This week’s WIB Meets is, as usual, nothing less than stellar. We get to meet emcee/spoken word artist/ public educator Karega Bailey. He first appeared on WIB with the heartfelt, thought provoking song “For Black Males Who’ve Considered Homicide When They Lost Someone They Love” and it was only right to bring the man back for a short but dense tete-a-tete.
Read on and you may accidentally learn something new on purpose.
For the benefit of anyone who’s been living in an underground bunker for the past several years…who on earth are you?
I am among the least of us and among the best of us. A public servant, a public school educator (Dean of Students) a published author, and a hard working emcee.
How did you get started in music, and what drives you to continue?
I grew up to the sounds of Roots & Culture, Reggae, and Hip-Hop. My older brothers were/are emcees and they exposed me to the rhythm. I continue the legacy because there remains a story to be told. A story of resilience, raising hope from hopeless, truth and power. I started making music because I needed a soundtrack to the social movement I was a part of, the social movement of education, hope and liberation. I wanted to help develop the voice of the voiceless and I knew music has always been an integral part of any social movement. Like Sam Cooke captured the heart and tone of the Civil Rights Movements, I wanted to contribute to capturing the heart and tone of my people.
Do you remember the first recording/song you ever made?
“Roses” was my first song of fulfilling my purpose. It told the story of roses growing in concrete jungles, a metaphor used illustrate the beauty and strength I saw in my students.
If a movie about your life in music was to be made, what interesting/strange moments and stories would you share to make the movie cool?
[Laughs] Funny question. I like it because as serious as I am about the liberation of oppressed people, I am also serious about laughing, smiling and joking with my friends/musicians. To begin, the movie would likely be quick paced and on the go. Seeing me juggle being a dean at a high school, while being a full time artist. You’d see my passion, my courage and valor, all on screen. You’d likely also see me stop by my wife’s office on my break to bring her lunch and hear us discuss research on education and Hip-Hop. She is a candidate for a Ph.D in educational psychology, and a professor of Psychology of the African American Learner. Then you’d see us go home to rehearse with our band and that’s where shit gets fuuuuny. We all love each other and pretty much imitate one another all the time. But perhaps the coolest part of the movie would be the cameos made by our pet parrot Jafar. He is a blue Indian Ring Neck Parrot who looooves music but most of the band is scared of him [laughs]. But I don’t care.
Are there any other interesting facts about you that hardly anyone else knows?
Not very many. I’m pretty transparent. But I know people are surprised when they come to my home and see how much my wife Felicia and I play around. We laugh a lot. I mean a whole lot. Despite appearing so serious in public.
What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
The greatest thing about working in music is meeting people from all over the world who chose to communicate though music and instruments. It is really amazing. If I could change one thing it would probably be the measure of fame. I think that with fame should come the social responsibility to serve the good of the people.
Looking back, what have been the most important moments in your life so far?
My life is ever evolving and each moment impacts the next. Not sure what qualifies the most important, but the most impactful have been the day I married my wife and the day my older brother was killed. Both days, though extremely different have caused me to meet a new level or dimension of myself.
What have been the biggest highlights?
Some of my biggest highlights include a trip in which my wife and I along with some colleagues got a chance to chaperone a group of students to Belize for an exploration field trip. We were all challenged, we all grew and overcame a lot of fears.
What has been your biggest challenge…and how did you overcome it?
By far my biggest challenge has been dealing with my older brother’s death. He was shot surrounding circumstances that were not of his own doing. It’s hard fighting for the advancement of a people when we have so many hurt people, who will hurt people.
Who are your heroes? Why do they rock your world?
My heroes are everyday people. The strength and the resilience of humanity is a beautiful thing.
When you’re sitting on the porch age 97 what would you like to look back on and smile having achieved?
That I would have used music and education to see the world and introduced my children to other cultures and countries using music. I will smile with grandchildren and show them a legacy that love built.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
My wife and I presented our research and performed at the ICUE (international Conference on Urban Education), which was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This was such an honor because my education took me back to my homeland and my family in Jamaica got to see how I blend scholarship and music. It was a session discussing the use of rhythm to restore hope.
What are the greatest songs, albums, books, movies, TV shows, websites you’ve ever come across?
• Songs: Beres Hammond – “Rock Away,” Stevie Wonder – “For Once in My Life”
• Books: The Book of Proverbs, Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America (by Richard Majors)
• TV Shows: Discovery Channel, Animal Planet
Name 5 songs (yours excluded) that we would expect to find on your iPod or Music Player
• Khemist- “Blue Sky”
• Yusha Assad- “Temptation”
• Real [email protected] – “Mr. Write”
• Lake Stovall – “Favorite Book”
• Marknoxx- “World Wind”
What special-hero type skills are you blessed with?
I have patience to serve others, but I still have to work on patience in traffic [laughs].
Where can everyone reading this interview keep up with your adventures?
• IG: @solspoken
• Website karegabailey.com
End police brutality. We are all one bullet away from being a #HASHTAG