Tired of hearing that wearing a hoodie makes one a thug? Or “Those rappers are destroying our community?” How about the blanket assumption that Hip-Hop promotes misogyny in our culture? Does that frustrate you because you remember the culture’s origins, a good time?
I could walk you through the lyrics of Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” or I could introduce you to three men who’ve set out to challenge and reshape the way you think of Hip-Hop. Meet the co-founders of The United League of Hip-Hop Fathers.
I came across an Instagram post promoting a new account, and the name alone piqued my interest enough to make me click the link. What I found made my heart so happy that I immediately commented on a photo to request an interview. To my pleasure, Matt Crews responded quickly with an email address, and I scored The United League of Hip-Hop Fathers’ first interview. And not a minute too soon.
The day after I commented on the page of strictly aggregated photos of Rap’s celebrity dads with their little ones, actor and “Letters to a Young Brother” author Hill Harper had given the guys a 15-second insta shoutout. These guys are on to something and I want to shed light on them. Not only to help them grow their brand, but most importantly, to remind the world that there is positivity in Hip-Hop too. You just have to shift your focus.
Who’s DJing This Party?
Matt “Life” Crews is a NoVa boy who’s found his way to mass media and public relations. During his 5-year stint with the White House and Department of Health & Human Services, he worked under both the Bush and Obama administrations driving the initiatives to promote responsible fatherhood.
Crews, a father of two and soon-to-be-groom, says he noticed immediately that the representation of fatherhood was skewed away from those very real urban images that look like him and the other fathers he knows.
Recognizing the impact his work was having on the country as a whole, he considered the under-represented men of his community and wondered how they would benefit from the same positive images. Images that are truly reflective of their vastly overlooked, yet highly lucrative realities.
The slang, the clothing and the stories behind it all deserves to be ingrained in the fabric of America just like blue jeans and Ford Motor Vehicles. So, Crews welcomed the inspiration to thread the first stitch.
The Needle Hits the Record
During his countrywide tour last February, he’d meet his co-founders celebrity barber Eric “E-Storm” Gonzales and Paul “P-Stew” Stewart on a campaign stop.
Crews had arranged to have local radio station WKYS 93.9 broadcast live from E-Storm’s barbershop in Alexandria, Va. for a federal fatherhood and mentoring initiative. P-Stew, who’s a host for the Radio One station, showed up and the three of them created magic.
E-Storm is a Brooklyn, NY native, but has been running Midieast Studios barbershop for 15 years. In this time, he’s not only cut several high-profile clients, but he’s mentored dozens of the community’s young men, despite not having any children of his own. Playing father-figure to many of his clients, he’s known for carrying out the traditional, organic barbershop conversations ranging in topic from men’s health to parenting and everything in between.
P-Stew is a husband and father of four in his private life, but publicly he’s known as the guy who’s helped bring DC’s brightest Hip-Hop acts to the forefront through his various media platforms.
See, work brought them together in a secular sense, but it was “God’s timing” that encouraged them to initiate the conversation that revealed to them their shared passion, and birthed the United League of Hip-Hop Fathers.
Lace the Track
Currently, the movement is nothing more than a series of social media networks. The guys are still developing; still building out the accompanying assets, but the foundation is solid.
The heartwarming photos remind us that these entertainers are people with families and love just like anyone else. Regardless of job title, skin color, personal background, lyrics or style of dress, these men are fathers.
The First Verse
In our interview, the trio discussed with me the timeliness of their launch, the desire to educate young men on how the media operates, what resources are available for parenting help, and next steps for the United League of Hip Hop Fathers.