CityBeat Feature Article On Abdullah’s Album & Artistry
I recently was the feature artist in the Music Section of the Cincinnati CityBeat in an article called “Pastime Paradise“ where I discussed my instrumental album Journey: The Sound of Life, and the influences that helped shape my ear for production. I am especially pleased to have had the opportunity to talk about my artistry on an established media platform in Cincy such as the CityBeat and to have had it written by one of our city’s most talented journalists, Mildred Fallen. This article came roughly a year after I had been featured in another established newspaper in Cincy called the Cincinnati Enquirer in an article which focused on me being one of Cincy’s “Emerging African American Leaders.”
“Pastime Paradise” came right on time in my opinion as I was looking for a way to give my album a second promotional push after its release earlier this spring. You can pick up a free copy of the CityBeat in various locations throughout Cincy and of course you can read the article on CityBeat online at http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-26098-pastime_paradise.html
Listen to and/or purchase my album, Journey: The Sound of Life below
#JOURNEY: THE SOUND OF LIFE - 6 Part VIDEO SERIES
Check out this 6 part video series focused on my journey as a music producer in relation to my first instrumental album, Journey: The Sound of Life. The video explores my early influences as a artist, my journey in sampling music, the experience in producing my first album entitled “The Professor & the Mutant, my family life, my work with Elementz and my intentions with my album Journey: The Sound of Life. Video produced and edited by Donald Hancock of Creative Cut Productions
#JOURNEY ENTRY 7: MY JOURNEY AS A HUSBAND
I met my wife, Nazeerah Abdullah, as I was becoming more active in a small Muslim community that gathered in the Mosques in downtown and Westwood Cincinnati.
Prior to becoming Muslim, I thought about marriage but I wasn’t convinced that I would ever actually be a married person. But in Islam we are reminded that being married is equal to half of our faith. This means that half of our faith is incomplete if we are not married! I was also reminded that marriage is essential in my development as “man.”
Nazeerah and I abided by Islamic tradition — no dating or intimacy before marriage. Seven months before our marriage, we spent time talking on the phone and I visited Nazeerah monthly at her mother’s house with most of her family present. So while I was getting to know Nazeerah I was also really getting to know her family.
Nazeerah grew up in a family with 11 other brothers and sisters while I am an only child! I always wanted a sibling or two but I couldn’t imagine having 11! Nazeerah is also a second-generation Muslim; her mother, father and siblings are Muslims. The majority of her other relatives are Christians. I, on the other hand, am a first-generation Muslim who was raised in a Christian family. I only know of one distant cousin in my family who is a Muslim.
Nazeerah and I got married in January, 2009. Since then, my wife and I have grown much closer. We have become a dynamic team and I would not be the man that I am today without her. My achievements over the last three years are definitely a result of having her support. God has fashioned me through my marriage to Nazeerah.
A different side of me has emerged through my marriage. I truly feel like I am more of a man and more of a leader. I’ve learned to become more patient, more family focused and more balanced. This personal growth has helped me in every aspect of my life, including my artistic skills.
This year Nazeerah and I became parents of a lovely baby girl named Maryam. Her expected delivery date was April 2, but instead she was born on February 29 — so she is a leap year baby! Our daughter has brought my wife and I even closer to one another and to God. Although my wife and I have never been parents before, we both believe that God will guide and provide for us along our #Journey. When our friends ask us how many children we intend to have, our answer is simply “whatever God wills.” We’re both nervous about having too many children, but we trust God.
The news of my daughter’s impending birth was what originally sparked my desire to share my life #Journey with the world and to release my first instrumental album, JOURNEY: The Sound of Life.
Coming up next: Video about my album, JOURNEY: The Sound of Life,
AKHE ABDULLAH’S JOURNEY (VIDEO DOCUMENTARY)
#JOURNEY ENTRY 6: My Journey With Elementz
It was August 2005. I had recently converted to Islam and was trying to navigate through an increasingly successful musical relationship with my creative partner Infinit. But I wasn’t willing to drop out of college to pursue music. It was about a year before I would graduate from the University of Cincinnati, but even then I was already looking for a way to use my musical talents. A colleague of mine named Charles “Beataholic” Reynolds informed me of a new community hip hop arts center for inner city youth called Elementz.
