Trooth and Rush are two hip hop heads who have brought both sides of the story together- dance and lyricism in collaboration on their latest venture into the heart of Australia to spread hip hop culture. The duo are bringing both education and fun to the doorsteps of those less likely to have these kinds of experiences. I sat them down for Wordplay and had a chat about what is, and what is to be.
Josh: Welcome to Wordplay guys. I have Trooth and Rush here with me today. Trooth, where have you come from, and what’s brought you to where you are today?
Trooth: I run and own Reach1 Teach1, a youth organisation that works with at risk and disengaged youth teaching them life skills through the culture of hip hop. I am born in Perth W.A., but my family is from a country called Burma. In terms of my backstory, I come from a life of addiction and alcoholism, spurred on by a lot of fear and feelings of unworthiness. It took me a long time and many years of pain to actually face those demons. My pride and my ego never allowed me to ask for help or admit that I had a problem for a long time. I got the help that I needed and today I am free from drugs and alcohol. My first introduction to the culture of hip hop was the movie House Party, when I was 10 years old. From there I moved backwards and found out where it was from all the pioneers and the forefathers of hip hop.
The person that really got me into rap was N’fa. N’fa Jones was a part of a group called 1200 techniques, he and I used to hang out and record on a cassette tape and rap and freestyle. It sort of started from there, but the addiction always got in the way for me. Then towards the later years of my life, hip hop culture became a part of me and I wanted to pursue a career as a rapper. I thought I needed to blow up, because I thought I needed fame and riches so the world would accept me. It didn’t really pan out that way. You can’t be selfish and happy at the same time. Know what I mean? So living a life to benefit other people brings me a lot of peace and serenity, and what better way than to share my craft with people, get paid for my craft and help youth at the same time.
The biggest thing about youth is that people are always saying the world is messed up the world is no good, so one day I sat down and was like, ok cool, people are complaining about the world, I mean, I used to do it too. So how do we change the future? How do we change the world? We can’t change the adults of this world. They are already stuck in their ways, but I believe the best way to change the future is to change our youth. If we instil positive morals and positive beliefs in our youth about themselves, and about their society and their community, then the future will change. The Reach1 Teach1 mission statement is to heal the hearts of our youth. We focus on youth that are at risk or disengaged from mainstream education. We help them believe in themselves and just let them know that they are fine just the way that they are.
Josh: So Reach1 Teach1 is a business venture that you have come up with yourself, and this is the path that you’ve chosen to take?
Trooth: I kind of fell into it man, I have a faith in a higher power and I sort of just trusted that higher power and it lead me into this kind of work. It’s the best job. It’s not even a job. There’s a saying that if you do what you love then you’ll never work a day in your life, and I am blessed with that today!
Josh: Yeah man I am very familiar with that saying actually, and that’s why I’m here today chatting to you both. So I’ve heard about this collaboration with Reach1 Teach1 and Breakthru Hip Hop-4 Health. Rush is here with us today. Rush can you give me a background of yourself and where you’re at today?
Rush: Yeah sure. My name is Rush; I am originally from New Zealand. I’ve been into hip hop pretty much my entire life, one of my uncles was a B-Boy. I grew up in a community where music was a big part of our lives. So you could play an instrument, or you sang, or you rapped, or you danced- the arts was very important so I kinda just grew up and naturally kind of fell into hip hop. I used to DJ when I was about 15 at parties, I was into graffiti, and I used to rap. But breaking [break dancing] was the element that I decided to pursue, and because of that I had to leave New Zealand and move to Australia when I was about 18. That took me to be a choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance. I got to travel the world and judge competitions all over the world, and I’m still doing that. I’m going to Vietnam next month to judge an event. So I teach, compete and judge full time as a B-Boy.
Youth work has been something I’ve been into since I was young. It’s one of my first jobs from when I was about 16. As a youth mentor we used to take young kids to community centres that was like, there was no pay involved, it was just something we did for the community. I didn’t really think you could make a job out of it. So I started teaching breaking workshops all around communities in Sydney in the detention centres as well. I was teaching at one detention centre and they said I wouldn’t be allowed to come back because my brother was in and out of there all the time. My three brothers have been in and out of prison, they’ve spent about 10 years in prison, which made me want to work in the prisons. So me and Trooth are working on something with that at the moment. I started this organization that I’ve called Breakthru- Hip Hop 4 Health.
We go into remote communities that would probably never get proper workshops on hip hop besides the fact that they do teach themselves about hip hop. They will never get people like us, practitioners, a lot of the studios here get everything where as you go up there and they are very grateful just to have the basics. We want to bring that to them and I also believe that hip hop has a place for Indigenous people. I am Indigenous myself. Hip hop in turn brought me back to my roots, and taught me the importance of culture. I started asking myself, I have a culture- what’s the importance of my culture? Which made me go back and research my culture, so hip hop also brings you back to your roots. The fifth element is knowledge, which is the most important element, because it helps you learn more and want to research more about yourself. Hip hop is a holistic, very revolutionary tool. And culture helps to bring people back to themselves and learn more about themselves. I have a lot of friends who are now working as event organizers for big corporations and doing amazing things. They started out as hip hoppers and hip hop gave them the tools to hustle and to basically create something out of next to nothing. That’s what hip hop is.
