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The 2024 Black History Month Two-Piece (Part 1)

Updated: Mar 8

Event: BHM/Hip Hop History Speaker, Harvard-Westlake School, Los Angeles, CA

Date: Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Kicks of Choice: Nike Air Max 1 “Parra”

Thoughts captured on January 18, 2024

 

This event at Harvard-Westlake has been brewing for a couple years now. Once “K for the Way” was in the production stage, the talks at Harvard-Westlake started to speed up. However, those talks in April and May 2023 QUICKLY stopped as soon as HW hit their summer vacation – and be clear: I was NOT mad at that emotion!

 

So when September rolled around and I had books in hand, I reached back out just to let folks know that “K for the Way” was in physical form! The official word sparked Dean Teneice Wesson to pick the convo back up immediately. The outcome was I’d give an Interactive All-School Assembly talk to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop in February (so it was also going down during Black History Month 2024). This would be Part 1 of a two-part trip…

 

Because it was my first time back on the West Coast since 2018, this trip served a few purposes. At top of mind was the Harvard-Westlake talk. I also have a series of people in Los Angeles who are important to how “K for the Way” has developed, so I was happy to get some important check-ins with folks. I was immediately able to connect with my day-one homies HS Miller and Tashon McKeithan-Miller. I’ve known Henry and Tashon since 1993, when I touched down on Williams campus. Henry (who back then was DJ Scott) put me on at Williams and created a lane for the DJ trajectory that would become my life. And Tashon, who’s originally from Queens, has made it clear that LA is the spot and the East Coast can kicks rocks, lol! So I was amped up to spend some time with them.

 

Next up, I got a chance to check in with another day-one homie, Chris Jones. Chris was one of four suite mates that hosted me when I went to visit Williams. He remembered me when I came back to start Freshmen year and the rest was history. He was also one of the seniors that helped to spotlight my DJ talent on campus. I also DJ'ed Chris and his wife, Janine’s, wedding back in 1999! So sitting down with them for awhile was also dope.

 

Next up, I got a chance to check in with the homie ALC. You all know him as The Alchemist, Hip Hop producer for artists including Griselda, Travis Scott, Drake, Schoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt, Larry June, Roc Marciano, Action Bronson…this list could LITERALLY keep going! Funny thing is, I know him as Al. I’ve known Al since we first met in Freeport, Long Island in my cousin’s living room. That was sometime in early 1998. Al is solid people and has always shown me love and remained the same throughout his epic journey as a producer and DJ. It’s always dope to connect with Al (and shouts to Big Sean, who just so happened to pull up to the studio at the same time I did). Sharing “K for the Way” with Al was exciting – and he was amped up to see he was one of the artists I quoted in the text. When we were talking about the book and what the publication journey looked like (specifically the “reviewer feedback”), Al was like “nah Todd – you was there in the mix with us! And you got a unique perspective that a lot of people just don’t have.” When you’re getting that type of reminder from someone like The Alchemist, you know you’re good to go. And oh, did I mention this new music he’s got comin’ is scoooooooorchin’ hot??? Oh, you’ll see…

 

When I got to Harvard-Westlake for the talk, there was some difficulty making sure I had the equipment I needed for playing the music I’d be discussing. Thank goodness for great DJs, even greater friends and Mr. Sonny James! Sonny came through and made sure I had that REV-7 to get busy! But also, it’s always dope to connect with Sonny. I’ve known Sonny for damn near 20 years now, and he was one of the first DJs to really tap in when I was doing interviews for my dissertation. It’s been amazing to see his success and watch his journey from Philly to LA. So seeing him in person is always official!

 

The talk was incredible! For my Hip Hip History presentation, I got a chance to connect with students on the importance of the DJ and the evolution of the sample. It was great to DJ with the students at the start of the event, and spectacular to connect the musical choices students submitted alongside the songs that were part of my opening DJ set (and that kid who said his favorite songs were from Larry June got an ALC shout out – yeah, I was moving different out there, for real). It was just another great example of how Hip Hop just brings us together with a shared humanity unlike any other music or culture we know!

 

The feedback from the Harvard-Westlake community was dope! So much so, that I walked over to Dean Jones’ office to drop off a copy of the book. On my way out of the building walking back to my car, a couple students stopped me to talk. One question led to two…the next thing I knew, I was surrounded by a crew of like ten students chopping it up, talking about Hip Hop, our favorite producers, Killer Mike winning the Grammys, and much much more. After about 45 minutes with them, I literally said “yo, if I don’t leave, I’m gonna get caught in this LA traffic!!!” It was exciting to organically connect with students, and they put me on to a bunch of listening that I’ve started to tap into.

 

I left Harvard-Westlake campus and got to check another one of my closest friends, Heather Mitchell. She had to run to a meeting, but I made sure we connected before she had to go. And on my way to the airport, I got to catch the young homie LeBrandon Smith, who just so happened to be in LA working on some things…

 

An action-packed trip, with just enough time for me to get on the Red Eye from Los Angeles, CA (temperature = 60 degrees) to Buffalo, NY (temperature = 19 degrees). In the next post, I’ll tell you how I walked out of the airport and let out a huge laugh based on the level of cold that smacked me in the chest!

 

Infinite thanks to the Harvard-Westlake community for having me for the Interactive Upper School Assembly. Special thanks to Dean Wesson and student DJs Logan and Zion! Shout out to Chris and Janine for making sure everything ran smooth. And of course, to Henry and Tashon, Heather and Kenny, LeBrandon and Bri! Can’t forget to shout out the big homie Al the Chemist!

 

This is Part 1 of the Two-Piece. Next stop: Buffalo…




 

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