Youngsters in Leeds were treated to a series of urban music workshops over the last six weeks thanks to a special visit by Dyna Max, a US hip-hop artist and ambassador of Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation. He is also a member of Kool Herc’s hip-hop family the ‘Herculords’ and pioneer to the hip-hop culture in France.

He has worked across five different continents including Africa and Asia and performed alongside some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Afrika Bambaataa, Chuck D from Public Enemy, Donald D and Kool Herc who is one of the Godfathers of the urban music scene. Dyna Max was also the dj for Dr. Dre’s first female artist Truth Hurts for concerts held in Martinique and Paris.

At the Lifeforce studio in Chapeltown he was helping to teach youngsters about the cultural aspects of hip-hop, its origins and also the business side of the music industry. He explained how many young artists often go into the industry and sign up to record labels only to get ripped off through complex legal contracts and not knowing what they are entitled to.

But by holding workshops like these in Leeds and around the world, he is hoping to change that trend and promote the positive aspects of hip-hop culture – which is often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media. Put simply, hip-hop is not something that can be summarised in just a few words or two. As Dyna Max explained: ‘Hip-hop is a way of life’.

It is a combination of different means of expression: rap, dance, poetry and the five elements. The five elements of hip-hop are MC-ing, graffiti painting, b-boying, djing, knowledge and understanding, or overstanding as is often said in the underground urban music scene.

For Dyna Max, it’s all about the kids. In an exclusive interview with Leeds TV he spoke of his plans to set up a UK branch of the Zulu Nation starting in Leeds. The Zulu Nation is an urban music organisation dedicated to teaching people about the positive influence of hip-hop culture.

“It has always been about self-empowerment”, he said “That was our first goal. It is also about policing our own community and looking after it so our neighbourhoods don’t have to be trashy. Get involved in your own community.”



His advice to the inner city youth today? “Make the change, don’t wait for the change to come to you.

“That’s what we did. We got tired of what was going on so Afrika Bambaataa organised the Zulu Nation and he made the change,” he said, “We were interested in getting out into the community and doing things, and then the music element came in through the parties we held, where every element of hip-hop came in and had a chance to show itself.”

He added that the UK still has a long way to go in terms of empowering itself and making the UK branch of Zulu Nation a reality, but remained optimistic about the future of urban culture in Britain.

“Each city in the United Kingdom does not support itself, each borough does not support itself. This is the reason why it is not where it is supposed to be at. I’m here to give an important message and say ‘let’s make that difference, let’s make the change. If you don’t believe in yourselves, well I’m here to tell you that I believe in you.”

Although he hopes to return to the UK shortly to continue his work with inner city youth, he is heading over to France soon to work on a new album with Dee nasty – another hip-hop pioneer who helped to spark the urban music scene in France.

But the fight for the true understanding of hip-hop culture continues. Barely a day goes by in the mainstream media when commercial rap music is mentioned in a negative context alongside gang violence and misogyny. Quite often when people think of hip-hop, they think of gangster rap. However, the two are not the same thing, say Dyna Max. He explained that organisations such as Zulu nation are working hard to promote consciousness, and the values of education and awareness to youngsters to dissuade them from joining gangs and perhaps usher them away from only focussing on some of the more negative aspects of mainstream, commercial rap music.


His journey has seen him work alongside legends such as Kris Needs, a producer, critic and journalist known best for his book ‘Before They Make me Run’ on the Rolling Stone legend Keith Richards. He has also worked with punk and rock bands in the UK and great European producers such as Luc Besson on the “Yamakasi” trailer and on scores like “Un Ange”, with Cut Killer -P.Diddy’s Bad Boy French Crew.

His first solo album was Equilibrium, which was then followed by The American. He dedicated his first solo album to the cause of Mumia Abu Jamal, a member of the original black panther group who is currently serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Labour unions, US and foreign governments, politicians, educators, the NAACP along with various human rights organisations and celebrities have expressed concern about the impartiality of the trial of Abu-Jamal. Dyna Max added: “He didn’t get a fair trial and I want him to get a fair hearing.”

Many high profile people such as Rage Against the Machine, Nelson Mandela, Beastie Boys, Afrika Bambaataa, Angela Davis have maintained his innocence after studying his case.

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