By Tony Muhammad
Recently I caught up with the phenomenal indie emcee Njeri Earth and discussed her latest album project Return of the Supa Sista, the current climate of the country and what important strategies Hip Hop artists and the “conscious” community must take part in order to help improve the condition of our communities.
TM: Peace dear Sister! Prior to Return of the Supa Sista you were involved in several indie projects, featured on “Beneath the Surface” by the Gza in 1999 as well as an emcee cipher scene in the movie “8 Mile” in 2002. What makes this album project different from all the others you have done thus far?
NE: I’m a mother of two sets of twins and two teenage young men during the creation of this album. I never had that many children and this much responsibility during any point of my career. It was difficult; two 2 year olds and two 5 year olds don’t allow you much free time. My teenagers too, but I always work well under pressure. Also due to the gap of time I spent away musically, I have gained a lot of life experience and inspiration that drove the content of Return of the Supa Sista.
TM: The song Breathe, one of the most impacting songs on the album, the way it sounds to me, it’s like a call for us to look internally at our condition as a people, as you mention “Black” and “Latino.” Then at the end of the song you mention several of our people that have been slain as a result of police terror against us, namely Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and Sandra Bland. As a conscientious Black mother yourself, what inspired you to come out with this song at this time?
NE: Well honestly the music itself, created by the God Saar3, was what inspired the lyrics. Within the boom bap of that track, there’s this light airy sound that made me think about taking breaths. That made me think about the concept of breathing, that it can be healing, however the flip side, our environment, the air we breathe; it’s kind of hard to take healing breaths when you’re in a smog filled environment. I also wanted to talk about child birth and many of the brothers and sisters you mention among others who have died at the hands of the police. There were so many aspects of breathing I thought about touching on. I wanted to keep it to just a little over three minutes though.
TM: How important is it right now for other artists, both “underground” and “commercial” to highlight the realities we are facing currently as a people as far as the peace we need to establish among our own as well as addressing the police terror that we are experiencing nation-wide?
NE: It’s essential. Hip Hop started out as a voice of the Black youth, which those youth who started it, and nurtured it are now adults, with children of our own. With that being said, it’s double the duty; first the duty to combat the lies and manipulation of the media and dominant society and tell our side of the story to our listeners; and second the duty to teach the truth to the young Black youth, our babies, and young Brothers and Sisters. Change is on its way regardless to who is ready or who is not. It’s better to be the change rather than to be affected by it. With so many distractions, continuing to acknowledge, speak on, and find solutions for the problems that plague the Black community is essential to keeping awareness high.
TM: In your view, what can artists, particularly Black and Latino artists, do right now to
increase our efforts against a system that is inflicting so much injustice on us as a people; for example police terror, environmental racism as in the case of Flint, education, etc.?
NE: Continuing to speak on these issues both in our music and otherwise. This, along with actively participating in the community and encouraging our peers and supporters to do the same. Seek out and form relationships with Black/Brown businesses; do sponsorships in this way, promote black banking like Killer Mike did in Atlanta. I think there’s a sentiment in the air that something must be done. I think we’re seeing that this system under which we live cannot be changed, however we can create and build our own system of freedom, justice, and equality.
TM: Being a member of The Nation of Gods and Earth yourself, we have the same Root
Teachings, which are The Teachings of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. In this time of so much unconsciousness in Hip Hop and in general, how important is it to build unity between The Nation of Gods and Earth, The Nation of Islam as well other Righteous communities especially in the area of arts and culture.
NE: I feel the need to build unity among the Gods and Earths, the Nation of Islam, as well as other conscious communities of Black and Brown people is crucial in these times. The devil would love to keep us separated; it’s easier to control us that way. But when we unify for one common cause, the preservation and growth of Black and Brown people, our children, and our culture; we will be so much stronger.
TM: Thank you for your time and sharing your thoughts dear Sister! Peace!
Tony Muhammad has been teaching Social Studies and Humanities in Miami-Dade County Schools for over 17 years. Tony is most noted for his work as publisher of Urban America Newspaper (2003 – 2007) and co-organizer of the Organic Hip Hop Conference (2004 – 2009). He has also designed curricula in the area of Black, Latino and Hip Hop studies for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He currently serves as a student assistant minister to Student Minister Patrick Muhammad at Muhammad Mosque #29 in Miami, Florida.