciplinary mindset, Dr. James Peterson projects the same flexible, hands-on approach in all his endeavors, inspiring positive change in the world around him.

Dr. James Peterson is currently working on his first academic book, focusing on mortality and commercial culture in the hip hop world.

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Ebony Utley

Ebony Utley

Free

Free

Giles Li

Giles Li

Harry Allen

Harry Allen

Hill Harper

Hill Harper

Hill Harper is an award-winning actor, best-selling author, and philanthropist. Harper starred on the CBS TV drama CSI: NY from 2004 to 2013. As of March 2013, he joined the USA Network spy drama Covert Affairs. Harper is the author of four New York Times bestsellers and he has earned seven NAACP Image Awards for his writing and acting. He is founder of the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, dedicated to empowering underserved youth through mentorship, scholarship, and grant programs.

Harper graduated magna cum laude as valedictorian of his department with a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and cum laude with a Juris Doctorate degree from Harvard Law School. He also holds a master’s degree with honors from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and has Honorary Doctoral Degrees from Winston-Salem State University, Cheyney University, Westfield State College, Tougaloo College, Dillard University and Howard University.

Harper travels frequently as a motivational speaker, addressing a wide range of audiences, including youth, adults, couples, and business leaders. And if all that wasn’t enough, this year People Magazine named him one of their Sexiest Men Alive.

James Spooner

James Spooner

Hip-Hop Film Director

James Spooner is the director of Afro-Punk, a documentary film exploring race identity in the punk scene. He produced his film mostly out of New York, having had no previous training in film (he’d studied sculpting in college). As a DIY effort, he rigorously toured the film across the country like a band, showing it as many venues as possible, and rapidly amassing a devoted cult following, largely among minority punks centralized around a message board on his website afropunk.com.

He also has another feature film called White Lies Black Sheep, which is more a fictional dramatization of the same concept. It premiered at Toronto international Film Fest and is on the festival circuit now.

He was born in the Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia, but grew up in America on both coasts with a black father and white mother. All his life he was part of the predominantly Eurocentric punk scene, but had always considered himself to be black, despite being the only biracial kid in his family and his siblings often referring to him as “their white brother”. After visiting his birthplace in the predominantly black St. Lucia for the first time since toddlerhood however, he began to reevaluate himself culturally. He’d always considered the islands his home, and had never considered the possibility of anyone seeing him as anything other than black, but he realized here for the first time, by some, he might be considered white.

He grew increasingly fascinated with the strange phenomenon of nobody (including himself and his friends) actually discussing race relations or exploring the mostly untold stories of the black experience in the punk scene, despite the plethora of accomplished black artists like Mick Collins, Fishbone, Vaginal Davis, and Bad Brains, and indeed punk rock’s origins as an offshoot of rock and roll itself and the pioneering work of innovators like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Jimi Hendrix.

Ice-T

Ice-T

Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang

Hip-Hop Journalist & Music Critic

Jeff Chang is an American journalist and music critic on hip hop music and culture. His 2005 book, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, which won the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award, chronicles the early hip hop scene. His writings have appeared in publications such as URB, The Bomb, San Francisco Chronicle, the Village Voice, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Vibe, Spin, The Nation, and Mother Jones. Jeff is currently the Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts + Committee on Black Performing Arts at Stanford University.

Chang is of Chinese and Hawaiian descent, and he is a 1985 graduate of Iolani School. He was a founding member of the Solesides record label while a DJ at a UC Davis college radio station, which was the home to acts like DJ Shadow and Blackalicious before it was recreated as Quannum Projects without Chang’s involvement.

Chang’s 2007 book, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, is an anthology of essays and interviews documenting the impact of hip hop beyond music and the “four elements”. According to its companion website, following the release of Total Chaos, Chang held a series of public panel discussions to further explore the subject.

Chang’s next book is entitled Who We Be: The Colorization of America, where he moves away from hip hop to focus on “the cultural implications of the new American majority” and “the social history, the cultural influence—and the massive selling—of multiculturalism in America over the last thirty years”.

Jessica Care Moore

Jessica Care Moore

Internationally Renowned Hip-Hop Poet, Playwright, Performance Artist & Producer

jessica Care moore is the CEO of Moore Black Press, Executive Producer of Black WOMEN Rock!, and founder of the literacy-driven, Jess Care Moore Foundation. An internationally renowned poet, playwright, performance artist and producer, she is the 2013 Alain Locke Award Recipient from the Detroit Institute of Arts. moore is the author of The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth, The Alphabet Verses The Ghetto, God is Not an American, Sunlight Through Bullet Holes, and a memoir, Love is Not The Enemy. Her poetry has been heard on stages like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the London Institute of Contemporary Arts. She has performed on every continent. jessica Care moore believes poems belong everywhere and to everyone.

