Before I met Fame in person, I decided to look him up on social media outlets to get to know him a little better before the interview. I spent about 20 minutes straight, going through his Instagram uploads and archives. What I peeped was variety of subject matter in his post that ranged from motivational quotes and photos of his daughter to tough as nails hip hop artist comparisons.
When we finally met up at The Gathering, Philly’s longest running Hip Hop event, Fame was all energy, bounding off the stage to greet me. We stepped outside West Philly’s Rotunda so I could get to know and hear him a little better, away from the break beats and the set-up of Red Bull BC One 10 break dancing competition being held inside, running in conjunction with The Gathering. “I would like to consider myself to be an entertainer, more so than a b-boy, dancer, host, or promoter, hiphopologist as I call myself. I like to guide the culture, the ones who are younger than me to do the right thing, as well as feed off of the teachings of the older culture and the generations before me. Im just trying to be a hip hop scholar all around. You have to know the key pillars of hip hop. You have to know where they originated from: Key people and movements, or points in the culture of hip hop. Hip hop is not just rap music or b-boys dancing. It’s a whole culture. It is about how you talk, how you walk, how you sing and how you dance, how you go to work every day. Hip hop is an incorporation of all that. People really don’t understand that. But when y’all see grandma’s on TV. saying ‘my bad’ and all that you don’t realize that’s a part of hip hop culture.”
Fame knows his stuff and he knows it well. When talking in detail about The Four Pillars of Hip Hop, his passion for the art and culture was obvious. “Rap, B-Boying, (which is the dance of Hip Hop) is the original dance from Kool Herc, the godfather himself, as well as Afrika Bambaataa. Another pillar is Graffiti, the other visual art of hip hop. I prefer everyone to not use walls in the city, but if you’ve got to please do. Just don’t get caught. You didn’t hear that from me though. Last but not least is the DJ who gives the music. He is a maestro with two instruments, turn tables that he uses to formulate the party, the atmosphere. They should know the musical selections as well as their crowd. Those are the four pillars. I would like to say that I have my hand on every pillar. I try to jump off to the sub-genres of hip hop too. Some people consider skateboarding hip hop, we dub that. Its not, it has its own culture. A lot of things fuse into hip hop. Hip hop comes from a lot of things. It would be stupid for it not to make other branches.” Fame’s love of Hip Hop goes deeper than the surface. Along with knowing the facts and history behind the craft, Fame is involved. As far as myself, if I know where it came from, and if I can see where it is at right now, and can kind of judge where it is going, I think I would have to have my hand in every bit of it. DJing, B-Boying, MCing and Graffiti. I won’t say I am a master at all, but ill damn sure say that I know about all of them and you can’t out speak me on that.
As we are chatting outside, Fame comes off mad comfortable yet excited about the battle that is beginning in a few minutes. It is not every day that you host an international breakdancing competition. Even at The Gathering. “Well the gathering is the most ill the most raw, the most authentic jam for hip hop in Philly for the past 16 years+. For those who don’t know, the gathering is somewhere where free expression, originality, and creativity, is fully expressed and appreciated. Even if you don’t b-boy, but if you have something to express, get off your chest and get out. We don’t discriminate. We let everyone come in and express themselves exactly how they want to without judgment.
With such a longstanding and legendary event, one could wonder how Fame got the opportunity to host The Gathering and be a part of history in the making. “My man TuPhace, hosted the gathering before I hosted it. When he would get on stage, I would get on stage and clown around with him, never really taking the mike. I would go two three years straight, every gathering and watch him. He would incorporate me the gathering happenings. After a while, the owner I would say of the gathering, my uncle IB say like ‘I wouldn’t rather have anybody else take it over but you. I could do it, but my generation, is not fully in here like we used to be.’ Right now it is about Fame, Ai-Que, and IB.”
` Hip Hop lives and grows in the past, present and future of Fame. Michael Jordan likely remembers the first time he made a lay-up. DaVinci probably remembered the first union he created between paint and canvas. Just the same, Fame remembers the first time he experienced the Hip Hop culture. I was about 5 years old and me and my father were cleaning up our one room apartment at the time. He put on MC Hammer, ‘Too Legit To Quit’ We cleaned up the whole house to the album. Ever since then, “I have to find out what this hyper active music is about?” Ever since then I had to get into this culture.
