Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Asheru - Insomnia

Gabriel Benn grew up in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of DC for much of his childhood, but also spent some of his time living and attending school in Barbados, West Indies, the birthplace of his father. As a youth, many of Asheru’s musical influences came from a wide range of Hip Hop artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, KRS One, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Slick Rick, Doug. E. Fresh, Native Tongues, Pharoahe Monch, and more, as well as the classic Soul, R&B, and Pop records of the 70’s and 80’s eras that his mother used to play throughout the house. At the age of 16, he graduated from high school and attended the University of Virginia, where he finished in 1996 with a B.A. degree in Anthropology. In college he formed relationships with fellow colleagues, a group of like-minded individuals that shared a similar passion for Hip Hop music and the collective Black experience. After college, one of those colleagues, Wes Jackson, founded an independent Hip Hop label, Seven Heads Entertainment, and in 1996 signed its first group, Unspoken Heard, made up primarily of Asheru and Jackson’s older brother, Robert Jackson, aka “Blue Black". Asheru and Blue Black went on to release a series of 12” singles and EPs, and in 2001 released their first album, “Soon Come”, a critically acclaimed debut, still widely considered a classic in many Hip Hop circles. In 2003, the group released their second album “48 Months”, followed by the “No Edge Ups in South Africa” album, a compilation album of other 7 Heads artists featuring the hit, “Mood Swing” with Talib Kweli.

Asheru, both as a solo artist as well as with the group Unspoken Heard, has gone on to travel extensively throughout Europe, Canada, the US and Japan, performing alongside artists and groups like Common, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Bilal, Ludacris, Edo G, J-Live, Wordsworth, and The Roots, while collaborating and being featured on projects with Hip Hop greats such as Pete Rock, and Jazzy Jeff. His lyrics are categorized by reflection upon the state of affairs of the current-day Black American. Through his music, he demonstrates a desire to improve the attitude of Black people towards liberation through education and self-empowerment. He currently travels with a live band, The ELs, made up of a three (sometimes four)-piece band of accomplished veteran musicians and producers, namely Aquaman, Mr. Hu, and Zo!.

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