Born in Detroit, jessica Care moore first came to national prominence when she won on the legendary “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” competition a record breaking five times in a row. Her searing performance of the poem “Black Statue of Liberty” earned moore several meetings with high profile publishing companies, but in 1997, she paved her own path and launched a publishing company of her own, Moore Black Press. She released her first book, The Words Don’t Fit In My Mouth, and sold more than 20,000 copies. Along with her own work, she proudly published famed poets such Saul Williams, Shariff Simmons, Def Poetry Jam’s co-founder Danny Simmons, NBA player Etan Thomas, Ras Baraka and former Essence Magazine editor Asha Bandele.

jessica Care moore’s work is not limited to her own publications. She has been published in several literary collections, including, 44 on 44, (Third World Press, 2011), A Different Image, (U of D Mercy Press, 2004), Abandon Automobile, (WSU Press, 2001), Listen Up! (Random House, 1999), Step Into A World, (Wiley Publishing, 2001), Role Call (Third World Press, 2002), Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Crown Publishing, 2001). She is the youngest poet published in the Prentice Hall Anthology of African American Women’s Literature, by Valerie Lee, alongside literary greats such as Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, Maya Angelou and many others.

jessica Care moore has graced the cover of The New York Times, The Metro Times, Michigan FrontPage, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, African Voices Magazine, Black Elegance Magazine, and has been featured in print and online magazines across the world, including, Essence,Huffington Post,Blaze, The Source, Vibe, Bomb, Mosaic, Savoy, One World, Upscale,Ambassador Magazine, UPTOWN and others. Her multimedia show, God is Not an American, was produced by The Apollo Theater and Time Warner’s NYC Parks Summer Concert Series. She was the host, writer and co-Executive Producer of the poetry driven television show, Spoken, which was executive produced by and directed by Robert Townsend and aired on The Black Family Channel. moore’s poetry is featured on Nas’ Nastradamusalbum, Talib Kweli’s Attack The Block Mix Tape, and she is a returning star of Russell Simmons’ HBO Series, “Def Poetry Jam.”

As an artist/activist, jessica Care moore lent her powerful voice to the international fight against AIDS. She performed for the United Nations World AIDS Day Commemoration two years in a row and was one of the organizers of Hip-Hop-A-Thon, a concert in San Francisco which helped increase AIDS education in the Black and Latino Bay-Area communities. moore has also performed in front of thousands of people during AIDS WALK Opening Ceremonies in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Florida and Atlanta.

jessica Care moore lives for the stage and her audience. Her techno solo theater performance, The Missing Project: Pieces of the D is an high energy homage to Detroit, and she continued to push the boundaries of the genre by producing her first conceptual art installation, NANOC: I Sing The Body Electric, which opened at the Dell Pryor Gallery in 2011. Her work is currently on exhibit at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City and the Charles H. Wright Museum through August 2014 for her Black WOMEN Rock! Exhibition. This musical focus has lead her to create her first album, Black Tea: The Legend of Jessi James.

Black Tea: The Legend of Jessi James is a highly personal and passionate piece of work. It is decades of jessica’s Care moore’s musicality shared with her audience in a way they have yet to see. There was already music in her poetry; she is now bringing it full circle. The album is produced by moore and pianist Jon Dixon. Features include Imani Uzuri, Roy Ayers, Talib Kweli, Jose James, One Belo and Ursula Rucker. It will be released fall 2014 by moore’s record company Words on Wax in partnership with Javotti Media.

jessica Care moore currently lives, writes and plays in downtown Detroit, where she is proud to be raising her 7-year old visual artist, baseball loving, drums and hockey playing son, King Moore.

Joseph

Joseph "Reverend Run" Simmons

Minister & Hip-Hop Icon

Joseph Lloyd Simmons (born November 14, 1964), known by the stage name Rev. Run or DJ Run, is one of the founding members of the influential hip hop group Run–D.M.C.. He is also a practicing minister, known as Reverend Run. Simmons was born in Hollis, Queens, New York. He is the brother of Daniel “Danny” Simmons, Jr. and Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Records.

Justin Bua

Justin Bua

Award-Winning Hip-Hop Artist, Author, Speaker & Entrepreneur

Justin BUA is an award-winning artist, author, speaker, and entrepreneur.

Groundbreaking in his field, BUA is internationally known for his best-selling collection of fine art posters—The DJ being one of the most popular prints of all time.

Born in 1968 in NYC’s untamed Upper West Side and raised between Manhattan and East Flatbush, Brooklyn, BUA was fascinated by the raw, visceral street life of the city. He attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts and complemented his education on the streets by writing graffiti and performing worldwide with breakdancing crews. BUA went on to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California where he earned a B.F.A. and taught figure drawing at the University of Southern California for ten years.