I left school with no qualifications, 2 D’s and an E. That was 16 years ago. I created something from that. It was hip hop that made me read my first book, it was hip hop that made me want to get healthy, it was hip hop made me want to be the man that I am today. So with that realization that we’ve both had, we understand that we have an obligation to pass on these tools, especially to some disenfranchised youths who have been disconnected from their roots. With Indigenous people traditionally we have a totally different perspective on wealth, wealth has nothing to do material things. It is something that is in here, that you gain from giving. Hip hop also teaches you that. That’s basically how we came together, we just bumped into each other and we were just the same thing. We connect like Voltron.
Trooth: The great thing about the 2 of us is we cover both sides, Reach1 Teach1 is focused on creative expression and general healing of the psychological and emotional pains of the past and present, which brings acceptance and acknowledgment of past traumas. Breakthru- Hip Hop 4 Health is all the physical side. The healthy eating, looking after your body and training. The holistic stuff. So it’s a really good team. We looked at what we were doing and we were like if we should combine these things together. Were just a really good team. Kalumburu was the first project that we did.
Josh: So this collaboration is all brand new?
Rush: Yeah the collaboration is new, I’ve been doing communities for a while now, but Kalamburu was our first together.
Trooth: It just really worked well.
Josh: So what would be the direction you would like to take this? What would you like to see happen over the next year for this collaboration?
Trooth: We really want to get this implemented in, well, every single place in Australia! (laughs). Kids respond to hip hop; they don’t respond to your everyday conventional way of teaching. Kids have opened up to me about certain things. If I could tell a story quickly, one of the students I teach, is a BFG, a big friendly giant, he was a giant and he was really quiet, he wrote this poem about how he walked into a room and saw his aunty hanging from a noose. He came up to the front of the class and he read the poem. I asked to him “have you ever spoken to anyone about this?” He replied “No.” So I said, “Is this the first time you’ve ever spoken about this?” He said “Yes.” And he sat down and he cried. Hip hop allowed him to do that. It allowed him to feel safe expressing that and not having fear. Well, he probably did have fear, but he pushed through that fear and actually expressed what he was feeling. That’s what the program is about. It allows a lot of youth to be themselves and not have to be afraid of being judged, or being stared at or being called names or whatever. Hip hop is about just being who you are and being original. That’s what being original is, it’s being yourself because there’s only one of you.
With Reach 1 Teach 1 there is definitely literacy advantages of having programs in school. I have seen kids who are at care schools that I’ve taught at. For example, C.A.R.E is a curriculum and re-engagement education. Kids who don’t usually write will come and do one of our programs and then they’re writing rhymes, they’re writing raps. A lot of teachers have come up to me and have said, look, we’ve never seen these kids write. Then I would tell the students, well if you’re gonna write then you’ve gotta read. So they have started reading more. We’re looking to hopefully take this collaboration to not just schools but to all communities in W.A. Were hoping to set up a tour and go to all these kinds of communities in a set time. It really brings a lot of joy to young kids. I’ve seen kids’ faces change when they see themselves in a music video, or they see themselves rapping, or dancing on video. It’s like, “Wow that’s me aye.” Or “This your boy, this your girl.” And it gives them such an opportunity to have a healthy self-esteem and a healthy self-confidence. Society tells kids these days, that you need this, you need that, you need to be skinnier, you need to be fatter, you got have a fat booty. It’s just like what’s wrong with just being yourself? What’s wrong just being happy with what you have? Hip hop allows them to do that, the Reach1 Teach1 program allows them to do that.
Rush: We want to basically provide it everywhere- schools, detention centres, community centres, on the street, one on one. And we also want to show a different kind of education that works. I found formal education too be to robotic and out of touch today for some youth, like, we need to do everything this way or that and tick the box. Whereas in certain situations, guys like me and Trooth can see the problem and know exactly how to engage in ways that the education system today cannot.
Trooth: You can’t paint everyone with the same brush.
Rush: Yeah, we deal with a lot of those kids. The ones that slip through the cracks, that don’t hear that real formal administrative box ticking type of education, it just doesn’t work for them. Instead of approaching it in a different way they’re kind of pushed into a box and labelled with learning difficulties. I’ve done workshops in prisons quite a few times, and one thing that I’ve noticed in prison is that prison is full of talent. It’s really strange. You go in there and everyone can do something, they can play instruments, they can sing, they can paint, they can dance, they’re all artistic and very emotional. These are people who could not control their emotions or they didn’t fit into that box, so I think that having this alternative style of education is very important, especially for the ones who have slipped through the cracks. Those are the ones we really do tend to have great conversation with- they don’t listen to other teachers, they hear us because we relate to them from the get go, when we walk in we have their attention before we speak. They look at us like oh this guy’s cool, he’s dressed fresh.
