Like Trevor Weller, Farooq Al-Said — whose rap alias is Ayatollah Jaxx — competed in battles and the Rhyme Calisthenics MC competitions at the Shadow Lounge. Al-Said works with Hip Hop on L.O.C.K., a youth arts-education program that teaches elementary and high school students various elements of hip-hop music and culture, among other things. The program also led him to a job teaching at Propel Schools. He spoke with CP about rap and education.
On Real Deal:
I've known Trev since I started rapping in Pittsburgh. There was always a mutual respect, but we didn't have any real interaction until after we battled in Oakland in front of the library on Pitt's campus. We actually got cool after the battle and just kind of built up a relationship from that.
On hip hop as an educational medium:
My first language was Arabic, and hip hop helped me learn how to speak English. Hip hop helped give me an outlet to focus my life and get on something positive. Hip hop has transcended music and turned into a culture that allows people fiscal opportunities that wouldn't have existed for them otherwise.
On teaching martial arts:
I started teaching karate when I was 17, and then that kind of opened the door for me to being in a position of responsibility, in the custodial position, so to speak.
Propel Schools needed a martial-arts instructor to do a trimester of martial-arts instruction; they asked if I could do it, and I said, "Yeah, absolutely." One thing led to another, and they asked me to come back for the next year to be the full-time martial-arts teacher for four schools — to basically teach martial arts as a physical-education course.
I had such a great success and turn-out with my class that they allowed me to take over as the physical-education instructor so that I can do physical education and martial arts combined. Physical education is such a taboo thing now. You're only allowed to do a handful of things and stick to a very tight state-issued script, so for me to have the leeway that I do is fantastic.