Starting in the world of commercial art, BUA designed and illustrated myriad projects, from skateboards and CD covers to advertising campaigns. He developed the look and feel of the opening sequence for MTV’s Lyricist Lounge Show, EA Sports video games NBA Street and NFL Street, and the world of Slum Village’s award winning music video “Tainted.”

BUA’s line of apparel and a limited edition shoe line with PF Flyers sold out completely. BUA went on to create his own animated series Urbania and was the host of the Ovation TV series American Revolutionaries, later directing his own Ovation documentary on the legendary DMC, entitled Walk This Way. In 2012, BUA accepted an NAACP Image Award and a Telly Award for his art direction in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s documentary film On the Shoulders of Giants.

As a longtime vegan and health-advocate, BUA recently created The BUA Bar, a raw, organic chocolate bar for people with “old-school tastes and new-school sensibilities.” The BUA Bar tastes so good, it should be bad!

In June 2013, BUA became the first artist to launch an online school with ArtistWorks, allowing beginning and advanced students around the world to study his curriculum and interact one-on-one through video exchange.

BUA Live takes BUA worldwide as he lends his art expertise, teaching skills, talent, and wild personality to TV, film, commercials, workshops, animation projects, and more.

BUA exhibits throughout the United States and internationally—including recent shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Pop International Gallery, New York. His energetic and vocal worldwide fan base ranges from former presidents, actors, musicians, professional athletes and dancers, to street kids and art connoisseurs.

Keith Ellison

Keith Ellison

U.S. Congressman

Congressman Keith Ellison represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Fifth District includes the City of Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs and is one of the most vibrant and ethnically diverse districts in Minnesota.

Rep. Ellison’s guiding philosophy is based on “generosity and inclusion” and his priorities in Congress are building prosperity for working families, promoting peace, pursuing environmental sustainability, and advancing civil and human rights.

Rep. Ellison’s commitment to consumer justice led him to write legislation that was included in the Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights of 2009. This law prevents an unfair practice called “universal default,” which allowed lenders to increase their customers’ interest rates if they had late payments with another lender. In response to the foreclosure crisis that began in 2008, Rep. Ellison also wrote the Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure Act, which requires banks and other new owners to provide at least 90 days’ notice of eviction to renters occupying foreclosed homes.

As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, the congressman helps oversee the nation’s financial services and housing industries, as well as Wall Street. He also serves on the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee, which decides committee assignments for Democratic Members and sets the Democratic Caucus’ policy agenda. In the past he served on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Rep. Ellison was elected co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus for the 113th Congress that promotes the progressive promise of fairness for all.

He is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, founded the Congressional Consumer Justice Caucus, and belongs to more than a dozen other caucuses that focus on issues ranging from social inclusion to environmental protection.

Before being elected to Congress Rep. Ellison was a noted community activist and ran a thriving civil rights, employment, and criminal defense law practice in Minneapolis. He also was elected to serve two terms in the Minnesota State House of Representatives.

Keith was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He has lived in Minnesota since earning his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990. Keith is the proud father of four children.

Kevin Liles

Kevin Liles

Hip-Hop Author, Philanthropist, Motivational Speaker & Consultant

Kevin Liles ascent from unpaid intern to president, author, philanthropist, motivational speaker and consultant to many entertainment and political boards began in 1991 when he became an unpaid intern for Def Jam in the Mid-Atlantic region. By 1993, he had become the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Manager and by 1998, after only seven years, Liles accepted the position of President of the Def Jam Music Group. During his tenure as President, Def Jam revenues doubled to $400 million. In addition to presiding over the label’s artist roster and day-to-day business at Def Jam, Liles oversaw the diversification of the Def Jam brand, including establishing Def Jam South, Def Soul, Def Soul Classics, Roc-A-Fella and Murder Inc. He also led the brand-extension efforts and cross marketing deals that linked Def Jam’s name to movies, television, DVDs, clothing, financial services, mobile content and video games. As President and CEO, Liles spearheaded Def Jam Interactive – to partner with Electronic Arts – which led to the creation of three Def Jam-branded video games and over ten different sku’s. Titles such as Vendetta, Fight for New York and Icon, have sold more than 8 million units worldwide, to date. Liles recently orchestrated a new partnership with 4mm games, launched by former Rockstar game founders Jamie King and Gary Foreman. The first release, the highly anticipated Def Jam Rapstar is scheduled for early 2010.

Following the merger that created the Island/Def Jam Music Group in 2002, Kevin Liles added the title of executive vice president of Island Def Jam Music Group to his resume. Thanks to his uncanny ability to provide leadership while allowing artists the freedom to create, he has been instrumental in the success of and eventual cross-over of many artists who have made the leap from “performer” to “global brand” – Jay Z, Hoobastank, Ludacris, Sum 41, Ja Rule, LL Cool J, DMX, Kanye West, Musiq Soulchild and Ashanti.

