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Monday, September 2, 2013

MINISTA ZIN URU: A Passionate Student of Hip Hop

          It seems like some people and on a larger scale; some cultures don’t get a fair shake.  Hip Hop as a cultural phenomenon has withstood the test of time, adversity and the doubts set forth by those who thought it would only be a fad.  From the negative stereotypes and publicity, to the unsolved murders of Hip Hop legends like Tupac, Biggie, Jam Master Jay, Scott La Rock, ect., the culture itself has still maintained an immensely popular global following. Throughout the years, Boogie Down Productions lead KRS-One has taken individuals under his wing who are serious about assisting in the preservation of Hip Hop.  One of those apprentices is a West coast native by the name of Minista Zin Uru.  The Minista took ample time to absorb all that was taught by The Teacha and continues to spread the Gospel of Hip Hop to the masses worldwide.  He’s found great personal joy and satisfaction knowing that he, as a Minista, has affected the people in a positive, uplifting manner and that Hip Hop will never die on his clock. Take some time out of your day to catch up on the life, inspirations, struggles and spiritual growth of one bold and thought provoking, Minista Zin Uru.
All music enthusiasts have their roots in tunes from the past.  My mother would play music around me when I was a wild, young child, so I ask you; has the Hip Hop culture always been your number one love?  What other genres of music do you listen to?
Hip Hop hit me at a very young age when “Planet Rock” was released.  I’d have to say that was when I was in 5th grade.  Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot and a lot of the rock bands come to mind, but when I heard “Planet Rock” and “The Freaks Come Out at Night”, it had my attention from there on out.  I have a really deep affinity for that old school Hip Hop music like Run DMC, but after that I grew into listening to Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, N.W.A, amongst others, because that music really opened my eyes on a social level.  When it comes down to it, I’m a music fan, just a fan of real music that comes from the heart and not solely for money.     

Where did you grow up and how was it for you as a child?
I was raised in the small town of Antioch, California right around the East Bay area.  As a youth in the suburbs, I’d go skateboarding with my friends and get into a little trouble here and there, but nothing major.  Philosophy grabbed my attention at an early age as I’d begin studying the Zen and Taoist philosophies.  By the time I was 14 I started learning the Martial Arts.
(Bruce Lee, R.I.P. 1940-1973)
What drew you towards philosophy early on?
There was no single event that got me into it. It was Bruce Lee, because he was on TV Saturday mornings and if I was lucky enough to wake up in time to catch part of one of his movies; that was like God to me.  With all due respect, I was going to church at the time, but I would see his movies and how he moved, thought and spoke.  It was like this whole other reality I was unaware of until Bruce came on the scene.  An older friend introduced me to the book, “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do”, written by Bruce Lee.  It’s a thorough description of his philosophy on life and the Martial Arts.  That really opened up the doors to my mind.  As I grew up, I noticed that his book really carried over into my everyday life.  

Since you had the rare opportunity of being an apprentice of KRS-One in the Temple of Hip Hop; what’s the best piece of knowledge he ever gave you?
It’s how to be a good father.  Beyond everything I’ve learned from the Gospel of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop culture itself; it’s getting to know him on a personal level and seeing how he interacts with his children as a father.  That was something I truly appreciated.
How has KRS-One affected your life the most since you’ve learned so much from him?
Wow!!  The thing about the Teacha is this.  I joke around sometimes and ask people if they’ve seen the movie, “The Matrix”.  It’s like going from one reality to a completely different one.  I met him when I was 32 and he added so much to my whole way of thinking. Next thing I know, I was traveling around the world representing Hip Hop culture with the Teacha, handing out the Gospel of Hip Hop and being in the studio with artists I admired growing up like Marly Marl and DJ Premier. I developed a love for the culture and a desire to protect it once I became part of it.  The flipside is this, that during the whole transformation and process I went through, I took into account having a family and being away from them.  Being able to go on the road changed how I look at myself and the way I look at life.  My process was like adapting to the Matrix.  My life has changed in every way, shape and form.  As events have occurred, I can’t help but to see a divine plan working itself out, because I could’ve never done any of this on my own.

