Photo by dj_takes_pix

Mikal Amin is a Brooklyn-based hip-hop artist and educator set to perform in our June RFB Presents show, part of Northside Music Festival. The New Jersey-born talent has traveled extensively around the world to promote his music, his influence and to educate others. He began rapping as a teenager but started to take his career more seriously while in college during the 90s.

Upon moving to Brooklyn he formed a rap group and became a teaching artist, which went hand in hand with his music career. “Around 2008 I started my own company, Fresh Roots Music, and I started working with schools, producing shows and events as a hip-hop artist,” Amin said in an interview by phone.

Radio Free Brooklyn’s music editorial contributor, Robert Frezza, talked with Amin about hip-hop, educating the youth, and why he considers himself a citizen of the world.

What made you change your name from Hired Gun?

The reason how I was coined the name is that there was a drum-and-bass-jungle music back in the early 2000s. The name kind of came up since I was a jack-of-all-trades so to speak. As I got older, I wanted to use my given name.

Did you use to perform spoken word?

I used to back in college but I teach it now. I was never a slam poet. I never competed though. I still write poetry. I wouldn’t consider myself a spoken word artist anymore.

Nice Guys Finish was your latest album. Will we see anything new from you in the future?

Absolutely! I released a few different features on some labels. I released Zeitgeist on a French record label called Amasia Records. I also released a song with afro-fusion group Aphrotek called Kick Up The Dust. Currently, I am working on a compilation of different works with different international artists that will be released in the fourth quarter of this year.

You were quoted on Bandcamp for saying that the Nice Guys Finish album was a product of “love lost and love gained”. Is love a constant theme in your music?

Love is a theme, but the main theme of what I do as an artist is that I want people to question society, their own ideas, and their own understandings to get to a greater one. Nice Guys Finish was a more personal album due to a divorce I went through and the loss of my mother at the time. But mostly my music is about questioning things from a personal, spiritual, and political standpoint.

Where do you find yourself more creative: as a lyricist or an educator?

That’s a really good question. There are two really important things in my life: being an MC and teaching young kids. I am fortunate to say I use hip-hop to educate, whether it is in writing or reading. I teach history and politics through the lens of hip-hop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. If I had to choose, my personal satisfaction is in emceeing. That’s what’s pushed me forward. I love and have a deep passion for working things out with words. It’s different types of love and purpose and meaning. It is very hard to choose between the two.

What does it mean to you to be from Brooklyn and New York City?

To be fair, I was raised in New Jersey but spent the last nineteen years here. I felt like I matured in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is a place that embodies New York City and you kind of have to fight to survive. Brooklyn is for fighters. I see myself as a citizen of the world, though. I have a love and respect to connect with all different types of people. Having survived gentrification, 9/11, and the financial situations, and all the different changes that Brooklyn has gone through, you have to have a thick skin and that appealed to me.

Mikal Amin is hitting the stage with TK The Architect, Wisdom Natural and Junk Rat for RFB Presents: First Thursdays @ The Well June edition, part of Northside Music Festival. Tickets are available now and the show begins at 8pm.