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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Farbeon
Monday, March 09, 2009

The NYC Hip-Hop trio 3rd Party has already produced two Adam’s World Artists of the Week (Hired Gun and Rabbi Darkside), and this week the third member of the trio, Farbeon, is ready for his close-up. Born in El Paso, Texas, Farbeon’s musical journey started at a very young age as a singer in his church’s choir. He jokes that “little old ladies” were his first groupies. Farbeon would go on to study poetry at Georgetown University during Allen Iverson’s reign there and in 2000 he linked up with the Blow Up Co-Op in Phoenix, Arizona. After moving to NYC in 2002, Farbeon quickly found Rabbi Darkside and Hired Gun and the trio formed 3rd Party. This week I caught up with Farbeon to discuss his many projects, from all things music related, to his work with Alzheimer’s patients, to his development of his own Master’s program at NYU. One thing is for sure, Farbeon is far from being your average artist.

Adam Bernard: I want to focus on your solo work, but before we get to that let’s talk a little bit about 3rd Party. What do you feel you bring to the group that’s unique?
Farbeon: I bring the melodic soul with a poetic sensibility. The soulful power of poetry lies in its precision and brevity. Poets cut away the fat to develop texts that are rich and multi-layered. Their goal is to create pieces that leave room for interpretation, but still deliver profound truth and meaning deliberately through the use of concrete images. A poet’s role is not to tell you that they are sad, it is to write a poem that invokes sadness in the reader. My approach to writing songs is based heavily in research and pre-writing. Once I decide on a theme I look for the precise words to communicate what it is I want to say, and then I weave those words into a lyrical form that lends itself to vocal exploration, i.e. the use of melody and harmony. I guess you could say I’m not as renegade in my approach to Hip-Hop, though I do love freestyle. Oh yeah, I’ve also been known to drop Sinatra covers during my solo sets.

Adam Bernard: Now you’re about to release your second solo album. How much do you feel you’ve grown as an artist from album to album?
Farbeon: Few and Far Between will be my second solo release in… six… years. Not that I’m self-conscious or anything, but having only two solo records in that time has got me a little vexed. I think this record is as far a departure from where I was six years ago as it could be for being six years removed from the life of a 24 year old artist/emcee/educator moving from Tempe, Arizona to the Big Apple. In many ways this project is like a second debut record. My level of life experience is greater, my mastery over music is greater, and the deliberateness with which I approach each track is greater. I’m working more with non-traditional song structures and relying less on a 16 bar verse standard. More importantly, I’m working with some of the best producers of independent Hip-Hop today, including Baba Israel, Yako 440 and Core Rhythm. If someone had told me six years ago that I’d be where I am today, I would have believed them, but I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend how good it would feel.

Adam Bernard: What about Few and Far Between do you feel people will relate to most?
Farbeon: First off, my next project isn’t really an album in the traditional sense. My goal as an artist is to continue to create new pieces of work and give them instant life via the inter-web. In other words, I’m looking to distribute my music for free… kinda. Starting in April I plan to release three to four new tracks every month on farbeon.com. With each installment of tracks I’ll also be posting new photos, videos, essays, and survey questions that speak to the themes of that month’s installment. At the end of four months I plan to produce a limited hardcopy of the project with a couple of additional songs for the diehard fans, friends and fam. All that I ask in return is dialogue. I want heads to respond. I want them to share their ideas with me. I want them to push me to think. In that sense, I think that people will relate most to my desire to make an authentic human connection. I’m not rapping about being a Super-Farbeon, minus the single “farBEon,” I’m rapping about being a 32 year old artist, educator and agent for social change. I’m not waiting for the world to get better, I’m singing it into existence as best as I can with the gifts that the Lord has given me. Hopefully, I can inspire others to do the same in their own lives. So I think people will be able to relate most to the inspiration, to the passion.

Adam Bernard: Speaking of your passions, tell me about your work with the Alzheimer Poetry Project.
Farbeon: Beginning in 2005 I began working with the Alzheimer Poetry Project. The APP is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease, their families, and professional health care workers. We perform poems, both original and classical poems that they might have learned as children, directly to the folks, often holding their hands. This is not the type of poetry reading that takes place from a podium. The APP is about making contact with people who may have very little physical contact in their lives. It is typical to be reciting a poem and have a client wake up from their dementia and finish the poem with me. To say that the experience is a powerful one does not do it justice. As an emcee hustling to find that “big break,” my work with the APP has been integral in keeping my feet planted firmly on the ground. I was quickly forced to consider my purpose in pursuing music. Though I’m still concerned about making a living with my art, I’ve come to the conclusion that focusing too much on that prevents fulfillment. I need to use my gifts to service the community, both young and old alike.

Adam Bernard: Both Hired Gun and Rabbi D are also involved in education in NYC. On the low, are you the superintendent of schools? C’mon, you can tell me!
Farbeon: Nah, not the superintendent, but I am a badass! I’ve been teaching for about a decade. I began after college with a two year stint with Teach for America. I quickly developed my own approach to teaching writing that was extremely effective in helping kids who were two to three years below grade level catch up. After teaching traditionally as a full-time classroom teacher for five years I was finally able to make the jump to being a teaching-artist. I’ve been working with the Urban Arts Partnership for five years and I’m now teaching Hip-Hop history and culture, poetry, performance, songwriting, music production and even photography. I’ve co-taught classes with Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli, Fab Five Freddy and Rosie Perez. I currently run an art program that includes eight art forms at the Facing History School. I’ve been with them since day one and this year we will have our first graduating class… but not until they complete their final requirement. This semester I’m guiding sixty 17 and 18 year olds in the development of independent art projects. Master emcee? Arguable. Master teacher? Fo’ sho’!

Adam Bernard: A master teacher, and also a master student as I hear you’re developing your own Master’s program. Talk to me about this.
Farbeon: This past fall I began developing my own Master’s in Hip-Hop Re:Education at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Studies. This program gives me the opportunity to take pretty much any class throughout all of NYU, and even classes outside of NYU. I’m studying Hip-Hop as an artist/ethnographer, both researcher and participant. I’m looking at the historical/cultural foundations of Hip-Hop. I’m taking private lessons in music production at Dubspot. I’m researching the development of Hip-Hop throughout the world. And I’m also working on developing a stronger business acumen, i.e. the grant-writing/fundraising and telecommunication skills needed to make all of my artistic endeavors financially viable. If culture is a commodity, then it is up to each artist to come to terms with how he or she earns a living. I’m renaissance about my approach. Whether writing, recording, performing, teaching, or researching, there is a market for my work. This Master’s program is just legitimizing what I’ve been doing for the past ten years and creating a platform for me to take it to the next level. When in doubt: Re:Define, Re:Invent, Re:Educate!

Related Links

Website: farbeon.com
Say Word: saywordentertainment.com
MySpace: myspace.com/farbeon
APP: alzpoetry.com
Urban Arts: urbanarts.org
NYU: nyu.edu/gallatin
DubSpot: dubspot.com


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:43 AM  
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