HOOD ECONOMICS (2004) – Tahir RBG
Talking Hip Hop Business [Originally published at ProHipHop in 2005]
Talking Hip Hop Business gets off to a unique start with Tahir of Hedrush LLC discussing the concept of Hood Economics.
You may know Tahir from his work with Abu as the production team of Hedrush. Their work appears on albums from Dead Prez, The Coup, The Roots and Thrill A Playa, as well as in the films Soul In The Hole, Brooklyn Babylon and The Ladykillers. They are now part of a larger project, Hedrush LLC.
I decided to kick off Talking Hip Hop Business with this interview after receiving a review copy of Tahir’s third release, Hood Economics. I was interested in the ideas behind the album that clearly indicated an alternative to notions of buying into the system and financial empowerment that are currently so prevalent in discussions of hip hop business. I think it’s important to recognize that hip hop’s entrepreneurial energy can also be taken in more radical directions.
However, though Tahir accepts the label of “conscious artist,” he also clarifies that he “hit[s] the strip club just like the next man.” At the same time, he’s “not happy with our poor economic situation in the hood and the way police mistreat us.” Tahir’s work is a unique mix of the dirty south and revolutionary consciousness. Perhaps this phrase has already been coined, but I think of Tahir as a proponent of the “Revolutionary Dirty South.” In any case, check out what Tahir has to say about Hood Economics in this first installment of Talking Hip Hop Business.
The Revolutionary Heart of the Dirty South: Tahir on Hood Economics
Interviewed by Clyde F. Smith
Talking with Tahir of Hedrush LLC about the concept of Hood Economics behind his album of the same name seems like a great way to start Talking Hip Hop Business. Though Hood Economics is Tahir’s third release as an mc, he may well be best known for his work with partner Abu as the production team Hedrush. Their credits include contributions for Dead Prez, The Coup, The Roots and Thrill A Playa. Their work also appears in the films Soul In The Hole, Brooklyn Babylon and The Ladykillers.
We conducted the interview via email and Tahir was kind enough to go into great detail. Though not everything made it into this version, you can get a transcript of the complete unedited exchange at the Assata Shakur Forums. You can also check out tracks from Hood Economics and find out more about Tahir and fam at Hedrush LLC.
Tahir began with an explanation of the concept of Hood Economics and its importance to African-Americans, though Tahir prefers the term Africans as an indicator of origin.
“The phrase “Hood Economics” as a term; I originally heard it from my friend and co-owner of Hedrush Records Abu. We always talked about how all money generators of the African community are loosely linked to each other and, if we strengthen those ties with community building commerce as well as the other African commerce, Africans would be in a better position living in America.”
“Now “Hood Economics” as a concept; I have seen this concept in use in my neighborhood my entire life. For instance; a barber in my community cuts someone’s hair and with that money buys a fish dinner from the church fish fry in my community who gives a percentage to the pastor who later on that day may go to get his car detailed at the detail shop/car wash in my community and the detailer gets off from work and goes to buy a 20 bag of weed from the weed man in my community who, after he runs out of weed, will go home that night, wake up the next morning, get dressed, and go get a haircut . . . in my community. The main objective is to add grocery stores, clothing stores, housing development and health care into the equation. That would be “Hood Economics” working at optimum levels.”
The album Hood Economics is the third solo release from Tahir. He discusses its relationship to the previous releases, Homecoming and Recoil, as a third step in a socioeconomic “cure” for African-Americans.
“What I mean when I say it is exactly as I described it. Hood Economics – the state of African community commerce. I call it “the 3rd stage of the cure.” My people are diseased, Clyde. And Its deeper than AIDS, drug addiction and all those superficial things. Our minds are in disease where we have no solid foundation to stand on so all traps and tricks of this society and the world work very well on us.”
“Our communities are known as prime testing ground and primitive capital gaining areas for all people to start up from. Europeans, Asians, Arabs, everybody starts off with an option to have something in our neighborhood first to use as a springboard into American entrepreneurial money. Yet, when we (Africans) try this for ourselves, we are hesitant to support each other because we feel the product may be inferior or just don’t want to see anyone in our neighborhood prosper and be self-determining (crabs in the bucket theory). This is a disease that has plagued us ever since integration.”
“So the 1st stage of the cure is “homecoming” (which was the title of my first album). Meaning Africans coming back to home base. Being aware of our surroundings and recognizing our current and rightful place in this world. Getting to know ourselves again. Then the 2nd stage is self-defense (“Recoil” was my second album). Once we are back to a self-determining and self-respectful way of thinking, we must physically and mentally be prepared to protect and preserve the treasures that are to come which ultimately WILL be freedom. Once we have our mind and body under control (African control and protection), we are now ready to build in the world.”
“The first place to start is our own neighborhoods. Thus spawns the 3rd stage of the cure, “HOOD ECONOMICS”. Once we have our economic situation out of the red and under African control, we can move on to the next part. This plan is age old, Clyde. The Nation of Islam, The Black Panther Party, and a few other organizations have implemented this as well. And there have been problems that we have identified too. I’m just saying it again. Of course I can’t give the whole plan out because the enemy is a student and tactician, but the enemy knows this much.”
Tahir clarified that the enemy is “any person, place, or thing against freedom. Simple as that.” I asked Tahir if focusing economic activity on African business or “creating a hood economy” means actively boycotting businesses that don’t fit the parameters of hood economics?