What was your role with the 2009 Stop the Violence Movement?
Most of what I did would fall under administrative duties.  I’d do whatever was called upon me to do.  As a theme to the movement, we made a song called, “Self-Construction” as a tribute to the Hip Hop classic titled, “Self-Destruction”.  “Self-Construction” has Nelly, Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli and Neyo singing the hook.  We tried to get that song out to the people and took it to the industry, but they literally closed their doors on us.  It was a double edged sword, because we had a great project, but the industry showed its true colors wanting to promote their agenda.
Not to be a pessimist, but I don’t see much of a stop to the violence where I’m at in Chicago, so what do you think can be done on a legislative and social level to end, or sharply decrease the violence in the streets nationwide?
Well, on a legislative level, the legislators can all quit their jobs and let those of us in the streets that can really help to change things campaign for those positions.  In Chicago, they’re doing a horrible job.  This is our country, no matter what the mainstream media says.  It’s not theirs.  It is ours.  Let me tell you something.  Violence is natural.  If you look at the world around us, you’ll see that nature is very violent.  It’s non-violence that’s supernatural and comes from the spirit.  When we advocate non-violence, we ask the people what causes violence and we usually get two answers.  One always seems to be poverty. You can’t expect people who are impoverished and malnourished both physically and spiritually to make it out of that.  Aside from poverty, the other cause is illiteracy.  If people don’t have the words to describe what they’re feeling as a way to cope, they’re running off pure, raw emotion.  As intelligent humans, we know there’s a frustration in the mind that can build up, but not if we are knowledgeable.  If you can’t express yourself then you won’t be able to get out of your environment.  The roots of Hip Hop culture were always based around non-violence, education and socio-economics where you can build and uplift a community. If you look at mainstream American culture, they promote violence.  They (record execs) reward violence and illegal behavior, but they don’t live in the streets and see the effects of the violence first hand.  I don’t know if it’s just a game they’re playing with people’s lives?  If they are, that’s really twisted, but I hope that’s not the case.

What was so controversial about your documentary, “Tent City”?
KRS-One and I were in New Orleans promoting one of our shows, along with the Stop the Violence movement.  We were driving on the freeway and saw what’s referred to in post-Hurricane Katrina as “Tent City”.  There were thousands of people living in tents under the freeway, some of which needed medical attention and/or counseling. Poverty like that growing up was atrocious and to see something like Tent City; we had to film what we saw.  It ended up being an 11 minute video that can be viewed on You-tube. We gave some of our pocket money to the people we encountered and filmed the area to raise awareness.  Part of the controversy came from local community activists who in a way became jealous, because we didn’t include them in the film.  We weren’t going to wait for one of their video crews.  We decided to film it on the spot.    

Describe in your own words your reaction to us never hearing much about convicted killers whose victims were rappers? What’s your perspective?
That’s a heavy subject.  I remember being deeply affected by the murder of Jam Master Jay and how it was a major catalyst in me becoming more involved in our Stop the Violence campaign.  We as the Temple of Hip Hop are very close to his family and supporters.  Hip Hop on a deeper level means something to us as people and not just as fans. It’s injustice from top to bottom.  It’s sad, because the intent of Hip Hop culture was never about that.  It shows a lack of leadership in our community and an obvious immaturity. With Biggie and Pac, those are open cases still unresolved.  Why does it have to be Hip Hop? Why Hip Hop?  When a known rapper dies they parade it all over the news, but where’s that same attention and passion in finding out who killed them?

Who are some of your favorite Hip Hop artists coming into the game recently?
Lupe Fiasco, Yelawolf and Souleye, even a new emcee from North Carolina named Chachillie.
(Lupe Fiasco)
What in life was your driving force prior to Hip Hop becoming part of your life?
It was a search for God and a search for a free spirit.  I was always in a search for knowledge and truth.  I feel that I’ve developed a relationship with the higher Creator.

Explain the essence of the H-LAW?
The H-LAW is the only law we have at the Temple of Hip Hop which stands for Health, Love, Awareness and Wealth.  To live in this state of mind uninterrupted is a state of being that we are now invoking and calling into existence within our community.  Health is beyond just the physical body.  We are referring to a healthy mind, body, soul, community, state, temple and world eventually, God willing.  Love is the essence of all existence and the bridge for the four elements of the H-LAW.  Awareness, as in being aware of our surroundings; who we are and what our purpose is.  Wealth is much more than just riches.  A rich man with a lot of money can call himself wealthy, but end up being poor in conscience.

Most everything has a good and a bad, so what’s the best thing about being in your shoes?
It’s not knowing who, or what will show up next in my life.  I wouldn’t say I live my life dangerously on the edge, but it’s the excitement and the newness of everyday life and not knowing what’ll happen next.  Also, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the Hip Hop culture grow. 

What’s one thing you’d improve upon personally, first and foremost?
It’s my confidence.  All of us go through this when being real and honest to whom we say we are.  It’s the confidence to go out and know that there’s something more to our existence than what we’ve been taught.  When you take into account people’s inventions and the human’s creative mind, we really don’t know if there are any real limits to our civilization.  Our knowledge is forever changing.  I’m improving on my ability to communicate and speak from the heart better than I have before.
When you say, “We are truly here to become a whole new creation”, what’s the first step in doing so?
It’s seeing that I wanted a change in my life and not being afraid to go after it.  We pray for things to happen in our lives, then they happen and we don’t know what to do half of the time.  We have to learn how to humble ourselves.  When you come to change yourself, ask yourself if you want to become a better version of your old self, or do you want to become a “whole new creation?”

Article written:  Bill Oxford

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