From November 5th to November 17th, 2014, four hip hop artists traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh as part of the Next Level program. DJ André “DJ A-Minor” Barden, MC Gabriel “Asheru” Benn, Dancer Amirah Sackett, and Beat Maker Ami Kim (a.k.a. jocElyn Ellis) 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.
Ami "joCelyn ellis" Kim is a Durham, North Carolina, native whose musical talent has captured headlines in the region during her climb to the top of its indie music scene. As an emerging vocalist, songwriter and producer, Ami’s thought-evoking lyrics and soulful songs have garnered performances with 9th Wonder, Chrisette Michelle, Citizen Cope, Raekwon, Wyclef Jean, and concerts in over 200 venues and festivals including several in Europe and 4 major arenas.
Her experimental combination of hip hop, soul, folk, and electro have created a buzz that has resonated to national and international accolades.
She released her debut full-length album “Life Of A Hologram” in November 2013, and plans to continue to lead the artistic movement of musical creativity, love, and art.
Amirah Sackett has performed and had her choreography featured locally, nationally, and internationally. Amirah was honored as one of the first female hip hop artists to receive the Jerome Travel/Study grant in 2008.
She curated the international festival for women in hip hop, “B-Girl Be” in 2009-2010 at Intermedia Arts. In 2011 she curated her own show called “The JOINT Project” in an effort to push hip hop artists to create work outside of their comfort zone.
She created the group “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic” to promote understanding and respect of the female Muslim style of dress called hijab to non-Muslim audiences. Since then they have been featured in rapper Brother Ali’s music video “Mourning in America” as well as performing all over the country.
Most recently, Amirah was honored to receive the prestigious Sage Cowles Award “Best Ensemble Performance” for the performance of her choreography “Mourning in America”.
André “DJ A-Minor” Barden is an educator, DJ, and budding producer currently residing in Charlotte, North Carolina. Spending his life in the country’s Northeast, Midwest and South, in a household that was constantly filled with music, has created his extremely diverse taste in music—but hip hop has always been his first love.
After a few years of bedroom deejaying and throwing local parties, DJ A-Minor made waves in the DJ community in 2010 at Red Bull’s esteemed Thre3Style battle—he took third place in the North Carolina regional with only 3 hours notice and 20 minutes of preparation time!
Since then, he has become a staple in the North Carolina nightlife and hip hop scene, including a year-and-a-half stint as the resident hip hop DJ for the legendary Cat’s Cradle (Carrboro, North Carolina), giving him the opportunity to share the stage with acts like Big K.R.I.T., Wiz Khalifa, Yelawolf, Kool Keith and more.
In most recent years he could be found in the classroom at UNC-Chapel Hill, as an artist-in-residence for a new class called “The Art and Culture of the DJ”.
Corporate clients include the NBA (Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets), the Aveda Institute, and Red Bull, to name a few.
Gabriel “Asheru” Benn, M.Ed., is a veteran hip hop artist, educator, and youth activist. He has graced stages and recorded with artists such as Pete Rock, Talib Kweli, Raheem Devaughn, Jill Scott, and others, and is widely known for performing the opening theme for the popular TV series, The Boondocks. Due to his other musical contributions to the show, he received the Peabody Award in 2006, becoming the first hip hop artist to receive the prestigious award.
Alongside his career as a hip hop artist, Asheru has served as an educator/administrator in DC Schools for over 15 years, and is well known for his pioneering and innovative efforts to forward the hip-hop education movement, namely through his organizations, Guerrilla Arts Ink, and the Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program (H.E.L.P.).