Arts Desk

Head-Roc’s Mouth: Power Moves Party Returns Saturday

Chocolate City listen up!

This Saturday, yours truly is hosting the Return of Power Moves Party at Ras Hall. The original Power Moves party was a fixture on the D.C. hip-hop scene, showcasing the best local talent in a consistently packed Kaffa House for nearly a decade during D.C.'s hip-hop golden era.

We have a special treat for you at the return of Power Moves. Founding A Tribe Called Quest member Jarobi White—in town promoting the local premiere of Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest—will co-host the event.

Some may not know that Jarobi is a bricklayer of the D.C. hip-hop scene by way of his exploits, tutelage, and guidance of Infinite Loop and later the Head-Roc War Machine featuring Noyeek the Grizzy Bear and DJ Eurok. Jarobi is like a brother to me, and I am truly excited to have him back in Chocolate City. I will further note that he has requested all of the good people he knows and loves—you know who you are—to use the Power Moves party as a way to reconnect.

But while Jarobi's appearance is a big plus, my invitation is anchored by my desire to showcase what I know to be the blessed talent in D.C. hip-hop and indie music. So in addition to hiring D.C.'s hottest DJ and universally agreed-upon master of the mix and musicologist DJ RBI, we are providing another very special treat: Veteran MC Akil Nadir, who will be back to rock the stage after a three-year hiatus.

Who is Akil Nadir? Well, family, in order for you to understand the science of the person I consider the epitome of a D.C. MC—pure funk—is to let the brother tell his own story.

Head-Roc: Please tell Chocolate City and the world a little something about yourself.

Akil Nadir: I’m a family man, first and foremost. I just got married this past summer and I live with my wife and two beautiful daughters in Bowie. I took a hiatus from music for two years to focus on family, my career as an educator, and furthering my own education. I received a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Trinity University in December and decided almost immediately to get back in the studio to work on a new project. I also used that time to self-reflect and review my body of work. A few things stood out: 1) It was all really vulgar, nothing I could share with my children or my students, 2) I didn’t really have a clear message beyond bragging about how clever I am and how many women I’ve conquered, and 3) the quality was really uneven. I wanted to dead those less desirable elements of my body of work and start over with something I could be proud of on all levels. So, I dropped the alter ego and started recording music that reflected my current state of mind.

HR: As a D.C.-area artist, what do you think of the current music scene? Have changes in local music affected your own music?

AN: I’m so excited and proud to see how hard everyone is hustling—from Wale, to Tabi [Bonney], to my friends Gods’ Illa. Joe (of Dirty Water) and I were trying so hard for years to create the environment that we are seeing today with these younger guys. I’m taking notes, humbling myself, and preparing to re-enter the scene. I don’t expect anything but a hard grind. I realize that these younger guys have worked harder and smarter than I did and I have no interest in taking any of that away from them or riding anyone’s coattails. I’m planning a lane for myself. I want to shine next to them, not in front or behind. I think there’s enough light for us all. It’s just time for me to step out of the shadows.

HR: Talk about your latest project and some of the folks you worked with to make it happen.

AN: The latest project is a mixtape called The Orientation and it’s a prelude, basically, to an album I plan to release late this summer called The Re-Education Program. I’m no longer interested in blowing up and becoming a celebrity. I want to make music that makes my people ask themselves important, scary questions about themselves and their community. I want to make music that sparks the kinds of conversations that cause people to change their perspectives and behavior. I want to be a part of the solution to the problems that plague our community, like teenage pregnancy, AIDS, drop-out rates, poverty, over-representation in the penal system, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, broken families, health, and government dependence. To me, it’s all a matter of culture. Obama, Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown—none of them can help our people improve their conditions because it’s not a matter of changing laws or policy. It’s about changing minds. To affect this positive change, brave people need to be willing to stand up and ask the important, scary questions like “Why are we doing this?” “Why do we think this way?” “Why do we believe these things to be true when we have no evidence to support it?” and “Why do we continue to do this when it’s obviously not doing us any good?” Politicians can’t ask people scary questions because scary questions make people uncomfortable. People don’t vote for people who make them uncomfortable. If a politician doesn’t get elected, he is no longer a politician. He’s unemployed. Then he can’t help anyone. I don’t have that problem. So, I’ll say whatever the hell I want to say.

HR: Please explain the kind of support you’d like to see from Chocolate City and the surrounding areas that would benefit you as an artist.

AN: Just take some time out of your busy schedule to download it and give it at least one listen. I promise you won’t regret it. Your soul will do all the work from there.

HR: So what’s the next move?

AN: The next move is a follow up mixtape, some music videos, some shows, and, ultimately, the album release late this summer. I plan to keep busy. This winter I’ll be self-publishing a novel, and next year I plan to release a short film. Also, I’ve been painting. Hopefully, I’ll have enough decent pieces to make my debut on the local art scene next year as well.

HR: What is your favorite and least favorite thing about the local music community?

AN: I love everything about D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, or the DMV as they’re calling it now (still trying to get used to it). I love the good and the bad. It’s what gives our region character. It’s the reason why we haven’t had a national success story come out of here in decades. We are hard on one another. We challenge each other. We compete ferociously. That can seem like a big negative, but I look at it like this: Whoever does come out of D.C. and make a serious and sustainable impact in the music industry will have cut his or her teeth on the hardest ground in the country. They’ll be more than ready for whatever they encounter out there in the rest of the world.

"Art Under Pressure presents: The Return of Power Moves" takes place 9 p.m. on July 16 at Ras Hall, 4809 Georgia Ave. NW. 21+. $3.

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