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Activist, musician, writer and new father, Ashel Eldridge is a busy man out in the Bay Area of California. Having always been artistic, music seemed an appropriate tool for green activism. But meshing hip hop and artistry with tangible programs for inner city people and youth ended up being a jump off point in his music career. And now the activism feeds the art. It’s a cycle, appropriately one of Ashel’s favorite metaphors.
In between video shoots, rallies, concerts and diaper changes, we caught up with Ashel to get behind the music and the man.
Your last album is called Earth Amplified. What does that mean?
It means that the Earth has a voice that is not necessarily being listened to and Hip-Hop is starting to notice. What would the Earth say over dope beats? Our friend Ibrahim Matin, who just came out with a book called Green Deen actually came up with the name in a brainstorming session. We both worked at Green For All to build a National Movement for Green Jobs to lift people out of poverty. Participating in that really influenced my politics and what I thought was possible for the U.S. and the world. The music initially was an organizing tool for the youth, and/or low-income, black, brown, Asian and Native American, communities that I was organizing in.
We were creating and acknowledging the leadership from the communities who were at the front lines of environmental and economic injustices. Simultaneously we were exhibiting that a truly sustainable and true sustainability movement needed to come from the people most affected.
Do you think music can make a difference?
Music has always been a central part of creating and sustaining cultures. It feeds a part of ourselves that is emotional and spiritual. But we can also use if for education and movement building like I spoke of earlier. For example, I used this album to promote United Roots, Oakland’s Green Youth Arts and Media Center with 10% of the proceeds from the album benefitting the center.
What green issues are most important to you?
Right now, I work at the Alliance for Climate Education so I think Climate Justice is really important. Everything needs to be revamped to deal with it. We need a full cost accounting on everything we make, use, throw away etc. in order to really see, for example, that oil is not cheap anymore. It is harder and harder to find, it’s finite, more children have asthma, oil spills kill entire stretches of ocean, billions of dollars are spent on wars with thousands of dead and gone.
Whether or not one believes in climate change, governments and people in general are responding and being affected by it all over the globe.
Food justice: Is genetically modified food really the answer to food shortages exacerbated by climate change and bad growing seasons? Transportation? Food? International Trade? Speculation and Hyperinflation? The list goes on. Our systems determine how we treat each other and thus the planet. We really need to come to grips with how inefficient and ineffective globalization/capitalism has been in fulfilling on what it promised. Once we get that, there are so many solutions available.
What you are doing with Krrb is a part of this transformation. Localization, supporting the small farmer, barter, trade, etc. is all a part of this shift. This film called the Ecomomics of Happiness talks about this directly.
Single-use plastic bags are the inspiration for this campaign that criticizes a Plastic State of Mind:
Are there other people are there doing green hip hop that we should know about?
Yes…Dead Prez is doing it. In the context of my definition of the issues and solutions they are on it. Stic.Man just came out with an album called The Workout that talks about the fact that a healthy lifestyle is actually activism, especially when we live in a system that thrives off people being sick, weak, addicted or in the hospital. Supa Nova Slum is another hip hop artist who used to be Erykah Badu’s holistic wellness road manager. My man Ietef Vita Aka DJ Cavem outta Denver sparked off the “Green Bling Movement” of growing food in the hood via Hip-Hop. Ambessa the Articulate outta Brooklyn/Oakland is a certified Green Hip-Hopper as well. Tem Blessed outta New Beford Mass is definitely holding it down too…There are many heads touching upon this. We all know about Mos Def’s New World Water. Classic. And CheckTheWeather.tv has a lot of Environmental Justice tracks on its playlist.
You’re currently in the Bay Area of California but grew up in Chicago and went to college in Rochester. Do you think that the Bay Area is ahead of the rest of the country in terms of green progress?
Gavin Newsome was the mayor of San Francisco and for all of his complexity, he was pretty forward with Green thinking and leading the country in ways to reduce waste, create more green spaces, etc. The Bay Area is generally progressive about most issues. I think the fact that California has great growing seasons and more year-round hours for outdoor activities makes it easier to be green. I have no issues getting local food for example. Politically, California does have some initiatives toward renewable energy on the table that would set a national precedent. There are many environmentalist here definitely.
Anything you’ve made/own/use that is upcycled/recycled/re-purposed that you’re particularly proud of?
I assembled a crew of very cool peeps who put together a bamboo bike once. That was dope. Bamboo bike Studio in Brooklyn is doing the same thing. I love the Good Will and Crossroads for my clothes as well.
Any tips on how people can live more green?
People can meditate 15 minutes a day on Personal and Global Harmony. They can then localize as much of their activities and purchases.
And where can we listen and buy Earth Amplified?
Thanks for sharing, Ashel!