On my first visit, I was very inspired by everything that I saw at Elementz; the concept, the space, the volunteers and, most importantly, the youth. It reminded me of S.T.A.R.S, a nonprofit organization focused on inspiring inner city youth through music that my father had founded in Columbus. From that moment forward I knew that I wanted to serve God within Elementz. So in late summer of 2005 I began to volunteer at Elementz in the recording arts department. By fall of that year my volunteer work had become an internship experience.
I graduated from UC in the summer of 2006 and by then my volunteering had led to working part time at Elementz. I was the Audio Production Instructor, but at first the youth saw me as just a robot who pressed play, record and stop buttons on the recording program Pro Tools. Eventually they opened up to me and I became like a big brother to many of them. I took the title of Brother (Akhe) Abdullah to reflect this growing relationship with the artists I was working with.
Over the next three years my audio program essentially grew into an artist development program. We trained youth on song writing, music production, performance, recording, and emphasized ethics! Elementz began hosting a monthly showcase that allowed artists to share their talents with the community and get feedback from local professionals on how they could improve. I even created a youth leadership group called “The Lead” which took partial ownership of planning all of our performances.
Before long we were filling our performance space and the community was inquiring about booking our artists. I had crafted a hip hop showcase around the Elementz theme of “Hip Hop and Respect.” People knew that when they saw Elementz perform that our artists were not only going to show out but also keep it real and respectful. It was around this time in 2009 that the Board of Elementz presented me with the opportunity to become the director of all of the programs at Elementz.
Today Elementz is thriving with more community support than ever. Through my work I have been identified as an emerging African American leader in Cincinnati by the Cincinnati Enquirer and I’ve been interviewed by PBS.
But I’m most impressed by the way the community has begun to embrace urban arts and respect many of our youth as professional artists. Through their artistic gifts, our youth are finding much more than just money making opportunities — they are also finding inspiration to journey forward in their own lives. We continue to find unique opportunities to share our talents — from hip hop workshops at Jewish temple’s & Catholic schools to inspiring performances at premier concert venues.
As I continued my work with Elementz I started to get back into my own music. I couldn’t possibly fight the pull of creating music since I was around it on a daily basis while teaching others how it was done. But the most important development over the course of my time at Elementz has been marrying Nazeerah Abdullah.
Coming Up Next: My #Journey with Nazeerah, my wife
#JOURNEY ENTRY 5: MY CONVERSION TO ISLAM
Every human being is evolving into something, sometimes for the better or worse. I have come to believe that we all come from God and that in the end our #Journey leads back to God. Here’s a brief story of my conversion to Islam.
Coming up next: My Journey with Elementz
#JOURNEY ENTRY 4: COLLEGE LIFE & MUSIC
During my college years I studied Electronic Media in the University of Cincinnati’s prestigious music college, the College Conservatory of Music, or CCM for short. I chose the major simply because I wanted to inspire the world through couscious music and video content just as it had inspired me. E-Media gave me the training for what had became my passion — music production.
In college most of my peers came to know me as “B. Will,” the hip hop producer. The “B” being short for my first name Brandon and “Will” being half of my former last name Willis. I had a music studio in my campus dorm room and later my studio moved to my off-campus apartment. In my studios I produced soulful hip hop tracks and recorded local artists like Moxy Monster & ill Poetic. I even had famous athletes like UC Bearcat hoop stars James White, Armeen Kirkland, & Philly Eagles football star Trent “TLove” Cole coming by to record freestyle tracks.
In 2004 my music connections in Cincinnati expanded. I began working with a well known emcee named Holmskillet (BJ Digby) who had recorded music with legendary Ohio producers J.Rawls and Cincinnati’s own Hi-Tek. Holmskillet often brought other artists with him to my studio including another particularly respected emcee from New York named Infinit Evol. Infinit, Holmskillet and I began making really nice records together in Cincinnati and in Columbus at my Fathers nonprofit studio, S.T.A.R.S.
Soon, Infinit and I were recording music separately while Skillet was doing his own thing. Together our sound blended gritty lyrical content with smooth, sophisticated production. The music I created with Infinit eventually became our first independent album called The Professor and The Mutant. Prior to the release of the album in the fall of 2004 Infinit and I were able to arrange for Day by Day Entertainment to distribute our album online and in select stores where the company had a following.
Day by Day was a home of renowned underground artists such as MF Grimm, MF Doom, & Count Bass D. It felt good to know that my first music project was going to be distributed and it had caught the ear of revered voices in the hip hop world.
I took my first trip up to Manhattan, New York in the fall of 2004 to meet the folks who ran Day By Day in person and to deliver a few hundred copies of our album, which had been freshly manufactured by Disc Makers.
We came back to Cincinnati feeling great about our album and the new connections we made with Day by Day. In Winter 2005 we held a CD release party & performance in downtown Cincinnati in front of a packed crowd. Infinit and I were making a lot of progress musically.
Now while all of this was occuring I was still in my 3rd year as a college student. I was considering dropping out of college like Kanye West and pursuing music but it seemed all too risky to me. I knew too many musicians who were super-talented but had to live in the basement of their mom’s crib. It was around this time that I began to think more about my future and the purpose of life. I became a Muslim in the summer of 2005.
Coming Up Next: A Vlog on How I converted to Islam.
#JOURNEY ENTRY 3: OUR LEAP YEAR BABY
On February 29th, 2012 at 7:54 PM my wife Nazeerah and I became parents. Here is the story of how our baby daughter Maryam Imani Abdullah Powell was born.
Early in the morning on the day of our daughter’s birth, my wife Nazeerah was experiencing many of the signs of preterm labor. She was feeling an overwhelming amount of pressure that she hadn’t felt prior to that point during the pregnancy. We sought advice from local midwives and they told her to drink more water and take some Tylenol; they didn’t think Nazeerah’s signs were serious. After speaking to the midwives, I decided to attend work at Elementz and my wife agreed to call me if anything wasn’t feeling right. As I left for work, I thought to myself, “Their is no way that Nazeerah is going to be able to go through another month of feeling the way she is feeling today!”
So I arrived at Elementz somewhat late and had to basically go straight into a presentation/performance that I was in charge of coordinating at Taft Elementary. Our top DJ, dancers, and emcee’s at Elementz were responsible for putting on a positive hiphop performance while providing insight on the history of hip hop for children who were in the after school Boys & Girls Club program at Taft.
As soon as we finished the performance my cell phone was rang. It was my mother-in-law calling to tell me that my wife was in labor and needed to go to the hospital. So without hesitation I rushed off from the performance to pick up Nazeerah.
My wife and I arrived at the hospital around 5:30 PM. When we arrived, a nurse asked my wife a series of questions about how she was feeling. My wife answered her questions but her soft voice seemed to make the nurse impatient. I don’t think the nurse understood how close my wife was to labor. One of the midwives that Nazeerah and I had met a week ago at our parenting sessions happened to be working that night and we found out that out she was assigned to us. We felt so relieved! Our midwife examined Nazeerah and found that she was 5 centimeters dilated. The baby would be delivered that night!!!
The hospital staff moved my wife to the delivery room at 6:30 PM. At that point she was feeling heavy pressure from consistent contractions that were occurring every few minutes. Nazeerah and I had been planning to have a natural birth but we were both somewhat nervous about the pain & pressure being too overwhelming. I then began to remember the advice of a friend of mine who told us to stay on course with our delivery plan. So I continued to say words of encouragement to Nazeerah — words about how strong she was, how good she was doing, and trusting Gods natural course.
The baby continued to drop. The time was 7:30 PM and my wife was 8 centimeters dilated. It was time for me to make my 4th prayer of the day so I took a break in between her contractions to make salaat. I returned from prayer 10 minutes later and Nazeerah was still coping with strong contractions and back pain. I continued to encourage her and rub her back. The contractions became even stronger. At 7:50 PM my wife was 10 centimeters dilated. The baby was ready to go!
Maryam came out very fast and we were in awe at how smooth she transitioned into the world. She was born weighing 4 pounds, 12 ounces. Despite having been born prematurely, she was not in need of a respirator. Maryam barely cried, but her tiny voice was so sweet. I gained a new form of respect for my wife as I witnessed her persevere through labor. Tears came to my eyes as I realized that I too would have to persevere through the challenges of being head of my household.
Our daughter Maryam is our special leap year baby. My wife and I are already deeply in love with her. As a family - Man, Woman, and Child - we have now began a new chapter on our #JOURNEY. We pray that God Almighty will guide, provide and protect our family in present and future days.
Be on the look out for my next Journey Entry about my experience as a college Student entitled: #COLLEGE LIFE
#JOURNEY ENTRY 2: GROWING UP
My life #Journey began in Mission Hills, California where I was born in 1983. At the time my Mom was a nurse while my father was a touring musician. Shortly after my birth we moved closer to family in Columbus, Ohio. Things wer’ent working out between my parents so as a youth I ended up growing up in two households on both the North & East sides of Columbus.
My Mom & Dad may not have been together but they both were active in my life teaching me the importance of education and discipline. I spent most of my early years living with my mother and stepfather who had both attained masters degrees in college. They made sure school was my first priority. We lived on the North Side of Columbus in a predominantly white working class neighborhood.
As a youth I also spent every other weekend each month with my father, who lived in the inner city on the East side of town. Most of our neighbors there were African American. My father was a full time music producer and he had built a reputation for himself playing saxophone with Rick James’ Stone City Band. He was also known for acquiring several music deals with Motown along with his band mates in Nytro and KoKopop. As a youth I watched my Dad find local acts such as Teen Dream & Rashad Thomas and help them develop into professional musicians.
Back then I wasn’t into music and — to my surprise — my father didn’t push me to pursue music. He led me to focus on basketball instead, and before long most of my peers knew me for my hoop skills. I wasn’t the best player in the city but I was a hard working, fundamental ball player who earned a starting position at the varsity level in high school. I played in both the private and public school circuit at St. Francis DeSales & Northland High. Going to these different types of schools also gave me a unique perspective on not only sports but also education, diversity & religion.
After going through the experience of transferring schools and other up’s and down’s with basketball I ended up losing my passion for playing ball and I realized that without passion I would not be able to build a career as an athlete. I looked forward to finding a new career choice in college. Around this time I became an underground hip hop head. I began to pay close attention to lyricism and the way beats were made. I also began to think back on what I had seen my father doing with music as a youth. It was at this time that I became interested in making music myself and pursuing a career in music.
My journey then led me to the University of Cincinnati where I studied Electronic Media. During college I began my career as a music and media producer and I also began seeking out the greater meaning of life.
Coming Up Next: My college experience
#JOURNEY ENTRY 1: Becoming a Father of 2
Bismillah (In God’s name),
I am writing this to let you in on two exciting personal announcements:
1. My wife and I are on our way to becoming parents.
2. I intend to release my first solo instrumental album, JOURNEY: The Sound of Life, in May 2012. God willing that will roughly a month after the birth of our Child.
In this blog I will share some of the events which have led up to this point in my #Journey.
One of the most important steps on that journey occurred in 2005 when I became Muslim while I was a student at the University of Cincinnati. Soon after that I became active with a small community of Muslims — or a jamaat. We gathered at the Mosques in Cincinnati both downtown and in Westwood. It was there that I met my wife, Nazeerah. I got married to Nazeerah in January, 2009.
My wife and I have grown much closer over the course of our marriage. We have became a dynamic team and I would not be the man that I am today without her. Now we’re also on our way to becoming parents and we are very excited despite the challenges that face families in our world today.
In the midst of preparing for our new baby I am also preparing to release my first album. Music is an expression of my life and with all the various things that I’m involved in I could not think of a better time to share my music with the world. The album will primarily be a instrumental album influenced by hip hop, rock, jazz and soul but it may also feature a few vocal artists. Seeing that this will be my first solo project I consider it to be like having a child of a different kind for the first time.
If you have been following me on Facebook and Twitter lately, you have noticed that I’ve been posting more updates and that I have started to place the hashtag #JOURNEY after most of my entries. It’s my way of making it easier to follow me on my road to becoming a father and the release of my album, JOURNEY.
Since your curiosity has lead you this far you might as well come along for the entire ride. I recently launched this website JourneyonAkhe.com where you can follow my journey along with my Facebook & Twitter accounts. In the end I hope that you will see that my journey isn’t that different from yours.
#JOURNEY ENTRY 2: GROWING UP
Happy Holiday’s from your Muslim Brother
(Posted December 2011)
Greetings of peace! Its the holiday season for many people in the world so I thought it would be an appropriate time to share an experience on my journey through one of the Islamic holidays that Muslims and I recently celebrated called Eid Al-Adha. Enjoy this short video blog which features my personal narrative along with pictures and an instrumental that I composed entitled “Never Give Up.”