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Hasan Salaam Wears Everyone’s Heart On His Sleeve
Thursday, December 04, 2014

For New Jersey hip-hop artist and activist Hasan Salaam, every project is a passion project. This is because in addition to his music, he puts his entire heart and soul into a variety of political causes, and his intense desire to inspire people.

With his third full length solo album, the recently released Life In Black & White, Salaam is seeking to show people we’re all connected.

“There are absolutely commonalities that exist in all people,” he explains, “even down to the most simplest things.”

One song on the album he points to as an example of this is “Savor The Moment,” the second verse of which paints a portrait of the Easter brunches Salaam has enjoyed with his family. “I think family is one thing that brings us all together,” he says, “no matter what’s your color, no matter what’s your religion, we all have those family moments, and those family meals that we gather around, and are thankful to be with the ones we love, and we want to protect the ones we love, and we want to raise our children, and take care of our parents, and things like that.”

Salaam adds, “What it all boils down to, all of the problems we see from culture to culture, race to race, religion to religion, is fear of someone else being different than us, but ultimately we are all the same. We all have the same blood that’s blue in our veins, and red when it leaks.”

Unfortunately, while Salaam can see our commonalities, he also sees far too much of that aforementioned blood being spilled in his own community, which is another topic he tackles on Life In Black & White.

“Black death has been the biggest seller in America since we were stolen and brought here,” he explains, adding that one doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to connect the dots.

“When every 28 hours a Black man, woman, or child, is killed by law enforcement, a security officer, or vigilante, in this country, someone wants to kill you. That’s no conspiracy. That’s a fact. The numbers are right there.”

Salaam adds there are also less overtly violent ways in which he sees his community being treated as an afterthought.

“In certain neighborhoods you don’t have a market where you can get fresh food. It’s pretty obvious someone doesn’t give a shit about you. You don’t need a conspiracy theory for that.”

His solution to these issues involves getting people to come together for a greater good. “I think that it’s gonna take everybody,” he explains, “not just Black folk being sick of it, it’s gonna take everybody being sick of it to change it, and it’s gonna hurt some people’s privilege, but equality is more important than privilege.”

Even covering highly charged political content such as this on Life In Black & White, the song that affects Salaam most on the album, and is another example of his versatility as an artist, and the breadth of his work, is a song about his father, titled “Father’s Day.”

“It took me longer to write that song than it’s ever taken me to write anything,” Salaam says of “Father’s Day.” In all, a full year passed while he was putting all his thoughts about his relationship with father down, and deciding which of those thoughts he really wanted to voice out in the open.

Salaam actually began writing “Father’s Day” shortly after his debut album was released, but notes his first three albums were conceived to be released in a specific order – knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and “it had to be on the ‘understanding’ because I’ve finally come to a place of peace with my father. We know the topics we can and cannot speak about to keep us from going crazy with each other.”

Always being so in touch with such intense emotions, getting them out in his music is Salaam’s personal way of taking a minute to breathe. “I think it’s important for everybody to find something that helps them breathe,” he says, “music provides me an outlet to release frustration, to release anger, and I think that was one of the things with this album, to be able to provide a full spectrum. Not every song is bashin’ you in your head. Not every song is pulling on your heartstrings. There are songs that I listen to on the album that put a smile on my face, or make me feel good, because we have to find places to breathe.”

Salaam continued, “The world can be really suffocating at times for everybody. Even if you’re not involved in every single political action, just trying to make sure your kids are safe can be suffocating, just trying to keep your job can be stifling, so I think we all need to find a place, and whether that place be reading a book, going to the movies, listening to music, relaxing with your family, playing sports, working out, we need something. Everybody needs something.”

In addition to his music, Salaam’s other “something” is working out, as he owns a fitness studio, named Body Altitudes, in Clearwater, Florida. Clearwater is where his two business partners are, and the travel doesn’t bother Salaam. In fact, some of his favorite moments have come while on the road, and not just in America, but in places like Europe, and Africa.

“I can remember the first time I traveled, the thing that impressed me the most with being in Africa was seeing someone’s picture on the money that looked like mine. That’s a really strange experience when here in America, what Dave Chappelle said, all the money looks like baseball cards with slave owners on them. It was just a real different experience to look at the money and see someone who looks like me.”

This is another example of Hasan Salaam letting his intense emotion, and passion, show. His ability to harness this for his music, and his causes, is what continues to make him a success.

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 1:30 PM  
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