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May 2007
The Hip Hop Project: An Interview with Chris "Kazi" Rolle

The Hip Hop Project: An Interview with Chris "Kazi" Rolle
By Wilson Morales

ItŐs always a good thing when you see a young brother trying to make a difference in society by helping himself as well as others, and that exactly what Chris ŇKaziÓ Rolle set out to do. A few years ago, Kazi started The Hip Hop Project, in which kids can help themselves be businessmen and responsible for the things they do and say through the use of rap. Over time, his project was recognized by many and has had supporters such as the likes of Bruce Willis, Queen Latifah, and Russell Simmons. After appearing at last yearŐs Tribeca Film Festival, the film was picked up ThinkFilm and is finally set for theaters on May 11th. While speaking to blackfilm.com, Kazi spoke about having his film come out so it can touch the lives of others.

It’s been a while since you put this project together, so how excited are you for it to be coming out in theaters?

Kazi: It’s definitely a good feeling to see your fruits of your labor.

What is the Hip Hop Project?

Kazi: The Hip Hop Project is a program that connects high school students with pros in the music industry to write, produce, market their own hip hop album. It’s also an artist development program and during the process of the program, we development the mind and psyche of these artists to inspire them to be themselves, instead of trying to copycat what’s on the radio; and try to teach principals, life skills and the future of the music industry.

Why did you decide to start this?

Kazi: On one instance, I’ve been in the industry and they ask you to be someone other than yourself because they tell you what will sell, but originally what attracted me to hip hop, it was all about being an artist and being original, it’s all about being different. That was one reason. Two, I’ve been in programs, and Scott Rosenberg of Art Start gave me the opportunity to start my own program and I took all of the programs that I’ve been in and remixed it.

Did you find comfortable to have your life story told on camera?

Kazi: When I was in high school, I was in a class called “Media Works Project” and Scott, who was the producer of this film, had taken us to see a film called “Hoop Dreams” and that film inspired me so much that I wanted to share my own story and when it was time and we were shooting this film, that idea was to up my life. At times, it was a little uncomfortable, because I really didn’t want them to go into certain places of my life, but I know that the people who share their life are the strongest.

How did Bruce Willis get involved with this?

Kazi: Well, our biggest supporter since day 1 has been Russell Simmons and through his work with the foundation, the Hip Hop Project was one of many programs that he sponsored and I think Bruce contacted him because of this and wanted to give him a studio to help in things that he’s doing, and Russell introduced the Hip Hop project to Bruse Willis and they came together to the program and all of the cameras highlighted the work. It was a beautiful thing.

Was it a challenged to get people involve with the filming of the project?

Kazi: As far as students, nah. I put out this flyer that I know if I was in high school and saw that it said, “Do you want to meet your favorite celebs, kick it one on one with industry pros, and find out about the workings of the music industry; plus get to write, produce, and market your album, come on down to The Hip Hop Project.” I then put all of the images of all the stars I knew of and half of them came up.

What were some of the challenges?

Kazi: Being different and stepping out and being confident. A lot of young artists feel that the only that sells is a façade and this gives them a chance to be honest; so that was the biggest challenge, to get them to recognize that people actually want to hear the real stuff.

You have since started your own record company. How is that going?

Kazi: It’s called “Momentum” and everything in motion stays in motion and picks up momentum over time. It’s an extension of the same work that I’m doing. Right now, I’m also releasing my own music. I finished an album called “Men in Faces”, but the main focus right now is to get people in the theaters on May 11th because 100% of the net profit go back to programs working with young people. The success in the theater will keep the program going on as I move on to other things.

What do you want folks to get out from seeing “The Hip Hop Project”?

Kazi: I want young artists to be inspired from the inside out and confident in being different. I would like to put a positive image of hip hop because it always gets a bad rap; and I would to see people use their life in any way to inspire people. If you are a journalist, an artist, or an accountant, it takes time to give back to other people.

THE HIP HOP PROJECT opens on May 11th, 2007




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