Shine bright like Detroit Diamond - local rapper shares his pearls of wisdom


US-born, HK-based rapper and artist hopes he can inspire students to be more creative and self-confident

Lauren James |

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The rapper has turned his attention to inspiring others.

Detroit Diamond feels on top of the world: he's got a new rap album under way, a radio show ready to launch, and was invited to talk at last week's FuturED conference at Island School.

Young Post spoke to the US-born, Hong Kong-based rapper, poet and artist ahead of his speech to find out how he wants to motivate others.

Hey Detroit, your FuturED speech is all about creative motivation and self-belief. Who do you look up to now?

I look up to myself a lot - it's one thing I want to share with young people. You have to believe in yourself.

I've seen myself grow and mature, and achieve new heights. I'm a big fan of me!

Of course, there are historical figures that will always be iconic and who I'll always admire. I'm a big admirer of Langston Hughes, a very profound poet and author. He influenced a lot of people creatively in the early 20th century.

What's been your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement is probably being able to relate to the people of tomorrow; reaching out to youth and being able to inspire them.

I remember my influences when I was young, and how powerful that magnetism was. My father was a successful interior decorator. Through him, I had my first experience of arts and crafts. So [he] was my biggest influence, but naturally as you grow up you meet other people in life, and you take qualities from different people and put them in your own gumbo.

Why is speaking at FuturED important to you?

Well, I work with children. I started working in Los Angeles as a behaviourist in the school system.

I worked one on one with autistic children.

I picked it back up when I came to Hong Kong. I worked in the special needs department at South Island School, and I saw that we have all these creative platforms to communicate with each other.

How do you hope to inspire school students?

I'm going to be introducing the theory of "the engine that runs on its own", which is essentially the building blocks for success. It's like a starter kit for people to build their own success stories. The idea is made up of five different actions - or theories - that I'll share. I've made sure it's easy for everyone to understand.

The theme of the conference is "creativity and conscience." These are pretty different concepts; how do they link together for you?

That's all up my lane, what my story is about. Being a creative person, hopefully my story can inspire others. I'm hoping to help them create patterns of thinking more creatively.

Will there be any one story in particular of your own, that you use to illustrate how you've persevered as an artist?

Yes … I hope it'll be something they can relate to in terms of being creative, open-minded dreamers.

What's your biggest dream at the moment?

I'm living my dream. I'm doing what I want to do: I express myself, I share my art with the world. Similar minds will be inspired by that.

Have there been times when you thought about giving it all up?

No, I've never thought of giving it up. Where I'm from, you have to swim or you'll drown. There's no giving up. You have to fight for what you want.

How did you get into music?

It's all art. I was a visual artist first, a sketch artist. As time passed and life moved on, I started to paint pictures with my words.

Do you have a preferred medium? Which do you find easier to express yourself in?

They're all forms of release - I relate each to a feeling of euphoria. I enjoy music, primarily. I enjoy hearing myself on a track, and seeing other people enjoy me on a track.

Do you see yourself sticking around in Hong Kong?

Who knows? I've been here seven years and right now I'm comfortable with what I'm doing.

I have a new radio show here in Hong Kong on RTHK. I'll be on from 9pm to 10pm every Saturday, starting February 13. It's a new venture.

What kind of music will you be playing?

Hip hop, funk and R&B. I'm making history, because I don't believe there have ever been any full-time hip hop shows here before.

Hopefully it'll give a new flavour, a new identity to the city. I believe Hong Kong is a really fertile, creative place, especially with the emergence of urban radio broadcasting.

How do you find it being a musical artist here?

It's a really fertile, growing place; it's open to new happenings, but it's not swamped like New York. Hip hop here is like McDonalds in China in 1985 - it's a new thing, and I think it'll continue to grow. Urban music is just strong like that.

Are there any local artists you're currently watching?

I like Jin [MC Jin, a US rapper with a Hong Kong heritage]. Jin is cool. I dig Jin. When Jin came to America, he was burning it down. My show will be about universal hip hop, so right now I'm in a position to receive a lot of music. I'll do a section where I'll play up and coming artists.

What's next for you?

I'm in the studio working on my new album, Paragon, and will release it in March. Most of it is written, but there's no rush. I want to do a good job. I just enjoy being creative.

Alongside broadcasting, I may venture back into education.

Right now, I'm just enjoying what I'm doing. I'm not stressing about tomorrow or next year. I believe that you have to enjoy right now, and do what's good for right now.

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