How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
I’m an educator with my primary focus being on English and history. I’m also a proud member of the Hip-Hop generation. While in undergrad I had to create a thematic unit and I chose to create a unit that captured the essence of who I am and what I love. To me, there was no better fit than a unit called “How To Teach Traditional English Using The Tools of Hip Hop and Poetry.” Once I started teaching the unit, its impact was so profound in terms of being able to grab and hold students’ attention that I wanted to take it to another level and show my students you could take things that you love and create financial opportunities from them, plus I wanted to create something that I knew eventually my generation would need and crave. Every generation wants to be able to look back and reflect on their time of youth and growth. The Hip-Hop generation is no different. The oldest of us are now in our mid to late 50s with the youngest being well into their late 30s. All of this translates to mean economic spending power and an opportunity to introduce something valuable into the market.
What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
What separates me from others is that I was the first to capture the essence of a culture in the form of a game and to begin to preserve that history with pride versus trying to depict its value from a stereotypical perspective. You won’t find questions in my game that depict artists as thugs or uninformed misguided misfits. All of my questions reflect on the artist’s contributions to Hip Hop history and culture as a whole. Therefore, when I address them in the questions I use words that reflect the respect I have for them and their craft, words such as: pioneer, innovator, genius, etc.
Plus, my game has been around for 12 years and still has serious relevance to the culture, no one else can lay that claim.
How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
You have to continue to look for new ways to introduce the next generation to the value of history. Present it to them in a manner in which they can feel valued as ongoing contributors to the culture as well as gate keepers of its legacy. Therefore, coming out with a phone app and social media version has serious value. Right now I’m working on creating a television game show version which will definitely take it to the next level.
Do you think that there are any widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
I think the misconception is that it’s cheap and easy to create a product and watch it grow without having major sponsorship or corporations behind you. People make suggestions all the time on what I should do next or what medium I should offer the game in, but they don’t really understand the financial aspects of what they’re proposing. That misconception is almost insulting.
How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
I map out my goals based on continuing to gain momentum around getting the masses exposed to my product. Once they are exposed there’s always a lot of support and love for what I’ve created. My success at this point and time is measured on the fact that it’s been 12 years and the game still is received with a contagious vibrancy when people experience playing the game.
Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see/use as examples for you to emulate?
I have no true competition in the field. I have seen many try to make an attempt to crack open the market, but they have faded like light during dusk. I’m proud to say my brand and product is an original.
Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
The role models that I look at from the Hip Hop generation people that have been able to demonstrate their ability to have staying power through diversifying their portfolios. People such as Russell Simmons, Sean Carter, Sean Combs, Curtis Jackson, Dana Owens, Will Smith, etc.
Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life and/or yourself.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, As a Man Thinketh, and Rich Dad Poor Dad
Why do you consider continued learning important?
I’m in the field of education. Continuing to learn, grow, and evolve as a person is as essential to me as water is to fish. If you don’t, you quickly become out dated, out of touch, and socially irrelevant.
What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
“The only person that can stop you is you. Don’t talk about it … be about it.”
Please define your personal brand.
My personal brand can be described as unique because of my ability to capture the essence of the culture in one product. There are a lot of products that try to tackle the separate components of the culture, such as a DJ game or a MC battle, but my game captures all of it. Whether it’s the word play of the MC, the competitive drive to prove your knowledge of the history, the behind the scenes orchestration of the samples used to create the music, the names of the b-boys and b-girls responsible for the dances we attribute to the culture, or the acknowledgement of the taggers … it’s all there.
What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
I’m a camper. I love to hit the road and see new places. My goal has been to see all 50 states by car and camp. As of today, I’ve seen all but two – Hawaii, of course I can’t drive there, and Idaho – headed there this summer. You have to see all of our country to really understand what make it such a special place.
What does it take to be iconic?
If you produce something of quality and added value through time, consistency, patience, persistence, preparation and people, you will ultimately reach iconic status.
What keeps you inspired?
The same thing that inspired me to create the unit as well as the game. I love Hip Hop culture and I love being a gate keeper and positive contributor to its legacy.
How do you stay connected with fans?
Through my website; www.hiphopskillz.com as well as Facebook.