Derrick Ashong

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Derrick Ashong

Derrick N. Ashong, also known as "DNA", (born 1975 in Accra, Ghana), is a musician, artist, activist, and entrepreneur.


Born in a house with no running water in Accra, Ghana in 1975, Derrick Ashong is the son of a pediatrician.[1] He attended school in Brooklyn, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Voorhees, New Jersey[2] before attending Harvard University in 1997 where he studied Afro-American studies and was awarded the Hoopes Prize for his senior thesis. After being naturalized as an American citizen, he returned to Harvard through a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, and studied for a PhD in Ethnomusicology and Afro-American studies, until Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame invited him to come work at his entertainment company, Weapons of Mass Entertainment.[2] Ashong was a founding member of the Harvard Black Alumni Society and founded the Black Men's Forum.[3]


Derrick Ashong is married and has two children.


Ashong's musical career started while at Harvard. He produced a musical entitled Songs We Can't Sing, for which he won awards,[4] before forming a band called "Black Rose". The band later became known as Soulfège. Ashong has worked with such established artists as Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson, & Bobby McFerrin, and is MC and leader of Soulfège, under the name "DNA", producing works that have aired globally via outlets including MTV Africa, MNet Africa and BBC World Service.[2]

In 1997, Ashong had a role in Steven Spielberg's Amistad,[1] playing the character Buakei, a role he gained through attending an open audition in New York City.[5] He also appeared in a 2006 documentary about the Angola 3, entitled 3 Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation.[6] Ashong founded a talent agency, ASAFO Productions.[7]

Ashong is also the former host of The Derrick Ashong Experience on Oprah Radio, The Stream on Al Jazeera English, and DNAtv on Fusion (ABC/Univision). In 2012, Ashong and his team won a Royal Television Society Award and were nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award for their work on The Stream.

He received another Emmy nod in 2015 for Take Back the Mic: The World Cup of Hip Hop, the flagship show of his digital media company,, which launched at the beginning of the same year.

Public roles[edit]

Derrick Ashong has lectured on music, technology, the free market, and individualism at over a hundred institutions in the United States, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia, including the World Music Expo WOMEX in 2003 in Spain,[3] UK Parliament, the UN, and Harvard and Stanford Business Schools. He is the author of FREE THIS CD!!! - The FAM Manifesto - a text outlining the philosophy of open source music,[4] which ultimately led him to found his company, that rewards and recognizes fans for discovering, sharing and curating original, independent content.

Ashong reached prominent media attention when a YouTube video went viral, of him speaking on Barack Obama's campaign to gain the Democratic nomination for the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Surprising the interviewer who expected a short soundbite (perhaps based on Ashong's casual appearance), Ashong gave a measured and protracted analysis of Obama's campaign.[8] The video has been viewed more than a million times.[1]

He recently founded a Miami-based tech company, called which in 2015 completed the pilot season of its first media property, Take Back the Mic: The World Cup of Hip Hop, which was a 2015 Emmy finalist in the category of Original Interactive Programming.


  1. ^ a b c Carr, David (2008-03-17). "More Than a Sound Bite, This Clip Has Some Teeth". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  2. ^ a b c "DNA biography". Soulfege. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  3. ^ a b "Has this young Ghanaian man won the election for Barack Obama?". Click Afrique. 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  4. ^ a b "Derrick Ashong". The Lavin Agency. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  5. ^ Speedie, Sam (1997-12-11). "Derrick Ashong: Actor, Musician". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  6. ^ "Angola 3". 2006. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  7. ^ "Adapting to the Beat: The Music Industry in Flux". Harvard University. 2004-11-13. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  8. ^ "A Declaration on Independents". The Economist. 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 

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