Local rapper Torman Jahi recently held a press conference at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to announce his upcoming tour, which will include stops at some 50 colleges in 15 states. The tour is unique in the sense that Jahi will not only be performing, but conducting a series of seminars on topics such as the history of hip-hop, the rise and fall of some of its biggest stars (Tupac, Biggie, and Eazy-E), and hip-hop culture, as well as a how-to session for aspiring rappers.
"I've been teaching in the Cleveland public schools for the past 10 years, doing workshops on gang violence, HIV, self-esteem, and a variety of programs," Jahi says. "If I wasn't an MC, I'd probably be in the classroom doing lectures all the time. We use a lot of hip-hop videos and a lot of articles on relevant issues today to springboard conversation in the workshops."
Jahi will also be promoting his new record, Higher Elevation, with a record release party on January 29 at the Millennium Entertainment Complex (1012 Sumner Avenue). He's adopted the slogan "We are not doing hip-hop . . . we are hip-hop" from KRS-One and considers himself an "edutainer" interested in promoting an "overstanding" of culture. It's all hip-hop speak that combines the concepts of education with street lingo.
"KRS-One is a great influence on hip-hop culture in general," Jahi says. "For all of us growing up -- BDP, Run DMC, LL, Schooly D, Eric B and Rakim -- that's the reason we're here. I'm trying to get really close to KRS-One, because I know he's going on tour, and I want to be a part of it. He had an album called Edutainment, but I think the whole concept was before him, and he just coined the term. It's in that spirit that I'm doing what I'm doing -- education as well as entertainment. I think that's the perfect balance."
After taking about three months off to run a friend's Mexican restaurant in Florida, Michael Miller (formerly of Wilbert's and Barney Googles) is back in town and has started managing Gillespie's (1261 West 76th Street). Miller plans to book national and local acts in the performance space upstairs at the club, which was formerly known as Snickers.
"I'm basically starting over," Miller says. "I took over a place where there wasn't any business when I started. But business has picked up now that people know that I'm back in town. I just took the last two days off, and when I went home I was so excited, because I knew it was going to work. I knew I had money in the bank to pay the bills and make the payroll."
Miller has had his problems in the past. The original Wilbert's was shut down after Miller failed to make his rent payment ("I hired lawyers who told me not to pay the rent," Miller maintains). Wilbert's then relocated to the Diamondback Brewery, but was asked to relocate after Miller went to Florida at the end of the year.
"I thought I set them up, and they made it look like I ditched them," Miller says. "I didn't want to be a prick and take all my shit out and leave. I left my sound system there and my crew in there. They couldn't afford me, and I had a buddy in Florida who could afford me. That's why I left -- because I needed to make a living, and I couldn't do it there. Not to be a prick to anybody or take my ball and go home -- but I think they turned the situation around to make people feel sorry for them. It was just the opposite. I kinda felt like, when I was there, I didn't get any support, so I thought, "You guys do this.'"
Miller, however, hopes his troubles are behind him. He's booked locals Mike Farley and Mothertrain to play on January 21 (tickets are $5) and has an Alex Bevan CD release party scheduled for February.
"I have an investment group together, and I learned my lesson -- you want to own the property," he says, adding that he's looking to purchase a venue. "The worst thing is that we're losing all that good music. Lil' Ed is playing at Savannah, and Roomful of Blues is playing at Fat Fish Blue. If we had a place, they'd much rather play for me. I live and learn, and . . . try to do the right thing."
Stacey Pullen is one of Detroit's best DJs, and he'll be in town to play the "Music is the Key II" rave on January 22 at the Eagle's Nest (575 Broadway, Lorain). Tickets are $25 if you arrive before midnight and $30 after. You can call 216-556-4998 for more information. The lineup also includes the Stickmen, Noel Sanger, Total Science, the Funklab, Mark Almaria, Jason Dunne, Ivan Ross, Miss Hollie, Luis Aguilera, Doughboy, and Cleveland's Tigger, Ian Mariano, Michael Patrick, and Deuce Wild. Pullen, who has been working on an album for Astralwerks Records for over two years, records under a variety of monikers (Bango, Silent Phase, Kosmic Messenger) and has been DJing for a decade.
"The album is more organic and funky," he says regarding the LP he's finishing for release this spring on his own Black Flag imprint. "It's not the typical Detroit techno album everyone expects us to make all the time. I'm adventurous. I've always been adventurous -- I come from the school of hard knocks. I come from [Derrick May's label] Transmat, which has always been about putting out innovative music and was never about putting quantity out. It was always about putting quality out."
Pullen, who has performed all over the world, will be making only his second appearance in Cleveland.
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