By 2004, Liles joined Warner Music Group as Executive Vice President and by 2005; he was part of the executive team that took the company public. As the chief executive behind the implementation of WMG’s new 360-degree strategy for enhanced artist partnerships, Liles oversaw the expansion of the traditional record company role in the artist’s career. His expertise in all facets of artist relations and brand expansion allowed for successful, complete partnerships with artists in each facet of their careers – fan clubs and ticketing, endorsements and licensing, artist management, TV production and merchandising.

Throughout 2008, Liles was instrumental in assembling a coalition of like-minded entertainers who made strategic visits to swing states in the final weeks before the historic Presidential election. Liles, along with Jay-Z, Beyonce, P. Diddy, Russell Simmons & Mary J. Blige encouraged Americans to exercise their right to vote. Currently, Liles is a committee chairman on the upcoming Jay-Z & Friends “Answer The Call” Charity Concert, taking place at Madison Square Garden on September 11, 2009 and benefitting the NYC Police and Fire Widow and Children’s Benefit Fund.

Liles serves as board member/ advisor to Ogilvy & Mather diversity board, New Yorkers For Children, Junior Achievement of New York, The Executive Leadership Council, The SEED School of Maryland, Harbor Bank, and HealthCorps. He is the bestselling author of Make It Happen: the Hip Hop Generation’s Guide to Success and oversees both Kevin Liles for a Better Baltimore, which invests in the Baltimore community, and the Make It Happen Foundation, which empowers African-American youth to succeed in the business world.

Kevin Powell

Kevin Powell

Hip-Hop Activist, Writer & Public Speaker

Kevin Powell is one of the most acclaimed political, cultural, literary, and hip-hop voices in America today. He is the author of 11 books, including “Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays.” Among his upcoming books will be a memoir of his very difficult childhood and youth, to be released in 2015 by Simon & Schuster; and in 2016 he will publish a biography of Tupac Shakur, the late rapper and controversial American icon. Kevin’s writings have also appeared in CNN.com, Esquire, Ebony, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, ESPN.com, and Vibe Magazine, where he worked for many years as a senior writer, interviewing public figures as different as Tupac Shakur and General Colin Powell. Kevin also routinely appears in interviews on television, radio, and in print and on the internet discussing major issues of our time. As an activist Kevin is the president and co-founder of BK Nation, a new national organization—progressive and multicultural, and focused on matters like education, civic engagement and leadership training, health and wellness, social media, arts and culture, and job and small business creation. Kevin was also a Democratic candidate for Congress in Brooklyn, New York, his adopted hometown, in 2008 and 2010. He routinely travels America and globally as a public speaker, at colleges and corporations, at various institutions, and in a wide range of diverse communities. His most recent speaking engagements include stops at Microsoft headquarters, Stanford University, the U.S. Department of Justice, the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the “March on Washington,” a one-week residency at the American University in Nigeria, visiting lecture positions at Central State University and Virginia State University, and, a Hip-hop Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and on behalf of the U.S. State Department, a national tour of Japan on the relevance of Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech in the 21st century. Kevin also visited Wales in the United Kingdom to do a series of lectures and workshops on the 100th birthday of 20th century poet Dylan Thomas, and the connections between Welsh and American poetry and spoken-word traditions. As a result, he has been named the International Ambassador for the Dylan Thomas Centennial in America for 2014. Moreover, as a pop culture curator Kevin produced the very first exhibit on the history of hip-hop in America, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, which also toured America and overseas. As a humanitarian, Kevin’s work includes local, national, and international efforts in the movement to end violence against women and girls (including a very well-regarded appearance on “The Oprah Show” highlighting domestic violence); and he has done much philanthropic and relief work, ranging from Hurricane Katrina to earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, to Superstorm Sandy in New York, to his annual holiday party and clothing drive for the homeless every December since 9/11. As an acknowledgement of Kevin’s life of public service and his dedication to literature and the arts, Cornell University recently became the owner of The Kevin Powell Collection, documenting nearly 30 years of his work to date in print, photos, videos, books, handwritten notes and speeches, and select memorabilia.

KRS One

KRS One

Hip-Hop Master Teacher

Every culture produces its own “keeper”. Every culture produces its own principles, its own history, its own advocates, and its own prophet pointing the way to a higher quality of life. For the urban-street culture known in the world today as “Hip Hop”, KRS-One is all of the above. Appearing on the rap scene in 1986 as Boogie Down Productions releasing his first hit single “South Bronx” with the late DJ Scott La Rock, KRS “the one” made it clear that Hip Hop was going to have to take itself a lot more serious.

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 has literally 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 who openly rejected such cultural exploitation and grounded 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 Hip Hop worldwide. He is unquestionably the most influential Hip Hop icon ever.