Just as he was brought up in the lifestyle that he holds so dear, he is following in his father’s footsteps by raising his daughter Nia the same way. “About six years ago I had this daughter and I named her Nia. Nia is purpose in Swahili. Ever since I had my child, I have found myself. And that has helped me stay focused in what I am doing. Nia has showed me that I have a purpose in this life. When I found Hip Hop or I should say, when Hip Hop found me I found purpose. My purpose in doing all this is for my daughter so that I can give her a sense of culture. I want to let my daughter know that you were made because I love you and this music that I love brought me to know that you are more important than anything. The music that I listen to made me a better father and human being. Without this music I don’t know where I would be. My daughter is the reason why I do this.
Being a self-proclaimed “hiphopologist” is far from a cake walk. “The biggest struggle for me is staying true to myself. Because within this culture, there has been an infestation of suits that come in and try to tell you what you should be doing in the culture that you were raised in. Trying to tell them that they are wrong, for trying to tell me that what I’m doing is wrong is always hard, because you have to have a good point and back it up with facts and stability. With myself, I have to stay true to myself. That is the integrity of what hip hop is. You have people that try to take the gathering into what their light is. And try to take it and change it into something more ‘neo’ I would say. I don’t really want to make it neo hip hop. They already tried to do that with neo soul. Soul has no end to it. There is no Neo that should go in front of it. It is just soul. I don’t try to change, I just try to cultivate it and make sure that the intregrity of it remains the same. You can grow and branch out and do all those other things but everybody must know what the grassroots and the oil of the culture are.
At the moment, Fame is actively creating his future by teaching the people everything that he knows and adding in the positive advancement of his culture by voicing his reasoning as to why the current disconnect in Hip Hop music exist. I never try to do a whole bunch of major things. I have a really big focus problem. I try to focus on one thing and get that out of the way. So right now my focus is teaching the culture, as well as dance moves if need be. Teaching awareness. Teaching peace and tranquility. My next and most consistent thing would be to educate and find as many people that would take my education so my legacy won’t die. There is a generation gap. The older generation refuses to cradle and nurture the youngins. The younger generation really does not have any respect for the older generation because of their lack of nature. When it comes to hip hop now, I feel like it is in a state of peril. You have to get respect back from each party, that is the older and younger generations, as well as a sense of balance. I’m not going to sit here and say that I don’t like the horrible, ghettoest, ratchetest, songs on the radio, but should they be played before the more inspirational, the more loving, the more emotional songs? I don’t really believe that. But the thing is, those ‘suits’ sort of have a kind of a handle of what gets played on the major market. Us, as a people, the culture of the people, not just the race, come from a culture of research and development. I feel like the more people learn to research. I think that this is going to happen as the younger generation get older, they are going to go back and be like: ‘why do I like this particular song? Why do I like this particular beat? What kind of sample is that beat? Oh that sample is from this song that came out in the 70’s. Oh let me research about what happened in the 70’s for them to make this song. Oh snap! We were in the struggle in the 70’s too to get appreciation from another culture? Oh wow, it all connects some way.’ It all really connects that what. Right now we got to get back to research and development.
Love peace unity and having fun. What person in the world says they don’t want to do one of those things? Hip Hop, from the birth of it was destined to be worldwide and every culture was destined to know it.
It is safe to assume that Fame supports a stronger more unified version of Hip Hop, one where it is further engrained into the everyday life of citizens. “I feel like Hip Hop runs the globe. This world we live in is submerged in hip hop culture and no one even knows it. Everybody is saying and doing hip hop things; slang words and mannerisms. I feel like hip hop has changed the way people have made money. Before, ways of hustling, ways that people in poverty ridden area used to hustle was a secret. Hip hop gave a voice, a loud and embolden voice of what people who don’t have a lot of income actually do. So if the politicians all the way up at the top level would actually listen to the people who are digging themselves out of the poverty whole, it would be a closer connection between the top and the bottom. They tend to not listen to us. They don’t listen to us because we don’t have as much money as them to talk to them. The resilience in my people, we don’t wait for anyone to ok us for anything. We go get what we got to get and we go get it however we got to go and get it. My culture of hip hop as always produced a sense of hustle. A sense of go get it by any means necessary.”
After we wrapped up the interview, and a few photos are flicked outside The Rotunda, fame shows some love to a few people hanging around the entrance. Some could be friends or family. Maybe just a familiar face. I can say with confidence that they are to him, members of his beloved Hip Hop culture. After the daps and hugs, Fame saunters inside and onto the stage with a flava incomparable to anything.