Producers Jimi Kendrix and J.Math, collectively known as Street Radio, have been working together for a little over a year slinging tracks that will be making their way onto projects from Bone, Tupac, Jim Jones, Fabolous, Mic Geronimo and more. However, while working their way up the charts they developed the program ‘Rap, Poetry, and Word’ in Brooklyn, NY which gives at risk adolescents a chance to learn how to construct songs, beats, and rhymes. What at first glance may sound like a hip hop factory is therapy for troubled youth dealing with their issues through music and poetry. We caught up with the duo to talk about how the program came about, it’s purpose, goals and successes.
Website: Street Radio Music
Tell me a bit about the program Rap, Poetry, & Word. How did it start and what is the overall purpose of the program?
Math: I’ve been working at this center, called the Adolescent Employment & Education Program (AEEP) for about 5 years. It’s a GED and vocational center in East New York, Brooklyn for 16-21 at-risk adolescents. I teach GED there now mostly, but I have always had this class Rap, Poetry, & Word. I’ve been making beats for about as long as I’ve worked there. So I always liked to bring my tracks to the center and use the kids as a test market. So the class is for potential rappers. We start studying poetry and then transition to rap lyrics. They learn about flow, delivery, cadence, how to count bars, song structure, and everything like that. Then they get to writing. We really try to use the lyric writing as self-exploration, and do a lot of ‘œlife story’ type of tracks.
Now the program has been growing over the past few years. What were some of the initial aspects and what was added on as the program and funding grew?
Math: By the second year, we started attracting grant money and were able to get in the studio. So we would work out of AEEP for a few months and then spend our time in the studio at the end. Over the years, it’s gone from 3 days in the studio to 2 months. The more time in the studio, the more tracks we could get down.
What’s the itinerary of the program? Basically from day one when the kids come in what can they expect?
Jimi: They’re gonna learn from the fundamentals to hands on. It gives them drive to do more. We provide the resources, like the studio, the lyrics to study, pens, pads, food. We start off studying their favorite songs and artists, but slide our choices in there too. But they can expect to walk away with a full notebook of rhymes and a recorded demo. We take time away from our careers to try to help out.
What are you able to provide for them that really allows them to fulfill their vision and express themselves artistically?
Jimi: Knowledge. But you gotta break them in first and make them comfortable. You gotta have them open up first. Then you provide a nice atmosphere for them to work.
Math: And just having these kids open up is a feat in itself. A lot of these kids are emotionally closed off to themselves and to the world. By showing them that the best MCs put their lives and emotions into their tracks, it makes it ok to them and they start writing about really personal stuff.
What have been some of the success stories coming from the program and do you feel any of the participants will continue on with what they’ve learned?
Jimi: There’s a number of kids who have come back to lyrics they wrote and broke down while reading it. There’s a lot of personal success and growth stories like that.
Math: And on the business side of things, I have been working with this kid Gutta since the second year. Shit is coming along good with him and he’s a project we’re working on now.
Have you thought about putting out a compilation of the work you’re compiling?
Math: Honestly, not really. Because there’s so much personal material on there, I let them keep it for themselves. And there’s a lot times where I just let them do whatever they want, and just use the booth as an outlet.
What are your goals for the program in the future?
Math: Just to keep it going and keep building on it. Always look for new ways to upgrade it and make it better. There’s no blueprint for it, so we just gotta keep growing with it and stay fresh.
You guys are also working together on some production for some big names. Tell me a bit about Street Radio and what each of you bring to the table in terms of production, experience and what you contribute?
Jimi: Math brought me back to that griminess and we started really working out a new sound together. A lot of times, I’ll leave a track with him, come back the next day, and it will be a whole new thing. He adds that extra creativity that brings it to the next level.
Math: Jimi knows how to take a hard track and make it approachable to everyone. He’s wired to hear melodies that I would never think of. Plus he comes from a percussion background, so his drums are sick too. Jimi is one of those dudes who can make a track out of anything. Collaborating with him has changed the way I look at production altogether.
What are some upcoming projects we can expect to hear the sounds of Street Radio?
Jimi: Bone Thugs, Tupac, Jim Jones, Byrdgang, Fabolous. Work’s been really starting to roll in, cats are catching onto our sound. I don’t even wanna jinx a lot shit just yet, but top of ’07 is gonna be serious. We’re working with a lot artists in the studio, too: Mic Geronimo, A+, and this new chick Nazarene who is getting a lot of attention.