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20TH APRIL 2017


I was an emcee, first. ‘Rapping” and “breathing” have lived as synonyms for one another for my entire being. I was freestyle rapping in my mother’s bedroom in our section of the Bronx since the tender age of five. I created imaginary films, album covers, rap albums, and storylines, all within the confines of that bedroom. We didn’t have a lot, and a lot of what was happening outside of the doors of 2435 Creston Avenue forced me to seek escapism in art. I’ve taken the ethos of Hip-Hop – its cultural defiance, its disruptive and yet inclusive attitude and nature, its blues and jazz and soul and reggae and Afro-Cuban influences in its sound and approach to lyricism – and have let it bleed into everything I do, including this new chapter of my life as a publisher slash copywriter slash strategist slash culture up-lifter at Engine Group’s Deep Focus. I would have never thought that the young kid who wrote rhymes and acted out scenes from fictional Hip-Hop films in the privacy of his mother’s bedroom, who simultaneously ducked during drive-by shootings, and walked the other route to avoid dealers and gangs, would be at Twitter HQ in NYC with Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer, holding court and conversation about media projects and the work we do in digital. If that isn’t Hip-Hop, if that isn’t disrupting culture and expectations, and mastering the art of such, I don’t know what is.


Joel Daniels