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I spent September 2015 in Lucerne, Switzerland via the CLAER Program, as a Cultural Ambassador for Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI). I returned to Lucerne (French spelling) —or Luzern (German spelling)— in April (as part of my Euro Grand Tour) and September 2022 to collaborate with resident artist Jonas Raeber for the program’s 20th Anniversary celebration.

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Here’s a beat I produced after my first visit, called A-YO for the traditional Swiss alphorn and yodel samples (the Busta/Dilla vocal was a fitting afterthought)…

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A Zoom meeting last week, reminded me of my experience with (and appreciation for) Kartemquin Films (KTQ). In 2014 (after my time with AXS TV), I wanted to create urban music, arts and culture content that was more eclectic and socially conscious. This led me to the DVID Fellowship (the doc film program is a partnership with CFW Chicago).

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The idea I brought for an international project was too ambitious at the time. But the fellowship experience helped me to better define myself as a storyteller and refine some elements that are emerging in The DOWNNOW Project, as it continues to develop.

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[above] DVID 2014 Pitch Day and Reception [left] Screening some of my best/favorite work for the review panel (including the Blitz clip behind me). [right] Post-pitch chat with Lauren Pabst (MacArthur Foundation) and Dan Andries (WTTW Chicago).

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[above left] DVID 2014 Graduation award and [right] class photo. [below left] Gordon Quinn, KTQ co-founder and [right] #thumbsup with Chaz Ebert, our keynote speaker.

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[below left] DVID 2018 Graduation with fellow alumni Jamaar (center; 2018) and Cam Be (2017). [right] The three of us with doc godfather, GQ (these guys are very talented, and some of my best work has been with them).

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WCSFP 21 Emerging Producer


As I advance The #DOWNNOW Project, I’m happy to be recognized as an Emerging Producer by the World Congress of Science and Factual ProducersWCSFP. I’m impressed by the entire cohort and excited for Congress ’21.

I’m also looking forward to Jeff Goldblum’s Spark of Inspiration session. His Nat Geo show (like Anthony Bourdain‘s Parts Unknown) is a model for the kind of smart, curious television I aspire to make.



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Scenes from the Global Closing Session of the awesome and inspiring World Press Freedom Conference 2020, co-hosted by UNESCO and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Happy for my small feature with Christiane Amanpour and Humberto Tansee here at 29:03— but just to be clear, I’m a Music, Arts & Culture Journalist, not a Sports Journalist (s/o Pieter, Youssra & Joel)…

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The #DOWNNOW Project is my original journalism/storytelling and music series, conceived in Summer 2020 through my Chicago Music Ambassador role. Promoting the “Year of Chicago Music” began to feel increasingly tone deaf and out-of-sync during a crucial election cycle, the disruptive arrival of COVID-19, intense social upheaval for racial justice, and the convergence thereof.

The pandemic ultimately forced The City to suspend its celebrations, but The #DOWNNOW Project —as in, “It’s goin’ down now!” and “Are you down now?”— had already occurred to me as a way to continue showcasing Chicago music, while conscientiously addressing current times and issues.

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The project is an ambitious intersection of urban music, arts & culture, with high ideals of social justice, human rights and press freedom. It will present dialogues for healing and action, and create original movement anthems. My inspirations are the legendary Studs Terkel (a primary influence as an interviewer/broadcaster and social/cultural critic), and Chicago’s rich history of Black music activism (exemplified by iconic artists like Curtis Mayfield, Oscar Brown Jr., and The Staple Singers). I’m also heavily influenced by the brilliance of Don Cornelius and Soul Train.

The project has been awarded by National Geographic —click “Chicago” on this Nat Geo Project MapChicago DCASE (through the “Arts 77” plan), and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). Shoots and recordings are currently being planned; I’m following The City’s lead as it cautiously resumes activities. Logo tee shirts and face masks are available in the #ASCbrand store at Threadless.com.

