When people heard the word “rap” in the community where I grew up, they developed a mental picture in their head of a group of young, adult men, heavy breathing into microphones, with little to no comprehension of the words they were saying. I can remember the first time I brought a “rap” tape into the house. “Yes,” I said “tape.” I turned it down as low as I could get it, and hit play. I tried to dance and keep time, but I could barely hear it. I had to wait until my parents were gone, and then I blasted it; Not only was I able to dance to it; I could ‘feel’ the music.
MUSIC BEHIND THE MEMORIES
I picked up some R&B, and then some Hip Hop; and I kept a steady supply of various genres. This collection sculpted the future of bittersweet moments of pain, joy, tears, laughter, and perpetual memories that would be part of the era of growing from a girl, into the woman I am today. And now, when I hear one of those songs, I remember a date, a time, or a moment; it’s so much more
than just a song. It is the feeling, which reveals the change within; a change each of us valued, throughout the serenading of the chorus, until the harmonious, fruition.
Having the pleasure to speak with the two gentlemen of Urban Republic, I was able to see the same appreciation was there for both the artist and the listener. A connection in the music, the memory, and an event, that you can’t get back. One thing remains the same though. Whether you are the listener, the artist, the performer, or just someone who hears the melody playing in the distance; You may forget something, but that song remembers.
THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS, WILL KNOCK BACK
Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, James Harris, (aka Dewey Da Don, Dewey) grew up with the odds against him. He didn’t have it easy, and he didn’t make it easy on himself. He learned from the “School of Hard Knocks” where you grow up, learning after a few unnecessary knocks, the ones you could have and should have, avoided.
James Harris grew up the typical way teens do, just doing his thing, “his way,” and that doesn’t make for an easy path when working with others. By the year 2006, he was on a path of no return, and labeled in the group that held, “Within the next year you will be standing before a judge, and what you have to say and hear, will not be easy.” He could see the pain he was causing others, and as he looked at the man in front of him, he didn’t like who was looking back at him.
By the summer of 2007, the hard knocks, finally knocked back in a positive way. And this time, he had someone who believed he could do it. He was presented with the opportunity to attend Usher Raymond’s Camp New Look. This camp enables their students to complete their graduation, and encourages them to seek a college degree, or get started on a path towards something else. This is the camp that helped James Harris, realized “Dewey Da Don,” the musician could be more than a dream. This was only the beginning for a man like him. His enlightenment came from seeing others empower themselves, and he found he was looking at himself and in his ideas for the future. He had a plan. He wanted to spread his message to others.
James Harris joined the movement, and he excelled in voice. Using his voice, became more than a passion that day. He became a voice that placed him on NBC, and in Washington DC in front of Congress sharing a message that has changed many lives to date.
James tells about his experiences growing up, and how this path changes his life, with Brian Mitchell of NBC Productions program of NBC Nightly. Some people don’t think people care; some people keep taking those knocks, but James tells you his story, and how it can change for him and how it can change for you.
Leaving night shifts and long hours working at the Waffle House behind, Dewey took advantage of everything he learned, and he went to work as a businessman. He became an Executive Board Member, and Digital Program Director for “Usher’s New Look Foundation”. He didn’t stop there, as he reveled in creativity, and as an “inspiration entrepreneur”, he founded LoudPack Productions. As CEO of LoudPack Productions, he would have to seek out a partner, and he didn’t have to look far. For, he and his CCO shared, first, an aspiration, “The greatest ability in a leader is to inspire someone else to be great!” – the two of them together, with what would become the first collective “Truth”, created a statement, “Everything we do, YOU are Going to Hear About,” and it rang out loud and clear, as the second “Truth”, was collectively formed, Urban Republic.
Dewey Da Don and Casanova “Novacain”, (aka Nova) Butler, have been hustlin’ up Atlanta, Georgia, and have been continuously working on their music, since 2012. They have tracks separately, and together, but their latest success has been a long-awaited, joint effort. They are both excited and ready to hit the streets with this one. Dewey and Nova attribute this labor of love to their hometown of Kansas City, also called “Killa’ City” by those from the area. As proud as both men are today about how far they have come, they also haven’t forgotten ‘where’ they came from, and they respect the self-made state of mind they have, and that without it, they would have never gotten out of there. When people hear them talk about this place, they want them to realize the bigger meaning out of it.
IN ATLANTA, WITH LOVE AND “YOU GONNA HEAR IT”
Tracks from their 2016 release, Atlanta with Love, vents their lyrical and creative talents. Every exchange of their distinct style, complements each other so well, it gives a natural feeling of chemistry to their soundtrack. And it’s not just their music where this effortless articulation of friendship is found. Even when talking business, it seemed each one was spot on with their goals and strategic suggestions. Both are driven, musically, graphically, and philanthropically.
It is important for them to get the message out. Their brand of greatness and excellence, and spoken, “It doesn’t matter if you are working at the Sonic, for a company, or for LoudPack.” “Your dreams and passions are bigger than that.” “You are bigger than that!” “You are who ‘YOU’ see yourself as, and you can do all you see.”
