Roots and Branches 12: Christopher “DJ B*Money” Behm-Meyer
“Hip-Hop” and “diplomacy” are not words that are often found in close proximity, so it’s understandable that people are sometimes skeptical about what the two practices could offer each other. But the positive side of that skepticism is that nothing can be taken for granted; we each have to create our own blueprint. In other words, hip-hop diplomacy is always based on personal experience. And that was certainly the case for Christopher “DJ B*Money” Behm-Meyer.
“When I first went over there, I thought hip-hop as cultural diplomacy was a little questionable,” he admits. “I always thought of hip-hop as a way to connect with people. But I never thought it would be so global. It didn’t sound like a real thing. But then, experiencing it? Absolutely it was a real thing.”
As a participant in Next Level’s Serbia residency (2014), B*Money was one of the first Next Level deejays, and as a result he has now had over four years to process the results of experience. Looking back, his assessment is clear: “Honestly, it’s been one of the best experiences of my entire life,” he says now. “It’s allowed me to expand as an educator and as an artist. I can’t preach enough about Next Level.”
As both a party deejay and a battle deejay (he is a former DMC USA National Finalist*), B*Money already had a wide experience in competitions, on the radio and playing at festivals and clubs across the United States. But his experience with Next Level helped him expand his work even further, both in its creative scope and its international range.
“It made me take myself as an educator more seriously, and I want to expand on that path,” he says. “I always thought of hip-hop education as like some after school thing. You set up your turntables and go scratch. I never realized what an impact you can actually make. Actually, it is a global thing. Cultural diplomacy is real. So I personally have been super inspired to continue along the education path and try to spread hip-hop education and diplomacy.” This has manifested itself in many ways, most notably in his selection as a Fine Arts Instructor for the University of Wisconsin Madison's PEOPLE program where he taught a course on deejaying for students in the program.
But beyond that, he says, the connections he made through Next Level have built bridges between the U.S. and Serbia that still continue to bear fruit to this day.
“Since the program, I have been in pretty constant contact with [b-boy] Andjelko Angelo Pavlovic and [deejay] Marko Milic’ Enzzy,” both of whom worked with the Next Level Serbia team during the residency.** “To me, they’re close personal friends. So the impact of the Next Level program truly amazed me. I never thought it would have such a long lasting and deep impact on everyone involved, and create lifelong friendships.”
“Marko has actually become a professional deejay in Serbia, so when I know American deejays are traveling to Serbia I always try to link them with him. In fact, this past winter I was able to link both the DMC US Supremacy DJ Champion, DJ Toltech, and the DMC US National Champ, DJ Throwdown, with Marko and Angelo. They went over and performed a show in Serbia. It’s crazy, because everybody over there was like, “How did you guys find out about Serbia?’”
“And they were like, ‘Oh, it’s through my boy B*Money, from Next Level!’”
He has also maintained his connection to the cultural diplomacy community in the United States, where he admits he has been a bit surprised to see the positive reaction that hip-hop elicits from other diplomats. “I went out to Philadelphia in 2017 for the State Deparment’s Alumni Ties conference,” he says. “There were a bunch of Rhodes Scholars and Fulbright Scholars – a bunch of super-esteemed people – and they were so hyped to have someone from Next Level!”
“I guess I always thought that cultural diplomacy was a ‘big idea,’ he reflects. “But really it’s all about friendship. It’s about the small things, like making connections over music. Over art. It’s not about some grand plan. It’s just about making connections with people.”
Learn more about B*Money at his website, http://djbmoney.com…where you can also find all of his social media links.
…and when you’re in Denver be sure to see him and his special guests at his weekly club night, Wu-Tang Wednesday.
*DMC stands for “Disco Mix Club,” although no one actually calls it that anymore. In 1985, they began sponsoring a mixing battle for club deejays, but as hip-hop deejays began to enter, it quickly transformed into a test of hip-hop skill, technique and creativity. It has been the pre-eminent international hip-hop deejay battle ever since.
**Andjelko was later selected to be part of the first Next Level Team Global: