Chicago emcee Add-2 creates Haven Studio for Chicago youth

Add-2 - Photo Credit: Eddy "Precise" Lamarre
Add-2 – (Photo credit: Eddy “Precise” Lamarre for Steed Media Service)

When we speak about the litany of issues that the Black community has, there always seems to be plenty of complaints and reasons for why things are happening the way they are. It starts to get more quiet when we talk about providing and executing solutions for all of these issues.

Chicago rapper Add-2 has worked with the likes of Common to Kindred Lamar and has established himself as a notable emcee with unquestionable skill. We spoke with Add-2 recently about a solution he has put into action to help the youth of Chicago. He has partnered with the organization Guitars Over Guns to create Haven Studio, which is currently based in the historic Mt. Pisgah church on the South Side of Chicago. We talked about his endeavor and why it is important for the young people of Chicago.

Tell everybody who you are and what you do.

My name is Add-2. I’m an emcee from the South Side of Chicago, a mentor for Guitars Over Guns and most of all I am a child of God.

Why was it important for you to create Haven Studio in Chicago?

We need it. I felt it was important to have something like this specifically on the South Side of Chicago because I know the obstacles that our youth face. I was born, raised and still live here. I got tired of waiting for city officials to step up. I got tired of hearing about how great programs that kept kids occupied were getting removed from schools. I got tired of hearing bad news on the news. I got tired of hearing people complain about the negative things kids are doing when in reality it was the adults failing the children. Instead of complaining I wanted to do something. I wanted to bring a solution that could give teens an outlet to express themselves creatively, a safe place to be and a place where we could begin to change the narrative. I’ve always felt it our job to use our platform to make the world a better place. No matter what job you have, we all are capable of improving our surroundings.

How does the partnership with Mt Pisgah church help this endeavor?

It helps tremendously. One of the biggest hurdles most organizations face at the beginning is finding the perfect place to operate. When I initially made the presentation to Pastor Ernest Ledbetter III, I quickly seen he shared the same views on helping the youth, rebuilding the community and he gave us his entire support through every step of the process. To have the full backing from a historical church such as Mt Pisgah is incredible. This was a church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spok where Jesse Jackson operated out of and has always been a pillar in the Bronzeville community. To me, it feels like we are carrying on the legacy.

How is Englewood different now than it was when you grew up there?

When I was a child I saw the world through a child’s perspective. Some of the same things that are happening now happened back then but we didn’t notice it as much ’cause we were busy being kids. It wasn’t until I got older [that] I started to notice things weren’t right. Hearing gunshots, absent fathers, exposure to drugs and alcohol at a young age, not being able to buy certain things like Starter jackets or Jordans because of what may happen to you, not wearing certain combinations of colors to avoid trouble, kids getting killed. My friend was shot in the leg when we were in fifth grade the same year my neighbor was shot and killed. Even though it was wild back then, I do remember feeling as if you had to be at the wrong place in order for something bad to happen to you. Now that I’m older I feel like something can happen to you at anytime, anywhere without warning. That’s not just Englewood, that’s not just the South Side and that’s not just Chicago. That’s anywhere.

Talk about the impact that music has had on your life. What do you think would be different if you had never tapped into your gift?

It may sound cliché, but music saved my life. I can’t imagine my life without music. Besides having two parents in my house, it was the most critical part of my development. I improved my vocabulary by listening to artists like Lauryn Hill sing words like “reciprocity.” It gave me a place to express my thoughts and feelings without having to worry if someone [would] judge me or if it’s structured properly to get a good grade from the teacher. Music gave me self-confidence. To be able to turn my thoughts into a song, then play it for someone and it becomes something they admire and resonate with is one of the best feelings in the world. Had I not discovered my love for music, I would have settled for living check to check my entire life. Instead I’m living a fulfilling life and able to help our youth see they have the potential to do the same.

Add-2 - Photo Credit: Eddy "Precise" Lamarre
Add-2 (Photo credit: Eddy “Precise” Lamarre for Steed Media Service)

Who are you targeting specifically and why?

Teens between the ages of 14-18. I often feel they are one of the most neglected groups but are one of the most important because they are at a crossroad where it can either get better or it can get worse. They are at the age where they crave acceptance and are extremely impressionable. A lot of them are dealing with heavy issues and have experienced trauma but because we as a community teach to internalize these same issues come up in different ways like anger, attitude or depression. The good news is a lot of them love music. Probably hear their favorite artist voice more than their own parents voice on a daily basis. If we can use music to positively express what’s going on in their lives we can begin to change it for the better.

What have been some of the challenges with getting this program off the ground?

This particular program has been in development for about a year now and has faced many obstacles. Originally it was supposed to be in another room inside the same building but in March we had a major leak in the roof where the equipment would have been placed. The leak couldn’t be fixed in time so we had to find a new room which was completely renovated in 2 weeks. Of course we faced issues of funding, getting all the equipment and structuring it so that it can sustain. Thankfully through the grace of God and the support of the community we have been receiving donations from equipment to financial assistance. Also having a major partner with the Guitars Over Guns organization helps tremendously. They have been fully supportive of the program since its inception and have gone above and beyond to ensure its success. Chad Bernstein, who is the CEO of Guitars Over Guns, was also a Steve Harvey’s Hero and was invited to Steve’s show. Steve gave him a donation in which Chad has used to supply our studio with equipment the youth would need. It has been such a blessing to watch the community come together to bring a dream to life.

I’m sure this will take up a big piece of your time, however I know you haven’t put down the mic. What’s new for you on the music front?

I’ve been plotting on new music. I still write and record constantly of course but I’m taking my time with it and letting the music inspire me.

What words of encouragement do you have for those who are looking to pursue their passion?

Dreams are real. You’ve been given this idea and feeling for a reason. You never know who you are going to inspire just from seeing you pursue your dream. You never know who’s life you may change or impact from your dream. None of us truly knows what happens when this life is over but for as long as you are here do what makes you happy. We are made in the Lord’s image [and] that means [we] are designed to do great things. He made the world in seven days, so you should be able to change the world in a lifetime.

Learn more about Haven Studio at or email [email protected]

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