Not only is KRS-One Hip Hop’s first official teacher and true philosopher, as an emcee/rapper, he is considered the best live Hip Hop emcee of all time! His freestyle abilities are amazing! KRS-One’s concert style is high-energy! A mixture of rap, reggae, spoken word and even classical music, KRS-One reminds you as to why you fell in love with Hip Hop. Always a refreshing break from mainstream rap content, KRS-One delivers an intense street-poet performance that leaves any audience rethinking their approach to Hip Hop and its culture. KRS-One is a must see concert and a mandatory lecture for anyone really interested in the true essence of Hip Hop and how to successfully live the culture

These days, KRS-One finds himself in high demand amongst younger and younger audiences. Whether it’s his interviews on the BEEF DVD series, or his philosophical books, or any one of his online lectures, or U-Tube performance clips, or his seemingly endless stream of recorded music, KRS-One enjoys a solid respect from millions of people seeking authenticity in music and lyrics today. Through his “Temple of Hip Hop” preservation society and ministry, KRS-One continues to share his unique knowledge of Hip Hop to younger audiences eager to hear the ‘teacha’ speak.

Leota Blacknor

Leota Blacknor

Lil Kim

Lil Kim

Lisa Cortes

Lisa Cortes

Hip-Hop Film & Music Producer

An accomplished film and music producer, Lisa Cortes has a special talent for giving light to expressive voices not often heard and stories not often told. After reading Sapphire’s novel Push in 1996, Cortes was tremendously moved by the powerful message and knew it had to be translated to the big screen. The result? 2009′s captivating hit film Precious, which received six Academy Award nominations and two wins.

Aligned with Cortes’s mission of instigating and propagating cutting-edge African American culture and issues through the arts to promote change, she sold her vision of Sapphire’s book to director Lee Daniels. She then worked for four years to convince Sapphire to transform the novel Push into the film Precious.

Involved in the project daily, from scripting to shooting to marketing and “from conception to the christening,” Cortes wore many hats. Her efforts were rewarded with the movie receiving the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, as well as sweeping the awards season. Precious has been hailed as a “disturbing masterwork of human survival” by The Hollywood Reporter and has been lauded by prestigious publications such as Variety and The New York Times.

Not only known as a main catalyst behind the film Precious, Cortes was also a driving force in the music industry as one of the handful of people who launched Def Jam Records during the golden age of hip-hop. Her enlightening presentation offers a glimpse into the dynamic film and music industries, sharing underlying themes and behind-the-scenes stories.

LL Cool J

LL Cool J

Hip-Hop Legend

LL COOL J is an entertainer who has succeeded in crossing into all mediums of entertainment. Already a talented actor, two-time Grammy Award winner, and NAACP Image Award winner, LL continues to display his wide range of talents in his upcoming projects. In addition he is the recipient of ShoWest’s Male Star of Tomorrow and a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award.

From the moment the teenaged young legend in leather exclaimed “I Need A Beat!”, LL Cool J has blazed an unprecedented legacy of achievements. He was introduced to the world in 1984 as Def Jam Records’ Flagship artist and is the first rap artist to amass eleven consecutive platinum-plus selling albums. In March of 2006 he released his 12th album.

Known by his given name, James Todd Smith, for all acting credits, 2006 is also a big year for his film career. In January he starred in Paramount Pictures Last Holiday, opposite Queen Latifah. The film was loved by the critics and a box office success. Later this year he will be seen in Edison, in which he stars with Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, and Justin Timberlake, and Slow Burn, with Ray Liotta.

Over the years, LL has appeared on screen opposite many great actors including Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell in Sony Pictures summer blockbuster S.W.A.T. , Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday, and Gabrielle Union in Focus Features Deliver Us from Eva. Other film credits include Rollerball, Charlie’s Angels, Kingdom Come, In Too Deep, Halloween H20, and Toys. He has also received a Blockbuster Award for best comedic performance as the Chef in Renny Harlin’s blockbuster action film Deep Blue Sea.

In 2005 Smith transitioned to television with a dramatic and critically acclaimed performance on the season two premiere of Fox’s hit drama House.

Most recently, LL has signed a multi-picture producing deal with Lions Gate Films to produce commercially viable product for the studio. In 2006 he also made his official debut in the fashion arena by launching his signature designer collection called Todd Smith during New York City’s fashion week. Slated to be in stores for the Autumn/Winter 2006 season, Todd Smith is a luxury collection of men’s and women’s wear.

Adding the title of author to his credits, LL’s first children’s book, And the Winner Is, was released in the Fall of 2002. Part of Scholastics exciting new series of books and CDs by today’s hottest rap stars called Hip Kid Hop, And the Winner Is tells the story of a young basketball player who learns the importance on winning and losing gracefully. By exploring themes of good sportsmanship, humility, and belief in oneself, the story reveals invaluable lessons that apply both on and off the court. He also penned a 1997 autobiography, I Make My Own Rules.