From underground to Ambassador

I’m happy and honored to be named a Chicago Music Ambassador, and to join the City of Chicago’s Office of the Mayor, its Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), and its official destination marketing organization (Choose Chicago) in celebrating the Year of Chicago Music (2020), and the 35th anniversary of the Arts & Business Council of Chicago.

As a Music, Arts & Culture journalist, I’ve worked with some of Chicago’s most beloved media outlets. As a documentarian and multimedia artist, I’ve been supported by key civic arts initiatives and some of the city’s prominent arts organizations. And for years, prior to my current work, I was an active “true-school”  artist in the local hip-hop underground. So as a proud, almost lifelong Chicagoan, this new appointment is both appropriate and much appreciated. Click the pics or links for more info.

Beats, Rhymes & Life / Rewind That


I’m still processing Phife‘s passing last week (3/22), playing my A Tribe Called Quest collection and re-watching the Beats, Rhymes & Life documentary. I only met him a handful of times -the same way I met most of my hip-hop hero/peers during my active rap years, as an opening act or host of underground shows. But ATCQ was so big to me, that I’ve been impacted to contemplate my own life, mortality and art. There are lessons in Phife’s legacy.

He was my age and ageism in hip-hop is a tricky issue -notions and conflicts of reverence vs. relevance. It’s often come up in my meetings and conversations with the greats, through my TV/media work, and was a factor in my decision to almost completely suspend my own rap activity. But Phife’s passing (along with those of J-Dilla, Baatin, Sean Price, DJ Timbuck2, Praverb and others) reaffirms two major life lessons -take care of yourself and practice your passion for as long as you can.

I was really moved by Busta’s heartfelt Instagram tribute. Leaders of the New School and ATCQ both suffered youthful infighting and break-ups, so to see the members of both groups matured, reunited and recently rocking onstage was awesome. With Phife gone now, I can only imagine how much more precious that moment has become for Q-Tip and the other surviving participants. I’d still love to see a full Native Tongue reunion with Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Black Sheep, etc. Camaraderie, reconciliation and celebration of shared legacy are beautiful.

Common’s Instagram tribute was no less heartfelt, but it hit me differently because he recounted a shared memory. We were together in NYC when we first met ATCQ (and other favorite artists). I was once a member of the pioneering Chicago hip-hop collective* that included him, No ID, Twilite Tone and manager, Derek Dudley. Common’s post triggered memories of good times, but also of our own crew’s infighting and that I’m still often misrepresented (if not entirely erased) from his accounts of our shared history. Re-watching the BR&L doc (focusing more on Phife) reminded me that it’s exhausting to navigate complex, conflicted relationships with old friends you’d really rather build with.

I appreciate the early liner notes inclusions and contributions** to my small, independent releases. Today we’re always cordial and professional. The occasional shout out feels good and I’m open to new collaborations. I’m philosophical about my Mikey D-like rap status (too many aliases, group names and affiliations only helped my obscurity), but I’m blessed to have found other fulfillment and I’m happy to be in a place where I still feel creative and motivated. Real talk…

Thanks Phife, for the inspiring parallels and valuable lessons of your incredible journey. Rest in peace and power bro, salute.

“I never walk the streets think[ing] it’s all about me, even though deep in my heart, it really could be. I just try my best to like go all out, some might even say -yo shorty black, you’re Buggin’ Out!


*shout out Sean Ross, Sean Lett, Dug Infinite

**featuring Common – Mic Illumination (96), Cryogenic (FR99) (96), Money For Dope (92) | produced by No ID – Invisible Ink, Soul Oasis, Still Consummate, TTGP remix (all 2002)

Keep Calm & Rock Well (one cool thing leads to another)…


I caught the amazing Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali and her band at WTTW studios, during their recent Chicago residency with OTSFM and IMAN (click pic to enlarge). I checked them out online after, which led me to the cool Rhythm Planet program at KCRW.

I was familiar with the station’s eclectic music programming, but I started listening to its other shows. An interesting segment about logos and branding inspired the KCRW tee-shirt design below. It’s of course derived from the original British WWII graphic.

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