Asheru

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Asheru
Birth name Gabriel Benn
Born (1974-12-29) 29 December 1974 (age 39)[citation needed]
Genres Hip hop, alternative hip hop, underground hip hop
Occupation(s) Rapper, teacher
Years active 1996–present
Labels Seven Heads Entertainment (1996–2001) Guerilla Arts Ink, LLC: The Un-label (2001–present)
Associated acts The Els
Website www.asheruworldwide.com

Asheru, born Gabriel Benn, is an African American hip hop artist, educator, and youth activist. He is widely known for performing the opening and closing themes for the popular TV series, The Boondocks, as well as his pioneering and innovative efforts to forward the Hip Hop Education movement.

Early life[edit]

As a youth, many of Asheru’s musical influences came from a wide range of Hip Hop artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, KRS-One, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Native Tongues, Pharoahe Monch, and more, as well as the classic Soul, R&B, and Pop records of the 70’s and 80’s eras that his mother used to play throughout the house. At the age of 17, he graduated from high school and attended the University of Virginia, where he finished in 1996 with a B.A. degree in Anthropology. In the college, he formed relationships with colleagues, a group of like-minded individuals that shared a similar passion for Hip Hop music and the collective Black experience. After college, one of those colleagues, Wesley Jackson, founded an independent Hip Hop label, Seven Heads Entertainment, and in 1996 signed its first group, Unspoken Heard, made up primarily of Asheru and Jackson’s older brother, Robert Jackson, also known as “Blue Black". Asheru and Blue Black went on to release a series of 12” singles and EPs, and in 2001 released their first album, “Soon Come”, a critically acclaimed debut, still widely considered a classic in many Hip Hop circles. In 2003, the group released their second album “48 Months”, followed by the “No Edge Ups in South Africa” album, a compilation album of other 7 Heads artists featuring the hit, “Mood Swing” with Talib Kweli.

Asheru, both as a solo artist as well as with the group Unspoken Heard, has gone on to travel extensively throughout Europe, Canada, the US and Japan, performing alongside artists and groups like Common, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Bilal, Ludacris, Edo G, J-Live, Wordsworth, and The Roots, while collaborating and being featured on projects with Hip Hop greats such as Pete Rock, and DJ Jazzy Jeff. His lyrics are categorized by reflection upon the state of affairs of the current-day Black American. Through his music, he demonstrates a desire to improve the attitude of Black people towards liberation through education and self-empowerment. He currently travels with a live band, The ELs, made up of a three (sometimes four)-piece band of accomplished veteran musicians and producers, namely SLimkat 78, Mr. Hu, and Zo!.

The Boondocks[edit]

Asheru collaborated with Aaron McGruder to write and perform several songs for the hit TV series,The Boondocks, including the show’s theme song. Asheru’s contribution to the controversial "Return of the King" episode of the Boondocks series helped him to earn the prestigious Peabody Award for Journalism in 2006, making him the first rapper (emcee) to win such an award.

Education[edit]

Alongside his career as a Hip Hop artist, Asheru has also served as a teacher within Washington, DC Schools since 1997, specializing in curriculum development and arts-based instruction. In 2004, he went on to earn a Masters degree in Education from National-Louis University. He is the founder of his own community arts organization and independent music label, Guerilla Arts Ink, LLC. As an artist-educator, Asheru seeks to train and provide opportunities for artists of all media to deliver direct training and instruction in the classroom, and currently serves as Director of Arts Integration at Ballou Senior High School in Washington, D.C. He continues to advocate and mentor youth in schools and juvenile detention centers all over the country of the United States, with his unique message of promoting literacy as an intervention against youth violence, crime, unemployment, and incarceration.

In 2005, Asheru co-founded Educational Lyrics, LLC, an independent publishing company that creates culturally relevant cross-curricular teaching materials, the first of which being [H.E.L.P., or the Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program'.][1]. In an effort to bridge the gap between Asheru’s two passions—music and education, H.E.L.P. is a series of supplemental reading workbooks designed to HELP students of all reading levels through the innovative usage of Hip Hop lyrics for critical analysis, multicultural relevance, and effective literacy instruction.

Awards[edit]

In 2006 Asheru won a Peabody Award for his writing contributions to the controversial “Return of the King” episode of Boondocks. He is the first rapper (emcee) to win such an award. The George Foster Peabody Awards recognizes excellence and distinguished achievement in radio, television and interactive and new media globally.

Discography[edit]

  • Cosmology EP...Unspoken Heard (1997)
  • Better/Smiley 12”... Unspoken Heard (1998)
  • Jamboree EP ... Asheru (1999)
  • Soon Come LP ... Unspoken Heard (2001)
  • 48 Months LP… Unspoken Heard (2003)
  • Mood Swing 12”... Asheru feat. Talib Kweli & Raheem DeVaughn (2003)
  • No Edge Ups in South Africa …Seven Heads Entertainment (2003)
  • Black Moses 12”.... Asheru (2005)
  • Insomnia Vol.1 LP... Asheru (2006)
  • Insomnia Vol.1: Sleepless in Japan…(IMPORT ONLY) (2006)
  • Hip-Hop Docktrine: The Official Boondocks Mixtape… Asheru & Dub Floyd (2006)
  • 3 Stars, 2 Bars EP… Asheru (2007)
  • "Insight" on Fort Knox Five Album Radio Free DC (2008)
  • Hip Hop Doctrine 3: The Final Chapter (The Unofficial Boondocks Season 3 Mixtape)… Hosted by Asheru, David Banner & Mike Bigga (2010)
  • Sleepless in Soweto LP.... Asheru (2013)

References[edit]