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco

Hip-Hop Artist, Emcee, DJ, Record Producer & Entrepreneur

Wasalu Muhammad Jaco (born February 16, 1982), better known by his stage name Lupe Fiasco, is an American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur. He rose to fame in 2006 following the success of his debut album, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor. He also performs as the frontman of rock band Japanese Cartoon under his real name. As an entrepreneur, Fiasco is the chief executive officer of 1st and 15th Entertainment.

Raised in Chicago, Fiasco developed an interest in hip hop after initially disliking the genre for its use of vulgarity and misogyny. After adopting the name Lupe Fiasco and recording songs in his father’s basement, 19-year-old Fiasco joined a group called Da Pak. The group disbanded shortly after its inception, and Fiasco soon met rapper Jay-Z who helped him sign a record deal with Atlantic Records. In September 2006, Fiasco released his debut album Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor on the label, which received three Grammy nominations. He released his second album, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, in December 2007. The lead single “Superstar” peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. After a two-year delay, Lasers was released in March 2011 to mixed reviews, with lead single “The Show Goes On” peaking at number 9 on the chart. Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 was released in September 2012.

In addition to music, Fiasco has pursued other business ventures, including fashion. He runs two clothing lines, Righteous Kung-Fu and Trilly & Truly; he has designed sneakers for Reebok. He has been involved with charitable activities, including the Summit on the Summit expedition, and in 2010 he recorded a benefit single for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Fiasco is also noted for his anti-establishment views, which he has expressed in both interviews and his music.

Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige

Queen of Hip-Hop Soul

Mary J. Blige is a six-time Grammy Award-winning American R&B, soul, and hip-hop soul singer, songwriter, producer, and actress who has sold more than 60 million records worldwide. She is widely known as the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.”

Born in the Bronx, Blige grew up in housing projects in Yonkers, NY. While at a mall in White Plains, NY, she recorded herself singing Anita Baker’s “Caught Up in the Rapture” into a karaoke machine. The tape was passed to Uptown Records CEO Andre Harrell who signed her. In 1991, Sean “Puffy” Combs took Blige under his wing and began working with her on What’s the 411?, her debut album that bridged the gap between R&B and rap in a way that no female singer had before.

Called the new Chaka Khan or new Aretha Franklin, Blige helped adorn soul music with new textures and flavors that inspired a whole generation of musicians. With her blonde hair, self-preserving slouch, and combat boots, Blige was street-tough and beautiful all at once. As she softened her style to include sleek designer clothes, she remained a hero to thousands of girls growing up in the same kinds of rough places she came from.

Her second release, My Life, featuring Combs’ handiwork, was full of ghetto pathos and Blige’s own personal pain. After its release, she severed her ties with Combs and Uptown, hired Suge Knight as a financial advisor, and signed with MCA. Blige also involved herself in several projects, including “Not Gon’ Cry,” for the soundtrack to Waiting to Exhale that became her biggest hit at the time. That year, she won her first Grammy Award for “Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.”

Blige released Share My World in 1997 that debuted at number one. It reflected her new creative partnerships with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

In 1999, Blige released her fourth album, Mary, a departure from her more familiar hip-hop-oriented sound that featured a collection of songs reminiscent of 1970s and early 1980s soul. Also featured on the album were high-profile guests, including Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Lauryn Hill. Her fifth album, No More Drama, reflected her own spiritual, emotional, and personal vision with “Family Affair,” her first number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. The album title proclaimed a period of greater calm and resilience in Blige which reflected a renewed commitment to cleaning up her life and she won her second Grammy for “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.” In 2003, she was reunited with P. Diddy, who produced the majority of her next album, Love and Life.

Her next album, The Breakthrough was a tremendous success, spawning a handful of major singles and breaking sales records by selling nearly three million copies in the US and over six million copies worldwide. It earned multiple awards and Blige received eight Grammy Award nominations at the 2007 Grammy Awards, the most of any artist for the 2007 awards.

In 2006, Blige released an album of duets, Mary J. Blige & Friends with Sting, Santana, Elton John, Robin Thicke, and Patti LaBelle with the proceeds going to the Boys & Girls Club of America. She also released Reflections – A Retrospective and recorded a duet with Aretha Franklin for the soundtrack to Bobby. In addition, Blige appeared in Ludacris’ inspirational song and music video “Runaway Love” that raised awareness of the phenomenon of girls who run away from home because of abuse by men.

Blige made her acting debut on The Jamie Foxx Show and went on to appear in the independent feature film, Prison Song, and made a cameo on the Lifetime network series, Strong Medicine.

In 2004, Blige starred in her first off-Broadway play, “The Exonerated” that chronicled the experiences of real death row inmates. Most recently, she appeared as a guest star on Ghost Whisperer.

