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PEople Get Ready Once Again with PE2.0; 'insPirEd'

November 3rd, 2015

By Kyle Eustice

 

One of the most powerful things, if not the most powerful thing, in hip-hop music is the ability to reach someone with a message. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five had their version of “The Message” in 1982, then came the politically natured messages of pioneers like Public Enemy and KRS-One. Sadly, somewhere along the way, the messages got torn up and rearranged, lending to the mainstream rap pollution on the radio today. Void of anything of substance or reality, it creeps into the young minds of countless children and gives them the wrong idea about what hip-hop truly is.

Fortunately, there are preservationists of the culture and Jahi is one of them. As a member of P.E. 2.0 (Public Enemy 2.0), the Oakland resident has a profound effect on young minds with not only his music, but also his day job. The Program Manager for the Office of African American Achievement/Oakland Unified School District, he has the honor of positively affecting young people every single day. His mission is clear.

According to his bio, “Jahi’s task is two-fold. One is to take select songs from the Public Enemy catalog and cover them or revisit them. Two is to create new songs over new production and classic Public Enemy-Bomb Squad tracks to bring new consciousness, culture and spirit to Hip Hop worldwide.” Backed by Oakland band, The Life, P.E. 2.0 collaborates with the original members of Public Enemy like DJ Lord, Davy DMX, T-Bone and Khari Wynn with special guest appearances by Professor Griff and Chuck D.

P.E. 2.0 dropped its first project, PEople Get Ready, last year and is now preparing to unleash its fiercest album to date. Titled insPirEd, it features guest appearances from the likes of KRS-One, production from the legendary Easy Mo Bee and brilliant social commentary blazing a trail for young people to follow. In Part One of the RAPstation interview, Jahi talks about finding balance, molding the minds of young people and, of course, the new album. P.E. 2.0’s insPirEd drops October 1, 2015. Check out www.2-0pe.com for more information.


RAPstation (Kyle Eustice): One of the things I admire about you is you have a great career in the school district, but are also killing your hip-hop career. Is it difficult to find that ever elusive balance?

Jahi: It’s a constant dance. That’s the best way I can describe it. Sometimes I’m on beat and other times I’m off beat. Sometimes if I’m doing way too much school work and not enough music then I have my own person monitor. I kind of know when I need to spend more time on music. If I’m immersed in the music world and not spending time on my day-to-day, you know, I scale back. It’s the dance. It’s a constant check-in with myself. If I don’t check in with myself at the end of the day, yeah, I could easily get immersed either way.

I’m really digging the new record. I mean, you have KRS-One on there.

Jahi As PE2.0
Twice. Twice [laughs].

I really like the song “CRWDRCKRS.” It takes you back to the golden era, straight up. When making this album, what went in to your creative process? What did you want to deliver to your audience?

Jahi As PE2.0
I came up with a four-word description: social commentary over boom-bap. That is how I went into this whole project. I knew I was going to get KRS. I sent him two tracks and said either/or. He did both. [Laughs] It’s all good. “CRWDRCKRS” is actually produced by the legendary Easy Mo Bee. To me, as a preservationist, I feel like I landed the record in the lane that is straight up hip-hop. If you don’t understand that, I can’t explain it to you.

You’re talking to the right girl [laughs].

Jahi As PE2.0
Yeah, you know. It’s a way of preserving the culture. This is my whole thought like how can I top myself? People Get Ready was the first P.E. 2.0 record. It was almost like shooting a flare letting people know something was coming. I was talking to a friend of mine and I said, ‘God forbid if I pass tomorrow, at least I got this record out.’ I feel like it’s a complete sentence.

I feel like you did a great job preserving the culture with this new record. You’ve got “Bambaataa” on there, “Beats and Ryhmes” and, of course, one of the pioneers, KRS-One. What do you think of some of the messages mainstream rap puts out there?

Jahi As PE2.0
First thing is, I don’t hear a lot of stuff like that because they don’t get my attention. They do not get my ear space. Just in terms of tag-teaming my day work with hip-hop work, I work with kids every day. They are tuned into it. As long as they are going to be unapologetically raunchy, disrespectful, promoting sex, drugs and violence, as long as they are going to continue to do that, then that actually inspires me. I’m inspired by some of their foolishness. I mean, it’s garbage and it’s upsetting to hear young kids singing it, but on the flipside, it drives me as an artist. It’s like, ‘How can I get that young person’s attention?’ I know if I get their attention, I’m going to give them something different. I encourage people all the time to turn off the radio, that nonsense, but don’t just turn it off and leave a void. Turn on something new. Diamonds are not sitting on top of the surface [laughs].

Right [laughs]. You have to dig for them.

Jahi As PE2.0
There’s a reason for that because they’re valuable. You can find dust, dirt and debris on the surface and I feel like that’s commercial rap music.

And it’s easy to grab. It does take some work to find it, but hopefully with articles like this and RAPstation it’s easier for kids to find.

