MIAMI — As flashbacks go, this was top notch. Booker T. Washington High’s auditorium. On staaaaage, “From the DJ who brought you, such hits as Friends, Freaks, and One Love! — William Drew Carter, also known as Grandmaster Dee!"
Wow, this was one of my starter rap sets. So of course, being an old-fashioned groupie, I got an autograph.
Here filming a segment of TV One's Unsung, the NAACP Image Award-winning documentary series of one-hour biographies, was this member of the legendary group Whodini. Real rap.
He’s working with other rap artists to help motivate the summer interns of Urgent Inc., which provides social service-oriented empowerment of youth endeavor through rites of passage, career initiatives, and arts and culture revitalizing Overtown and Goulds through afterschool and intergeneration projects, volunteerism, and a touching campaign called She Kept the Bra on — a Macy’s collaboration providing free bras for girls who may not be able to afford new ones.
Gracious DJ William Carter thinks that respect starts at home, with many well-known mottos, such as “Each one, teach one.”
He recalled his start in high school where he was quite a comedian; then as a master of ceremonies hearing Grandmaster Flash, the echoes of word repetition, participating in freestyle battles, breakdancing, and basketball (his second love, in which he plays in celebrity tournaments), until forming his first group with two female emcees, working the clubs, then meeting Mr. Magic, forming Whodini with Jalil Hutchins and John “Ecstasy” Fletcher, signing with Jive Records of Europe, then working with Clive Davis.
He reminisced about the time when profanity in rap was nil, positivity was first and foremost, the visits to malls, record shops and stores, signing autographs for hours, with his belief in God and wanting to be among the famous people of his day. “Go for it!” your goals, he spoke.
He still suggests having a good demo and your own style — stressing that followers can’t lead — even though he thinks the Internet destroys record companies. The sky is the limit, take your opportunity to study the history of rap and other genres of music, like James Brown, Earth, Wind and Fire and Carly Simon. Be original like his touring colleagues Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa. And to the ladies, he reminds us that Lady Diana Ross said you don’t have to take your clothes off to get an audience.
He believes that the village helps raise the neighborhood so successful people come back. Wanting to continue his love of sharing and education and work on another album, he is currently on tour with Salt-N-Pepa, another wow! His favorite rappers nowadays are of course Luda, Dre, and expecting father Jay Z. He also recently spoke to drug addicts in Delray Beach, another community act of kindness.
He reminds the students to know the business side of the biz. Protect your homes from the IRS, have varied legal counsel, and if you had to rent it for a video, it’s not paid in full, so act like you know.
Jermaine Joseph, 18, a senior, heard about the Urgent Inc. organization through a school ad. He has found a job in advertising, and said he is now motivated from DJ GD to understand the history of music. He is in a college program and would like to be a music producer.
Also among this prestigious Booker T. panel was Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board member. In her intro she thanks host Principal William Aristide for having worked in the community for more than 20 years and bringing Booker T. from an F to a C school, nice.
Beautifully dressed in her usual African regalia, her pattern confirmed Nigerian. A former principal, the doctor is a strong advocate of Urgent Inc., working with them through their summer engagement program. She finds that some communities aren’t exposed to experiences of success so bringing culture enrichment is wonderful, especially with hip-hop’s cleanest artists.
“We need more programs. I’m about children’s happiness and excited faces, as the ones here in the audience,” she says. “If you don’t make it, I don’t make it.”
Photo: Grandmaster Dee.