Trooth: And if they don’t, I’ll just bust a freestyle, and they just go “Wooooow!”
Rush: Or I’ll jump into a freeze and they’re like, “Wow, how did you do that!” The teachers just stand back and say “Man, that kid hates me.” He doesn’t even want to come to school, now he’s at school cos he wants to do hip hop. So it is a powerful, powerful tool and I’ve known since I got into it since it saved my life.
Trooth: That’s the other thing, we both have quite compelling stories. Rush with his background, me with my background, I know in the workshops I run I tell them everything about my life so there is nothing they don’t know about me. If they ask me questions I’ll tell them, that also makes them feel comfortable to tell their stories. I tell them everything, I don’t sugar coat anything. I tell them the truth. It wasn’t from some text book. It’s straight from the heart. They pick that up, it’s legit, it’s not fake and kids are smart, man. They’re not dumb, they know when something is not authentic. Hip hop is authentic, real hip hop is. On the other side of things, hip hop gets such a bad rap from people that don’t really understand the culture. When it started, it was something that turned a negative into a positive. Helping your community. Love peace unity and having fun. Today, a lot of people just see hip hop as a bunch of people who are swearing and relate it to gangster stuff. Talking negatively about women. For sure, there is a part of hip hop that is about that, but the essence of it and how is started is not that. I know that Rush and I represent this to the fullest. It is really important to me that this is brought to the forefront. That hip hop is a culture of positivity. The purest form of hip hop can save this planet, in my opinion it really can.
Rush: Because in essence, the fundamentals can be applied to anything. People ask me what hip hop is. It’s more than rap. It’s the dude on the corner that’s trying to survive, it’s the kid flipping his uniform to look fresh. It’s a mentality, a foundation that can be instilled in everything. The way I approach work, business, my relationships stems from what I learned in hip hop. It pretty much taught me everything I know. All of my fundamentals in life. I was pretty neglected as a kid, by society’s definition, so hip hop was like a big brother to me.
Trooth: So just a few simple examples of these life skills we are talking about. The first time I ever battled someone, I cried when I lost, I was a bit drunk, but I cried my eyes out and rang one of my friends in California sulking. I was like, “I lost the battle man.” And he said “Stop being a little bitch, if you’re gonna be like this then don’t say you’re into hip hop.” I was like, “what do you mean?” and he said it’s not just about winning. He said if you lose, go home, train and get better, then come back and beat the person that beat you. So I did that and I whooped him, the dude wanted to battle again and I battled again and I whooped him again. I was like, oh hang on a second, I am allowed to fail, failing will lead to success. Everyone knows it, Michael Jordan talks about all the shots he missed, the dunks he has missed and he keeps on failing. That’s why he succeeds, that’s an example. Another thing, in battles right, you respect your opponent, at the end of any battle you shake that person’s hand. I’ve battled people that I don’t like, but I still give them respect at the end of the battle. I shake his hand, that give me integrity. Am I showing respect for him or am I showing respect for me? Actually it’s for me. I’m showing integrity. I’m showing integrity and the character of what type of person I want to be. Hip hop taught me that, that’s how important it is. Through the battling, through the respecting. You develop resilience, if you lose the battle try again. So there are all these life skills that hip hop taught me and I apply these teachings in everyday life, whether it is going for a new job or reaching goals and ambitions, I know to never give up. These are the things that we teach these kids. With these skills they can be whatever they want to be.
Rush: At the end of the day we’re not trying to make internationally renowned rappers, were just trying to teach these kids these life skills. Teach them to be themselves so that they will have the confidence to talk about their emotions, or go for that job interview, the confidence to be an active member of society.
Trooth: Teach them to be proud of who they are. Whether that’s a mathematician or it’s an actor. I mean I was telling some kids that are good at maths, “Man, you’re good at maths, be proud of that, don’t listen to your friends that are teasing you, cos in 10 years you will be their boss.” And they were all laughing. No one tells them these things. People have lost sight of themselves. I showed a video to some kids at school of me performing in Chicago, in August, in front of about 5,000 people. These kids knew my life story. I had just told them. I showed them that video and they couldn’t believe it. I said look, I was doing drugs when I was younger, and now look at this. I said you guys can do it too. We want to inspire these kids to be the best version of themselves they can be.
Josh: Awesome. Well thank you both for your time today!
You can catch Trooth On Insta @reach1teach1trooth and on Facebook here.
For info on Rush, check out this Facebook.