“Let me say first, the “hood economy” is already in existence. It just doesn’t work in the favor of Africans who populate the hood. I don’t think Aficans need to focus on boycotting, we need to focus on patronizing African businesses in the hood and letting them know, as well as non-African businesses in the hood, that there is a responsibility that goes along with being able to make money in the hood. And that’s building the hood’s economy in a way that benefits the hood as well as the business. If a business does not have the hood’s best interest in mind and is there to just suck the resources out of it and use them for other things (like the diamond industry in Africa), then yes, boycott and get them OUT of the hood immediately!!”
The cover of Hood Economics has four pictures indicating the “four ways we get money in the hood – 9 to 5’s, life of crime, the welfare line, or on your own grind.” Tahir elaborated on this topic.
“The 4 ways Africans generate money in the hood are:
1. a 9 to 5 working for some one else. From bag boys at the supermarket to managers and even corporate America positions working for 3M, Honeywell and firms of that nature. DEFINITELY OPPRESSIVE.
2. a life of crime – illegal business (according to this unfair American government, but that’s another story) from the drug and prostitution trade to check and credit card scams. Some of it is DEFINITELY OPPRESSIVE and some of it is PIMPING THE SYSTEM.
3. the welfare line – government giving Africans money, food checks, and housing. DEFINITELY OPPRESSIVE (considering all Africans must do to qualify for it but that’s another story as well).
4. our own grind – being self-determining in so-called legal ventures. Such as barbers, seamstresses, farmers (of so-called legal food we can eat), cooks, musicians who own and release their music from their own labels, etc. Depending on the direction the money goes once it’s made is what determines if it’s oppressive or not.”
In answer to his own question from the press release, “where do you fit in?”, Tahir replied, “Personally, I have been involved in all 4 approaches before, but now am only involved in one – my own grind.” I also asked Tahir if there were any business people that inspired him, whether in music or elsewhere.
“Yes, there are many, but I will name three. First of all, MY PARENTS. They used to own a grocery store located in an African community. I was too young to appreciate what they were doing but now I know where my sense of Hood Economics came from. They would buy all they could from African farmers, gardeners, fishermen, etc. in the neighborhood the store was in as well as spread the word about the businesses they patronized to others and even helped aspiring African manufacturers to get connected so the circle could grow.”
“They also explained the importance of what they were doing to the producers and the customers so it wouldn’t just be “American business” but true “Hood Economics”. They stopped selling alcohol and cigarettes too – something that kills the African community with style. They recognized that as the enemy and deaded it. THAT IS STILL UNHEARD OF!! I love them for that. And the products were fresh and prices comparable to the major chains like Winn-Dixie and Publix, who don’t give a flying 747 f*ck about the hood (thanks Nas).”
“And, one of the best things they did, held tutoring sessions in the back of the store!! From school work to being a man or woman to taking care of your family to financial planning. Schooling people (me included) on life period. That is the meaning of Hood Economics manifested into tangible evidence. They have been robbed, vandalized, harassed by other stores for the messages they were putting out and still banged on the system with big heat! Shouts to Robinson’s grocery and all those who remember that era before the Arab invasion.”
“2. – Jam Pony Express DJs (Rest in Uhuru Big Ace (Uhuru means freedom)). JPE is a DJ crew from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida that has been making mix tapes since 1981 and selling them independently all over Florida and Georgia since then. That’s 24 years making money in the hood off music and at the same time pioneering a now must-have skill for djs in Florida (that’s if you really wanna be dope) called mic checking.”
“They made millions and didn’t have to sell out to do it. No major deals, no internet sales, no distribution deals that weren’t hood related. 100% African all the way. One time for Cool Lock Jock, Slick Vic, Big Ace, Rated R, Giggalo Joe, Lil Fuss, Hot Rod, and the rest of the legendary Jam Pony Express DJs (it’s so many of them I can’t possibly name them all). They showed me an example of doing what you do in music and being monetarily prosperous without having to take one step out of the African community.”
“3. Roc-A-Fella Records. Jay-Z, Dame Dash, and Biggs are the perfect example of NEVER compromising the mission and forever enterprising in this American Entertainment Industry. They made the industry go from dissing them to accepting whatever they say. They used the system against itself for their own company’s welfare because we all know the enemy didn’t want THAT much power in their hands.”
“From music to fashion to everything they’re involved with they did it their way from the BEGINNING. I stress beginning because a few Africans have similar success but the beginnings are the most important part. CEOs from the door!! The way they began set an example for Africans aspiring to do it WITHOUT COMPROMISE. I am definitely one of those aspiring Africans. Shouts out to Dame, Jay-Z, and Biggs for being Kings all the way through.”
Tahir gave me a who’s who on Hedrush LLC along with their plans for the future.
“Hedrush Records is an indy music label under Hedrush LLC, a multi media company. So far, Hedrush LLC has the following departments active; a music label (Hedrush Records), a cd duplication division (Vanguard Tech), and a production team (Hedrush Beats).”
“Hedrush LLC was founded in 1992 in Tallahassee, Florida by myself and my partner Abu. Hedrush LLC is now owned and operated by myself, Abu, and Khari. Khari is our general manager, Abu and I are the main producers (Hedrush Records), I am the main producer for the production team (Hedrush Beats), and Khari and I operate Vanguard Tech.”
“Dj Mike Fresh is our main a&r, public relations, and promotions director. Osean “Big Cipher” McDowell is on management and advisory. But you know how it goes, we all aid in all tasks when they arise. We have 2 acts signed and working; Tahir and Da Skinniez. Tahir is a solo hip hop act and Da Skinniez is a six man hip hop group consisting of Mr. Steele, A.D. 2G, Scandal, Black Out, Gutta, and Mr. Bug Man.”
“For Hedrush Records, our plans are simple. Make great music, make a great and thorough connection with our audiences, and sell as many units as possible.”