With the project Music is my Weapon, Hasan Salaam is raising money to build a school, a running well and a medical facility for a community in Guinea-Bissau. (Read more on here, where we spoke about it originally.) Jeremiah over at KevinNottingham.com chopped it up with Hasan a few months ago about the projects and the various other ways Hasan has been giving back to both local and international communities. Not only has he run a montly food and clothing drive in Jersey City, he also does lectures called “From the Spirituals to Hip-Hop” about the history of black music and its importance to struggle movements, and finally, he is involved with a youth-based creative writing program called Flow. Oh, and he makes amazingly inspiring music.
Hasan released a video updating everybody about the project and the success he’s having, so peep the video below, as well as an excerpt about this journey courtesy of KN.com. (Full interview here)
Jeremiah: I feel ya, which brings up the title Music Is My Weapon. I listened to the project a few times and it’s incredible by the way, but I read that your inspiration for the project was a trip to West Africa in 2010. Can you expand on that experience a little for us?
Hasan Salaam: Yeah, no doubt. Actually, it started because I was part of a project called The Impossible Music Sessions here in the states where they link up an artist of a particular genre with an artist of the same genre from another part of the world where they don’t have as much freedom of expression as we do. This was the second one they did.
The first one, just to give you a brief history, the first one was ill. There was a rock band from the states working with a rock band from Iran whose lead singer was a woman. That shit is crazy man. The second he did was Hip Hop and in Guinea-Bissau. Guinea-Bissau is a narco state, it’s very oppressive – there’s a group there called the Baloberos Crew that put out a song called “Seven Minutes Of Truth,” which talked a lot about the political assassinations that have taken place there over the past couple of years and the military police smashed them up, basically fucked them up and was like, yo’ stop making music. So I got connected with them by basically, their music was translated and I put their music into English and made it rhyme telling their story. It went so very well that a group over there called Hip Hop Harmony worked with the US Embassy to get funds to bring us over there to do work with them.
While we were there, I got to work with kids in the S.O.S. village for a creative writing project. I just felt like I wanted to do more and it presented itself from a sister named Devon from Cali who traced her lineage back to Guinea Bissau who wanted to do some more things over there. I guess she just looked us up and was like, “Oh shit, you were the first American artists to rock there, how can we make something happen?” My manager suggested that we donate the whole album to building the well, the school, and the medical facility. Since then, it’s just been a constant grind to make it happen, ya’ know.
Jeremiah: Nice, that’s incredible. Were the cats like Steele and everybody cool with that from the jump?
Hasan Salaam: Originally, it was going to be a free project, like before we had even met sister Devon, it was going to be a free project so everyone was down. So when we decided that this is what we wanted to do, I hit everybody up like, “Yo, are you cool with it?” because they donated the time anyway. “I’m not keeping any money, it’s not about money it’s about building something” and everybody was like, “Hell yeah!” Nobody that was involved with this project took more than a nano-second to reply, “Hell yeah, let’s do it!” Most people were like, “What else can I do, what more can I do?” It was kinda like, you know how people say match made in heaven type of situation because everybody that was involved in the project already had that kind of mentality already, like let’s make this world a better place.