“I’m taking into consideration the western viewpoint of poverty and the Somali view of it. We know struggle; the west sees ‘suffering’. I talk about the creation of beautiful things out of the dirt. That’s what a philosopher is. I can’t stand it when people like [US chat-show host] Barbara Walters want you to expose yourself to the point of tears.” A sudden flash of acid mockery enters his voice. “‘How does it feel to be Somalian?’ You’re not saviours and we don’t think of you in that way. Africa isn’t waiting for you. We are not owed guilt. We are owed respect.”

Around the same time I was doing all this I was still messing with DJing in a serious way, I was always serious about it, but this time in a way and in essence, DJing really did save my life because if I wasn't DJing I probably would have been fucking around and getting in trouble and would have probably gotten shot. So I went back to school, taking accelerated classes and all and ended up graduating earlier than my contemporaries. When the kids my age were starting 12th grade I started freshman year at CCP (AKA 13th grade!) and was going to do that for a couple semesters and then transfer to Temple.

I never really doubted myself and I want this to be motivation for other youngsters out there. You don't have to be a city person to make it. I just had a passion for television and Hip Hop. If you have enough passion you will make it no matter what, it might take time but you always make it. Besides I come from a family of survivors.

Toni Blackman is an explosive rap lyricist, vocalist and writer who is considered a pioneer in hip-hop theater. A founder of Freestyle Union, she is a former ambassador of Hip-Hop from the State Department to Senegal and Ghana. She has been featured in Vibe and Essence magazine and also appeared on CSPAN. Blackman infuses and molds grassroot activism, politics and culture in her work. In a sea of lack-luster and fading artists, she is a musical gem that continues to elevate all to a higher conscious level.
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