“CAUSE EVERYTHING WE DO, YOU’RE GOING TO HEAR ABOUT IT!”
Anytime you are speaking with someone, you get a genuine feel about them. Call it a vibe, if you will. When listening to these two men speak about themselves or the company, I could tell there was so much love in what they were doing. They truly love music. If you want to stay in music for the duration, you have to love it. You have to make it your world. You have to take a stance. LoudPack is their stance. It’s more than just a company, it’s who they are. I recall the statements, “Whatever facet we are doing, you are going to hear about it; and we do it all.” “I believe in you at LoudPack!” “Music is powerful.” Those statements are so positive. It was very admirable to hear two young men, so early in their career, laying roots down like this. It sets forth hope for music’s future.
The most impressive response for me though, was when Dewey mentioned how they want to have songs that have a different nostalgic moment in your life, whether good, bad or indifferent. This really resonated with me, as I mentioned before. Music really mattered in my life for this same reason. It does with my daughters today. I think it still does with many people. I think this generation especially, is looking for something to relate to. They need somebody, something, even if it is a song, to throwback to and say, “This is me.”
People may look up and see these two guys and say, “That’s those two guys from Urban Republic.” They may think they are just two rappers who do nothing all day but maybe sleep late, write a song based on whatever happens, but really have nothing to
do. The average person would not realize when looking up and visualizing two rappers, these two people in front of them, are actually two businessmen. Both of whom are writing their own story, and they are doing so by overcoming obstacles every day. They are working on getting their business venture set with communication, strategic goals, networking, and education materials all together for the future of other people. Their ambition is to live a life, dedicated to the service of others. They want to elevate people in communities, and to lift others above their circumstances. They understand when others see them people being active and positive, then other people do the same; youth in general, mimic other people and their behavior. It is through their artistry and entertainment, which they intend to empower our youth, because they are our future, and we need to invest in them, and let them know they can achieve their dreams.
THE PASSION AND CONTAGIOUS PLEASURE, OF MUSIC
The passion exuded from both artists is unbelievably contagious. “Dewey’s” passion is leadership, and he revealed, “I think I have learned a great leader wears many different hats.” “I have to push, grind until it makes sense to everybody, not just me.” “So I keep pushing until it makes sense.” “Nova’s”, wish is strictly to be an artist. For him, “Music is like a drug,” he mused, “Music takes me away from everything; I had just got a notification I was being evicted from my house.” “I had something that night, and as soon as the music started, I forgot about everything.” “Music takes me away from trials and tribulations in my life.” “Music is where I run to.” “Performing is everything.” They both talked about before they perform, they remember why they are there, and they pray, they give their blessings; it’s everything.
I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Dewey Da Don and Novacain of Urban Republic, and of the questions asked, both gentlemen reflected on their lives, as a duo and as people. They discussed their history as teenagers growing into musicians and the responsibility to you have to “Never forget where you came from, yet never to be content where you are!” – Reflecting on their own edification through growth and development. “Positive reinforcement for one, is the hardest thing, so you have to own who you are; believe who you are, not who you think!” This is a deliberation, which I feel most musicians share as performers and as writers. To contemplate an escape in their music, for whatever it gives back to them, whether it be an emotion, an inspiration, or a recollection. I remember reading in an article, another musician by the name of Hunter Hayes, wrote ~
“I’m very shy and awkward. I think the best thing is to embrace it. It’s about accepting who you are and what you want to become and knowing all that you’ve got to work with, whether it’s good or bad. My music was the only place I could be me for the longest time.”
This is what speaks to me about my own thoughts earlier with my kids, and when I was growing up. For musicians have the same thoughts and feelings towards songs they record. They find one that is special to them because of a certain meaning in their life. Both of these men are fathers, so they understand how hard it is to be away from their children when on the road and they want their children to learn from them to be inspired and to be empowered, and for them the greatest gift you can give a child, is to be present in their life. This was the inspiration for one of Dewey’s favorite songs, Daddy’s Little Girl; lyrics written about his daughter, communicating his love to her while separated. He also mentioned Distorted Portraits. This track about the “crown of our life”, was a collaborative effort about creating your own vision, and how it takes every one in their own unique image for the world to see. Nova’s favorite, What You Know About It, he reminisced on how the pain of watching his brother growing into a leader, was reflected in the lyrics of this song. “I can channel the music and it just really means so much,” he shared.
For Urban Republic, it allows them shelter from the rainy days when they are far from home and they compose their music. It also provides them a feeling of accomplishment within the bittersweet memories of the past, allowing them to chase their future aggressively. In essence they too, receive as much from the music, as they give, and at the end of the day, they remain as they want, as they need to stay, humble, but hungry.
“Everything we do, YOU are Going to Hear About!”
Here’s how! Urban Republic tweets @Urbanrepublic2;
Tweet with Dewey Da Don @iamthadon; (I)@Deweydadon
Tweet with @Novacain007; (I)@Novacain007