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Mindful : October 2016
Previous page: Tim Scott, who goes by stage name JusTme, performs at Breathe For Change, a nonprofit that empowers schoolteachers with mindfulness and yoga practices. This page: JusTme teaches mindfulness to students at King Elementary School (named for Martin Luther King, Jr.) in Richmond, CA. The rapper says that while music is his profession, he finds the deepest rewards in inspiring children: “I’m sure winning a Grammy cannot compare to being surrounded by little people and feeling the love.” What role does hip hop play in your own life? When I was seven, my parents divorced. I didn’t have a voice for expressing my feel- ings—anger, frustration, and confusion—and I got into fights. But I also spent a lot of time drawing and listening to music on my Walk- man—and hip hop became my outlet. It had an angry kind of charge that helped diffuse my emotional energy in a positive way. Later, when stuff was presented to me—drugs, gangs, people saying, “ Hey, you want to come over here?”—because of what I was hearing in the songs about that lifestyle—I knew it was some- thing I didn’t want. When did you start writing your own music? When I was 12. My early raps were me being this street character—violent and braggadocious— that I thought I had to be but really wasn’t. But when I was about 15, a conversation with my dad changed my focus. As a prison corrections offi- cer, he’d see guys come into the system, walking around big and tall and bad and then, within a couple of days, getting beat up. His point was this: “Anything you say you are about, son, you better be about it, otherwise you’re a joke. Somebody who really does that is going to check you, and your integrity will be shattered.” From that point forward, I applied what he said to my music—and twisted the perspective to balance the life I lived in the suburbs and the life in the streets that I also knew. How did that feed into mindfulness? When I started writing hip-hop music, it was a kind of meditation: it was quiet, it was inti- mate—just me to the paper and the paper to me. But I formally discovered mindfulness—the label—when I met J.G. Before that, I didn’t know what to call what I was doing or even if my art was something people would accept. But everything came together: I found my lane. I started working for the Mindful Life Project, in an after-school program, and writing music for kids, trying to make mindfulness culturally relevant to kids in the inner city, so that it’s something they value and put to use. Did you take to it right away? To be honest, at first I thought, “This is some bullshit.” I felt like I had already been doing it with my music. But the more I practiced, the more I started to tap into a new level. “New level”—what do you mean? It’s weird. It’s a situation where you find peace in the noise that is constantly going on inside yourself. That peaceful inner resonance is like listening to the radio: There’s a lot of static around a certain frequency, but when you finally dial in to a station, you get clarity. It’s beautiful. Some people might think hip hop and mindfulness are contradictory. People who don’t have a background in hip hop think it’s a negative art form with a negative message. I’m saying it’s merely a perspective, a call, like, “Check this out: This is the kind of stuff we deal with. Come take a look at what is going on out here.” Hip hop is a survival tool. It saved my life. Now, I just want to change it up. Tell me about your daily practice. I usually sit in the evening, to decompress. But each morning I give myself three things I’m grateful for and three things I hope to accom- plish in the day. Then I practice yoga, turn on some music, and gear up. I try to find all the reasons why today is “the day”: The thrill is just waking up and going through a 24-hour period. And 24 hours later, getting to start again. → October 2016 mindful 49