Mark Anthony Neal

Mark Anthony Neal

Hip-Hop Author & Professor of Black Popular Culture

Mark Anthony Neal is Professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke University. He is the author of four books, What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (1998), Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (2002), Songs in the Keys of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation (2003), and New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity (2005), all published by Routledge. Neal hosts the weekly webcast, “Left of Black” in collaboration with the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University.

Michael Ellison

Michael Ellison

Hip-Hop Musician, Actor & Activist

Michael Ellison is a recording artist, actor, and producer. Known to many as both “MIKE-E” and Mike Ellison, the Detroit-based entertainer was born in Ethiopia, where he supports orphan outreach and healthcare programs, while maintaining nationwide recognition with one of the country’s most popular anthems, Ethiopia (Everything Will Be Alright). With acting credits spanning film, theatre, and television, Ellison is also recognized for repeat performances on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and for teaming with the American Cancer Society to orchestrate and headline the AfroFlow Tour. This innovative initiative utilizes live music concerts and extensive community outreach to promote cancer awareness and tobacco prevention and cessation.

With a communications degree from the University of Virginia and professional experience in public relations, sports marketing, and event management, Ellison exemplifies art, education, and self-empowerment. A member of Detroit’s only National Slam Poetry team, the independent artist executive produces recording projects and music videos, funds national tours through sponsor procurement, and supports several stateside and international humanitarian causes.

Ellison’s AfroFlow brand acknowledges hip-hop’s indigenous roots and uplifting themes. The first installment of the AfroFlow CD series became the first ever hip-hop project released by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the world’s largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. Michael’s father, Bob Ellison, was the first and only African American president of the White House Correspondents Association in 1991. Father and son later worked together on several creative endeavors, including voter registration campaigns and the ongoing AfroFlow Tour until the elder Ellison’s untimely death in May 2010.

Michael Ellison has been a featured guest on several nationally syndicated radio programs, including Senator Bill Bradley’s “American Voices” on Sirius XM Radio and esteemed journalist Bev Smith’s self-titled show on the American Urban Radio Network. He will release his third studio album in 2012.

Murray Foreman

Murray Foreman

Hip-Hop Author & Professor of Communications

Murray Forman is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University. He is the author of The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop (Wesleyan University Press, 2002) and the forthcoming One Night on TV is Worth Weeks at the Paramount: Popular Music on Early Television (Duke University Press, 2012). He is a past recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship.

Mylessa Ford

Mylessa Ford

Star of Blood, Sweat & Heels, HIV/AIDS Awareness & Prevention Advocate

Melyssa Ford has been a fixture in the realm of entertainment for well over a decade. Ford can currently be seen on Bravo’s hit reality docu-series Blood, Sweat & Heels, which just concluded its freshman season, averaging approximately 2 million viewers per episode. She has leveraged her popularity from one genre of entertainment to the next, always attempting to be a visible role model for youth, showing that beauty doesn’t negate having brains and intellect. Ford decided she would use her visibility to draw attention to important causes that directly affected her community, specifically HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention. Notably, in 2008, Robert Bailey, head of the HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention department of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, took notice of Ford’s efforts to speak on how the virus was disproportionately affecting the African American community.

After overcoming obstacles, preconceived notions and attaining success despite challenges, in 2010, Melyssa Ford established the idea for LESS Is More, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the bonds of sisterhood by providing young girls with visible female leadership and positive female role models. In 2011, Ford, at the request of the President of Philander Smith College, presented the keynote address to the student body discussing “Sexual Responsibility in a Hyper-Sexualized Culture” to address the staggering increase in reports of STD contraction rates on the schools’ campus.

Later the same year, Robert Bailey contacted Ford to be a panelist, speaker and representative at the For Sisters Only Convention, which took place in Atlanta, GA. This year, she was personally invited to the NAACP’s Leadership 500 Summit to participate as an expert in their Health Strategy Session, presenting to a room full of health administrators and advocates about the information and knowledge she gathered while in the field and proposing new and innovative ideas on public education.

Ford has persevered in the face of prejudice and personal difficulties, desiring the same goals for others to improve health, financial and life literacy, while removing stigmas that can become a barrier to progress. She shows selflessness in seeking to improve the quality of life for young people. Ford is passionate about educating and spreading awareness to audiences about HIV/AIDS, which for her, is work that will not be done until a cure is found.

Nas

Nas

Hip-Hop Legend, Rapper, Songwriter & Actor

Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones (born September 14, 1973), better known as Nas, is an American rapper, songwriter and actor. He is the son of jazz musician Olu Dara. Since 1994, Nas has released eight consecutive platinum and multi-platinum albums and sold over 25 million records worldwide. Aside from rapping and acting, Nas is an entrepreneur through his own record label, retail sneaker store, and magazine publishing. He serves as Mass Appeal Magazine’s associate publisher as well as an owner of a Fila sneaker store. He is currently signed to Def Jam Recordings.

