Naw Ruz marks the end of the Fast and the beginning of a new year in the Baha’i calendar. Naw-Ruz is a celebration of a “spiritual springtime” that symbolizes both individual renewal and mankind’s revitalization.
“Socially and spiritually conscious hip-hop that aims to uplift, educate, and inspire” is the tagline Phoenix-based Baha’i hip-hop artist Colby Jeffers uses when explaining his music, and he’s not wrong! In his new debut album Wizdome, Colby presents a diverse collection of Baha’i-inspired hip-hop tracks that touch upon a variety of socially and spiritually conscious themes, and includes collaborations with a selection of artists in order to channel the Teachings of Baha’u’llah. The results are awesome!
I first came across Colby’s music a couple of years ago when he wrote a song called Education is Not a Crime featuring Lucy Brand, written to raise awareness of the denial of education of the Baha’is in Iran, and which we released on Baha’i Blog. Since then we’ve been in touch and I finally met him when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona temporarily. In fact, he’s the coordinator for my nephew’s Junior Youth class, so I was happy to catch up with him and find out more about his new album Wizdome:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your musical background?
Absolutely! I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona and grew up in a Baha’i family, although I feel that I’ve come to identify much more strongly as a Baha’i over the past few years – particularly as I’ve gotten more involved in serving the Faith. Musically, my story is kind of crazy. I received very little musical training as a child, and never had much interest in it. In my early twenties, I started experimenting with rap – which was my favorite type of music to listen to – and I noticed I had a bit of talent for it. My maternal grandmother was a published poet, so maybe it’s in my genes! I didn’t start songwriting, however, until a summer volunteer trip to Cameroon in 2012, where by chance, I met a youth named Awu. Him and I really hit it off, and ended up writing some music together, which really lit a creative spark in my soul. We ended up writing two songs that summer, and later that year we collaborated on six more songs via the Internet. We then released the songs on an album titled “Change the World”. In 2014, I travelled back to Cameroon and we filmed a couple of music videos together with the help of a friend of mine. The videos have gotten some great feedback online and through social media, which has been really encouraging.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about the album and your inspiration behind it? Why was it important for you to do this?
My new album Wizdome has been such a beautiful journey! One thing I learned from my previous songs is that many listeners have a very high standard for music – particularly because most of the music they listen to has been produced professionally by some of the best musicians in the industry. I realized that if I want my music to appeal to a large audience, it has to be near that high standard. So for this album, I did a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds, recorded at a professional studio, and had the bounty of having one of my musical inspirations, Nabil Moghaddam of Nkindle Productions, mix and master the album, all of which gave it the sound I was aiming for. I created this album because I have seen how powerful music, and specifically rap/hip-hop, is in influencing youth in society. I wanted to apply my understanding of the Baha’i Writings/Teachings to the art of rap and see what happened. I’m really pleased with the result!
Baha’i Blog: What’s your writing process like? How do you come up with the songs and is it hard to do Baha’i-inspired rap? If so, what’s the main challenge?
With regards to rap, I’m definitely a writer first. I don’t do much freestyle rapping – I really like to write out my lyrics first and then see how they fit to the beat. As I mentioned before, I didn’t start rapping until my early twenties, and most of my writing experience prior to that was in the academic world, primarily in writing essays. So I really feel like I approach my raps similar to how I’d write an essay. I generally start with a concept, or thesis. Then I do my research, which virtually always involves going to the Baha’i Writings and exploring various quotes and passages that relate to the topic. After deepening my understanding, I then think about my own experiences or what I see in society around me, and try to connect the dots. Then I get to writing! Most of my songs seem to really flow like an essay – attention grabber, facts, commentary, conclusion – it’s pretty interesting! Personally, I feel like rap is such a beautiful art form to use from a Baha’i perspective, because it’s in the realm of language arts. And we have such a treasure trove of beautiful words to turn to in the Baha’i Writings and utilize in the creative process.
Baha’i Blog: What’s something you’ve really learned on your musical journey?
I feel like I’ve learned so many things! I guess the most important thing I’ve learned is how important art is to our spiritual development. As I’ve come to personally identify more as an artist, I’ve noticed how so many people say things like “I’m not creative” or “I’m not an artist.” Blocking off this creative energy is so detrimental! The arts are praised so highly in the Baha’i Teachings, even to the station of worship. While clearly each person is blessed with different gifts, I feel like every soul has some talent for the arts, and it needs to be cultivated. For me, rap/music has provided a channel to explore and internalize the Writings, as well as a means for creating and sharing art with others that uplift and inspire. It’s such a blessing!
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope listeners walk away with after they’ve heard your album?
Well, my current mission as a rap artist is to create socially and spiritually conscious hip-hop that uplifts, educates, and inspires. So I hope the music on the Wizdome album accomplishes that aim!
Baha’i Blog: Have there been any exciting developments as a result of the album release?
Yes! There have seriously been so many incredible confirmations from creating and releasing this album! One big development that sticks out was doing my first ever album release event. I feel like I’m also an artist when it comes to creating community spaces, so I put a lot of thought into how an album release show could most effectively reflect the Baha’i Writings and our evolving Baha’i community building framework. There were a couple of things that I experimented with that I felt worked out really well. First, before performing any songs, I facilitated a discussion mixer that got people moving around, meeting new people, and engaging in elevated discussions. I prompted the attendees with questions that related to the themes present in the songs I’d be performing, such as “What types of music do you listen to? What is a piece of wisdom that has protected you in your life? What is an art or craft that you are passionate about?” This activity seemed to really gel the audience together and give the space a higher purpose. Secondly, about midway through the musical performances, I facilitated a mini rap-writing workshop, giving everyone ten minutes to write their own rap based on the prompt, “What is one piece of wisdom you would like to impart on the young people of today?” After everyone had a chance to write some verses, I opened up the microphone for thirty minutes to anyone who wanted to share their rhymes. I was blown away with how many people came up and shared, and their raps were so heartfelt and meaningful. It was awesome! Before opening up the microphone, I took the advice of fellow Baha’i-inspired rapper Karim Rushdy, and asked the audience to focus on praising each person’s courage, rather than solely focusing on their talent, which is so common in Western society. This seemed to have a really great affect, and ensured that everyone that shared their rap was left feeling supported and encouraged. I can’t wait to host another space like this in the future!
Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
To my earlier point, I’d just like to re-emphasize, if you identify with any particular art forms, please continue to create, and consciously learn about applying the Baha’i Writings to your craft! And if you are someone who has ever said, “I’m not creative,” toss those words out of your vocabulary and start experimenting with art forms that interest you. The world desperately needs more Baha’i-inspired art!
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview Colby and congratulations on your debut album!
You can find out more about Colby Jeffers and listen his music on colbyjeffers.com
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview Colby, and congratulations on the release of your album ‘Wizdome’ and all the best on your future service!
Naysan is passionate about using the arts and media to explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Back in 2011, Naysan started up the Baha’i Blog project, channeling his experiences in both media and technology companies to help create a hub for Baha’i-inspired content online.
Yeah, the song and video is pretty dope. I love the old school sound. And nice rap skills btw.
Buy Beats (April 4, 2019 at 11:49 AM)
support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith
Buy beats (December 12, 2019 at 8:35 AM)
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Jared White (February 2, 2020 at 8:23 AM)
I love the old school sound. And nice rapping
Jared White (April 4, 2020 at 6:29 AM)