Brother Abdullah (formerly known as Brandon Willis) sees hip-hop as a vehicle for social change and community service. The 2006 Electronic Media graduate has been working for a unique outreach center for inner city youths called Elementz for the past five years.
Abdullah, raised in the Columbus area, did not always see himself working with music as a career. With a music producer father, he was exposed to music production at an early age but did not delve deeply into music until high school.
“Rawkus Records, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Hi-Tek, I was listening to a lot of the underground hip-hop going on at the time.” These artists and others influenced Abdullah to see hip-hop as a powerful and interactive tool for reaching out to others.
When it came time to pursue an internship as an E-Media student, the newly founded Elementz center was a natural choice.
Elementz, located in Over-the-Rhine, is a place for young people to go where they can feel safe to express themselves creatively and put some space between themselves and the stresses of inner city life. Brother Abdullah interned at Elementz during its opening year as a recording engineer.
When he finished his degree in E-Media, a job was waiting for him at Elementz.
“I would have worked there for no pay, I just wanted to be there doing what I was doing, helping out,” he said.
What started as a part-time job has turned into a full-time career as the center’s hours of operation have increased and Brother Abdullah’s career path has evolved. For four years, Abdullah worked as a recording engineer at Elementz, helping young people move closer to realizing creative dreams they may have thought were impossible reach.
In the last year, however, Abdullah was promoted to program director at Elementz, a role that carries significant weight as to how the organization is run. In this function, it may even be more obvious just how helpful his degree has been.
Elementz executive director Tom Kent said that since taking over as program director, Brother Abdullah has really started to reach out to fellow students and relationships he built during his time at UC.
“As his job duties have grown, he has realized that he can reach out to others to bring in the expertise he needs to grow his vision for Elementz,” said Kent.
Just like the E-Media major, Abdullah’s job is diverse and often requires him to be a proficient “multitasker”, moving between knowledge of audio production, web design, video, journalism, and general business know-how.
With a multifaceted organization like Elementz, it is crucial to “be able to speak the language of the different people I work with, whether it be about the layout of the website or the way a video should be edited,” Abdullah said.
For Brother Abdullah, it’s all in a day’s work.
View a music video produced by members of Elementz.
Note: Elementz is an excellent internship for E-Media students.
Written by Dan Imwalle, October 2010