Interview: Unlearn The World
UnLearn The World has an interesting place in the diverse world of hip-hop, specifically socially conscious hip-hop. Raised by white Jewish parents, one might think he doesn’t have the “street cred” to make it in the hip-hop business, however, his upbringing shaped the music that he creates today. Noted musical influences include Eric B. and Rakim (the latter of which laid the foundation for Nas and Wu-Tang Clan.)
“Reflecting on my childhood is a common theme in my music, but not just growing up Jewish—being Dominican, living in New York, Washington Heights, converting to Islam, girlfriends… everything.” UnLearn The World remarked, “Growing up the way that I did only expanded my frames of reference. I could relate to more people. In life, when people find out I grew up Jewish, it’s a surprise and adds another level of depth to my character.”
He has been on hip hop shows like Mad Cyphas, sat in the studio with Latino hip-hop titans Fat Joe and the late Big Pun, and has performed with legends such as Killa Mike and Big Daddy Kane. “[Hip-Hop] has allowed me to have conversations with people and be welcomed in circles that otherwise, I wouldn’t have access to,” he said.
UnLearn The World eventually swapped the East Coast for the West Coast, still maintaining his status as a socially conscious hip-hop artist. When asked which social issues were important to him:
“As a human being that lives on this planet ALL social issues are of some importance to me. Naturally, some take priority over others, like ending racism and white supremacy, gentrification, police brutality, all of these are related to each other in some way.”
One of the most impacting social movements today is the gentrification of the Bay Area and other urban areas. “We’re on the front lines of the gentrification fight,” he said. “If we can continue to provide spaces and platforms for artists in major cities, we can gain some level of equity and make sure that the cultural and artistic integrity of certain neighborhoods is honored, even if the demographic of the neighborhood is changing,” he said.
UnLearn The World has brought his message to thousands of individuals during his career. “I taught over 5,000 students the history and culture of this music and all the elements, showing them how we can use hip-hop as a social justice movement.” He takes pride in his dual role as both a hip-hop artist and as an educator. “Ultimately though, we can’t change any of our collective political, social or spiritual issues until we deal with the existential crisis of ourselves. We have to collectively acknowledge the fact that we, as a species, as human beings, are forming societies and living lives that run contrary to our humanity.”
When asked what he wanted listeners to take away from his music, “I want people who hear my music for the first time to feel as they felt when they heard some of the greatest artists of our time. I want them to see and feel not only the potential for greatness, but greatness actualized. I want them to relate to my experiences or at the very least be intrigued and entertained by them. I want their hearts and minds moved so that they say, ‘Now that I’ve heard this dude, I can’t go back to the way things were and don’t want to.’ I want them to be evolved by the moment.”
You can listen to UnLearn The World on SoundCloud or check out his single, “The New Rakim” below: