To be a deejay, all you need is talent and a set of turntables. To be an emcee, all you need are skills and a microphone. Breakdancers need nothing but their own bodies. If you’ve got the vision, the dedication, the respect and the community spirit, hip-hop is wide open to you.
Now a pair of artists who’ve mastered the form are yoking the power of hip-hop to a couple of activities that are similarly elemental — and similarly democratic. Alabama’s own Shaheed and DJ Supreme see a skate park in every city and a farm in every neighborhood. They want you to get your hands dirty, connect with your neighbors, and enjoy the exhilaration of speed. “Skates and Crates” is the outdoor sports anthem, and “Life as a Farmer” is their ode to community-supported agriculture. Both songs feature deft rhymes from Shaheed, who demonstrates he’s one of the warmest, most approachable, and most charismatic emcees in the business, and engrossing production from DJ Supreme, whose imaginative soundscapes have been delighting fans of Birmingham hip-hop for decades.
The tracks are also thematically linked. Shaheed and DJ Supreme want you to skate and farm for similar reasons: they know that getting in touch with your body, and communing with the earth, are physically and spiritually healthy things to do. Exercise and agriculture have other rewards for practitioners, too. Execute a perfect move and you’ll feel good about yourself; get a plant to grow, and you’ll experience the pride that accrues to those who are good stewards of the earth. Leave it to Shaheed to make tilling the soil sound as exciting as a kick-flip, and leave it to DJ Supreme to provide the dramatic soundtrack.
And because these two never rhyme about things they don’t know, it ought to surprise no one to see Shaheed and DJ Supreme out in the field in the clip for “Life as a Farmer,” or on the floor at a skate shop in the “Skates and Crates” video, spinning and rapping in front of a wall of decks. These are the cornerstones of their community they’re celebrating: places where ordinary people come together, work, celebrate, and build. These two believe in hip-hop, they believe in their listeners, and, above all else, they believe in Birmingham — a place that they don’t just praise in verse. They’ve been working to improve it, and the fruits of their labor are all around them.
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