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Iru Magazine - Steff Reed

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I sat down with artist, musician, and teacher, Steff Reed. We talked about the message he would like to convey to the world, as well as what has kept him making music for over 25 years. We spoke about his love for Jypsy Jeyfree. A natural-born manumitter, Steff Reed’s music has the power to not only make you dance, but also to question the current state of social justice.

Steff knew he was meant to do music at the young age of 13. His extracurricular activities included painting, drawing, and basketball. Steff’s energetic spirit coupled with his passion for living, left him daydreaming earnestly about alternate activities while in school. It was at this point he realized what he truly wanted to be was a musician. At that time Steff didn’t know how he would make it in the music business. But he did know that he wanted to make music that deeply resonated with people’s emotions, just like the music he’d listened to in his youth.

Steff Reed has now been teaching music to children for over ten years. Unlike most band teachers, Steff not only teaches musical technique and songwriting, but also incorporates social justice in his curriculum. Steff is affiliated with a program called Change Makers, a derivative of the Urban Arts Partnership, which fuses together art and social justice to educate and enlighten the youth. Steff considers teaching to be both a responsibility and a privilege,

“In the music business, you don’t get on-boarded like at a corporate job where you can be shown the rule book and the ropes,” Steff says, “There’s no road map for becoming an artist. You  have to find your way, it’s hard. My motivation to teach is to show them the way. It’s to be that entry point, to show here’s your voice, here’s how you craft a song, here’s how you bring it all together.”

Steff made a great point about how aimless one can feel when trying to navigate the music industry. I asked him if he gave his students business advice as well as musical training.

“Sometimes, it depends on the level of where the student is." Sometimes he has students who have more experience with music, and he teaches them about marketing and branding and the business around music. But if the students are just starting out he’s more focused on, the techniques of making music, asking questions like, "What is music, how do you create music, what does it mean to write a song? What is song structure?" Most of the kids he teaches are in middle school and high school.

Steff has never been one to shy away from an issue of social justice. In fact one of his most recent songs called, “Frontline,” was about police brutality. Now his latest single, “Power of Love,” is a hymn for the masses. Of his newest single Steff says,

“It’s a social justice anthem. Inspired by my relationship with my life partner Jypsy Jeyfree, and the chaos that ensued during Trump’s election. The talk of building a wall between the US and Mexico, and the travel ban trump spoke of when he first got in office.”

Steff compares himself and his partner, Jypsy Jeyfree to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They are all free-spirited individuals, with a strong passion for equality, liberation, and music. I asked Steff why he refers to Jypsy as his partner, he responded, “The term girlfriend is temporary and casual, versus life partner, which means she’s the woman I’m going to marry, we’re together for life, in it forever, best friends and business/creative partners.”

Steff Reed anticipates that his new album will be released in 2018. He said his new music is very rock but also very inspirational. With influence drawn from other artists like Kings of Leon, Coldplay, The Killers, and U2, and of course, his partner Jypsy Jeyfree.

Since Steff highly values social justice I wanted to know what political activists he looks up to. His answer pleasantly surprised me, rather naming our nation’s former heroes like Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, Steff was well-informed of modern-day political activists. The first one he mentioned was Shaun King, “He’s a mouthpiece for the disenfranchised, a whistle-blower.” Steff said that he and Shaun King speak often through social media, and that he admires Shaun for being one of the first people to raise awareness when something is wrong.

Then he mentioned his friend Jamel Mims, or “Jam No Peanut", as he was also called. Steff described Jamel as a revolutionary communist, stating that his friend is a visionary and mastermind, able to not only see how this world could be improved, but also provide us with a road map to get there.

Steff also idolizes Michelle Obama, citing her youth initiative as “inspirational,” and “amazing.”

As I ask everyone I interview, I wanted to know how Steff Reed has risen above the difficulties he’s faced in life, he said,

“I think about how bad things were at one point and I think about how I never want to go back. I think about how I can use my pitfalls to uplift others so that they can learn from my mistakes and avoid them. I like to use my struggle as a contrast for success, to show that you can go through the lowest moments and still rise to reach the highest ones. My message is: If I overcame that, then I can overcome this; I can make it. Throughout my life that has been a recurring theme; overcoming and perseverance.”

Lastly, I wanted to know if there was anything else that Steff wished people knew about him or his music. “Yes,” he said, “I want them to know that I make all of it.” He went on to describe the great lengths to which he goes to make all his own content, “I make it. I’m a creator, I write the  lyrics, I play the instruments, I produce the music, I record myself, I edit most of my videos, I do my branding and marketing.” He’s literally in every single aspect of creating his own music and his image. Steff says he’s not sure if it matters to people because, “People tend to be more interested in the song itself and not in the effort it took to create the song. But I wrote every lyric, made every melody and played every instrument on that song live. And I own 100% of the song. Jypsy did most the visuals, styling and art direction for my new project through her art brand “Jypsyland”."

       Steff is a different kind of artist, in that he sees it as his duty to uplift people. Unlike many other musicians the focus he places is not himself, it’s on the greater good for everyone. Steff Reed is an artist to watch because his politically relevant music will hype you up while also making you think. Check out his new single “Power of Love,” on Pandora and Spotify today!


//Aisha Marie Sho @Shaka_Sho