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Arts & Culture

New Rap Album About Southeast San Diego Addresses Violence and Hope

The cover for the compilation album "Reclaiming the Community" is pictured; it was released in San Diego on July 28, 2015.
Reclaiming the Community
The cover for the compilation album "Reclaiming the Community" is pictured; it was released in San Diego on July 28, 2015.
New Southeast San Diego Rap Album: Reclaiming the Community
New Rap Album About Southeast San Diego Addresses Violence and Hope
A group of hip hop artists from Southeast San Diego have put out a CD called "Reclaiming the Community." They did it in response to recent police violence across the country but also as a way to inspire people in their community.

Rappers and hip hop artists from Southeast San Diego have contributed to a new compilation album, titled "Reclaiming the Community." It's inspired by issues of police violence, racial profiling and a desire to inspire and unite the communities that make up Southeast.

Some of the artists on the album are associated with rival gangs but agreed to be on the same record to send a message of hope.

"I think the atmosphere with current events, I think everyone kind of feels the same way," said Parker Edison, the executive producer of the project and a member of the rap trio Parker and the Numberman.

"Everyone has an emotion and I don’t think everyone knows quite what to do with it," said Edison. "I think the "Reclaiming the Community" project lets people express that emotion however they need to."

One album features veteran rappers while the other includes tracks from younger, up-and-coming artists. Almost all of them rap about aspects of life on the streets of Southeast.

Edison was inspired to act after hearing about an older man in Detroit who was beaten by a police officer with the nickname "Robocop."

"That just bugged me out because it could have been stopped," said Edison. "It just showed me that no one cared that much about it. That shook me up."

"Reclaiming the Community" artist Big June gets a shave at the Imperial Barber Shop in Southeast San Diego, August 5, 2015.
Katie Schoolov
"Reclaiming the Community" artist Big June gets a shave at the Imperial Barber Shop in Southeast San Diego, August 5, 2015.

Edison met with City College professor and Pillars of the Community president Paul Khalid Alexander. Together they decided to make a record. That meant putting a call out to everyone they knew in the music scene, including some of the veterans who might add legitimacy to the project.

"In your city, you know who the movers and shakers are. We wanted artists who were respected on a street level," said Edison.

"It was never created with one specific message in mind," said Alexander. "It's about the experiences of people who have grown up in Southeast San Diego and communities like it."

Alexander sees a stronger sense of community in the neighborhoods that make up Southeast.

"Many people in Southeast San Diego, as opposed to other neighborhoods, have been born and raised there," he said. "There’s an attachment to the high schools and to specific neighborhoods."

Rapper Big June agreed to be on the record and to recruit other artists to participate. A former gang member, Big June became religious in prison. For the Reclaiming the Community CD, he recorded a song called "Follow Me."

"Years ago, I did a song that was more so gang related," said Big June. "The person I used to be was drugs and I had people following me doing that. Which was not a good thing. Now I’m looking back at it like I was part of something that kind of messed up the city as a whole. So I can be proud to tell people to follow me now that I'm making good moves and being a productive citizen."

Big June said, "If I just change one person’s mind about something then I’ve done my job."

Executive producer Edison wanted others like Big June who had something to say.

"Reclaiming the Community" artist LooseLyric hangs out at his recording studio in San Diego on July 22, 2015.
Katie Schoolov
"Reclaiming the Community" artist LooseLyric hangs out at his recording studio in San Diego on July 22, 2015.

"There are people that have what we call game or knowledge and there are people that need that game," said Edison. "I think it’s dope that this record could let those that have the knowledge share it with the people that are looking for it."

Female rapper Sillouhette, aka Hotta, also participated on the record.

"She’s one of the original rappers in San Diego and she has family ties to both Bloods and Crips," said Alexander. "She does a really good job of making that connection to how the glamorized aspect of street life really has a very personal effect on the daily lives of community members."

Rapper LooseLyric helped record some of the tracks at his studio. He also has a verse on the song by LicWit Loco called "Every Day's A Hustle."

"The song was basically about how some people have to do a lot more than others, where every day is just that hustle to get to where you want to go," said LooseLyric.

"I was homeless. I was on drugs in the streets and all that. I changed my life. Now I’m a business owner," said LooseLyric, who runs his own recording and production studio.

"If I can do it, anybody can do it. You know that’s why we do stuff like this. Somebody’s going to listen to this album and it will motivate them to do better."

Edison hopes the project inspires others to make art or take up activism. He said, "You can do something. You are powerful. We did this record. Now you go do something. And that’s how you reclaim the community."

The "Reclaiming the Community" album can be purchased at M-Theory Records, Off the Record, the Imperial Barbershop, 619 Barbershop, Bandcamp and on Access Hip Hop.