From January 3rd to January 17th, 2015, four hip hop artists traveled to Dakar, Senegal as part of the Next Level program. Dancer Junious “House” Brickhouse, Beat Maker Elliot “Phillipdrummond” Gann, DJ Lauren “DJ Chela” Harkrader, and MC Toni Blackman joined together to perform for audiences and collaborate with local artists to promote cross-culture exchange and conflict resolution. The team is part of a larger Next Level cohort of twenty American MC’s, DJ’s, beat makers, and hip hop dancers leading exchange programs across the globe. You can read more about the artists here. See more videos of the team performing here.

Elliot “Phillipdrummond” Gann is a doctor of clinical psychology, producer, DJ, arts educator, event organizer, and community activist. Born in San Francisco and raised in NYC, Dr. Gann is the Founder, Executive Director and Lead Instructor at Today’s Future Sound (TFS), an Oakland-based (with a Los Angeles chapter) non-profit organization that uses hip-hop music production to empower youth as artists and community members.

With his roots in the West Coast battle rap and beat battle scenes, Dr. Gann has built a reputation in both worlds as being an archivist with rare footage of battles, putting on hundreds of battles and organizing the longest-running monthly live beat battle.

Teaching with TFS has taken him all across North America, from the East Coast—Yale; the South Bronx and Chinatown in NYC; Jackson, Mississippi; and Louisiana—to the Midwest, as well as Toronto, ON. He has also toured and put on battles in Australia and France, released albums with local artists in these countries, and produced several other albums under the Phillipdrummond moniker.

From a prolific DJ career traveling the world and working with luminaries, to dedicated spiritual and healing studies, to a breadth of artistic projects, Lauren “DJ Chela” Harkrader weaves together lineages of expression to inspire her audiences and engage their spirits, reaching audiences across Latin America, Asia, Canada, and the US.

In turntablism, she earned the 2009 Winter Music Conference Spin Off battle runner-up and placed second in the 2007 “She’s My DJ” battle. Chela has DJed for Saigon, Pharoahe Monch, KRS ONE, Immortal Technique, Mystic, Talib Kweli, Rah Digga, and Ladybug Mecca, and has been featured in The Source,, Scratch Magazine, Foundation Magazine, and on Chela was nominated for three Justo’s Mixtape Awards and has broadcasted shows for five years on WOBC, WXDU, and; she’s also been named a Top 10 College DJ by Urban Network Magazine.

Chela is also a doula, Reiki Master Teacher, a Brennan Healing Science Practitioner, and Tom Kenyon-trained sound healer, possessing a well rounded skill set that serves to support her community far beyond the dance floor.

Toni Blackman is the first hip hop artist selected to work as a Cultural Ambassador with the U.S. Department of State. Founder of the Freestyle Union and Rhyme like a Girl, and an Echoing Green Fellow, Toni has rocked festivals in South Africa, Senegal, Germany, Spain, Canada, the UK, and France.

In 2014 she did the Pete Seeger Tribute in Central Park NYC, the Blue Note Jazz Fest and the Harlem Arts Festival. Over the years, Toni has shared stages with the likes of Erykah Badu, Mos Def, KRS One, the Last Poets, Pharoahe Monch, Vernon Reid, Meshell, Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Gokh Bi System, DaBrains, Meta and the Cornerstones, and Youssou Ndour.

She has recorded tracks on Universal Records Jazz, BMG Novus, Big Dada Recordings, and Radio Nova Records. Toni was commissioned by the National Black Arts Festival to write and perform a hip-hop theater piece, “Wisdom of the Cypher”. She is currently preparing to release a book of the same name alongside her hip hop meditation music series.

Next Level