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Flashback to Do the Right Thing-era East Cleveland, where East Bay hip-hop MC Jahi grew up. In Jahi's hometown, rhyming was part of the daily grind: Kids would get to school at 7:30 for breakfast battles and stay on the playground ciphering for hours after class let out. At barbecues and block parties, freestyle raps were more ubiquitous than Frisbees. If you wanted to get with someone, you'd spit her a flow with your phone number in it. If you wanted to say the hotdogs were ready, you'd have to say it in rhyme. "Cats would breakdance on cardboard boxes, bump Run-DMC mix tapes, and floss hats with their names tagged on," Jahi says.

Which isn't to say Jahi grew up in environs as temperate and healthful as the settings of Car Wash or Cooley High. Even when the 31-year-old MC waxes nostalgic, he'll admit that hood life was no picnic in the age of Reaganomics. Though Jahi doesn't want to be shoehorned into the ghetto-chic thugworld of every rap-loving suburban kid's fantasy, he recalls that East Cleveland festered from poverty, overzealous law enforcement, and the crack epidemic to boot. If this were the setting of an '80s-era Dickens novel, Jahi would be a hip-hop Oliver Twist.

"At 22 I was doing grown-up stuff," he says. "I was married, raising a son, running a nonprofit daycare center, and working a part-time job. I'd already seen crack come into my neighborhood and mess up folks' lives."

It was only a matter of time before Jahi's chutzpah and political ardor would propel him to the East Bay, where hip-hop culture oscillates between the ghetto gold-earner lineage associated with E-40 and the seditious bent of KPFA's Hard Knock Radio. Bruised from the crack epidemic and recent waves of gentrification, Oakland -- like Cleveland -- is a community in constant tug-of-war, as plucky hip-hop activists vie with the decidedly unfunky mayor Jerry Brown for access to public space and control over artistic resources.

Jahi moved to Oakland last year at the behest of Tony Coleman, who founded the Mindz Eye Collective -- an organization that promotes consciousness about civil rights, resisting police brutality, and dismantling the prison industrial complex. It didn't take much behesting: Jahi was eager to infuse hip-hop into the movement, using beats and rhymes to flesh out his political lyrics.

It's a tough balance to strike, though, between preachy and catchy. Surly and groovy enough to appeal to architecture grad students and Kangol-hatted kids alike, Jahi's music has the funk-driven, piquant, moderately breezy quality of forerunners such as the Roots, and other local acts like Crown City Rockers or Felonious. His band, Jahi and the Life -- featuring bassist Kevin Lofton and drummer Maurice Miles of Kofy Brown fame, along with local stalwarts Brian Hill on guitar and Mike Myers on keyboards -- is part of a new strain of live instrumental hip-hop seeking to combine rap with the armchair styles of new-school jazz and neo-soul.

Still, E-40's much-vaunted Yay Area (his term for the burgeoning local hip-hop community) is ground zero for an underground MC whose politics align with local rapper Paris, and whose platitudes most closely resemble the upliftment rhetoric of Huey Newton. When Jahi isn't leading "Know Your Rights" workshops in Oakland schools, he's hobnobbing with Blackalicious, who he met while filming the hip-hop documentary Redefinitions in Washington, DC. He fell in with the group and expects to drop a single on their label, Quannum, next year.

The association gives Jahi plenty of cred in the indie rap sect -- surely no MC wants to come across as a capitalist hawking Tupperware raps, which is why many cats stick by their underground sensibility. While Jahi doesn't want to be pigeonholed in the underground, he views the mainstreaming of hip-hop with a healthy skepticism. He likens pop rappers to the politicians who try to curry favor in his hood with bromides about the war on poverty: "One day they're shaking hands and plastering the town with flyers, the next day they're gone."

On the other hand, taking potshots at hip-pop is part and parcel of Jahi's "conscious MC" image. And granted, he acknowledges the mercenary side of his music: the drive to make cheddar and gain a large following. This self-described "real hip-hop" MC may be ill-suited to the pimp gambit -- a boon for commercial rappers like Jay Z and Snoop Dogg -- but he definitely has crossover appeal. The cuts on Jahi's forthcoming album, Songs from the Next Level, are alternately sensitive guy-ish and hot under the collar. It's kind of a patchwork affair for an artist still trying to develop a concrete persona beyond the shopworn "conscious" image he promotes so effusively. On the smooth groove tip, love ballad "Get Away" has the soft-and-warm Quiet Storm vibe of a dude tapping into his inner Stevie Wonder. But Jahi tempers the album's slow jams with convincingly rankled numbers like "Sirius," in which he decries Clear C - east bay express




Higher Elevation- 1999 Wreckanize Records
hit single "EFFECT" college radio

Window of Opportunity- 2001 Onefam Music
hit single "Neva The Same"- Internet radio

Songs from The Next Level- 2004 Onefam Music
hit singles "Redefinitions" and "World Needs" college radio/MTV 2

The Early Edition- 2005 Slept On Records/ Onefam
hit single "Warm Inside"- mixtapes west coast

Soulhop The Breakthru- 2006 EMI Music Denmark
hit single "Radio Raheem"- #1 P3 Radio and Voice TV- Denmark



Feeling a bit camera shy



“...This is what you get when you mix deep soul with Public Enemy/sick of the same ol’ same here comes the remedy...”

(new update..Jahi wins second place in the International Songwriting Contest...go to www.songwritingcompetition.com to see the winners out of 15,000 submissions JAHI wins second place for his song called "Share It")

JAHI, originally from Cleveland, but now residing in Baltimore, Maryland, has been on the move with music. From touring all over California in 2003-2004 with his band Jahi and The Life, to being on the road in the US and Europe with Bay Area Super group Blackalicious, to heading up a 13 piece band Nobody Beats the Beats in Europe, Jahi has been on his grind and about his Hip Hop. After four underground indie albums, JAHI has now found his home with one of the most political Hip Hop artist of all time CHUCK D to release his next album WORDPOWERSOUND on SLAMjamz.

Jahi’s style of Hip Hop, at first glance, could be compared with his peers like Talib or a Common,or even a KRS- ONE. But a deeper listen into the insightful, conscious, down to earth flow fresh with introspection, commentary about the state of the world and Hip Hop, displays his own uniqueness that shows Jahi’s originality, dept, and
passion for good music and social justice all at the same time.

During his worldwide grind, Jahi has shared the same stage with greats such as Chaka Khan, Mary J. Blige, The Roots, Public Enemy, Floetry, Talib Kweli,the legendary Chuck Brown, Missy Elliott, Outkast, Jay-Z, and Jaguar Wright to name a few. In addition, JAHI’s live show, with a full band, vocalists, and DJ not only brings his music to life, but also displays Jahi’s style, high performance energy, and his creative blend of Soul and Hip Hop that is infectious to any audience whether young or old. Jahi lives for the live show.

Currently, Jahi is finishing up his 6th album called WORDPOWERSOUND. Jahi continues to blend his stlye of Hip Hop Soul with European producers, as well as newcomers in the US. He just finished touring with Public Enemy for their 20th Anniversary tour, and now is gearing up to tour this fall. For more info go to www.myspace.com/soulhop