By Deardra Shuler
Akil "MYSELF" Omari, defines himself as a hip-hop spoken word artist. Omari, now in his late 20's, presently records under the nomenclature, "MYSELF." A name he spells entirely in caps. Many hip-hop rap enthusiasts may remember his recording, "Word of God," which he performed under his former name GOLDIELOX. He describes his sound as spoken word hip-hop music poetry, highlighted with African percussion and jazz. "I try to give my music world international appeal. I feel that hip-hop has gone global and I want to incorporate those elements which appeal to a world audience," says MYSELF. Originally from New Orleans, MYSELF resides in Brooklyn, but is presently on a record tour promotion in New Orleans, where he and his wife, Gia, recently had a baby boy.
"My message is definitely positive," claims MYSELF. "Black people have a rich cultural legacy and I don't believe that enough hip-hop artists have introduced spiritual content in their music. We come from a spiritual people that were storytellers. The Griots, ancient orators and historians from Africa, passed down our history through the spoken word. I am trying through my music to uplift people once again. I'm doing it with the spoken word. I want to bridge a gap through my words to heal the rift that exists between older people and younger people. I want my music to be understood by both groups so that both can relate to and embrace my rap. "There are a lot of negative rappers but there are positive rappers out there as well. Rap is a powerful medium. I believe that since rap is a billion dollar industry, it is the duty of artists to go out into our communities and put a positive message back into it." Omari, is not just talking. He has put action behind his words. "My wife and I have a non profit foundation called the Black Roots Foundation. It was started three years ago. Under this foundation, we go into the public schools and different organized community centers conducting workshops and seminars on creative writing and publishing. We teach self-promotion and show people how to market themselves. We provide information about artist development and help to nurture young artists. We try to nurture their minds, bodies and souls putting knowledge out there while making it accessible to young kids so they can have alternatives as well as become educated about the art of business." While in New York, Omari provided weekly poetry reading opportunities for wordsmiths throughout the metropolis, by featuring open mikes at the New Yorican Poet Café, the Infra Red Lounge and various venues throughout the city, enabling up and coming poets to review their work before a live audience. His efforts were received well by both poet and viewer.
Akil is a multifaceted person, who is involved in a number of different projects outside his musical interest. "We are trying to put a year long mobile tour together that will travel to different communities and encompass various artists, filmmakers and video experts. We have worked with the Prison Moratorium Project touring prisons and raising awareness about the escalating prison population. We did this in alliance with another organization. Some of these organizations are trying to form alliances with one another so that we can aid each other in addressing our individual issues. We did a prison awareness event at SOBs and at a few other places in New York. Our focus was on traveling to and targeting communities, public schools and black universities to make them aware of these problems. We also work with the October 22nd Coalition, focusing on police brutality. We, of course, are always seeking to raise money, increase grant opportunities and to find the right people to support our issues. "These are the positive situations we are involved in. That is why rap is a powerful thing. A lot of young men, due to their low self-esteem, have used rap in an abusive way toward women. It's because some of these rappers have no idea of their true culture or the richness of our past history. They are unaware that women played a large role in the family structure because there is such a breakdown in the black family today. They don't have their fathers around to explain the importance of women and their culture. We need to address this and put things back into proper prospective. Hip-hop is at a point where it has gone so far beyond what the original concept of hip-hop was supposed to be about. Originally rap was our poetic voice. It was supposed to be about uplifting the community. Frankly, I don't like to be labeled as a hip-hop or rap artist. I feel, that in order for us to grow within the culture, we have to elevate to the next level and go beyond where hip-hop is now. Naturally, we should embrace what hip-hop has done for us but it is time to move to the next level. I envision my music as universal soul music. I feel it all comes from the African tradition; jazz, blues, soul, gospel are all meshed within the African tradition. People need to realize that jazz and bebop is not so different from hip-hop nor is poetry from rap. Things only get confused when we try to categorize it or fit it into a small box.
MYSELF is trying to reintroduce spirituality into spoken word music. "I have an EP out that is called, "Rebel SoulJAH." JAH is a word meaning GOD. I let people know I am fighting to save souls and that music is a powerful form that if used correctly, can do wonders. People migrate to music. It's the drum, the heartbeat, a universal rhythm. What I am trying to do, is tell people to open up their minds to a whole new world and a whole new form of music. Some of the more inventive and positive groups I have worked with have been Public Enemy and Dead Prez. Dead Prez, had a release called "Let's Get Free." That release is concerned with social, spiritual and political issues. I worked with The Roots, a live hip-hop band out of Philadelphia; these are not mainstream hip-hop artists. They are positive artists. The Roots won a Grammy that went platinum. They really took off after they worked with Erica Badu. I have done some work with the godfather of hip-hop, Gil Scott Heron, and one of the Last Poets, Abiodune on a project entitled "Time."
Omari can remember when record companies cultivated their artists instead of exploiting them as the presently do. "Black people have gotten away from working together. The odd thing is other races learned it from our culture and now they stick together and help one another and we don't." He continued. "Whites know the power of our music; not just in making money but the power of the message. Originally rap talked about our communities, government and police brutality. Originally, rap had an identity. Presently, rappers just talk about being thugs and hoodlums rather than talk about the social issues that effect the Black community. The record companies try to say violence is what sells. They try to say people want this negative message but it is time to be more creative. Time to be more positive. How many times can you talk about how terrible women are and how bad the community is, touting drugs and violence," questions MYSELF. "We need to show a positive side. We don't have to keep implementing it on a street level but instead we should move to a spiritual level. A level that says we have now learned something from the negative rap and want to do something positive and uplifting as a result. MYSELF recorded a single called ""Ithiopia"," which was received well. Its message is about getting back to a natural lifestyle and its musical style focuses on percussion and the root element. He also recorded a second single which is a latin jazzy, afra-cuban anthem entitled "Cry 4 Uhuru."
Interested parties can order his $10 CD at Marlon Ned, Roots Kulcha MusiQue, 11247 Fernley Dr., New Orleans, La. 70128. Recently Omari completed a documentary which recorded episodes of his life called "In A World By Myself."
Akil MYSELF Omari, is truly a man for the new millennium; a pioneer with a positive message. Contact at: Roots Kulcha Musique, (504.246.3990) or email at: email@example.com.
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