PhilRAPthropists: An interview with one of the founders and organizers of the Rap for Life series

By Max Altmark —


The Twin Cities is home to an abundant music scene, a culture united by its subcultures. Anything can be found; punk revival groups, 80’s hair metal outfits, mustached progressive rock hipsters and of course, our beloved backpack toting, genre bending hip hop scene that is bolstering with as much segmentation of sub groups as there are lakes in the land of 10,000 overgrown puddles.

With a plethora of shows to choose from basically any night of the week, it is sometimes hard to find unity and purpose in a lot of the happenings around town. The Rap for Life series is a break from the segmentation that can often lead to stagnation, offering a unifying night of art and hip hop based music with a definite purpose. Only on the second official Rap for Life show, I have a feeling that we can expect much more from the series, as well as the organizers.

Rap for Life is organized by two young passionate artists, Christopher Michael Jensen & Ashley Seeler. Unfortunately, Ashley was ill and was not able to attend to the interview
, but she did release this statement:

“Rap for life is incredibly special to me and I believe the community as a whole. The drive toward awareness is the key to impacting the lives of those in need and the loved ones, families, and friends that support them. I feel so fortunate to be a part of such inspiring events and sincerely hope that they continue to inspire those that need to be uplifted the most.”

I was able to sit down with CMJ, and he provided with a lot of great information on what it means to be an artist, organizer, and a positive driving force in non profit work as well as hip hop.

So where did some of the ideas come from for the original Rap for Life, and how did you start working with Ashley?

“I first met Ashley in 2012 at a show and we became fast friends. One of the things that we talked about early on was that she had the idea to do a benefit for suicide prevention. She used to work at a suicide prevention hotline, she would be one of the people that would pick up the phone and counsel people who would call. We started working on the first Rap for Life which was at Honey in December of 2012. Because of the success of that show and the fact that we had different people in our lives who were affected by chemical dependency we began working on Rap for Life 2. We wanted to keep raising money for grassroots organizations.”

So is there any overall purveying goal for Rap for Life as an organization or a series of shows?

“We just want to shine a light on the cause. We want to make it a lot more of an experience than most shows. We try to involve a lot of different kinds of art and diverse music. Also, with these shows you reach an audience different from “regular concert goers.” The people there are very tuned in to the music and what’s going on. It’s a lot more immediate, and it kind of reminds you of why you do music instead of being just another night in the scene. It feels more special.”

How would you depict the relationship between yourself as an organizer and an artist?

“Personally, I’ve been rapping for about 13 years so I look at it from a lot of different angles. Like what I’m trying to do for my career, my music, and for people I respect. With as many benefits as we’ve been doing, people have been very receptive and a lot of music goals we’ve wanted to accomplish we have. The more you can do for other people, the more it’s going to come back to you. For me, organizing is just as important as sitting around and recording all day.”

Do you think that you are impacting the culture of hip hop and the culture in Minneapolis outside of music?

“For me personally I’m trying to take the music as far as I can. There are a lot of things that I’ve been interested in doing that the last few years I’ve gotten the opportunity to do. The first Rap for Life was the most successful show I had been a part of at the time. Just to see how it affected everyone that night and their posts online the next day and for months afterwards it forced me and Ashley to immediately start working on the next one. I think that the more of an impact we have the more that it fuels us. We’re not getting complacent, we feel a responsibility to continue this type of work.”

What led you to pick the artists for this upcoming show and decide these details?

“We have a lot of talented people around us that we wanted to get involved as well as larger names that we wanted to get in touch with. Kristoff Krane has a really positive impact on the scene and especially on Ashley. He was chosen for the first one as a performer and we wanted to get him involved again but in a different way, so now he’s hosting. Guante also has a huge impact and is involved in a lot of these kind of events and activist work so it made sense to get him involved. 2mex is a really prolific artist with the amount of albums he has put out and work he’s done so when we were able to land him as the headliner that was really exciting. To get all of these things together in one room is really exciting as well. Everyone on the bill we respect, and I think they all have a personal investment in the show.”

Closing thoughts?

“There are a lot more Rap for Life events and benefits ahead. We will continue to keep growing and elevating. Also, we want to thank everyone for the support. We’re definitely going to keep this momentum going.”