On July 28th, JBL Audio tapped Culture Creators (social organization that honors individuals for excellence in black culture) to help curate an informative panel for their “Sound Sessions” series, featuring the Grammy nominated rapper Rapsody, the musical engineer to the stars Young Guru and the producer extrodinare, 9th Wonder. Held in the serene location of Martha’s Vineyard, during Legacy Week for Historically Black Colleges & Universities alum (where the divine nine Greek sororities and fraternities celebrate their collectives), the conversation moderated by Datwon Thomas [EIC of VIBE], about their respective music careers, inspiration and college experiences expressed their deep appreciation for the higher education space and how it helps in life’s progression.
“…at an HBCU homecoming, just to see the legacy and community in that experience, that is something that you carry on, even when you are talking about the Divine Nine,” 9th Wonder explains. “Other fraternities and sororities and other cultures kind of stop after going to college, this is something until you pass. [HBCUs] also teach you how to deal with weight. Going to an HBCU, for a lot of us, we are the first in our families to do so.” On the music side of things, Rapsody added how her love of music led her to working with both 9th Wonder and Guru, through her ties at her college, North Carolina State University. Although her school isn’t an HBCU, her connections to the surrounding schools in North Carolina that are is evident in her bond with students that attended them. “My career has been a beautiful journey. I started out as a kid in college, that had a love for Hip-Hop with a dream and a passion, that got with the right friends,” Rapsody fondly recalls. “Then I met 9th Wonder and he saw something in me that I knew was there, I don’t think I believed in it, but he put a little gas on the fire and is like my dream merchant. Coached me and put me under his wing.”
View this post on Instagram
As a trio, Young Guru, 9th Wonder and Rapsody, have a long standing relationship of working with one another through the Jamla record label that 9th Wonder founded in 2008. He later signed Rapsody to the imprint, groomed her musically and Young Guru came on as an executive to quality control the projects that come from the soulful Hip-Hop focused label since 2015. Seeing how they mesh well on the idea and feel of music theory as well as while dropping gems about life and education, one can see why they are such a tight knit crew.
The easy conversation earlier in the afternoon at MV’s The Loft location was the first session of two talks that the group of three would have that day. The second session would be at a more intimate location, the Restaurant Bettini, where a detailed talk about HBCU life would take place, accompanied by dinner and moderated by Culture Creators founder, Joi Brown. JBL Audio was also the power behind this gathering and billed this chat as part of their Sala Series, spearheaded by Peter Farnsworth, the president of Fox Rock partners and originators of Sala. Sala is an Italian rooted word that means salon and the series draws inspiration from informative gatherings in 17th and 18th century Europe. Today, these dinners bring a cross section of thought leaders together to discuss ideas, plans and ways to change culture and business for the better. The electronics brand is very committed to the HBCU space as the EVP/CMO of Harman International, Ralph Santana, gave a few words about how important change agents like the panelists are to culture.
A pleasant surprise for the night was the event being graced with the presence of world renowned DJ to the stars and social media dance floor rocker, DJ D-Nice. He vacations in Martha’s Vineyard and just so happened to be in town during the night of inspiration. JBL took a moment to acknowledge D-Nice’s contributions to society for playing our favorite tunes to get us through the shut down the pandemic forced us into for the last year. While all dined and mingled, the greatest take away from the festivities was how much HBCUs and Black culture powers the eco-systems of business and entertainment. Yet, the life lessons learned at such institutions help shape the next generations of leaders and creators and how the support from brands like JBL, Culture Creators and the artists themselves helps keep this cycle of tradition going for years to come.