Phil Hamilton, Esq.

Hip-Hop Attorney, Entrepreneur, Author & Founder of The Hip-Hop Agency
Black Thought

Black Thought

Hip-Hop Artist and Lead Emcee of the World Famous The Roots

Tariq Trotter has been rapping for 19 years, ten of which have been shared with his legendary crew, the Philadelphia live hip-hop band, The Roots. They have been hailed as pioneers of the burgeoning sound now being identified as the “Philly Sound.” Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter has been the highly recognized voice of this sound. He is the MC, whose lyrics have recalled the poetic passion of Amiri Baraka, the truth and rawness of Donald Goines, the unquestionable flow and lyrical styles of Big Daddy Kane and Rakim, and a skill and rhythmic cadence that can be liked to no one but himself. He has served as the voice to so many poignant thoughts wrapped in a skill level we thought had been lost.

The labels and hopeful projections placed upon The Roots, was one of the driving forces behind Black Thought’s desire to create his own image, and define his sound and album. He considers the creation of a solo album, his “way of showing another dimension of myself, while still being a member of the Roots, I can have other grooves of myself. With the solo album, I have a chance to really highlight myself by using very straight ahead rhymes & beats. But one thing I want to take from The Roots into my own work is the idea of pushing the musical envelope.” A versatile MC, Black Thought has held his own through one capricious decade of hip-hop, finally to emerge like a phoenix from a flame. Like any great artist, Black Thought has learned to layer and play with the phonetics and syllables of his words. Yet, he all the while keeps in use his powerful metaphoric imagery that makes him one of the most intense and ingenious lyricist of our time.

Although enigmatic and rather indefinable, Black Thought’s performing skills have carved him an undeniable niche as one of hip-hop greatest live acts. His braggadocio and stage prowess is magnetic allowing him to capture almost any crowd he performs for. It is not uncommon for him to slide effortlessly into a Louis Armstrong scat from his “Da Skat” lyrics and then into a country ho-down. His stage presence is so well recognized that in 1999 he and The Roots won a Grammy for their performance of “You Got Me” featuring Erykah Badu. His performance and presence on the stage has attracted a wide range of musical artists such as Rage Against the Machine, Les Nubians, De La Soul, and Big Pun, to invite him to join them as a guest on their work. In addition to musical artists, his charismatic and legendary performances have caught the eye of film directors. He has been in three movies, Bamboozled, a Spike Lee joint, Brooklyn Babylon, and Perfume.

Yet, as an MC his heart belongs to the music regardless of his other ventures. When asked why he feels as though he needs to put out solo album although all the Roots CDs are critically acclaimed he responds: “I think at this point I just want to show the world I’m a power player in terms of being an mc in the world of hip-hop.” Seems like an unnecessary concern for someone who has fronted one of the most avant-garde and legendary hip-hop crews in music history. For Black Thought this is just a beginning to revealing his many sides of a story.

Will Power

Will Power

Hip-Hop Playwright and Performer

Will Power is an award-winning playwright and performer. Power’s play “Fetch Clay, Make Man,” recently enjoyed a successful run Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop. Other plays: “Steel Hammer” with SITI Company (Humana Festival), “The Seven” (Lucille Lortel Award Best Musical, New York Theatre Workshop, La Jolla Playhouse), Five Fingers of Funk! (Children’s Theatre Company), Honey Bo and The Goldmine (La Jolla Playhouse) and two acclaimed solo shows “The Gathering,” and “Flow” (solo shows toured to over 70 cities nationwide, Europe, Australia). Power’s numerous awards include a United States Artist Prudential Fellowship, the TCG Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, a Jury Award for Best Theatre Performance at the HBO US Comedy Arts Festival, and the Trailblazer Award from The National Black Theater Network. Power’s numerous film and television appearances include The Steven Colbert Report (Comedy Central), and Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason (PBS).

Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean

Hip-Hop Recording Artist, Musician, Politician, Actor & Activist

Wyclef Jeanelle Jean (born October 17, 1969) is a Haitian-American hip hop recording artist, musician, actor, and politician. At age nine, Jean moved to the USA with his family and has spent much of his life in the country. He first received fame as a member of the acclaimed New Jersey hip hop group the Fugees. Jean has won three Grammy Awards for his musical work.

Vanessa

Vanessa "the Hebrew Mamita" Hidary

Hip-Hop Actress, Poet & Playwright

Native New Yorker Vanessa Hidary, AKA The Hebrew Mamita, grew up on Manhattan’s culturally diverse Upper West Side, graduating from LaGuardia High School of the Arts and Hunter College. Her experiences as a Sephardic Jew with close friends from different ethnic and religious backgrounds inspired her to write “Culture Bandit,” the nationally toured solo show that chronicles Vanessa’s coming of age during the golden age of Hip-Hop and her dedication to fostering understanding and friendship between all people.

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