Krip-Hop Nation (KHN) King Khazm, who founded a local hip-hop collective known as 206 Zulu in 2004, works toward elevating the status of hip hop in Seattle. Tell us how and why did you first get into Zulu Nation?
King Khazm: Before the internet was widespread and information was instantly available, I embarked on a quest to learn about Hip Hop’s history by attending massive events around the country such as B-Boy Summit in San Diego and B-Boy Masters ProAM in Miami in the mid 90s. I’d spend time building with many Hip Hop pioneers and old schoolers who’d share their stories with me. This is where I’d learn about the legacy the Zulu Nation. For me, being involved with Zulu was about preserving the history, advocating and protecting the culture of Hip Hop in unity as well as serving the community on a larger scale. These were all things I had been involved with on some level back home in Seattle, so for me it was a natural fit.
KHN: How did Zulu Nation talk to you as a Japanese-American with a physical disability and how did you today contribute to Hip-Hop culture?
King Khazm: Being a bi-racial, disabled youngster from the Southend of Seattle, one of the biggest struggles for me was having a sense of identity and self worth. I didn’t really fit in with any groups and for me Hip Hop music and art were the things that pulled me into a positive direction every time my surroundings had me spiraling out of control. Hip Hop became my mode of expression, my therapeutic outlet and guiding light that held no conditions or expectations. The deeper I got into Hip Hop, the deeper I got into wanting to educate myself and learning about how the world operates. The more educated I’d become, the more I valued life and strived to make a difference which began by thinking different. Although I was physically disabled I became mentally and spiritually empowered and could see for the first time, what happens in life when you apply determination and persistence. Hip Hop inherently enabled me to gain a better perspective on who I actually am and affirmed to me that Hip Hop is indeed universal. I am forever indebted to Hip Hop, and for that give back unconditionally for the betterment of Hip Hop culture and my community.
KHN: You have done a lot in Seattle Hip-Hop scene from starting the chapter to television/radio show to the latest campaign around the historic Washington Hall that was rented out for music and theatrical performances. Musicians and speakers such as Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimi Hendrix, W.E.B. du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Joe Louis used Washington Hall as their venue. The building was also known as a “public dance hall” and was a popular gathering place for the local community. Tell us more about these projects.
King Khazm: Hip Hop 101 TV is a Seattle-based television program that Dirty Dev and myself co-founded and produced, along with MADK Productions (and 206 Zulu in the later years). The live-weekly show was Seattle’s premier source of entertainment and news which featured live performances from local and nationally recognized Djs, MCs, dancers, special guests and a live studio audience. It ran from about 1999 to 2009 on SCAN channel 29 until the station eventually folded.
In 2005, shortly after 206 Zulu was formed, we partnered with KBCS 91.3 FM to host Zulu Radio, an independently run, commercial free radio show that spotlights independent, local and international Hip Hop from old school to new school. Zulu Radio continues to this day, every Saturday from 10pm-midnight on KBCS 91.3 FM and online at www.KBCS.fm. In 2010, 206 Zulu along with arts-based organizations Hidmo and Voices Rising joined forces as anchor partners in the restoration and development of the historic Washington Hall project. Built in 1908, Washington Hall has been a prominent hub for Seattle’s historically Black Central District and was a space for so many notable concerts, dances, weddings, church congregations, and all sorts of multicultural community gatherings. The building was purchased by Historic Seattle, a non-profit aimed at preserving historic spaces, thereby saving it from being demolished and selected our groups to help renovate and sustain the space to it’s original vision. In the last few years, we began operating out of office spaces in the building, began hosting regular programming and events and have improved much of the space. Last summer we petitioned the city council, local arts commissions, district representatives and successfully secured $300,000 from the Mayor’s improvement budget to pay for a much needed elevator to make the space accessible to all. This year we are working diligently to raise funds to renovate the rear 1/3 of the building which is currently not to code. We plan to build additional office spaces, multi-functional rooms, after school study areas, classrooms, and a state of the art audio/multimedia studio areas for young people to have opportunities to develop their skills in music, video and related technology.
KHN: Every February 206 Zulu set aside a time to celebrate not just the organizations accomplishments, but to pay tribute to the entire Hip Hop culture. Give us a rundown of that annual event and the mission behind it.
King Khazm: The 206 Zulu Anniversaries are our annual milestone event, held President’s Day weekend each February. Generally a three day event, the festivities attract several hundreds of people, dozens of which fly in from all corners of the country, and include DJ and MC performances, graffiti and urban art showcases, an annual Zulu Throwdown breakdance competition, youth workshops and Meeting of the Minds, a panel and community discussion forum. This last February we celebrated our 10th Anniversary with many special guests including Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Qbert, Ken Swift, Asia One, Trac2, Methuzulah and others, it was truly remarkable.
KHN: You’re also a visual artist aka graffiti artist. How do you use your art as social activism for social change in your communities especially people of color and people with disabilities?
King Khazm: My art has a broad range of applications, mediums, and styles, however much of my work has some sort of underlying concept or message that aims to evoke discussion or interaction on some level. More-so lately, I’ve been using these discussions as basis for engagement and creative exercises when working with students. The goal is not necessarily for the group to come to conclusive terms of the subject, but to draw connections from the various perspectives and how the art they produce parallels each other in their own unique ways.
KHN: Being a radio DJ and a Hip-Hop activist what are your thoughts on Hip-Hop journalism and Hip-Hop studies?
King Khazm: A lot of people focus on the craft of the music, which is absolutely relative and essential to fuel the movement, however we need more independent and alternative media to deliver the messages to the masses and help to bring news and information to light that otherwise falls to the wayside. Mainstream media has an agenda that isn’t always to the best intention of the viewer or listener. Radio programming is driven by commercial interests and demographic placements. News and history is often omitted and misconstrued to depict a certain political perspective. Sensationalism and fear tactics are used to implant messages to the people for particular purposes. In this day and age, we need to create our own media networks and work towards creating a more balanced media. For every time we hear Lil Wayne or Nicki Minaj on the radio, let’s supplement the spectrum with Dead Prez or Immortal Technique, as well as the new with the old, local with the national and so forth.
KHN: Tell us about the 1999 documentary on the Pacific Northwest hip-hop scene, “Enter the Madness, ”and were you in it? (How can Krip-Hop Nation get a copy for our library?)
King Khazm: “Enter the Madness” is a Northwest-based documentary produced by DJ Scene, directed by myself and members of MAD Krew that highlighted the elements of Hip Hop from local battles, late night bombing missions, cyphers, turntablist sessions and more. It ended up getting national distribution and was a catalyst for exposing Seattle Hip Hop for the first time to many from around the country.
KHN: How was it performing with Afrika Bambaataa?
King Khazm: It’s always an honor to perform and travel with Brother Bambaataa, more than anything to build and soak in that knowledge of self, everything from history to philosophy and self sustainability to ufo-logy. He is a true visionary and humanitarian who deserves so much more than he receives.
KHN: What are the plus and minus of being both an artist, activist and organizer with a physical disability?
King Khazm: Being an artist or an organizer among itself is challenging in it’s own many ways. Being an artist and an organizer is extremely challenging. Being an artist and an organizer with a disability can be excruciatingly challenging. It is a life of unending sacrifice and long term results. I became an organizer and activist out of necessity to help create spaces for the art of myself and in support of my community. Being that the needs of our community are so great, this eventually took me away from the art which helped to liberate me from the very beginning. And now atlas I am much closer at perfecting a delicate balance that can so easily be offset with a whim that may come in the form of citywide youth conference that needs facilitation or the next funding opportunity that can help benefit so many. There are many who support the cause, but how many of those people will dedicate there time after work to do the grunt work or shuttle their kids down to a meeting after football practice? People like us don’t get paid to organize, we pay to organize. As a person with a physical disability, every dinner prepared, box packed, ride coordinated and airplane rode occurs with nothing but calculated timing and preparation. No the results aren’t instant and you count your blessings when your bills are actually paid on time. The fulfillment of hearing a young person on the bus describing how you’ve helped open their mind during a speech at a juvenile detention center, or the warm embrace from a random senior citizen as you cross the street who praises you for your work, or the smiles of children as they dance at a local block party you helped to coordinate makes it all worthwhile.
KHN: What is in your future?
King Khazm: This year (2014) the long awaited debut solo album “Diary of a MAD” will finally make it’s way to the public. I’ve had this under the belt for about 5 years now, but things are finally in place so that I can spend the time and resources needed to properly market and promote it. It’s sort of a heavy album that comes from a very personal space, but I think true school heads will appreciate it. Also there is a lot of incredibly hot music from our FreshChoppedBeats/MADK Productions label that will be making way in ’14 including Gabriel Teodros, Sista Hailstorm, Khingz and special surprise artists to be announced! I will be also doing a lot of traveling this year, so keep your ears open for a special visit in a city near you!
KHN: Any last words and how can people find out more of your music and 206 Zulu Chapter?
King Khazm: No matter the odds and how hard things get, things always get better. Have faith, keep getting up and reach for the stars. You are the only thing holding you from achieving your aspirations!
Stay tuned with 206 Zulu at www.206zulu.com and for the music and updates on me, visit freshchoppedbeats.com and kingkhazm.com