Established in 2018 by veteran hip-hop artist Teh’Ray Hale, (Phenom) the mission of Emcee Skool is to develop young emcees in the art of hip-hop. While influencing its students to be community organizers and peace ambassadors. Inspired by his pilgrimage in Iraq as a hip-hop diplomat, Phenom began sharing the teachings he received from other emcees from across the globe with the youth in the city.
“I was invited to places where people struggled to get to,” Phenom says. “They didn’t have the opportunity to receive what I did, and that’s was unfair. So, I took that as a responsibility. I said, alright, what is this? I needed to grasp an understanding of what’s going on. When I returned, I knew I needed to train some emcees because what we were doing over there wasn’t rapping. When we were spitting, it was spiritual.”
The Emcee Skool is structured as if students are attending a higher education course, with six months being equal to an associate degree. Each week during the six-month program, students meet for about three hours with Phenom. They’re taught the origins of hip-hop, the fundamentals of being an emcee, what It means to emcee, and ways to use their craft as a positive asset to their community. With the assistance of Rotary International Club, a global network of business leaders promoting peace, when students graduate from the Emcee Skool, they graduate with the title peace ambassadors.
“We have a global art brand,” says Phenom. “We’ve received funds from Nigeria, Canada, and the Rotary International Club here in Chicago also provide us funding, so these 25 emcees can graduate as peace ambassadors. They’re doing more than just rocking on the mic. They’re using their art as instruments of peace.”
One of the programs that the students of Emcee Skool take part in is “Hope In The Hood.” “Hope In The Hood” consists of seven Emcee Skool alumni, dubbed the Upperclassmen, going out into the West Side of Chicago to inspire people through their lyrics. 808 and Classmates, another program the students participate in, teaches emcee skills to the community’s elders.
“The 808 and Classmates teach adult men and women on how to become emcees, says Asha, an Upperclassmen. “We’re teaching the adults on how to ground themselves spiritually before they become emcees and how to use their spirituality to fuel their desire to write and become emcees.”
Toni, one of the newest students of the Emcee Skool, says the group of 25 students are a “spiritual army.”
“We increase each other when we increase ourselves individually,” explains Toni. “We have a prayer line, and we get on the phone with each other two to three times a week. It’s like 15 of us at a time, and we pray for each other, and we pray for our communities.”
Salute to Phenom and the Emcee Skool students as they continue their journey to inspire, motivate, and organize their communities through hip-hop and peace.
Ali is a freelance writer within the Black and Hip-Hop culture with featured articles in multiple publications. Follow his Instagram @Choose_Wisey2.