Jahi As PE2.0
Absolutely. I mean, being in this lane is like being an art dealer. It’s like you’re selling an art piece one person at a time. But the good thing is I’m in certain spaces and places where I serve as the program manager to 500 youth. They all know I can bust, too. I walk in the classroom and they’re like, ‘You gonna bust today?’ I’ll say something just incredible over an instrumental beat of something they’re into just to give them a certain look.

They must love you.

Jahi As PE2.0
Yeah [laughs].

That must be a super empowering, amazing experience on the daily.

Jahi As PE2.0
Thinking about the album, that’s why I did the “Bambaataa” song because he told me early in life that when you’re not on stage, you’re in the community.

PE 2.0 has dropped a bomb on the hip-hop world with its release of insPirEd, an explosive album brimming with politically charged lyrics, classic boom-bap beats and some very special guests. At the helm is Jahi, an Oakland-based emcee and community leader who caught the attention of original Public Enemy mastermind Chuck D in 1999. Billed as “new music for changing times,” the album features KRS-One, the legendary Easy Mo Bee, Divided Souls, and DJ Pain 1.

From “CRWDRCKRS (featuring KRS-One)” and “Bambaataa” to “Beats & Rhymes” and “Survival,” the album bumps with a raw authenticity Jahi effortlessly captures with his lyrical content and smoother than smooth delivery. Like he spits on “Bambaataa,” A tree cannot grow if it doesn’t have a root/Afrika Bambaataa/peace, love and salute,” insPirEd pays homage to hip-hop’s forefathers and lays down a solid foundation for younger generations to build on. In Part II of the HHG interview, Jahi discusses working with his heroes, finding that ever elusive balance and continuing the cultural legacy of Public Enemy. Check out www.2-0pe.com for more information.


HipHopGods (Kyle Eustice): Is it tough juggling both your musical career and your teaching career?

Jahi: I don’t look at it like I have a day job and I do hip-hop. What I’m doing is hip-hop. Hip-hop has always been community-based, community oriented, trying to share knowledge and things. That’s just what we do as a culture, not the music industry, but as a culture. These are our founding values and morals. To me, it’s just an extension of it.

Obviously you’ve got a solid grasp on it. Talking to you is inspiring. Just think about getting this music out to everybody and see how inspired they can get. That its what we’re missing in hip-hop today; solid role models, lyrics full of substance, all of that is missing. It’s there. We just have to bring it to the surface like you said.

Jahi As PE2.0
Absolutely.


Working with Chuck, KRS-One, masters of this craft, how does it feel to get to work with these guys on regular basis?

Jahi As PE2.0
You know, I met Chuck in 1999 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the beginning of my career. It’s just been an incredible journey. I felt like he could have picked anybody for PE 2.0 and I’m constantly humbled and thankful that I was selected to be able to continue the cultural legacy of Public Enemy. It’s a new branch on the tree. Sometimes it’s very surreal because I bought all of the PE records before I even knew Chuck. It’s bugged out. He’s the most down-to-earth icon you’ll ever meet.

What about KRS?

Jahi As PE2.0
For KRS-One, it’s the same thing. I consider them my master teachers and now they’re my brothers. He’ll give a lecture that will make you have to look up like 50 books. It’s also just a brotherhood and a family. It’s the idea of the best of what hip-hop is what they represent.

I only met KRS-One once at Rock the Bells in Colorado, but I still have never interviewed him. Hook it up [laughs].

Jahi As PE2.0
All I can say is that he’s very elusive.

I know he is. I have talked to his wife more than I’ve talked to him.

Jahi As PE2.0
You probably will talk to Simone more, yes [laughs].

So the new album comes out October 1. How did you prepare for this?

Jahi As PE2.0
It’s kind of a like a no huddle offense. The first single is called “Survival” and the video is already done. I know it’s probably going to raise some eyebrows because it’s a song about fighting back. Some of the imagery is speaking to that.

When does that drop?

Jahi As PE2.0
It’s all going to drop the first week in October. It’s like multiple, multiple droppings at the same time [laughs]. I want people to be reading it and be like, ‘What?’ and as soon as they say that it will be there.

You seem very wise [laughs].

Jahi As PE2.0
You live and grow and pick up some wisdom along the way.

If your audience could take one message away from your music, what would you want them to hear?

Jahi As PE2.0
Listen and act. Listen because it is lyricism, but act because there is a call to action in every song. Come and enjoy the experience when you see us live. I’m always going to do something different every time. Also think about—and these are lessons Bambaataa and others have already taught us— just balance. Balance is key. That’s why you have two feet, two eyes, two arms; it helps you to balance yourself.

Are you taking this on the road?

Jahi As PE2.0
Absolutely. We are planning an international tour right now. I know I’m doing Afro Punk Atlanta with Public Enemy on October 4 and then KRS One October 8 at Middle East in Boston.

 

Kyle Eustice ,RAPstation News Bureau Chief