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Hip Hop Education: The PATH Hip Hop Summer Academy (In Pictures)

Back in the summer of 2008, I shot a documentary film about a unique four-week summer program in Miami that focused on the history and philosophy of Hip Hop and its four main elements: DJing, MCing, B-boying/girling, and Urban Art. The camp was was started by long-time Miami hip hop artist Brimstone127 who I had contacted via the internet a few months earlier to ask his permission to use one of his songs in a documentary film I had just shot and was now editing; it was my very first documentary film.

We met face-to-face some time afterwards and he told me about his upcoming Hip Hop camp, which would be called PATH (for Preserving, Archiving and Teaching Hip Hop History). It was a project he had been trying to get off the ground for several years and had finally found a home (and funding) for it via Miami Light Project, a not-for-profit cultural organization. It was then that we began to discuss creating a documentary film about the camp and, long story short, that film went on to win the 'Best Florida Film' award at the 2010 Sunscreen Film Festival - the award presented to us by none other than John Travolta himself (watch the award presentation HERE and you can watch the original PATH film HERE).

The film elevated my fledgling video production business to another level and I haven't looked back since. And as for PATH, despite funding being cut and the camp reduced to only one week the following year, the PATH Hip Hop Academy has flourished through the years, cultivating the next generation of hip hop artists, leaders, scholars and entrepreneurs by partnering with local artists, industry professionals, community leaders and local businesses to offer innovative Hip Hop education programs to youth ages 13-19.

In 2012, a few years after the program's inception in 2008, Brimstone127 (real name Seth Schere) married Natalie Lewis, who took over the role of Executive Director with Brimstone becoming Education/Program Director. It was a marriage made in Hip Hop heaven and their partnership has fueled the growth of this truly unique organization over the years. PATH, Inc is now a 501(c)3 organization and students of the Hip Hop Academy not only learn DJing, MCing, B-boying/girling and Urban Art skills from professional working artists, but also develop leadership skills and focus on serving their communities.

After several years, I reconnected with Brimstone127 and revisited the PATH Hip Hop Summer Academy this past month and spent several days there every week documenting the camp through video and photos, this time with my Lumix GH4 in hand. Why? Well the summer program, which now calls the MDC Live Arts Lab in Miami Dade College home, just completed its 10th year and a new 10 year REDUX of our original documentary film is in the works (the original was shot in SD using the popular Panasonic DVX100). In the meantime, I'd like to share several photographs I took over the past four weeks to get you up to speed on what the PATH Hip Hop Summer Academy is all about. Having spent the better part of the last month getting to know these kids (and the PATH staff and instructors) has reassured me that the future of the world (at least here in Miami) is in good hands...

Enjoy the photographs. Oh, and you can learn more about PATH and all their other programs at pathtohiphop.org, and you can make a donation to help them continue their programming and outreach to youth and adults HERE.

DAY ONE

Hip Hop Education

The PATH Hip Hop Summer Academy kicks off with a welcome and opening message by Brimstone himself...

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Executive Director Natalie Lewis Schere (above center) then gathers the students around her for a day one icebreaking session.

DJING

Hip Hop Education

The DJing classes are held at Scratch DJ Academy in Miami. Scratch DJ Academy is the world’s leading DJ and music production learning center, founded in 2002 and co-developed by Jam Master Jay of Run DMC. Headquartered in NYC, Scratch has locations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Miami.

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

DJ Bounce (above right) teaches the kids "scratching" and turntablism...

Hip Hop Education

DJ Fielo (above right) educates them on music production...

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

During their four weeks of classes at Scratch, the students create their own music piece complete with scratching and other turntable effects.

B-BOYING/B-GIRLING

Hip Hop Education

B-Boy/B-Girl classes are given by Alfredo Sotelo aka B-Boy Lego (above right) of the acclaimed Miami dance crew Flipside Kings...

Hip Hop Education

Classes begin with a good stretch before the students cut loose...

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Bronx-born, Miami-based hip hop artist Triple Seven (above center) of the Street Masters Crew instructs the kids on the "uprock" or "rocking", an urban street dance that dates back to the birth of hip hop in NYC

URBAN ART

Hip Hop Education

Urban art class is handled by long-time Miami urban artist MECS

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

In the four week class, students design the backs of a denim jacket (remember when that was the style?)

MCING

Hip Hop Education

The MCing class is handled by Miami hip hop artists and songwriter Sekajipo (on right). Over the course of the four weeks of classes, students will write songs and record them in an in-house studio...

Hip Hop Education

Students writing lyrics...

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

And working on their delivery...

Hip Hop Education

Then it's time to select their beats...

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And record their tracks.

THE LAST CYPHER

The final days of the program are all about full day rehearsals for the closing ceremony, "The Last Cypher". The students put on a theatrical show for friends and family that incorporates the four elements of hip hop as well as its history...

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Hip Hop Education

Here's a short recap video of THE LAST CYPHER I shot and edited:

Returning to PATH after so many years was a strangely familiar and highly enjoyable experience for me. We've both come a long way since 2008 and as is often heard being chanted at the PATH Hip Hop Summer Academy, "can't stop, won't stop!" is what the next ten years has in store for us. Stay tuned for the documentary film - coming later this year...

ORANGE STRIPE

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