Hear the music inside him

By Dana Rettig

Massai Amewa can tell you exactly what it is like to grow up convinced that you can survive only if you learn from the life on the streets.

But he can also tell you what life can become if you realize that there are other roads to manhood.

He learned how to set aside his anger and street-bred toughness so that he could help others through an organization like the Black Star Project while learning about the music inside him.

And the story of what he learned is exactly what fills his debut album, 7 A.M. politics.  It is a fusion of hip-hop and spoken word that expresses the painful truth of realism found in today’s society.  His album touches on many topics, but his main thesis is pragmatism.

“My album is about speaking the truth about the lack of options that my community is facing these days such as, unemployment and other things that are bringing people into a deep abyss of sadness and depression,” he says.

“Maasai’s work is very relevant to the masses for the unaddressed social topics,” says jazz vocalist Dana Lynn. Topics like prison and what that means to the black community, he adds.

Maasai’s searching began as a youngster when his father was in prison.

He grew up poor and learned to fend for himself.

“I was an only child until my mother had given birth to two children by my stepfather. My relationship with my step-father was not pleasant at all, so I sought guidance from the streets to teach me things that my step-father hadn’t taught me and that’s how to survive,” he says.

He began performing at the age of seven, doing dance routines and touring the city of Chicago. “I used to partake in the interpretive dance program when I was in elementary school. My team and I performed for Mayor Richard Daley, Jr. at Truman College, so that was a pretty interesting experience,” he says.

By his early 20s’, he had moved to venues like The Green Mil, Red Kiva, and the Funky Buddha Lounge.

But he couldn’t support himself as a musician, and so he took on a sting of jobs running from working as a rehabilitation worker to a college admissions counselor.

He long hungered for the mentor he didn’t have as a youngster, and then he met Phil Jackson, founder of the Black Star Project in Bronzeville.

“He (Jackson) is very big on educating those who seek prosperity as a whole because times are really bad with high crime and unemployment rates. He really believes that hope is around the corner if we would work together as a whole instead of hurting each other,” he says.

Soon he realized it was time to stop daydreaming about his future. It was time to embrace the music and the message of getting on with life despite what has come your way– measures that give him meaning nowadays.

“What changed me in a positive light was when I realized that I can do more with my life than what I do was doing.”

 

 

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For more information on Maasai Amewa, go to www. Wix.com/7ammusiq/7am

Dana Rettig wrote this story for the Community Media Workshop youth non-violence campaign, We Are Not Alone. This article appeared in the Chicago Crusader.


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